To: Governor Jay Inslee

It is with the utmost respect for your office that we reach out to you as pastors of Chelan and Douglas counties.

Regarding closing our state due to COVID-19: We appreciated the steps you took early on in the face of this pandemic to protect our state. We understand leadership requires making the best decision with the best information one has at the time in order to do the most good for the most people. We did not second-guess you but rather supported you.

Regarding closing down churches: We supported the drastic steps to close down houses of worship. We understand this was a very hard decision and appreciate you did not make it lightly. We all stand in agreement with the essential nature of expressing one’s religious convictions through corporate public worship; it is one of the core tenants of our great nation. But we understood the unprecedented nature of this unknown threat and willingly suspended our public services (many of us voluntarily before it was mandated), even though it came with a significant price.

Regarding the preservation and protection of life: We are grateful for the continued emphasis on the protection of life you have regularly spoken of in each of your press briefings. This is a core belief and conviction we share. God has made all of life precious. We are never better than when banded together making personal sacrifices to protect the most vulnerable and least able to defend themselves among us, no matter their race, socio-economic status, or stage of life. Thank you for prioritizing this value.

Regarding the Phased Plan: We applaud the release of the 4-phased plan with the accompanying details and appreciate the hard work and careful thinking that resulted in its creation. We feel it represents a measured, responsible path back to the essential rhythm of life we all desire.

Regarding new data and information: We are greatly encouraged by the science and data now indicating the infectious fatality rate is far lower than originally predicted. It is a needed shot of good news to know the vast majority of those who test positive for COVID-19 recover. This is not information we had earlier, and we are relieved to have that data available now.

Regarding the response of our communities: We are grateful for the exceptional and selfless character our local communities have shown in coming together. At great cost to some, we sheltered in place so as to flatten the curve and prevent the systemic overloading of our hospitals, as was the stated goal. The stories of generosity, creativity, sacrifice, and love are many. We could not be more proud of our communities.

Regarding wide-spread and growing impact: In many ways, we pastors are on the front line of the human experience. Our churches contain the cross-section of our communities: young, old, women, men, business owners, medical personnel, teachers, workers, first responders, elected officials, stay-at-home moms, etc. We are seeing first-hand the weight and toll of the COVID-19 crisis.

We are deeply alarmed at the emotional, mental, psychological, and relational damage this extended “stay at home”order is taking. Anecdotally, we are seeing pornography, alcohol, and drug use skyrocket. Those prone to depression and mental illness are spiraling further into isolation and despair. Suicide attempts have spiked. Domestic abuse calls are up. Those suffering from PTSD or struggling with addictions of all kinds are drifting further beyond recovery with each day the shelter in place continues.

Medically, doctors in our churches are expressing grave concerns about the ongoing deferral of simple preventative medicine (proactive health care like Colonoscopies, mammograms, routine medical checkup, diabetes care, heart disease check ups, etc). The longer we do this, they tell us, the more we increase the certainty of health complications and death in the near future, that could have otherwise been avoided or mitigated substantially.

We are concerned that a sustained “stay home order” after we have demonstrably “flattened the curve” is now actively contributing to more wide-spread damage that is less visible but certainly just as devastating.

And it will last much longer than COVID-19 itself (teen pregnancy, pornography, depression, substance abuse, psychological disorders, addiction, domestic violence, devastating economic loss, fear, stress, etc).

Regarding our approach to reopen: Our concern is holistic. We believe that COVID-19, as serious of threat as it presented, is but one of the myriads of challenges now facing us and threatening the health, happiness, and sanity of our communities. We are concerned that the extended shelter in place order is choosing a known set of vast and far-reaching negative consequences impacting 100% of the people in an attempt to avoid a less broad set of unknown negatives affecting a much smaller percent of people.

This does not mean we do not care for the smaller percentage impacted directly by this virus. Quite the opposite. As we mentioned above, we hold deep convictions as to the preciousness of all life, young and old, healthy or sick. That is precisely why we feel the need to keep as many in our community as strong as possible mentally, emotionally, physically, and economically, so we are able to stay in a position of strength to continue caring for those who are impacted by COVID-19.

Our Request: It is for these reasons that we would respectfully ask that you grant Chelan and Douglas counties the variance proposal for which our elected commissioners are applying. We support their request and are committed to working with them to make sure this return to normal life is done in a responsible way. We trust their desire to protect everyone while using regional data and science to set the pace of local reopening. We are committed to working with them here at the local level to make that happen.

Our Conviction & Commitment: We believe that freedom of assembly, freedom of religion, and freedom of worship are all essential to the American experience. They are unalienable rights granted us by God and protected by the Constitution we all hold dear.

We also believe that churches are an essential service to the mental, emotional, spiritual, and relational well-being of a community. As pastors, we will share the brunt of dealing with the fallout coming from this time of death, fear, loss, mental anguish, and devastating economic uncertainty. These things do not happen in a vacuum, they happen to people. People we know, love, and pastor. Let there be no question: We stand ready to step into that work with all our might. That is our calling and privilege.

Our Priority: Even with the above constitutional convictions firmly in place, we reluctantly agreed to the suspension of our worship services. This was a unique moment in history facing an unknown threat.

Erring on the side of caution was right and proper and we did so willingly. We happily acted to love and protect our neighbor. It is that same love for neighbor that motivates us now.

As churches, our immediate priorities are helping to provide the necessary support so that local businesses can open as soon as possible and local hospitals can reopen safely to serve the many critical human needs currently going unaddressed. We are committed to providing whatever community assistance necessary in order for the variance requirements to be met. We have thousands of willing volunteers ready to help.

It is with these intentions that we request you allow our local elected officials to use regionally specific data to determine the timing and implementation of your phased plan in a way that makes the most sense for us locally.

We think our community has demonstrated extraordinary care for their fellow man. They have exercised restraint in personal freedoms and judiciousness in personal responsibility. We will continue to do so moving into the future. We all have a vested interest in the health and well-being of our fellow man, and we are committed to exercising the utmost care to ensure we reopen safely.

Thank you for your consideration. We are grateful for our local elected officials, including sheriffs, mayors, and county commissioners. We support them 100% in this proposal to apply your plan with regionally-specific precision. Led by our local officials, we will work for comprehensive health and well-being in the face of COVID-19. We pray for you regularly.

Respectfully,

Local pastors of Chelan and Douglas counties

The May 13 letter to Gov. Jay Inslee was included in a packet of information from Chelan and Douglas county commissioners supporting their request to reopen the economy of Chelan and Douglas counties sooner than allowed under the governor’s COVID-19 restrictions.

The pastors’ churches include: Grace City Church, Wenatchee. Four-Square Church, Calvary Crossroads, Saddlerock Presbyterian Church, Wenatchee Seventh-day Adventist, Living Hope, Wenatchee Valley Baptist, Wenatchee First Assembly, Trinity Church, Praise Center, Sage Hills Church, Calvary Bible Church, Valley View SDA Church, Awaken Church, and Kings Cross.