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Health

Maine Episcopal Bishop Mandates Vaccinations For Clergy, Office Staff

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Willis Ryder Arnold
/
Maine Public
Bishop Thomas Brown of the Episcopal Diocese of Maine.

The Episcopal Diocese of Maine is mandating that all of its diocesan staff and clergy must be vaccinated for COVID-19 by the end of September.

Bishop Thomas Brown says the decision was reached after consulting with several other spiritual leaders for about 10 days.

In a letter to priests and deacons on Monday, Brown writes that with COVID-19 continuing to spread, now is the time to "safeguard each other’s health, love our neighbors by getting vaccinated, and to pastor our communities accordingly." Brown said that spiritual leaders have a "moral obligation" to protect others, and that vaccination is the clearest way to end the pandemic. He also asked clergy to encourage their congregations to get a shot.

Brown says he hopes the new mandate will also offer some comfort to parishioners returning to in-person services.

"Especially those of us who celebrate communion - to know that the person presiding at the eucharistic alter is fully vaccinated - that will be a great assurance to several people," Brown says.
Brown says that if a clergy member with fewer responsibilities, such as a deacon, refuses to get vaccinated, the church may ask them to step aside for a period of time. And for clergy with larger roles, Brown says he would consider asking them to leave.

"I would come across as wanting to honor the fact that a local church has called her or him or them to serve their church. So I would do this in consultation with lay leaders," Brown says. "But the fact is that, ultimately, I may in fact have to ask someone to step down."

The church will exempt any staff or clergy that have been directed by a physician to not get the vaccine.