Fargo Baptist Church's Response to Fargo Mayor's Order
At Fargo Baptist Church we appreciate the state and local authorities and the difficult job they are doing during COVID19. For the past 8 months we have ‘gone the extra mile’ as a church trying to follow the CDC and ND Public Health guidelines. This has included social distancing, suspending children’s ministries, encouraging masks, assigned seating, screening at the door, re-figuring meeting places, services for the vulnerable population, outdoor services and other creative ways to comply. Our goal has been the safety of our church people and indirectly the community. We have been grateful for the consideration our regional elected officials have had toward churches and the acknowledgment of separate jurisdictions between state and church.
For many years our mayor has served the community as a civic leader in public service. During the recent pandemic he has tried to find the balance with a very difficult issue. We can only imagine the pressure he is receiving from all directions in recent days. He is very committed and he has had our prayers and support. However, recently the mayor made a ‘hard call’ and signed an executive order imposing certain limitations upon churches (originally bars were allowed three times as many patrons as churches). He then amended his order, but the amended order still goes beyond the exclusion of churches that the Governor has taken from the beginning. Unfortunately, the mayor’s order is an encroachment into the First Amendment, the Constitution and the inalienable rights of a church and Christians. Some churches have chosen to shut down which they are free to do. FBC has chosen to remain open to meet the spiritual needs of our people. At a time like this people need our Creator more than ever.
The very word for ‘church’ in the original Bible Greek language is ‘Ekklesia’ which literally means ‘a called together assembly’. It is used 114 times in the New Testament. In Hebrews 10:25, Christians are told ‘not to forsake the assembling of themselves together’. In the Bible the early church was rebuked by the civil authorities and commanded to stop the practice of their faith. That is when they replied; “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). The very reason the Puritan Christians came to this country (the New Land) was to flee a government that had overstepped its bounds and to practice their faith according to God’s Word. This is the very reason that the First Amendment is the first amendment. It’s a very important issue. The authorities are to make no law [mandate] respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof… or the right of the people, peaceably to assemble.
At FBC, we strive to live ‘peaceably among all men’ (Romans 12:18). At the same time we cannot start down a road of allowing civil authorities to violate the Constitution and start taking away our religious liberties in increments one inch at a time. It becomes a point of no return. There is a very important principle here. Up to this point we have worked hard to practice “North Dakota common sense.” With some expertise in risk management among the pastorate we have gone to great lengths to maintain the safety of our people. At times we have seemingly been more proactive than even the state. Though we have seen some COVID cases among our congregants, we thankfully know of no known cases spread within the church setting.
As a result, we will continue to practice our ‘safe assembling’ as we have been doing for the past eight months. Services will go on as usual. At the same time, we will continue to pray for our civic leaders as they try and navigate through difficult waters. We are currently in communication with the mayor’s office to see how we might resolve this for a mutually beneficial end.
The Pastorate of FBC