Another COVID-19 Outbreak at John MacArthur’s Grace Community Church – UPDATED

UPDATE: LA County Department of Health informed me this afternoon (12/21) that “No additional outbreaks have been reported by Grace Community Church to Public Health since” the earlier employee related outbreak in October.

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Twitter user and Medium writer Modern Day Zorro posted a piece on Medium with news of another Grace Community Church COVID outbreak (there was one back in October). MDZ is close to GCC and has never been wrong with news on the church. (My question mark in the title is admittedly self-protective, and because I have not been able to get confirmation from Grace’s PR firm. – See the update below) Given the lack of mitigation measures and the ignorance about COVID which have been apparent at Grace, I don’t doubt the report. However, if corrections or modifications are needed, I will make them.

According to the Medium report, multiple Grace members and staff may be infected:

  1. Don’t take the vaccine as it’s just a money ploy.
  2. Grace is welcoming 400 new members.
  3. The giving is the best it’s ever been.
  4. There are no long-term side effects to COVID.
  • Yes <hits mic and blows into it> 7 people, elders and staff, have COVID symptoms and have subsequently tested positive as a direct result of going to a Staff Christmas party.

    While I await confirmation of specific numbers, I can note that one pastor at Grace, Will Varner, has tested positive for COVID and announced this publicly. He also said a musician affiliated with GCC’s Sojourners ministry tested positive.

Let’s not forget that MacArthur’s attorney Jenna Ellis tested positive for COVID-19.

As someone who has had COVID, I certainly wish the best for these folks. I post this because I sincerely doubt that certain church leaders at GCC will provide the congregation with appropriate information. At least, it hasn’t happened so far.

UPDATE: Julie Roys has an article out on Sunday with reporting that people at Grace are being discouraged from telling anyone about their COVID diagnosis.  She also has much more documentation of GCC members and staff who have COVID. It seems pretty clear that MacArthur’s rosy picture of a church meeting indoors without caution and without cases of COVID is false.

During church on Sunday morning, MacArthur did not comment on the cases identified by the sources noted above and by Julie Roys.

Another update from Modern Day Zorro:

MacArthur said everybody has a bug.

COVID-19 Doesn’t Play

I haven’t posted for awhile because I tested positive for COVID-19. It started out mild but then hit me hard. While I was able to stay home, I did feel pretty sick for about a week. While I am off quarantine now, I am still tired and don’t feel quite back to normal. Overall though, I feel blessed to have stayed out of the hospital.

I feel more certain than ever that mask wearing is necessary and churches should stop clutching their rights to meet together. We only have a few more months until a vaccine is widely available. Surely, we can wait a few more months to get together in large groups.

 

L.A. County Concludes Workplace Investigation of Grace Community Church; COVID-19 Requirements Still Binding on Church

Recently, Grace Community Church posted this on their website

Outbreak Restrictions Lifted

We are glad to announce that we received a notice from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health on Thursday, November 12, saying that we have been cleared of COVID-19 outbreak. After a thorough investigation, Public Health officials have decided to rescind all outbreak related requirements and restrictions on Grace Community Church.

The L.A. County Department of Public Health doesn’t quite see it that way. I asked them for a reaction to this statement and they sent the following response to me exclusively tonight.

Please see the department of Public Heath’s response:

Public Health’s investigation into the Grace Community Church worksite COVID-19 outbreak was recently concluded.  The Church is still required to follow all current Health Officer Order requirements for places of worship, which include outdoor services, as well as all applicable infection control protocols for all activities that occur on the Grace Community Church campus.  Public Health has found that Sun Valley has among the higher rates of COVID-19 transmission in the County of Los Angeles.  Compliance with the required infection control protocols by Grace Community Church will lessen the risk of COVID-19 transmission to its employees and visitors.

Grace Community Church starting at the top has been marked by non-compliance with mask wearing and social distancing. Pastor John MacArthur has communicated bogus COVID-19 prevalence statistics and denied there is a pandemic.

All restrictions on Grace church have not been rescinded. The leaders and people of Grace are simply ignoring them. There are or were 5 employees who contracted COVID-19 recently and there is an outbreak at The Master’s University as well. The Health Order has not been rescinded; Grace Church is simply refusing to follow it.

 

 

Grace Community Church and The Master’s University Have Outbreaks of COVID-19 (UPDATED with Church Response)

(UPDATE 10/27) A fifth case of COVID-19 is now associated with Grace Community Church, you can check the case numbers here.

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(UPDATE) According to an email that went out to the Grace Community, the people who have COVID are part-time employees.

You may have seen a report on the news claiming that there is a COVID-19 outbreak at our church. There is no outbreak at Grace Church. We have three, part-time employees who tested positive and are now recovering at home, having never been hospitalized. As we enter the flu season, we encourage you to stay home if you are not feeling well or have COVID-19-like symptoms. We are going to meet for worship this Sunday to celebrate the Lord’s Table together.

Do those employees also attend the church? This statement raises as many questions as it answers.

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(UPDATE) Jenna Ellis, attorney for Grace Community Church just released this statement in response to the LA Times article about the COVID outbreak at the church:

Three very mild positive tests among more than 7000 people is hardly news. 0.0004% is not an ‘outbreak.’ The LA Times and others’ grossly misleading and fear-mongering headlines aim to mischaracterize Grace Community Church as irresponsible and a superspreader. It has never been the Church’s position that it is only safe to hold services if no one ever tests positive, or for example, if no one ever gets the flu during flu season. Our position has been that LA County shutting down churches indefinitely amid a virus with a 99.98% survival rate, especially when state-preferred businesses are open and protests are held without restriction, is unconstitutional and harmful to the free exercise of religion.

I wrote the public relations firm back to inform them that the actual percentage is .043% (3 divided by 7000 multiplied by 100). If they issue a correction, I will note it. Perhaps this is why MacArthur continues to cite incorrect prevalence figures for CA.

(UPDATE) – The public relations firm wrote back and acknowledged the math error.

Ellis also has the survival rate wrong. It isn’t correct to speak about surviving an illness you have never had. She incorrectly refers to the number of deaths as a proportion of the population. However, she is incorrect there as well. Her number (.02%) would lead to a death toll of 65,000 deaths. The COVID death toll is just over 224,000. The number of cases is about 8.6 million. The fatality rate among people who have had the illness stands at about 2.5%. The actual fatality rate may be lower, but it isn’t as low as Ellis and company want you to believe.

The term outbreak has a precise definition taken from the California Department of Health. Here is the definition:

  • In non-residential congregate settings, e.g., workplaces, adult and child daycare facilities, K-12 schools and colleges/universities:
    • At least three probable or confirmed COVID-19 cases* within a 14-day period in people who are epidemiologically-linked† in the setting, are from different households, and are not identified as close contacts‡ of each other in any other case investigation.

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The L.A. Times reported late yesterday that three cases of COVID-19 are now associated with Grace Community Church in Sun Valley. This is John MacArthur’s church where the members don’t wear masks or keep a safe distance.

In addition, MacArthur’s college, The Master’s University reported two cases of COVID-19 on campus. According to a source close to the college, a third case was discovered within the past two days. Apparently, there is something to this coronavirus.

Pastor John MacArthur is in a court battle with Los Angeles County over a health order forbidding indoor worship in the county. He once told his congregation that it was good news that they were not wearing masks and were not social distancing. He also has declared that there is not a pandemic based on faulty statistics about the prevalence of COVID-19 in CA.

Julie Roys reminded me of this fact from the past. Two people died as a result of attending John MacArthur’s Shepherd Conference in March. In addition to these fatalities, there was also a couple who became quite ill and was hospitalized in the Spring.

 

North Carolina: Churches Associated with 76 COVID-19 Outbreaks, 1,040 Cases, and 13 Deaths

As of October 21, NC will report clusters by location. Since May, religious gatherings have accounted for 76 clusters, 1040 cases and 13 deaths. According to the data shown in the chart below, religious gatherings are the third greatest source of cases associated with clusters behind meat packing plants and colleges.

I reported similar numbers from Georgia a few weeks ago.  I am keeping track of outbreaks in churches at this page:

Churches and the Spread of COVID-19

As of October 22, 2020, I count 552 religious gatherings associated with at least 6,724 cases of COVID-19 and 88 deaths in the U.S.

While Sean Feucht and others engage in potential superspreader events around the country, some churches are dealing with serious outbreaks and death of members.

 

A Conversation with Greg Thornbury: Wokeness, COVID Truthiness, the Consequences of Trumpism and Much More

My series of blogcasts this summer was fun and well received so I thought I would follow up with some additional conversations. The first one drops today and features Greg Thornbury, Vice President for Development at New York Academy of Art in NYC. Greg was once president of The King’s College in NYC and has a long history in evangelical institutions. I continue to get positive feedback about our first interview.

Greg and I discuss Eric Metaxas’ punch and run episode, COVID truthers, Al Mohler’s shift to Trumpism, the meaning of the recent conservative attacks on wokeness, and the potential bitter consequences of Trumpism.

Hope you find something of interest and enjoy the conversation. Please feel free to comment below.

Gregory Alan Thornbury, Ph.D., has been a college philosophy and theology professor, dean, and president of The King’s College in New York City. In addition to several books on theology and culture, he is the author of Why Should The Devil Have All the Good Music: Larry Norman and the Perils of Christian Rock (Random House, 2018) – a critically acclaimed biography that has been reviewed by The New York Times, The New Yorker, National Public Radio, and was awarded as the most influential book in arts and culture by Christianity Today for 2019. A popular writer and speaker on philosophy, religion, and the arts, he currently serves as Senior Vice President at the New York Academy of Art in Tribeca, founded by Andy Warhol. He is also a consultant for Good Country Pictures, who is currently working on film adaptations of the short stories and novels of Willa Cather, Walker Percy, and Flannery O’Connor for film and television.

You can see all posts about these interviews by clicking this link.

Also subscribe to my Psychvideos Youtube channel where I host them.

Greg Thornbury Talks About the Attacks on Wokeness

On Monday, I will post a new conversation with former The King’s College president Greg Thornbury. He is currently Senior Vice President at the New York Academy of Art in Tribeca NY, a school founded by Andy Warhol. You can watch the first interview here.

In this interview, I ask Greg about Eric Metaxas’ Punch and Run, evangelical COVID truther events, Al Mohler’s shift toward Trumpism, wokeness, and much more. In this brief segment, Greg tells me what he thinks Owen Strachan is really trying to accomplish with his recent attacks on wokeness (see tweet below).

So should racial justice advocates fear excommunication? Thornbury suggests they are safe and that another agenda may be at work.

Tune in Monday here or at the PsychVideos You Tube channel for the entire interview.

While you are at it, go subscribe to the PsychVideos channel.

John MacArthur, Tony Perkins, Wayne Grudem, Others Call Evangelicals to COVID Denial

Last night Tony Perkins and Family Research Council hosted a COVID-19 denial, Trump campaign, and Amy Coney Barrett support rally at Jack Hibbs church in Chino Hills, CA. Called Freedom Sunday, Perkins also brought together pastors and others who supported opening churches without restriction, including masks and social distancing. No one was wearing masks or social distancing in the crowd.

John MacArthur spoke by video and again cited the same false information about the prevalence of COVID-19 in CA. He admitted in this address that some were ill in the beginning although he didn’t say they were hospitalized. There are others who have been ill but people are not talking at the church. He also says in the Freedom Sunday video that they made no announcement about reopening. However, that description doesn’t fit the statement leading up to their first real Sunday back in session July 26, 2020.

The false information given in the Freedom Sunday talk is what he is also using to try to get other churches to open without mitigation measures.

In this video, MacArthur again says that 1/100th of 1% of people have COVID in CA. However, the graphic on the screen says “.001” which would be .1% or one- tenth of a percent. In fact, 1/100th of 1% is .0001. MacArthur is asserting that only 4,000 Californians have COVID-19. The 16,584 COVID deaths in CA is a greater percentage of the population than MacArthur claims has the virus.

I still don’t know where MacArthur is getting his numbers. His PR firm won’t comment. As in the Freedom Sunday video., he clearly here refers to people who have COVID-19. As of today, 846,579 have had COVID-19 in CA which is 2.1% of the population. According to Worldometer, 399,491 Californians have active COVID cases. This is right at 1% of the population.

In his Freedom Sunday appearance, he spread the same false information without being corrected. It is obvious that there was no concern for objectivity or facts at this event. If conspiracy theories and false information will do the trick, then full speed ahead.

Eric “Punch and Run” Metaxas, Wayne Grudem, and Che Ahn also lent their Trump support and COVID-19 skepticism to the event.

Why should I or anyone trust anything being shared? No one with expertise in epidemiology was curating the information. Skepticism about the virus and support for Trump were the necessary criteria for speakers at this event. The speakers said they wanted freedom to worship Jesus, but what really came through was their desire to hold indoor political rallies in the name of religion.

 

Faith Healing Bethel School of Ministry Scene of COVID-19 Outbreak

While Bethel volunteer worship leader Sean Feucht travels the nation defying COVID-19 health orders, back home Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry is having a COVID-19 outbreak. Since early September, the unaccredited school has reported 137 cases, with 68  current active cases. Yesterday, Bethel issued a statement detailing their response.

This has been going on awhile back in California. Meanwhile Feucht has been spreading the gospel of Bethel and maybe COVID-19 all around the country. Watch this earlier this week in Kerrville, TX.

So Feucht is out doing this while his home place is being overrun with COVID-19. What a knucklehead.

This summer in Texas, two church camps were sources of scores of COVID-19 cases, some severe due to activities just like was Feucht is doing in the video above. He should know better since he is a minister of a church with a significant outbreak. Apparently, jumping up and down is more important than the health of people in that audience.

A fruit of the spirit is patience. If we can be patient, we will be able to bang on guitars and make imitation pop and rock music with repetitious religious words all we want next year. Just have some patience. Breathe. But do it with a mask on.

I learned after I posted this that Bethel Church has expressed some mild concern about Feucht’s worship events. Nonetheless, he remains a volunteer worship leader and valued member of Bethel.

 

Pastor Greg Laurie Has COVID-19

According to New Yorker’s Olivia Nuzzi, Pastor Greg Laurie of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California has COVID-19.

I don’t think we know the fall out from that prayer march or the Amy Coney Barrett coming out party. Unmasked evangelicals may or may not decide there is a pandemic after these next few days go by.

I believe Greg Laurie is standing unmasked behind Michael W. Smith who is at the piano.

There are many people there who need to get a test.

Greg Laurie made an announcement for social media. His Facebook announcement is here and the twitter video is below.


On Facebook, Laurie said:

I tested positive for COVID-19 last Friday. I have been in quarantine since then. I am happy to report that all members of my family have tested negative for COVID. My symptoms have been mild so far, and I expect to make a full recovery. I have always taken the Coronavirus seriously, and it has tragically taken many lives.

Laurie has taken the virus more seriously than say, John MacArthur. However, why is he in the middle of 50,000 mostly unmasked people singing without a mask? If he was taking it as seriously as he should have been, he would not have been there.