Visual Depiction of Coronavirus Inside the Church
The CDC recommends we avoid gatherings of more than 10 people if possible.

With most churches worldwide heeding calls to shutter and encourage social distancing, one Baptist bishop in Georgia is wondering what the big idea is.

“No matter how bad things get in shutting down a City in a Crisis. At least 2 entities hv 2 remain open. Hospitals & Police Departments." tweeted Paul S. Morton of The Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship International. "But God’s Church must be on that list. Don’t cancel God out. We can’t do it without Him.”

As if that wasn't bad enough, Morton posted photos with his hands on congregants - "God’s first spiritual responders" - adding that until the law forced him to close, healthy Christians filling up at grocery stores or gas stations should find time for God as well.

These actions - touching, congregating, even for God - go against the CDC’s recommendations to stay in your home and avoid gatherings of 10 or more people.

"Please Stay Home"

A fellow South Carolina minister at Joshua Baptist Church respectfully disagreed that church doors should stay open during a worldwide pandemic.

"Cancelling service is a precautionary step that shows that you as the shepherd of your flock care about the safety and health of your congregants," explained Rev. Chris Thurman. "God didn’t give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a SOUND MIND."

Morton responded by insisting it's the CDC that should get their guidelines straight and determine what is a safe gathering. "And if they go down to one. I will be the one at The Church building where God says forsake not the assembling of yourselves together.”

Anesthesiologist Karen Priester slammed Morton's logic. “I pray your congregation has more common sense than you do. It's not about you & your ego. Is your God only in that building? Please stay home. Spend some time in communion with God without the middleman. Thankfully, I can pray to, meditate on, and worship my God anywhere."

But this goes beyond one renegade pastor.

Defying the Experts

Watching with satisfaction as his Tampa congregants hugged and shook hands during a packed service, Pastor Rodney Howard-Brown scoffed at so-called medical experts. “If you cannot be safe in church, you’re in serious trouble,” he said during a sermon. “The only time the church is closed is when the Rapture is taking place. This bible school is open because we’re raising up revivalists, not pansies.”

And Liberty University Jerry Falwell Jr. called one of his own clients a "dummy  " after the father-of-three questioned the wisdom of refusing to even entertain the possibility of cancelling classes, insisting it was "crazy, irresponsible and....a money grab."

Over 5,700 cases of the new coronavirus have been diagnosed in the U.S., a number that has more than doubled since last week. At least 94 people have died, and the CDC has pointed out that if China is any indication, serious illness may occur in up to 16 percent of cases, including "people of all ages with heart disease, lung disease and diabetes."

Take Your Worship Digital

Given this environment, why would any priest or religious leader be effectively asking their followers - most of whom are likely elderly - to put themselves at unnecessary risk? Is it so hard for certain God-fearing individuals to err on the side of science for once?

Listen to the CDC: avoid all large gatherings. Stay indoors. Worship digitally. And for God’s sake, wash your hands.

The sooner we all make the hard sacrifices, the sooner we get out of this crisis.

27 comments

  1. Dan Anderson's Avatar Dan Anderson

    Let's just say this: THEY HAVE SOME UNMITTIGATED GALL to stay open, spreading the chances of people getting ill. I know that some of them will claiim that "The Lord is protecting us from this disease" and yet, they still have lightning rods on top of their church steeples and roofs.

    I wonder how many of their staff will visit their congregation when they are in ICU with the purpose of "praying for them". I suspect when they read this, they will "pray for me", which is nothing more than an idiotic threat because they have nothing to counter the science.

    1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

      its their 1st Amendment right child, something you cant change.

  1. Beth's Avatar Beth

    Churches were closed during the Spanish Flu epidemic in 1918. That was before there were digital options for worship and socialization, even before most people had telephones. Closing a church for the pandemic is prudent, and could be replaced with anything from a livestream on whatever platform to a community radio station broadcasting the sermon and ceremony - using recorded music rather than a live choir.

    We got through it then and we'll get through it now. We don't have to risk spreading this.

  1. Herbert Moore's Avatar Herbert Moore

    It is difficult to begin to imagine what to say about something so irresponsible. Not only will they cross infect themselves, but I suspect then infect others outside their congregation. I understand the government of South Korea is considering charging the heads of the religious group that created South Korea's initial infection cluster - through their own version of denial - with murder.

  1. Aqilah Jackson's Avatar Aqilah Jackson

    Keeping any church, synagogue, mosque or temple open during a pandemic is totally irresponsible and shows lack of compassion for those not in your flock. Say your flock is safe and no one gets sick, they are all possible carriers. I have a child in end stage kidney disease, who is on dialysis if she gets this it will most likely kill her. I believe in God with all my heart, but I also believe that God expects us to help ourselves too. So we will listen to livestream from our church and shelter in place with my can of Lysol and bleach wipes.

  1. Rev. Roe's Avatar Rev. Roe

    The church is only a building. We hold with-in what we believe. Perhaps this is the time we need to bend our knees in prayer , YES even at home. God will be there with you even at HOME.

    1. Catherine Ohrin-Greipp's Avatar Catherine Ohrin-Greipp

      Yes and in the garden, back yard, park, under a tree. The buildings are just structures just like you say. When will sheeple wake up?

      1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

        Nobody has to go to church to find God, or whatever they call their deities. God (The All) is everywhere, and in everything. God is in our hearts, our minds, and our homes. I'm just as religious wherever I'm at, and haven't stepped foot in a church in years. Going to church won't bring anyone closer to God, but these days could make you see God a whole lot faster, face to face, in heaven, after you die from Corona virus. It makes me glad to be an introvert, for I live alone, and love my own company. Oh yeah, I'm staying home all the time, and am even getting my groceries through the mail from Amazon. Practically everyone has an Android phone with internet service, as well as talk and text. I can't imagine needing more than that. We don't have to touch others and breath on them to socialize. If you don't know anyone to call on the phone call unknown numbers. Sooner or later you'll find someone who is lonely too, and will have a great conversation with you. This p to obably won't last forever. What ever has? It just seems that way while it's going on, and we're worried about what the unknown future holds. Don't project the future, or envision worst case scenarios, but live in the present moment, which is all we ever have

  1. Tom Thackrey's Avatar Tom Thackrey

    Even if you believe that your congregation is immune, the responsible thing would be to close and share services digitally. This would set a good example for the community. Of course, if your goal is publicity (not very Christian by-the-way) you are putting your flock at risk for it.

  1. Martha Knight's Avatar Martha Knight

    The New Testament shows us that followers of Christ did not meet in church buildings but in homes.

  1. Minister Carlos Ricardo Walls's Avatar Minister Carlos Ricardo Walls

    This is serious,why some refuse to follow directions.It's beyond me,there's just no explaining some individuals.

    1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      Oh Lord it's hard to be humble when you're perfect in every way.

  1. Master Wolf KSC's Avatar Master Wolf KSC

    We already know there have been fatalities, and the percentage of fatalities has remained constant worldwide within a margin of error at 3%. As the known cases rise and as collateral damage rises, the number of real fatalities is going up. Currently the death toll is rising at over 10% daily. We can expect to see certain behaviors that are contrary to general survival, and we are seeing this kind of behavior from high-profile reactionary/right-wing clergy. If their intention is to help their congregants meet Jesus sooner, their actions are congruent with that intention.

  1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

    Logic and reason works in mysterious ways doesn’t it? Those who wish to defy it by congregating in buildings when the CDC puts out good educational guidelines to mitigate our chances of catching this deadly virus could sadly suffer the possible consequences. This virus is no respecter of any religion, only those with common sense.

    🦁❤️

  1. arawngraalrd's Avatar arawngraalrd

    The Lord might not protect you from this one but, we normally fall ill from time to time, and Healling happens around churches. With a two week incubation period, avoiding infection looks a lot like shutting the door once the horse is gone. There's better than a 2% chance, that the Democratic Party will have no front runners come May.

  1. Vern Dee Wall's Avatar Vern Dee Wall

    Let's get real, shall we?

    2 Chronicles 7:13-14 King James Version (KJV) 13 If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people; 14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

    The real part is that these people think first of toilet paper, not God.

    1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

      Yes, let’s get real. Logic and reason will always win out no matter what is written in an old book of fables and fiction. I mush prefer the writings of J.K. Rowling though. Dumbledore has some wonderful sayings in the Harry Potter series. Each to their own I guess. Let’s hope we all get through this virus issue, with love in our hearts for our fellow man.

      🦁❤️

  1. JKM's Avatar JKM

    What an irresponsible and arrogant stance. They act as if they ARE God. Playing God never ends well.

  1. Reverend Cory's Avatar Reverend Cory

    Close the doors! God will understand.

  1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

    Ok I am not wearing a tinfoil hat but what would be the easiest way to destroy a country? You get a virus that gets the leaders all hot and bothered so much so they start shutting down businesses and malls and barber shops and so on, just exactly what is going on now. And as soon as they get that then we are in a weakened position, then all of a sudden someone comes up with a cure and they are hailed as a hero. Something stinks about this and it isnt the cheese.

    1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      It might even be China and Russia's new way of helping Trump win the election, since we're on to them about the way they did it last time.

  1. Br'er George's Avatar Br'er George

    Stewpid iz az stewpid duzz an' stewpid'll take keer uv itself.

  1. Rev. D.H. Zielinski's Avatar Rev. D.H. Zielinski

    We should all be prudent about closing the houses of worship. Many of us have online ministries that address the needs of our fellow worshipers. It seems to me , and perhaps I am being cynical about this, but perhaps the "churches" that are staying open to hold services are doing this for4 the money that it could bring in. If so shame on them. You can do God's work much better if you are alive, and spread the word of God than if you are out there spreading covid-19.

  1. Shawn Allen Hank's Avatar Shawn Allen Hank

    The old saying "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" still applies, right? Maybe I am wrong. Suppose a hypothetical scenario with me. Let's assume people do not stay home. They go about their business everyday, and everyone gets the Coronavirus, which sounds really bad, right? However, let us further state that the current death rate remains the same. What this means is if everyone caught this virus and the current numbers stay the same, only 1.65% would die. The numbers come from the article. 5,700 positive cases and 94 deaths in America. Hence, (94 / 5,700) * 100 = 1.65%.

    If we look at this objectively, the number of cases will most likely grow. However, you do not want to focus on the number of cases. The focus should be on the number of deaths, and how well prepared medical facilities are to handle the positive cases. It is important to note that the quality of medical care varies across the globe country to country. So hypothetically, 100% death rate in China compared to a 1.65% death rate in America is not comparable and vice versa.

    When responding to the article, it is irresponsible to subject congregations to the possibility of contracting the virus. The church's position might be that more people die from the flu each year. However, now is not the time to be brazen. Now is the time to be cautious. Now is the time for discernment. It is not the time to be sheeple, as one commentator mentioned. The Lord helps them who help themselves. Meaning, are you really helping yourself if you put yourself in harm's way?

  1. Shawn Allen Hank's Avatar Shawn Allen Hank

    The old saying "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" still applies, right? Maybe I am wrong. Suppose a hypothetical scenario with me. Let's assume people do not stay home. They go about their business everyday, and everyone gets the Coronavirus, which sounds really bad, right? However, let us further state that the current death rate remains the same. What this means is if everyone caught this virus and the current numbers stay the same, only 1.65% would die. The numbers come from the article. 5,700 positive cases and 94 deaths in America. Hence, (94 / 5,700) * 100 = 1.65%.

    If we look at this objectively, the number of cases will most likely grow. However, you do not want to focus on the number of cases. The focus should be on the number of deaths, and how well prepared medical facilities are to handle the positive cases. It is important to note that the quality of medical care varies across the globe country to country. So hypothetically, 100% death rate in China compared to a 1.65% death rate in America is not comparable and vice versa.

    When responding to the article, it is irresponsible to subject congregations to the possibility of contracting the virus. The church's position might be that more people die from the flu each year. However, now is not the time to be brazen. Now is the time to be cautious. Now is the time for discernment. It is not the time to be sheeple, as one commentator mentioned. The Lord helps them who help themselves. Meaning, are you really helping yourself if you put yourself in harm's way?

  1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

    Some people seem to think the way to go is to live fast, love hard, and die young. The world is over populated, and the apocalypse is taking too long to get here, so it's no sweat off my back. Seek to help those who want it, and have enough sense to come in out of the rain, instead of staying outside and staring up at it, until they drown with the other turkeys. As with the holy words of St. Ozzie, "I don't want to change the world. I don't want the world to change me." Cheers!

  1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

    To all who are complaining about the churches staying open....maybe you should read the 1st Amendment to the US Constitution which has been federal law and supreme law in the US since 1787

    "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech"

    Sort of destroys your complaints and accusations and whines now dont it?

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