Gov. Lee’s executive order allows churches to decide when to reopen

Watch: Gov. Lee?s executive order allows churches to decide when to reopen

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Governor Bill Lee’s latest executive order allows places of worship to decide for themselves if they will return to gatherings large and small for services.

It’s been nearly two months since Pastor J. Lawrence Turner held a physical church service with his Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church congregation which has more than 8,000 people.

With the continued threat of the coronavirus, a return to physical worship services isn’t something he’s in a rush to do.

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“I think it’s not a good idea for any faith community to want to gather in large numbers during this critical time," said Turner.

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Tuesday Shelby County leaders announced a plan that will limit places of worship to 25% capacity for at least two more weeks.

The plan also requires churches to maintain social distancing among members.

Not long after that announcement, Lee signed an executive order blocking local governments from regulating places of worship as an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19.

"Mississippi Boulevard is primarily an African American church, and we know how deeply this is affecting the African American community that are a third of the infections and a third of the deaths," Turner said.

Turner said he worries if churches move too quickly to return to their worship spaces it will set back the recovery and reopening process.

“We are conversing with the medical community. We are looking at how the curve continues to function not just nationally, but in Memphis, and that is guiding our decision. I wish I could give you a date,” Turner said.

While there are no requirements on houses of worship, Lee urged them to use virtual services for the time being.

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