Thursday evening, May 14, 2020, Pastor Cristian Ionescu of the Romanian Pentecostal Church Elim in Chicago addressed an official message to the state and municipal elected officials, Governor of Illinois and Mayor of Chicago, as well as Alderwoman Rodriguez, following failed attempts to meet with them to address the issue of churches discriminated against by the “stay-at-home” isolation orders.
The first and last invitation of Mayor Lightfoot to have a conversation last Tuesday was canceled at the last moment by her, without mentioning a reasonable reason, but not without missing the opportunity to threaten “law enforcement” if the Elim Church continues to organize religious services.
We present to you the Romanian transcript of Pastor Cristian Ionescu’s message:
Greetings! May God bless you all!
Governor Pritzker, Mayor Lightfoot and Alderman Rodriguez, this is what I would say if I met you:
My name is Cristian Ionescu, Senior Pastor at Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church in Chicago.
We closed down the church for 2 months;
We wanted to be educated about the virus and the whole situation;
We wanted to keep our people safe;
We waited on the elected officials for guidance and comfort;
We Offered support, guidance and comfort ourselves;
IN SHORT, MY REASONS FOR DISAPPOINTMENT:
- We were never acknowledged!
- Our needs and objections were never considered!
- We were never consulted!
AND MY REASONS FOR CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE:
- Your path to reopen churches is arbitrary;
- Your path to reopen churches is ambiguous;
- Your path to reopen churches is unrealistic;
- Your path to recovery is excluding the needs of the human soul!
NOW, WHAT IF:
- What if you keep churches shut down for another year, maybe more?
- What if you take an aggressive stand against us?
- What if you don’t amend your plan and bring some clarity, urgency and sanity to it?
I will not stop and I will not be silenced! We will have Services this coming Sunday at 9 am and 6 pm, and I invite you to come and see how we take temperatures, how we maintain 6 ft bubble and all other precautions!
Many churches will follow suit sooner rather than later! I stand with dozens of pastors and religious leaders that today organized a rally with the purpose of communicating their concerns about you ordinances and restrictions imposed on churches! They were encouraged to open their churches this coming Sunday and many will!
You will see open rebellion and people acting in frustration, with no guidelines – implicitly no social distancing and no other precautions!
Look at the demonstrations and sometimes spontaneous rallies throughout the country! Look at other churches opening their doors in defiance!
You say that your drastic measures are meant to save lives! We don’t want anybody to die either! But if you wait until every place is to be 100% safe, there’s no such place; your recovery scheme will last forever!
I’m sure some would not be so sad to see one or two cases of people infected with Coronavirus in our church, just to prove the point and to attribute it to our public gatherings! If you think I shouldn’t be that sinister in my assumptions, it has been done before!
But, please, can you tell me when did you last attribute one, only one contamination to Walmart, Costco or, dare I say, Planned Parenthood?
Why would you hold churches to a higher standard than all these other places? Can we maybe ask that of your own office? Or the Whitehouse for that matter!
Are you responsible, or the President for the contaminations in your respective offices? Should you have shut down? No! But you accepted the risk and mitigated it against the need to function.
And you were right!
You, Governor, are essential and along with the President, the Mayor and many other elected officials provide essential services!
But per your own ordinance, churches are also to be considered essential services!
And if we are to provide these services, it doesn’t help that politicians quote “two or three” Scriptures and advise us on how to deliver these services!
You do not go into a meet factory to teach workers how to cut the meet, nor into a hospital to teach a doctor how to administer his services!
You wanted to talk, so let’s try again:
But, if we are going to have a rational, educational discussion, let’s not use talking points and clichés like “let’s save lives”, “let’s believe in science” and “it is the Law”!
These are disingenuous ways by which you shut down the conversation, implying that we don’t care about lives, we are fanatics and extremists and we look for trouble breaking the law! While it works in the media who only uses small snippets and clichés – and I’m afraid politicians are too obsessed about that – it does not reflect the truth and doesn’t solve anything! It is not a constructive argument!
Your problem is not that I don’t want to be educated, the problem is you are not able or willing to educate me!
I’ve sent a list of questions to the Mayor! She should’ve been happy! Finally she can talk to somebody who doesn’t want to catch her unprepared, surprise her with punchlines, no! Why then did she cancel our conference call?
I’ve talked to Alderman Rodriguez – and I’ll have to say, both Mayor Lightfoot and Alderman Rodriguez were very courteous – but she along with the others cannot hold to a conversation on equal terms! As much as I don’t like it, I would have to push my way into the conversation because it’s intended as a monologue: lives, science and law! You try to break through those lines, the conversation is over! Every direct and logical question is avoided and met with this standardized response!
So, let’s address it now!
Governor, Mayor, Alderman, THAT’S WHAT WE DO! We’ve cooperated with all your guidelines! We’ve gone the extra mile, and one of our questions – to which I’m yet to get an answer – is there more you want us to do? Did we miss anything?
But when you see other places where they ignore the guidelines, might be that they feel like, if you go to all that trouble and it doesn’t make any difference, you’re still threatened and in danger of imprisonment… yes Governor, Mayor, Alderman, I lead these services under the duress and threat of this possible outcome!
As churches, we should also address the spiritual need for salvation, which in absence of physical gatherings is greatly impeded! How are we to address the spiritual, emotional, relational needs of the people without church services and pending strict stay at home orders?
Now, right from the start, I have to tell you that the way I hear it, it bothers me! Because I believe IN… GOD! Science is good but not God! Science is incomplete – we always find out and discover new things – science is evolving – things that we thought we knew are different than we thought – and science is sometimes… subjective and even wrong!
What goes in a specific environment can’t be applied everywhere and… I don’t wish for anybody to be treated according to a medical textbook from one thousand years ago! So, yes, I believe science somewhat, but you have to agree with me, there is no general consensus among scientists right now, and some of them don’t agree with some things they themselves thought and said a month ago!
Look at Dr. Fauci testifying before Congress that there are no guarantees a vaccine would be efficient! Not to mention Dr. Birx being frustrated and skeptical with anything coming from CDC!
And yet, we accepted to play by your rules, except one: how did you or the scientists, who came up with the 10-50 number and why wasn’t available space introduced in this equation? No answer! It was on my list of questions!
And finally, LAW! THE LAW!
There are two things Governor, Mayor, Alderman that you cannot touch directly, because they are ingrained in the most sacred document placed at the foundation of this great nation of ours, right after the Bible, and it’s the Constitution of the United States of America!
Those two provisions are protecting the right to freedom to express one’s faith and the other is the right to peacefully assemble! Now, it is true that in times of peril such as this, you need to and you ought to provide guidelines and even implement them for the protection of the people! We accept that, but…
You will not address us as subjects to the rule of the government! We are not unreasonable people, at least not us! We can be talked to and we can be educated! But you need to talk to us, explain to us and answer to us!
You said with one side of your mouth that you will educate us into compliance but then, with the other you are trying to threaten us into compliance!
As long as we followed your scientific guidelines to save lives, it’s not us who need to follow the Law, but you yourselves: politicians, police officers, public servants who swore the oath to protect the Constitution before all else!
In conclusion, Governor Pritzker, Mayor Lightfoot, Alderman Rodriguez…
I would accept your invitation to talk anytime, anywhere and any which way you prefer!
Obviously, our attorney would have to be present and attend this conversation for two reasons: first, we’re in the middle of a litigation and second, as a mere citizen of this country I’m talking to people that think they have the authority to take sometimes specified and sometimes unspecified action against me! And if my lawyer being present bothers you, that’s exactly why he needs to be present!
This statement was not written by an attorney nor under the instruction of one!
My friends and people who know me understand that!
It is yet another plea for reason, for compassion and for civil rights and liberties that cannot be either suspended nor challenged under any circumstances!
Awaiting your response!
May God Bless the United States of America!
Pastor Cristian Ionescu
Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church