May 19, 2021
Dear Clergy and Senior Wardens of the Diocese of Georgia,
As promised in my letter to you all last Friday, I am following up further on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stating last week that, “fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask or physically distance in any setting” and then adding some caveats. After months of following CDC recommendations, I know it looked as if I was suddenly ignoring them. The difference was that, unlike when they announced previous changes, the CDC failed to update their page with considerations for Communities of Faith last week and have yet to do so. That particular web page, together with significant input from top level experts made available to us through the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops, had been guiding our actions. I am now offering an option for Clergy and Vestries who discern that conditions in their area and in their congregation allow them to move to Phase Two Guidance. You may remain in Phase 1 indefinitely given the discernment of your vestry.
As you will see, the Phase Two option takes into account the varying contexts of our congregations. A parish with 18 people on a Sunday who all know each other well can take their congregation into account and find a way forward that may differ from that of a larger parish. Rectors or Priests-in-Charge, their wardens, and vestries will make their decision together based on the diocesan guidance, their own congregation, and its context. Once these decisions have been made, the Diocese must be informed of the congregation’s plans, using the attached Phase 2 Certification Form. Vestry votes may be collected in person or via electronic means. All of this is in keeping with the way we moved back to in-person worship last summer.
Please note that some communities in the diocese may still have mask mandates in effect and congregations in those areas must follow the law in those instances. As the context changes, more congregations can decide to move to the new guidance. The changes can be made as soon as is best for your congregation.
With these changes, we are moving toward those who are vaccinated being encouraged, but not required, to practice masking and distancing. I remain concerned that by requiring only the unvaccinated to wear masks, we single them out for decisions over which they may not have control, or we inadvertently encourage them to ‘fit in’ by not wearing a mask even though they remain unvaccinated, thereby increasing risk for everyone. I am also concerned about teens and children who are not yet fully vaccinated or can’t be, as well as for newcomers who visit our churches.
Pax et bonum,
The Rt. Rev. Frank Logue | Bishop of Georgia
Episcopal Diocese of Georgia