6:50 P.M. UPDATE
Not long after the Catholic bishops of Minnesota announced intentions to reopen churches despite Gov. Tim Walz's order to limit worship gatherings to 10 or fewer people, some Lutheran churches have followed suit.
In a statement, the Minnesota South District of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod announced that it has notified its partner Minnesota churches that "they may begin to reopen on Tuesday, May 26, with the first Sunday worship services occurring on Pentecost Sunday, May 31."
The synod's message to Gov. Walz adds: "Now that you have deemed it safe to reopen non-critical businesses in Minnesota, we believe that the essential business of caring for the spiritual needs of our flocks with in-person meetings must also resume in a limited capacity."
Archbishop of St. Paul Bernard Hebda and the Catholic bishops of Minnesota have announced they intend to defy Gov. Walz's latest coronavirus order and resume services, albeit in a limited capacity.
In Gov. Walz's update Wednesday, he said that while restaurants, bars and salons can reopen in a restricted manner, places of worship must continue with the ban on indoor services of more than 10 people, and he also didn't make any concession allowing them to conduct outdoor services.
But in a letter posted by Archbishop Hebda, and signed by the Bishops of New Ulm, Crookston, Winona-Rochester, St. Paul and Minneapolis, St. Cloud and Duluth, it says that Catholic churches have the option of resuming on May 26, ahead of the celebration of Pentecost on May 31.
"Parishes will be required to follow the strict protocols we have published for sanitation and social distancing and will have to limit attendance to one-third of the seating capacity of the church," the letter says.
The move will likely put the church on a collision course with the Walz Administration, which said that the resumption of services right now presents risks with the virus still widespread, and the peak not yet reached in Minnesota.
But he admitted his latest loosening of restrictions was "not perfect" and had a particularly tough time allowing restaurants to open on June 1 for outdoor dining with a capacity of up to 50, but not allow places of worship to offer outdoor services with a similar capacity.
"The bishops of Minnesota are united in our conviction that we can safely resume public Masses in accordance with both our religious duties and with accepted public health and safety standards," the bishops write.
"Given our willingness to coordinate with the Governor, we are especially disappointed that his most recent order (the end of Stay at Home) does not address both the vital importance that faith plays in the lives of Americans, especially in this time of pandemic, and the fundamental religious freedom possessed by houses of worship that allows our country to thrive," they add.