September 22, 2021
The following is a message released on September 21, 2021, from the Bishop:
COVID-19 & Vaccination Policy
Aloha my dear Siblings in Christ Jesus,

The ongoing reality of COVID-19 has presented many challenges to the Church as we try to engage the governmental guidelines and the instruction from health care professionals. In the Episcopal Church, we have listened closely and tried to follow the direction of the best that medical science and civil authority can offer.

With the Delta Variant and other possible variants extant in the world today, what should we do? First and foremost, we must continue to encourage every member of the Episcopal Church who is medically eligible to be vaccinated. There is no reasonable reason whatsoever for someone in the Episcopal Church to seek a religious exemption from being vaccinated based on the teaching, practice, or spirituality of the Episcopal Church. An individual may claim such an exemption for a personal reason, but we need to be clear that this is not because one is a member of the Episcopal Church.

I know all clergy and most lay members of the Episcopal Diocese of Hawaiʻi and the Episcopal Church in Micronesia who are medically able have already been vaccinated. We continue to wear masks and practice social distancing. I deeply appreciate that. Thank you. You are living the Great Commandment (Mark 12:29-31).

I have decided after talking with Diocesan Council and Standing Committee that we need a specific Diocesan policy regarding vaccinations. The Chancellor is finalizing a policy for non-clergy employees for approval by Diocesan Council. It should be posted by the end of this week. I have also decided that we need to be clear about clergy and volunteer lay members who serve in the Church. The statement is not so much for the clergy and the vast majority of Episcopalians, but for the broader community and our affirmation of being vaccinated – if medically eligible – as the Episcopal Church.

The following policy statement is for all canonically resident and licensed clergy, and volunteer laity serving in churches or Church-related ministries in the Diocese of Hawaiʻi or in Micronesia:
Effective today, Tuesday, September 21, 2021, all canonically resident and licensed clergy in the Diocese of Hawaiʻi and the Episcopal Church in Micronesia must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to engage in sacerdotal and pastoral ministrations that bring personal contact with God’s people. This includes, but is not limited to, presiding at the Holy Eucharist, administering Holy Baptism, preaching, providing in-person pastoral care, helping with outreach ministries, and attending in-person church related functions. Further, all non-employee lay members of the Episcopal Church serving, or other non-Church members volunteering in ministries of the Episcopal Church, must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to engage in ministries of worship, service, or care. This includes, but is not limited to serving as a Eucharistic Minister or Lector, serving on the altar guild, helping with a feeding ministry or thrift shop, and engaging in fundraising activities. This policy includes any ministry or service on behalf of the Episcopal Church that interacts with the public even on a limited basis. Should you have any questions, please contact the Bishop.
I hope this sends a statement that being vaccinated is the norm and expectation in the Episcopal Church.

I am not prepared at this time to insist that only the fully vaccinated can attend in-person public worship or other public gatherings (such as County-authorized fund-raisers, feeding ministries or thrift shops) on Church property. I’m not sure that local congregations have the wherewithal for that level of monitoring. We must continue to be masked and practice social distancing when gathering. Again, worshipping and gathering is best done outside. If indoors, there must be adequate physical space for good air flow and social distancing. The leaders of smaller worship spaces (such as Christ Memorial Church and Good Samaritan Church, just as examples) must be particularly aware of the number of worshippers and the size limitations. In such situations, it is important that everyone eligible is vaccinated. As contact tracing takes place, it would be prudent to ask if the person is vaccinated (one can always decline to answer).

I would like the following statement to be printed at the top of all service bulletins or projected at the start of in-person public worship from now through the month of October:
A Message from the Bishop

As your Bishop, I deeply appreciate all those medically eligible who have been vaccinated against COVID-19, and all those who continue to wear their masks in public and practice social distancing when gathering. Thank you! As Episcopalians, I am convinced this is the very minimum we, as God’s people, can do to fulfill the Great Commandment (Mark 12:29-31) during this difficult time of a worldwide Pandemic: “Jesus replied, ‘The most important one is Israel, listen! Our God is the one Lord, and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this, You will love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these.’” You, God’s people, are truly loving your neighbor through these righteous deeds.

O gracious and holy Father, give us wisdom to perceive you, diligence to seek you, patience to wait for you, eyes to behold you, a heart to meditate upon you, and a life to proclaim you, through the power of the spirit of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Bishop Bob Fitzpatrick
With this, I pray we can teach and witness to the world.
Yours faithfully

The Right Reverend Robert L. Fitzpatrick

Bishop Diocesan
The Episcopal Diocese of Hawai'i
229 Queen Emma Square
Honolulu, HI 96813-2304

The Episcopal Church in Micronesia
911 North Marine Corps Drive
Upper Tumon, Guam 96913

Frequently Asked Questions
1. Is the Bishop requiring that Canonically Resident and Licensed Clergy be vaccinated for COVID-19?

All Clergypersons who desire to minister to God’s people sacramentally and in-person must be vaccinated. This includes public worship, funerals, marriages, outreach ministries, etc. If a Clergyperson is acting on behalf of the Church and an ordained person on behalf of the Church, then s/he must be vaccinated. If the Clergyperson cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons, s/he must talk to the Bishop.

2. Is the Bishop requiring that Church volunteers be vaccinated for COVID-19?

Any volunteer serving in a ministry of the Episcopal Church must be vaccinated. This includes Eucharistic Ministers, readers, acolytes, and anyone else involved in public worship. Unfortunately, that currently means children under the age of 12 are excluded from serving as readers or acolytes. Children under 12 are an issue. We know that some schools have become pandemic hotspots. Children under 12 now have a higher chance of being infected and of spreading the virus because of the Delta variant. There is a pediatric crisis. With the vaccine likely to be available in late October or early November for ages 5 to 12, this will be — God willing — a short lived restriction.

This requirement for vaccination extends to those serving meals to the houseless, distributing food, and providing other forms of outreach care. It includes volunteers in ancillary ministries of the Diocese like A Cup of Cold Water and Camp Mokuleʻia.

There are no medical or religious exemptions for volunteers.

3. How should this policy be monitored?

Clergy should electronically send a scanned copy or photo of their vaccination cards to Denise Esposito in the Diocesan Support Center.

This need not be complicated. Volunteer vaccination cards can be reviewed by the Clergy or authorized lay leaders (a Warden, for example), and then recorded in a simple log kept in the office. Alternatively, the Clergy or authorized lay leaders can keep a file with photocopies or scanned copies of the vaccination cards.
Stay Informed! Quick Links to the Diocesan Websites:
Contact Information
Sybil Nishioka, Editor & Communications Contractor
The Episcopal Diocese of Hawai'i
229 Queen Emma Square, Honolulu, HI 96813
(808) 536-7776