(RNS) — For months, the leaders of the Christian Medical and Dental Associations have urged churches to social distance, wear masks and do their part to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Unfortunately, says the association of 20,000 evangelical health care professionals, those guidelines have often gone unheeded.

“Despite these efforts, CMDA is saddened to learn not only that many churches have ignored our guidelines but that congregants have become infected with SARS-CoV-2 as a result of those decisions,” the organization said in a statement titled “A Plea to Our Churches,” released Friday.

The statement was written by C. Christopher Hook, a bio-ethicist at the Mayo Clinic, and Jeffrey J. Barrows, the CMDA’s senior vice president of bioethics and public policy.

The group is now calling

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