Thursday, April 02, 2020


This is insane:
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has overruled local counties’ power to ban large religious gatherings amid the coronavirus pandemic, carving out an extraordinary loophole that officials say will violate social distancing guidelines and ensure further spread of the virus.

By allowing religious services to continue, DeSantis is seemingly siding with religious leaders who’ve stood against the federally mandated guidelines—including controversial Tampa pastor Rodney Howard-Browne, who refused to stop holding services because he believed his church had machines that could stop the virus.

After weeks of political pressure and public outcry, the Republican governor signed a “stay-at-home” order Wednesday to curtail the spread of the coronavirus outbreak. But, unlike most mandates implemented in dozens of states, DeSantis ruled that religious services were an “essential activity.”

... Some counties had already implemented their own orders, like Hillsborough County, where Sheriff Chad Chronister had issued misdemeanors to Howard-Brown[e] for violating an order against large gatherings.

However, in a clarifying memo on Thursday, DeSantis said his order “shall supersede any conflicting official action or order issued by local officials in response to COVID-19.”
DeSantis assures us that he wants the services to be conducted safely.
"I don't think the government has the authority to close a church. I'm certainly not going to do that," DeSantis said. "There's no reason why you couldn't do a church service with people 10 feet apart. So we absolutely asked them to abide by the social distancing guidelines."
But will they all comply? There clearly wasn't social distancing taking place at last Sunday's service at Howard-Browne's church, after which the pastor was arrested.

Howard-Browne is the preacher who said the coronavrus would never close his church.
“We are not stopping anything,” he said. “I’ve got news for you, this church will never close. The only time the church is closed is when the Rapture is taking place,” he said to laughter.

“This Bible school is open because we’re raising up revivalists, not pansies.”
And he has friends in high places.

But other megachurches, in Florida and elsewhere, have accepted the science and agreed not to put their parishioners at risk. At the website of largest megachurch in Florida, Christ Fellowship in Palm Beach Gardens, with an average weekly attendance of 27,000, pastors Todd and Julie Mullins have posted this:
As you have most likely heard by now, church at Christ Fellowship will look a little different this weekend. If you haven’t heard, here’s the latest update about weekend services from Pastors Todd and Julie. Although we might not be gathering physically, we can’t wait to gather with you at Church Online this weekend as we worship together, pray together, and give generously as the movement of God.
Information about livestreams of the services follows.

At the site for Northland Church in Longwood, Florida (average weekly attendance 22,000), there's this:
As we continue to respond to the proactive efforts of surrounding community leaders in mitigating the health impact of COVID-19, beginning at 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 26th, the Northland Campus will be closed to all public access....

We encourage you to join us for online worship at any of our regularly scheduled services times. If you’ve never been part of our online community, you can do so on our website, via Roku, our mobile app, and even on our Facebook page.
Many stories on the DeSantis order have compared what he's done to what Governor Mike DeWine has done in Ohio-- he has also declared church an essential service, while telling churches that they need to stay safe.
Mentioning an order ... coming Thursday to apparently further enforce social distancing orders and bans on mass gatherings, DeWine, in response to a question, said church leaders must not gather their congregations in large numbers.

“They are endangering themselves, they are endangering their families, they are endangering total strangers ... It’s not a Christian thing to do,” the governor added.
But I see Ohio megachurch pastors avoiding live services. At the website of World Harvest Church in Columbus (average weekly attendance 13,000), there's this notice:
Out of an abundance of caution and in light of recent developments surrounding the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the leadership of World Harvest Church has made the difficult decision to not conduct public services on our campuses until further notice, which will be constantly updated and maintained at WHC.LIFE. Our goal will be to resume assembly as quickly as is safely possible.

In the meantime, Pastor Parsley will lead a LIVE and unique online worship experience on RODPARSLEY.TV, Facebook, YouTube, and other platforms....
"Pastor Parsley" is no moderate -- that's Rod Parsley, who doesn't believe in the separation of church and state, opposes abortion and same-sex marriage, and had his endorsement of John McCain rejected during the 2008 campaign after he said that Islam is an "anti-Christ religion" and added that “America was founded in part to see this false religion destroyed.” If that guy is closing his church to save lives, why can't Howard-Browne?

I'm not a believer, but I used to be one, and this, from the site of Crossroads Church in Cincinnati (average weekly attendance 38,000), seems right:

I have an evangelical in my family and this is what she says. It's how her church is operating now. Members of a church can support one another without gathering in a large group, no matter what Rodney Howard-Browne says.

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