Church COVID Restrictions

John MacArthur, Pastor Who Has Defied COVID-19 Orders, Will Face New Hearing in November

"Los Angeles County representatives requested a hearing for civil contempt against MacArthur, who has continued to hold services at his Grace Community Church despite a ban on large gatherings issued by Gov. Gavin Newsom that includes services in houses of worship." - C.Leaders

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How Can We Simultaneously “Submit to Every Ordinance of Man” and “Obey God Rather Than Men”?

"...it seems necessary to amend the statement, 'We must obey the government unless the government explicitly tells us to disobey God,' to something like this: 'We must obey the government (1) unless the government explicitly tells us to disobey God, or (2) unless the government exceeds its jurisdiction so as to speak authoritatively into a sphere regulated by another, God-instituted authority.'" - Snoeberger

4536 reads

Capitol Hill Baptist Church sues D.C. on COVID order

CHBC sued, "contending the district’s restrictions in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic violate the congregation’s First Amendment rights and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The 26-page complaint says Bowser’s order has been applied in a discriminatory manner, permitting gatherings of thousands for other events this summer while severely limiting the meetings of churches and other religious bodies." - BPNews

3112 reads

Calif. pastor moves worship outdoors after county fines church $112K for indoor services

"The pastor of a 3,000-seat California church said he will stop fighting Santa Clara County and hold services in the church parking lot as per local COVID-19 guidelines after fines rose to over $112,000. The county said it will not forgive the fines." - CPost

1335 reads

Open letter to Gov. Newsom: Let's work together with churches for common good

"I believe it is possible for the California State Government and communities of faith in California to have a more coordinated and united effort in addressing the Coronavirus pandemic and civil unrest in our society." - Kendall Laughlin, Jr.

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Church vs. Public Health Orders: Buildings, Spheres, and Statements

My heart goes out to churches in places where COVID-related health orders have made it impossible to “gather in a normal way,” to use a phrase from Grace Community Church’s (GCC’s) “Statement from Pastor and Elders.”

True, gathering that way is only “normal” in the sense of “what we’re used to as a megachurch, in modern times, in the most prosperous nation on earth.” But if we consider the conditions they actually have to meet under, to gather legally, it’s much easier to feel their pain. Outdoor temperatures in parts of LA County, California (where GCC meets), reached 121 degrees a couple weekends ago.

Can they really comply with God’s command to obey the local authorities—including health orders banning indoor gatherings—and also obey God’s command to gather for worship?

I believe they can, and in a previous post I laid the principles groundwork for a comply and resist response, rather than assuming churches must comply or resist. Here, I want to look at GCC’s case for it’s noncompliant-resistance response. Tyler Robbins’ evaluation posted here several weeks ago. I’m looking at it a bit differently, though we land in similar places.

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Church vs. Public Health Orders: A Case for Complying and Resisting

Much of the debate over whether churches should submit to COVID-related rules in California has been inaccurately framed. “We must obey God rather than man,” they say (drawing from Acts). Using phrases like “ban on indoor worship” or even “ban on worship,” they represent the options as totaling two: We can (1) obey God by continuing to meet, disobey the manmade rules, and stand up for our rights or we can (2) disobey God by not meeting at all, comply with oppressive orders, and watch our liberties be slowly stripped away.

But these aren’t really the choices anywhere in California.

It’s true that some counties are more restricted than others, and, at the moment, Los Angeles County (where John MacArthur’s Grace Community Church meets) has a broad ban on indoor gatherings. Orange County (where Greg Laurie pastors Harvest Christian Fellowship) is under a very similar ban. These bans do apply to churches—along with bars, restaurants, parties at people’s homes, and a variety of other venues.

Another Option

The only-two-options talk in these cases is like saying, “Either the traffic light is green or you have to stop.” That really isn’t quite how it is, as all drivers know. Maybe the light is yellow. Maybe you’re well into the intersection already. Maybe the light just turned yellow.

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