Episcopal dioceses mandate COVID-19 vaccine for staff, clergy

Clergy and laypeople stand outside Grace Cathedral the central church of the Episcopal Diocese of California in San Francisco May 6, 2006.
Clergy and laypeople stand outside Grace Cathedral the central church of the Episcopal Diocese of California in San Francisco May 6, 2006.

As COVID-19 continues to be a major concern in the United States, some dioceses of the Episcopal Church are requiring their staff and clergy to be vaccinated.

Bishop Lawrence C. Provenzano of the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island issued a letter last Thursday explaining that all staff and clergy had to be vaccinated by Sept. 15, giving an exemption to any who have medical conditions that might prevent them from doing so.

“Those individuals who cannot receive the vaccine will have to agree to wearing a mask at all indoor gatherings, meetings, and liturgies and agree to be tested every ten days until such time as the COVID-19 virus is no longer a threat to the health and safety of the people we are called to serve,” Provenzano wrote to the New York-based regional body.

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“Our own St. John’s Episcopal Hospital has agreed to provide the Pfizer vaccination to all diocesan staff members and all our clergy. This will be done in coordination with the bishop’s office, which will schedule the administration of the vaccine with the office of our Chief Medical Officer at St. John’s.”

Provenzano also urged people to “please get vaccinated as soon as possible and encourage everyone in your life to do the same.”

“Sisters and brothers, no one seeks to prolong the tremendous agony that exists today in our world. No one seeks to make life more complicated in the midst of the turmoil of the last eighteen months. Each of us, as members of the Body of Christ, must now do our part to help end this crisis,” he added.

Bishop Thomas J. Brown of the Episcopal Diocese of Maine released a statement directing all clergy and staff to be vaccinated against the coronavirus “unless under direction by a physician not to do so.”

“This directive is grounded in our baptismal covenant in which we promise to seek and serve Christ in all persons, love our neighbor, and respect the dignity of every human being,” stated Brown.  

“[W]e are not all doing this because we are heavy-handed, but because vaccinations are the best tool we have to curb the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The diocesan mandates for vaccination come around the time that Grace Cathedral, a prominent Episcopal congregation based in San Francisco, California, required worship attendees to show proof of vaccination.

“Grace Cathedral strives to be a community of joy, courage and wonder, online and in-person,” the cathedral explained on a webpage accessed by The Christian Post on Monday. “Starting August 24, proof of vaccination for anyone age 12 and above will be required.”

“We have implemented an advanced proof of vaccination form for you to complete and upload an image of your vaccination card," the statement added.

The cathedral noted that if an attendee does not fill out the form in advance, they must be prepared to present proof of their vaccination, include their vaccination card, a digital image of the card or a digital record of their vaccination issued by the state of California or from a list of approved companies.

According to an Associated Press analysis of the 18,000 COVID-19 deaths reported in the U.S. in May, around 99.8% of them were people who were not fully vaccinated.

The AP’s analysis of government data also noted that fully vaccinated people accounted for around 1.1% of the approximately 107,000 COVID-19 cases that involved hospitalization in May. 

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