I am late to this strange party.
There is a kerfuffle going around about empathy being a sin. Some theodudes think it is and most people know it isn’t. I am not going to get into it too much, but here are a couple of links to the empathy is sin crowd.
When you start with man as image-bearing creature of God, you can understand why sympathy is good, but empathy is sinful.
Do not surrender our mind to the sinful emotional responses of others.
Minnesota pastor Joe Rigney sat down with Doug Wilson to declare empathy a sin in this odd exchange.
Rigney: That’s right. And the, and I think that actually is the most relevant difference between them because, so empathy is the sort of thing that you’ve got someone drowning, or they’re in quicksand, and they’re sinking. And what empathy wants to do it jump into the quicksand with them, both feet, and-and it feels like that’s going to be more loving, because they’re going to feel like, I’m glad that you’re here with me in the quicksand. Problem is you’re both now sinking.Wilson: Right.Rigney: Right. Whereas, if you do, I’m going to keep one foot on the shore, and I’m actually gonna grab onto this big branch, and then I’ll step one foot in there with you and try to pull you out. That’s sympathy, and that’s-that’s actually helpful. But to the person who’s in there, it can feel like you’re judging me.Wilson: So sympathy’s clearly hierarchical.Rigney: Right. It implies that one person is the hurting, and one person is the helper.Wilson: Right.Rigney: And, and no, and that’s part of the problem is no one wants to feel like they’re the hurting. We want to equalize everything. And so, and so empathy demands, get in here with me, otherwise you don’t love me.Wilson: But what do you lose— when you get in there with them, and you’re all in, they’re drowning, they’re in the quicksand, they’re in the trouble, and you identify with them completely.
Rigney went around a little with Karen Prior here.
What the theodudes seem upset about is that they seem to believe empathy puts the person who understands another’s feelings and experience on the same level as the person who is being understood. They want to be in authority.
Equality. What a concept.
Furthermore, they seem to think empathy means accepting everything anyone else does without moral evaluation. Or at least James White seems to think that. White goes out on the porch of his blog and yells at all of the empaths on his lawn, screaming:
We are not to weep with the bank robber who botches the job and ends up in the slammer. We are, plainly, to exercise control even in our sympathy. We are not to sympathize with sin, nor are we to sympathize with rebellion, or evil.
But the new cultural (and it has flown into the church as well) orthodoxy is: you shall empathize. You shall enter into the emotions of others AND YOU SHALL NOT MAKE JUDGMENTS ABOUT SAID EMOTIONS. By so doing YOU SHALL VALIDATE ALL HUMAN EXPERIENCES AS SUPREME. The greatest sin of all today is to say, “The emotions that person is experiencing are the result of sinful rebellion against God, and hence do not require my validation, support, or celebration.” HOW DARE YOU! That is the great rule I stepped upon, and must now pay the price.
I’d like to say I know how you feel, James, but I don’t.
Empathy is Not Sin
Empathy isn’t acceptance of things you don’t agree with. Empathy doesn’t require you to give up any position you might otherwise have. For instance, parents can empathize with their wayward children (“when I was your age…”) and still adminster correction and direction. When parents communicate their understanding with care, it helps build relationship even when restrictions need to be imposed.
Empathy is simply understanding the inner world of other people. It is all about being able to relate to them and understand what they are going through. It quite important in human functioning and when absent is associated with cruelty and antisocial behavior.
When Joe Rigney and Doug Wilson talk about someone jumping into quicksand with both feet, they are not describing empathy; they instead describe impulsivity. Sympathy or empathy might move a person to prosocial behavior, but strategy to conduct the behavior is another matter. A thoughtful person would perform the rescue safely; an impulsive person might just jump in. Both would be empathic, but only one would live to tell about it.
Understand this; empathy is good.
Here are some articles on empathy and related topics.
As a part of my ongoing tracking of place of worship related outbreaks of COVID-19, I asked the Georgia Department of Public Health if the department logged the number of church related outbreaks. Public information representative Nancy Nydam told me, “As of today, there have been 49 COVID-19 church/place of worship outbreak investigations reported to DPH.” She added that as a result of those investigations, 517 cases have been reported as have 91 hospitalizations and 15 deaths.
As of today, GA has reported 241,702 cases and 4,795 deaths. Thus, in GA, church outbreaks have been a small fraction of total cases. However, these cases may be accelerating. There were 8 place of worship outbreaks from August 6-12 of the 110 outbreaks in Georgia during that time period.* As churches have come together in person, outbreaks have increased. The low total numbers may not be due to safety in church as much as because many churches were meeting online until recently.
As of August 18, 2020 in the U.S., I count 263 religious gatherings associated with at least 3,136 cases of COVID-19 and 43 deaths. My sense is that it is getting harder to keep up with them as churches are beginning to relax their restrictions.
*From the Coastal Health District of the GA Dept of Health website. There were 110 total from August 6-12, 2020. An outbreak is defined as 2 cases or more.
These outbreaks are occurring in settings where people are physically congregating and underscore the need for distancing and source control.
- Long-term care facilities 23
- Schools/school athletic teams 14
- Offices/workplaces 14
- Manufacturing facilities 13
- Prisons/jails 13
- Churches 8
- Restaurants 4
Outbreaks were also documented in hospitals/outpatient facilities, daycares and grocery stores.
Keystone Church in Keller, TX is under fire from parents who want answers about the number of COVID-19 cases among teens returning from a camp experience sponsored by the church. However, Keystone may not be the only church needing to provide answers. I have learned that campers and staff who attended Allaso Ranch this month sponsored by Ed Young’s Fellowship Church in Grapevine, TX have also tested positive after attending the church’s Mix Camp 2020.
On 7/20, Amy Smith at her Watchkeep blog posted some social media postings about a possible COVID-19 outbreak due to Fellowship Church camping experiences at Allaso Ranch. A public Facebook posting described a camper and staffer positive with COVID. Since then, I have had several conversations with multiple parents about their children who have tested positive for COVID-19 since returning from Allaso Ranch. One parent on Twitter pegged the number at ten positives, while others have no way to estimate since the church or camp has not offered that information. Emails to both the church and Allaso Ranch have not been answered.
One staffer developed symptoms and was sent home and is now quite ill. Another child tested positive but has more mild symptoms. Parents I spoke with said that they have heard from parents that other children have also tested positive. A Fellowship Church pastor called at least one of the parents and left a voice mail saying that a staff member at the camp tested positive during the camp week.
The pastor also said in his voicemail,
We followed every single procedure, actually gone above and beyond that, and anybody who may have exhibited any symptoms of anything, headache, cough, sneezing,whether it be a temperature, anything, we were on top of it and in fact if it was a trainer we just sent them home, and that actually took place in your [child’s] room and we sent [them] home, [they] were having some mild symptoms, we don’t know if their COVID positive, but we just took precautionary measures and sent them home, and there’s a new leader in that group. So we just wanted to let you know that, and if there is any COVID positivity, we will let you know that immediately.
While it was good that the pastor called this family, is it true that the camp followed every procedure? A review of photos of students at camp indicates that masks were not worn and social distancing was not followed. Here is a tweet from Fellowship Church as an illustration.
Heaven threw a party today! 🎉 Congratulations to every student that went public with their faith at Allaso Ranch! We’re just getting started! pic.twitter.com/3gbv2GRRsa
— Fellowship Church (@fc) July 9, 2020
I also reviewed several photos from camp during July and campers are bunched together without masks throughout the week. According to the camp guidelines, masks are not required for campers. However, the guidelines specify that “Camp staff will wear face coverings whenever they are in close proximity to others and while handing food.” In the tweet photos and any other camp photos I have seen, volunteer staff are not wearing masks when they are near campers. If volunteer staff are considered staff, then it is understandable that parents would be concerned that guidelines may not have been followed.
Allaso Ranch has not posted (or has removed) pictures of camp from 2020. However, there are many photos of camp from past years. If you want to see what camp looks like at Allaso Ranch in 2020, go look at what it looked like in 2019.
As with the Keystone situation, there are hundreds of teens back in the community who may be spreading the virus without knowing it. Furthermore, the camp remains open to continue acting as a super spreader. Surely, Fellowship Church can find a way to spread the Gospel without spreading the virus.
UPDATE: Just after I posted this, another parent posted word on Facebook that her daughter attended Allaso Ranch and tested positive for COVID-19. Although this parent signed a waiver, she was under the impression that the camp was going to require mitigation efforts. However, she also confirms she saw no evidence that any efforts were conducted.
Here are some additional photos of campers at Allaso Ranch. Also, Fellowship Church has blocked Amy Smith on Twitter. Scroll down to the bottom tweet to see the photos. You will need to click that tweet.
— Amy Smith (@watchkeep) July 21, 2020
All DFW locations: The Mix is at Allaso Ranch for the next two weeks! If you haven’t registered for camp there’s still a chance! SIGN UP TODAY: https://t.co/dG6d3p9Vs6 . We can’t wait to bring the party back to our DFW locations on July 22nd!! See you soon! pic.twitter.com/td0rf34ZIk
— Fellowship Church (@fc) July 8, 2020
Allaso Ranch – July 13
If you have more information about COVID-19 cases at Allaso Ranch, contact me here.
Interview with author Jeff Sharlet
In this interview, we discuss our shared recollections of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009, the Netflix documentary The Family, liberty of conscience, and evangelicals in relationship to Donald Trump.
Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009
On March 2, 2009 I posted a article about an ex-gay conference in Kampala, Uganda. Three Americans, Scott Lively, Don Schmierer, and Caleb Brundidge, had been invited by Stephen Langa of the Family Life Network to speak on the topic of homosexuality. Scott Lively told the crowd that gays were behind the Nazi takeover of Germany and subsequent Holocaust. Don Schmierer told them that homosexuals were disturbed by poor parenting and that they needed therapy, and Caleb Brundidge, a client of reparative therapist Richard Cohen was there to show that the ex-gay therapy worked.
That was the first of hundreds of articles about Uganda and the effort of that nation’s Parliament to make homosexuality a capital offense (The Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009). I don’t think it is too far fetched to say that Box Turtle Bulletin and this blog became key thorns in the side of Ugandan and American proponents of the bill. Jim Burroway and I (incidentally both originally from Portsmouth, OH) wrote nearly every day about some aspect of the bill and kept the story alive.
Because of my strong opposition to the bill and the kindness of Bob Hunter (as well as other Fellowship members), I attended the National Prayer Breakfast in 2010. There, I interviewed Fellowship Foundation leader Doug Coe. That was one of a handful of interviews he granted over the course of his life. A summary of it was published in Christianity Today later that year. Coe put the Fellowship on record as opposing the bill in Uganda.
When the Ugandan members of the Prayer Breakfast movement learned of American opposition, they felt betrayed by Coe and the Americans. They persisted with their efforts to pass the bill. As Jeff and I discuss in the interview above, the Ugandan members seemed to believe American evangelicals were afraid to really speak their minds. The Ugandan proponents of the bill seemed convinced that American Christians really supported their efforts, and it was their Christian duty to set a tone the world could follow.
Despite the Ugandan’s belief, I don’t believe the American Fellowship supported the bill. At the time (December, 2009), Jeff wrote a guest post for my blog which outlined his belief that the American Fellowship opposed it. In my rare interview with Doug Coe, he made it clear that he and the Fellowship opposed the bill and criminalization for homosexuality anywhere. Furthermore, at the National Prayer Breakfast, both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton spoke directly to the Ugandan people and by name opposed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. I don’t think the opposition could get any clearer than that.
I was in the African suite watching Obama’s and Clinton’s speeches on television when they condemned the bill at the 2010 National Prayer Breakfast. It was silent in the suite as the African delegation watched. Afterwards, some were stunned, some were angry. Some still believed that some Americans had to say those things in public, but may privately support them. However, they could not deny that the American Fellowship opposed the bill.
Through years of parliamentary maneuvering, the bill moved and then stalled. Sessions ended without action, but finally it passed at the end of 2013 session. The President of Uganda Yoweri Museveni proclaimed that he would not sign the bill if scientists could convince him that being gay was innate. He claimed to want to know if being gay was a choice.
At that point, at the request of others lobbying against the bill, Jack Drescher and I wrote a letter summarizing the research on sexual orientation in layman’s terms. The letter was signed by over 200 scholars and researchers from all over the world. Museveni acknowledge the effort but also convened his own panel of “experts.” They returned a letter which allowed him to sign the bill.
In August 2014, the bill was struck down as unconstitutional by Uganda’s Constitutional court due to the fact that the Parliament did not have a quorum in place when the bill was passed. A five year story of ups and downs came to an end with that decision.
Jeff and I became friends as we compared notes over what American interests and influences might be at work in this Ugandan mess. As I noted in the interview, he went to Uganda on one occasion (I think he asked me to go along but I can’t be sure of my recollection on that). His report of that trip was a lengthy write up in Harper’s.
Jeff has an inspiring sense of fairness and is a captivating writer. I don’t know of anyone outside of Uganda who worked harder to expose the truth relating to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill than Jeff. I am grateful and humbled by the kind and overly generous remarks from him in this interview. Thanks to Jeff for doing it. I hope you benefit from our discussion as much as I did.
Straight Man’s Burden – Harpers
The Bill Inspired by American Evangelicals – The Atlantic
All of my post about the Fellowship Foundation (aka The Family) and the National Prayer Breakfast
Image: Jeff Sharlet’s Twitter Page
Buzzfeed News is reporting this morning what I wanted to report last week but couldn’t verify: Prior to V.P. Mike Pence’s visit to First Baptist Church in Dallas on Sunday, there was an outbreak of COVID-19 among the church’s orchestra and choir. I had heard this from two twitter accounts but could not get primary source verification, so I didn’t run with it.
Buzzfeed reporters were able to get that confirmation and went with the story today. The video of the event shows that the choir was singing and the orchestra was playing without masks. The congregation was close together and the only real precautions were taken by Pence. You don’t need to watch the whole video to see what I mean:
Texas is experiencing a scary surge in cases and V. P. Pence should have shown leadership by canceling his appearance and urging Robert Jeffress to hold an online event. Just last week, in neighboring Arkansas, fellow evangelical Governor Asa Hutchinson told the public that the churches who are not experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks are the ones using masks and social distancing. He identified by name nine churches on a naughty list of churches which had not been following guidelines and thus experiencing more cases of COVID-19.
Jeffress’ church was a clinic in how not to do things. Singing and playing wind instruments are effective ways of spreading a virus. The congregation was not spaced properly and it appears not all were wearing masks. Given that some of the orchestra members have been infected (although none of those members were there), it is possible that some of the orchestra members playing that Sunday had been exposed in prior rehearsals.
While it appears that most church leaders are trying to take COVID-19 seriously, I don’t see how it helps to have so-called leaders disregard best practices. I have been tracking church outbreaks for just over a month and it is starting to get a little hard to keep up with. I count 48 churches as of this writing. As the pandemic enlarges in the U.S., it may be difficult to keep a complate count.
In any case, having church as normal can be a super spreading event and leaders need to heed best practices while still caring for their flocks.
Houses of Worship – 615
Cases – 7,289
Deaths – 99
As of October 27, 2020, I count 615 religious gatherings associated with at least 7,289 cases of COVID-19 and 99 deaths.
(Update – 10/22/20) Because the number of church outbreaks have been increasing since churches are opening up and failing to use masks and social distancing, it has been become too time consuming to report the outbreaks in the format used below. I have tabulated the cases in October using this chart instead. I hope to continue to keep a tally in this manner and add to the totals above.
Due to inadequate record keeping in many states and secrecy by many churches, I suspect this significantly underestimates the actual numbers. For instance, New Mexico keeps track of location of exposure but doesn’t report outbreaks by source location. Other states, like Ohio, vaguely refer to church outbreaks but decline to name locations or update numbers of cases. In situations where an outbreak is mentioned but the number is not given, I count an outbreak as 2 cases since that is a common and conservative means of defining the term in many states. While these numbers may seem low, most of these outbreaks have occurred after churches have opened back up.
Regularly updated. Scroll down for section on churches being monitored due to contact tracing. This section is useful for people who want to know if they have attended a church where an infected person has attended.
On May 22, Donald Trump has threatened to “override” governors who have limited church gatherings. He can’t do that legally and he shouldn’t try. Furthermore, governors should resist the calls of some church leaders to remove restrictions. Going to church is not like shopping or even eating out. With this post, I plan to keep a running list of situations where churches have met together and spread the virus in an outbreak of cases or a church has closed because of a positive case due to a church service.
Some are widely known. In South Korea, much of the spread was due to a new religious movement where a single infected person spread the virus to many people in church. Several days ago, I wrote about the differences between church going and shopping and concluded that many things we do in church make it easy for the virus to spread.
Eight members of the Ider Church of God in Ider, AL tested positive for COVID-9. The pastor announced that they all are in quarantine.
First Baptist Church of Tillman’s Corner has shut down after being re-opened for a short time. Several staff members and pastors came down with the virus after reopening. One report said 20 members have been infected. The pastor said the church followed social distancing guidelines.
In Trussville, the First United Methodist Church has closed in person services due to the pastor and four members of his family contracting COVID-19.
Forty cases are associated with a Warrior Creek Missionary Baptist Church revival meeting in Strawberry, AL.
First Baptist Church of Gulf Shores has been associated with an outbreak of 30 cases but has continued to meet in person.
Oakland Church of Christ in Athens has a “large majority” of members are positive for COVID-9. It is not clear how many people attend.
Sharon Heights Baptist Church has several cases associated with the church. Even so, the church continues to meet.
A family member informed me that a death has resulted in mid-September from a COVID infection contracted from a revival meeting at a Church of Christ in Cleburne County.
Gary Marquez, senior pastor at North Swan Baptist Church in Tucson died of COVID-19 July 5th. Others in the congregation have tested positive as well.
The pastor and family of Expedition Church in Payson is diagnosed with COVID-19.
Arizona reports one religious facility as a site of an outbreak. It is not known if either of the above cases are the facility counted by the state.
A Scottsville Word of Life Assembly revival is at the center of several cases according to the AR Department of Health.
The CDC reported this past week that an Arkansas church was involved in the spread of COVID-19 in March. Here is the CDC description:
Among 92 attendees at a rural Arkansas church during March 6–11, 35 (38%) developed laboratory-confirmed COVID-19, and three persons died. Highest attack rates were in persons aged 19–64 years (59%) and ≥65 years (50%). An additional 26 cases linked to the church occurred in the community, including one death.
The Christian Post also reported on this church.
Services held in a church in North Little Rock in June are associated with 14 cases of COVID-19. The church is First Pentecostal Church and testing is being done to determine if more cases associated with services exist.
The AR Department of Health issued a report card of sorts on churches where COVID-19 infected people have attended. Most churches had one or two people attend with COVID and nothing more came from it because they followed the social distancing and masking guidelines. However, in 9 churches, there are outbreaks associated with not following the guidelines according to Director of the Department of Health Matt. Watch his explanation. Following that, I will list the churches with two of more cases (the red dots).
Churches which have more than two cases associated with attendance at church services (red dots) are:
Central Baptist Church- Central Campus, Jonesboro
St Raphael Catholic Church, Springdale
New Beginnings, De Queen
New Beginnings Church, Springdale
Lifeline Ministry Church of God in Christ, Nashville
Slaty Crossing Free Will Baptist Church, Dardanelle
First Pentecostal Church, North Little Rock (this church is reported above)
Big T Apostolic Church, Corning
Below is an image depicting where the cases of COVID-19 have shown up in AR churches. The red dots are listed above and according to Governor Hutchinson were not following the recommendations for social distancing and use of masks.
At 6:18 in the video briefing above, Gov. Hutchinson explains that 98% of churches are doing a good job but those who are not have helped contribute to cases. He then put this image before the audience.
Cases of COVID-19 have been related to Mother’s Day services in two CA churches. In one church, at least nine cases are tied to the church service and in the other, two cases are known to relate to attendance at the church.
In April, a Russian language evangelical church near Sacramento was the center of an outbreak. Seventy cases of COVID-19 were traced back to the church. Small group gatherings may have contributed to the spread of the virus.
A Chula Vista church is being investigated due to an outbreak there. The pastor and church defied mitigation measures, but then three members tested positive for the virus as of June 9.
Two Catholic churches in Dixon, CA have closed because a priest and unknown number of members have contracted the virus. In at least one case, masking guidelines were not followed.
An unnamed church in Redding is associated with 10 cases according the health department.
CA Dept of Health reported 10 houses of worship associated with 48 cases in the state to me in an email.
Andrew Wommack Ministries: Summer Family Bible Conference has experienced an outbreak. Counting staff and attendees, 41 cases are associated with this religious gathering.
Calvary Worship Cenrer in El Paso is associated with 7 cases.
Kingdom Youth Conference in El Paso had 8 cases associated.
Another church in Garfield County, Iglesia Misionera Pentecostes Casa del Pan de Vida, has 4 cases.
The Springs Journey and The Height in Colorado Springs are associated with an outbreak of 10.
As of 8/11, the Rock Family Church in El Paso has two cases.
Faith Fountain Fellowship in El Paso has 11 cases involving both staff and congregants.
Focus on the Family’s Bookstore is the site of 4 cases and was added to the 8/26 list of CO outbreaks.
Downtown Vineyard Church in Mesa County is the site of 5 cases.
Faith Tabernacle in Greeley has 10 cases associated with an outbreak.
Our Lady of Guadelupe in El Paso has 2 staff members who are sick with COVID.
Fellowship Church in Mesa has 3 cases.
Three cases stem from a three-day conference at Destiny Christian Church in Dover.
In Hialeah, Iglesia Bautista Northside has experienced an outbreak of four cases with others being tested.
Calvary Baptist Church in Clearwater reports six cases among staff with two in the hospital. The church is moving to online services.
Hendricks Avenue Baptist Church in San Marco discovered that 21 members of the church had COVID-19 back in March.
Three unnamed churches in Manatee County have 21 cases associated with them.
Catoosa Baptist Tabernacle opened their church to in person services in April only to close again in early May after just two weeks of services due to reported infections among congregants. The infections occurred despite significant social distancing precautions and low attendance at the services.
In Cartersville, GA as many as 15 cases of COVID-19 were connected to an infected person who attended the Church at Liberty Square in early March. The church then moved to online services. Dr. Melissa Dillman told The Cancer Letter that most deaths from COVID-19 in Floyd County, GA came from that church service.
Air Line Baptist Church in Gainesville has been forced to go back to online services due to an outbreak. It is not clear how many members are infected.
Savannah Holy Church of God is associated with 9 cases. The Savannah church did not reveal the outbreak in June when it occurred. Two members died.
A church in Chatham County is associated with three deaths from COVID-19, one a 7-year old boy.
First Baptist Church in Zebulon reports 14 cases.
Killian Hill Baptist Church in Lilburn had 30 cases in July and August, including the pastor and a family member.
From August 6-12. GA reported 8 church related outbreaks. There has been a total of 49 church/temple related outbreak since the beginning of the pandemic with 517 cases, 91 hospitalizations, and 15 deaths according to an email from the Dept of Public Health.
The GA Dept of Health updated these figures on 9/11/2020. At that time, there were a total of 71 church/temple related outbreaks, 638 cases of COVID associated with 103 hospitalizations and 18 deaths.
As of 10/21/20, the GA Dept of Health updated these figures with 94 church/place of worship outbreak investigations involving 748 COVID cases, 110 hospitalizations, and 19 deaths.
An unnamed church on Maui was associated with a cluster of cases in April. No details were given by health officials.
A pastor is in ICU, his wife is ill and five members of the church staff are infected with COVID-19 after the church went back to in person services in Coeur d’Alene. The church resisted masking and social distancing and apparently will continue to do so.
House of the Lord Church in Oldtown has 7 cases associated with it as of 9/30.
A church near Chicago is associated with 10 confirmed cases and another 33 congregants with COVID-like symptoms after a church service in March. The stay at home orders had not been imposed at the time.
The Cathedral of Worship in Quincy is associated with “several positive cases.” Services will not be held this weekend (7/5) at the church.
Several positive cases have been traced to an unnamed church in Mt Vernon, Jefferson County, IL.
A Jackson County church is responsible for about 25% of the county’s 260 cases.
The Prayer Center Of Orland Park (mosque) is associated with 6 cases and has been closed.
Gospel Assembly Church in Du Quoin reports “several cases” among members and has suspended services.
Mary, Seat of Wisdom Catholic Church in Park Ridge learned last week (8/25) that three staff members tested positive for COVID-19. Masses have been cancelled for now.
New Castle church Turning Point Life Center started services on Mother’s Day with social distancing and simultaneous online services. In June, “several families” reported positive COVID diagnoses. In person services were suspended.
A church camp in Indiana is associated with 40 cases among staff. The camp only had 50 staff.
Associated with the virus in Harvest Baptist Church, Fort Dodge are 2 members of the church.
As of 8/27, LifeChurchX in Waterloo is the scene of an outbreak in two locations. At least the pastor and his wife and an undisclosed number of members are infected.
From March 16 to March 22, a Church of God denomination conference was held in Kansas City, KS. As of a April 20 news report, there were 7 deaths and 51 COVID-19 cases associated with attendance at that conference.
The Kansas Department of Health reported 9 cases relating to an out of state church camp.
A Junction City church, Faith Tabernacle, is associated with an outbreak of 22 cases.
The KS Dept of Health “identified clusters associated with religious gatherings at Faith Chapel Assembly of God in Louisburg (21), Faith Tabernacle Apostolic Church in Junction City (7), Hannah’s House in Independence (9) and Plevna Church in Plevna (14).”
Kansas now has a total number of clusters at religious gatherings with associated deaths and cases. There have been 25 clusters associated with 281 cases, 56 hospitalizations, and 13 deaths.
In March, a Hopkins County revival meeting led to infections that spread throughout the state. At least 30 cases and three deaths have been linked to the meeting.
A Nicholasville, KY church is the scene of an outbreak. The church’s pastor was a vocal opponent of stay at home measures but now has postponed services until June 21.
Officials want to hear from people who attended Solid Rock Church in Burning Springs between May 28 and June 3. Several cases are associated with attendance at that church.
The Trinity Holiness Tabernacle Church has been linked to a spike of cases in Perry Co., KY. The county shows 28 cases and surrounding counties are in the single digits. State health authorities have traced an undisclosed number of cases to the church.
In Jackson Co., a small outbreak of six cases has been located in the Annville Holiness Church.
From July 19 to July 30, attendance at the Pilgrim Holiness Church in Winchester could have exposed someone to COVID-19. Five cases are associated with that location and a camp in Ohio associated with the church.
Saxon Independent Baptist Church in Whitley County is associated with 9 cases.
A church in Hardin County is the source of an outbreak of 40 cases.
Tip Top Church in Magoffin County reports 2 cases, one an infant.
Lighthouse Baptist Church in Knott has 50 cases associated with it.
An outbreak has been reported at an unnamed church in MA.
Outbreaks at two churches in New Bedford are reported in this article. A current one involves 9 cases at Iglesia Pentecostal Levantate y Anda and another was in June at La Primer Iglesia de Dois Church. Add 40 more cases to the storefront church in New Bedford.
An unnamed church near Haverhill is associated with 10 cases.
An unnamed church on Nantucket is associated with about 19 cases.
A pentecostal church in East Lansing is the source of 12 cases of COVID-19 after exposure in a July 1 service.
A church camp near Gladwin reported several cases of COVID-19 which forced the closure of the camp.
A church in Traverse City is associated with 7 cases which showed up in nearby Wexford County.
Two small Catholic churches, one in Maple Lake and the other in Annandale, share clergy who have tested positive for COVID-19. Despite following guidelines, volunteers and others have tested positive and are displaying symptoms of the virus. All three of the clergy who serve both churches are positive or symptomatic.
An unnamed Martin Co. church is associated with 50 cases due to a church service tied to a funeral and then to other services not associated with the funeral.
Mt. Carmel Church of God had an outbreak of 25 cases and two deaths.
A teacher contracted the virus at an unnamed church and later died from the disease.
In Purdy, MO, a church closed due to two members being infected with COVID-19. Arnhart Baptist Church will be closed on July 5 and July 12.
Apostolic Promise Church in Cape Girardeau is closed due to three church leaders positive for COVID-19.
Concord Baptist Church in Jefferson City reports three cases among youth in the church. A focus is a youth meeting which took place July 1.
A Christian camp in MO — Kanakuk Camp — has reported 82 cases of COVID-19.
According to a tweet from the Jackson County, MO Health Department: “There are currently 30 confirmed cases from an exposure at Old Paths Baptist Church between July 19 – July 24.” The church is in Independence, MO.
A 23 year old female was infected a Philadelphia, MO church camp.
In the Springfield-Greene County area, 38 cases have been associated with a church. This represents 2.4% of all cases since July 1.
In Stone County, 8 individuals who attended the Soul Harvest Revival at New Life Fellowship Church have tested positive for Covid-19.
Mammoth Assembly of God Church in Gainesville is associated with around 10 cases.
In Chillicothe, Turning Point Church has 20 members who have tested positive and are associated with attendance at the church.
There is a report of a Reno County church with 15 cases. The church was not named.
In the two week period ending July 28, 5.2% of exposures to COVID-19 were in houses of worship. This is the only area where exposures increased during that period.
Five cases are associated with the August 23 service at Slavic Pentecostal Church in Spencerport.
Four or five cases of Cattaraugus County residents are associated with a PA church camp visited in late August.
Three cases are associated with Holy Innocents Catholic Church – Pleasantville, NY. The congregation would have been exposed at services between 8/23-30/20.
Emmanuel Baptist Bible Church in Martville is associated with 19 cases.
As of October 21, NC will report clusters by location. Since April, religious gatherings have accounted for 76 clusters, 1,040 cases and 13 deaths.
Today, according to WLOS, Macon County Public Health reported seven members of Evangelical Ebenezer Church in Franklin, NC have tested positive for COVID-19. Health officials have identified this as a “cluster” of cases and identified the source as the church.
Faith Community Church in Asheboro is associated with 5 cases. Exposure would have taken place between July 5-19.
In Bennet, Beulah Baptist Church has recorded 30 cases. These may be associated with a youth outing. Exposure would have been likely between July 8 and July 30.
This report comes from a Chattanooga, TN paper:
The Hamilton County Health Department announced exposure to positive cases of COVID 19 with participants that attended the Windy Gap Young Life Camp, 120 Coles Cove Road, Weaverville, N.C. between July 24 and July 31.
Cashiers Church of God, a Jackson County church is associated with a cluster of 8 cases. The exposure was between 7/12-14/20.
A Shelby church is associated with 90 cases and 1 death as of August 13.
Snowbird Wilderness Outfitters, a church camp in Cherokee County, is associated with an outbreak of 19 cases involving both youth and adults.
In Robeson County, outbreaks in five churches are associated with 100 cases and one death.
There are few details here but Ohio’s governor Mike Dewine identified a traveling minister as the source of an outbreak in several churches in Southwest Ohio. A later update associated 91 cases with this outbreak and Tuscarawas County.
Gates of Praise Church in Fairborn, OH (near Dayton) has been identified as being associated with an outbreak. At least 14 cases are associated with the church including one woman who is fighting for her life.
On July 10, Huron CO. health officials reported 12 COVID-19 cases were associated with outbreaks at two churches, Collins United Methodist Church in Collins, and West Hartland United Methodist, Norwalk.
From July 19 to July 30, attendance at the Pilgrim Holiness Church and church camp in Winchester, could have exposed someone to COVID-19. Five cases are associated with those locations.
Christian Life Center in Heath is the site of an outbreak of 32 confirmed cases. Another church in St. Louisville in Licking County has a small outbreak.
Brown County has one small church outbreak. Ohio does not provide specific information on the church or cases.
An unnamed church in New Lexington has a 4 case outbreak.
Lighthouse Pentecostal Church in Eastern Oregon is associated with an outbreak of cases in Union County. As of June 19, over 230 members of the congregation have tested positive. This represents over two-thirds of the congregation. This church took direct guidance from Trump’s guidance to open in person church services. The outbreak followed renewed services.
Abundant Life Pentecostal Church in McMinnville has been associated with an outbreak of unknown quantity.
A South Coast church has 12 cases associated with it.
An unnamed church service is associated with “more than a couple cases” in Columbia Co.
City Reach Philly Church has at least 12 cases associated with it in Philadelphia.
World Overcomers Ministries in North Charleston has continued having services with COVID-19 positive members. The news report did not give a number of infected people.
First Baptist Church in Columbia canceled in person worship after 9 members became ill with COVID.
As of August 3, 96 campers and staff at Camp Judson outside Keystone have tested positive for COVID-19.
Westmore Church of God in Cleveland has closed due to an outbreak there. The exact number of cases associated isn’t known but according to the church, there are at least 12 cases. The church did not practice social distancing, allowed singing, and didn’t require masks. A later account said dozens were sick and three died.
A Calvary Chapel in San Antonio is associated with dozens of cases including the pastor and his wife. Church people may have spread the virus through lack of social distancing due to hugging when the church met for services.
A Catholic church closed services after several members came down with COVID-19. The transmission is unclear but 5 members of an order associated with the church tested positive.
Although not officially an outbreak yet, a Catholic church in Houston was closed because a priest and church staff member tested positive for COVID-19.
A Killeen church has reported 10 cases tied to a singer in a service even though masks were worn and social distancing was practiced. Now the church is having services online.
First Baptist Church of Dallas has an outbreak in their choir and orchestra. This has been kept secret by the church but was reported by Buzzfeed News. This situation is especially noteworthy since the pastor of the church is Robert Jeffress, a key supporter of Donald Trump. It also was occuring the same weekend V.P. Mike Pence visited the church.
Despite the fact that the leadership was aware of the outbreak, the orchestra and choir performed during the Pence visit without masks and in close proximity. Watch:
Another megachurch, Fellowship Church pastored by Ed Young, appears to have an outbreak relating to a church camp and lack of mitigation measures. As reported by Amy Smith at her Watchkeep blog, several parents of youth at the church are reporting that several participants at a recent church camp have tested positive for COVID-19. At a more recent camp session sponsored by Fellowship Church, at least one staff child and a camper have been infected as indicated by this Facebook posting.
I have a specific post on this situation here.
A Copperas Cove church sponsored a special meeting and spread the infection due to the fact that the guest speaker was positive. The pastor of the church counted 20 likely to have COVID-19.
Five cases have been linked to an August 14-16 youth event at Heartland Church Unmasked Camp in Brownwood, TX. An additional case was added on 8/19. This case caused the cancelation of a football scrimage.
Two clusters were reported 8/26 in McLennan County, TX. No other details were given.
A minister who defied mitigation efforts died from the virus. Gerald Glenn of Chesterfield VA vowed to continue preaching but succumbed to the virus back in April. Several of his family members also contracted the virus.
An outbreak at Kidane Mehret Church in Alexandria one of six outbreaks in the city during the pandemic. Anyone at the church between August 14-17 should quarantine. It isn’t clear how many cases have come from these outbreaks. In my count I will apply the conservative number of two each until I hear from the VA Dept of Health.
In Castleton, Massanova Pentecostal Church experienced a significant outbreak in June. Since Virginia doesn’t report church outbreaks separated from other congregate settings, the Rappahannock News obstained internal VA Dept of Health documents via a FOIA request. It appears that 32 cases and 2 deaths resulted.
In the Mount Rogers Health District an unnamed church is associated with 40 cases.
In Madison Heights, two churches have outbreaks, one with 4 cases and the other with two.
The first COVID-19 death in WV was a member of a Baptist church in Everettville. Due to lack of resources and tracing, it is unclear how many people became infected, but at least five did after attending a service of between 90 and 120 people back in March.
Greystone Baptist Church in Ronceverte (Greenbriar Co.) is now linked to 41 cases with many more people being tested. Two other unnamed churches have also reported outbreaks relating to meeting together. One of those churches may be this Hampshire Co. church which reported 8 cases.
Governor Justice reported on June 13 that 24 new cases statewide had been associated with church attendance. In his update, “The Governor added that the primary factor in these outbreaks was that the organizations had not adequately planned or put in place social distancing or infection control guidelines.” Although details were not released on the fifth church, a state of WV press release said five churches in all have experienced outbreaks due to meeting together.
A sixth church in WV has been identified. The First Baptist Church in Wheeling has been associated with 21 positive cases. Because the church did not close when the outbreak was first identified on June 10, the outbreak has grown.
Thirty cases have been associated with an outbreak at North Charleston Apostolic Church in Charleston.
Although he didn’t name the churches, Gov. Jim Justice said on July 17th that outbreaks had been associated with churches in “Boone, Kanawha, Raleigh and Taylor counties.” Assuming one church per county, that would mean there are 10 churches in West Virginia associated with outbreaks as of 7/19. As of July 29, Grant, Logan, and Mason counties can be added to that list. A high of 137 cases were associated with church outbreak on July 27. This is since July 17. As of 8/7/20, Cabell County can be added to this list.
An unnamed church near Petersburg had 28 positive COVID-19 cases following a youth retreat and evening services.
A Mingo County Church had 50 cases in July.
Another Wood County church has a small outbreak of 5 cases reported on 8/15/20.
During his 8/14 press conference, Gov. Justice reported three churches with 42 cases in WV.
During his 8/26 press conference, Gov. Justice reported four churches associated with 29 cases.
Wayne Church of God in Wayne has multiple members ill with COVID.
King’s River Worship Center in St. Albans has “several” members ill with COVID, including the pastor.
On 9/14, Gov. Justice reported “six church-related outbreaks throughout five counties: Fayette, Kanawha, Mingo, Wayne, and Wyoming counties.”
As of 9/23, Legacy Church in Daniels has three cases associated with it.
Sissonville Community Church has closed due to “several” members contracting COVID-19.
In his 9/29 briefing, Gov. Justice named five counties with church outbreaks.
In Madison, High Point Church reports a few cases but has continued to have church with social distancing.
Three churches are tied to outbreaks in Fremont County. Although investigations are ongoing, as of 8/27, 45 cases are associated with these outbreaks.
Churches Being Monitored
In this section, I am just going to list churches under scrutiny by health officials because someone attended a service and was COVID-19 positive. These churches haven’t experienced an outbreak, but attenders have been exposed due to public meetings (if known, the date of the meeting(s) is provided).
First Assembly of God – Fort Myers, FL – 6/10/20 (a young girl attended a young event and then died of COVID-19 two weeks later)
Multiple locations in Arkansas – 6/25/20 – The AR Dept of Health released a list of 44 churches visited by someone who was COVID-19 positive. I did not list this above because the DOH is not sure if the infection came from the church or if there is an outbreak in the church. However, at least 8 of the churches have had more than two cases in their services at some time during the pandemic. According to the DOH:
The information provided in this report represents exposure locations for the full duration of the COVID19 pandemic until 6/25/2020. The information presented was reported to the Arkansas Department of Health during case surveillance and contact tracing efforts as reported by a known COVID-19 case. The church locations are places patients reported visiting during their infectious period, but it doesn’t necessarily indicate they became infected there. As more cases are contacted, the information found in this report will change.
This was one of the earliest outbreaks related to a church service. About 2500 people took part in a Lenten service which led to 10 cases very quickly after the March service. From there, cases multiplied throughout France.
More than forty people tested positive (this report says 100 cases) after attending a Baptist church service in Frankfurt, Germany. According to news reports, the church adhered to social distancing guidelines.
Another church, this time in Bremerhaven, is the site of another outbreak. Over 100 people have been infected with one death associated with a service in early June.
The CDC reports eight churches in South Korea where there are clusters of infections (in parentheses): Jusarang Church in Uijeongbu, Gyeonggi (9), Elim Church in Gumi City, Gyeongbuk (8). Dong-an Church-PC Cafe in Seoul (20), Manmin Central Church in Seoul (41), Onchun Church in Busan (39),Grace River Church in Seongnam (72), Bucheon Saeng MyeongSu Church in Gyeonggi (48), and Geochang Church in Gyeong-nam (10),
There are many reasons why a church service is a good environment for spreading the virus (see this post for a discussion). Despite social distancing, some church gatherings have been responsible for the spread of the virus. During the Spanish Flu pandemic churches closed down until it was safe to meet again. We should be patient and follow their example.
I urge readers to leave other cases of church spread in the comments and I will add more as I find them.
More information on churches and COVID:
A new dilemma for Trump’s team: Preventing super-spreader churches – Politico (6/29/20)
Churches were eager to reopen. Now they are confronting Coronavirus cases. New York Times (7/8/20)
Churches face outbreaks, many challenges amid COVID-19 pandemic
Chicago Tribune (7/12/20)
Around the country, pastors and people want to go back to church. Some are suing to overcome prohibitions and some are trying to convince elected leaders to loosen restrictions. Just today, Ed Stetzer posted an article on RNS titled: If Costco can reopen safely, why not Illinois churches, Gov. Pritzker?
In his article, Stetzer proclaims: “If Costco can make it work, so can the churches.”
Maybe they can. However, I want to point out that church is different than shopping at Costco.
Stetzer calls on us to use science in our decision making which is what I want to do. My thoughts are based partly on an excellent blog post by UMass Dartmouth Biology professor Erin Bromage. Bromage teaches courses on immunology and infectious diseases and has a research program in the evolution of the immune system.
My ideas here are also based on my experience as a church attender and a shopper. Having done both for much of my life, I can safely say that full participation in church and going shopping are different activities.
Church activities spread the virus
First, let me pick some relevant material from Bromage’s article. An important principle developed by Bromage is this:
Remember the formula: Successful Infection = Exposure to Virus x Time
To get to this principle, Bromage discusses the ways humans spread a virus. We spread it most efficiently by sneezing and coughing, but we also spread it by speaking and breathing. Sneezing and coughing expels hundreds of millions of viral particles, so it is easy enough to understand why sick people should stay home. They shouldn’t go to church or shop.
But let’s take speaking since that is done in church a lot but not as much in the grocery store, especially these days. Bromage estimates it takes about 5 minutes of face-to-face speaking to transmit enough virus to make an infection possible. Church meeting supporters might complain that we all will be wearing masks and staying 6 feet apart. Well, if you really will, then that will help. However, there is the variable of time in Bromage’s formula.
When people are shopping in Costco and many grocery stores, they are moving around in large open spaces. They go in, do their shopping, and leave. That is not how people do church. They go in, sing (more about that in a minute), talk, and sit and listen to a 30-50 minute sermon, stand around and talk some more and then leave, often in a smaller room. Sitting around for a couple of hours with a super spreader in the room isn’t like shopping in Costco.
Bromage describes several instances of how infections spread in restaurants, work places, sports venues, parties, and choir practice.
For instance, Bromage summarizes a case where a single carrier infected most of a choir in a Washington city even though the community choir members took certain precautions during their practice. The thing many Christians love to do in church that they don’t do in Costco is sing. Bromage describes how singing spreads the virus:
Singing, to a greater degree than talking, aerosolizes respiratory droplets extraordinarily well. Deep-breathing while singing facilitated those respiratory droplets getting deep into the lungs. Two and half hours of exposure ensured that people were exposed to enough virus over a long enough period of time for infection to take place. Over a period of 4 days, 45 of the 60 choir members developed symptoms, 2 died. The youngest infected was 31, but they averaged 67 years old.
Recall Bromage’s formula: infection equals exposure x time.
Bromage describes a restaurant scenario where an infected person at one table led to infections in people sitting at adjacent tables. The airflow in the room apparently carried low levels of virus to the people sitting at the adjacent table. Churches could work around this as we move into summer, but not if they don’t know how church is different than shopping.
Public Health v. Civil Rights
In a crisis, it is easy to get polarized and I have been pleasantly surprised at how well evangelicals have followed good practices in moving to online services. Of late, however, more voices have arisen suggesting that churches have a right to meet and that if people can gather in shops, they should be able to gather in church. As I point out, these are not similar activities.
If one looks at church activities and commercial activities through a civil rights lens only, then one could make a case that there shouldn’t be any discrimination. However, looking at these activities through a public health lens, there are important differences which place a burden on churches (or any group) to demonstrate how they will address the problems inherent in their activities.
If churches are going to meet, then they need to take this information into account. They need to spread people out, consider not singing for long sets (if at all), and having shorter sermons (finally!). Outdoor services might be an option in some locations. Online messages throughout the week should be available. Who said everything must be done on Sunday?
In any case, I hope it is clear that a public health lens isn’t designed to discriminate against religion. Church is different than shopping. Isn’t that a good thing?
You just never know what you are going to find on this blog.
I don’t really have a reason or words for this but this actually happened.
Not sure but felt led that someone needed this pic.twitter.com/LoCtoCL9nB
— Northworst Seminary©️®️™️ (@northworstsem) February 8, 2020
Jim Bakker, Lori Bakker, Paula White-Cain, Johnathan Cain from Journey, Mondo De La Vega and Tammy Sue Bakker (Jim Bakker’s daughter with Tammy Faye Bakker) make Don’t Stop Believing a sad shadow of its former self.
The shots of the audience at the end are great.
What a show.
There are several head scratching quotes from Jerry Falwell, Jr. in his New Year’s Day interview with Joe Heims in the Washington Post. One such quote which caught my eye is this:
Why have Americans been able to do more to help people in need around the world than any other country in history? It’s because of free enterprise, freedom, ingenuity, entrepreneurism and wealth. A poor person never gave anyone a job. A poor person never gave anybody charity, not of any real volume. It’s just common sense to me.
While job creation might be out of reach for many low income people, charitable giving is something the poor do often. As Relevant magazine pointed out, Christian college president Falwell appears to have forgotten Jesus’ teaching about the widow and her few cents. Beyond Falwell’s insensitivity to the Bible, he is wrong about the poor and charitable giving. Actually, low income people as a group give a lot and on average they give more as a percentage of their income than rich people.
Given Falwell’s role as a fund raiser for his college, I am surprised he isn’t aware of this. In philanthropy literature, the link between income bracket and giving is well known. Although the truly poor don’t often itemize charitable gifts, lower income brackets are responsible for significant amounts of charitable giving compared to higher brackets. This is especially true of religious giving.
A 2007 Indiana University study found that donors making under 100,000/year gave nearly $60 Billion to religious organizations compared to $8.6 Billion given by donors making over $1 million/year. The per donor gift was much smaller in the lower income group, but together the lower income group represented nearly 60% of all giving to religious causes. In contrast to Falwell’s claim, that’s some real volume. No doubt Falwell’s college gets many widow’s mites on a monthly basis to help keep those doors open.
I realize that $100,000/year is not poor. However, this bracket is more likely to include large families with limited resources. As noted above, people in the lowest income groups don’t often itemize contributions and so it is harder to capture those data via the Indiana U. methodology. However, other research supports the contention that lower income persons give more as a percentage of income than the rich.
For instance, a 2014 study published in the Chronicle of Philanthropy showed that the wealthy reduced their giving during the economic downtown while lower and middle income donors increased giving. The lowest income bracket – those making less than $25,000/year – increased their giving by 17% from 2006 to 2012. The lowest income group demonstrated the highest percentage increase of all groups.
The 2014 study wasn’t unusual. Much prior research has found that those in low income brackets give more as a percentage of income than the wealthy. According to researcher Roger Barnett, “Research in the area has established that, on the average, high income donors give more to charitable causes than do people with low incomes. However, in Britain (and in the United States) the poor have for decades been observed to donate proportionately higher shares of their income to charity than the financially better off (emphasis in the original) (p. 520).
Falwell, Jr.’s college has been helped out in the past by big gifts (e.g., self-proclaimed messiah Sun Myung Moon) so perhaps he is influenced by the big donors. However, as a group, the poor do give and they give a lot. He is wrong and shouldn’t spread this misinformation. If I were a low income donor to Liberty University, I would have to rethink my contribution.
I have heard rumors that some evangelicals like Jordan Peterson’s work. He gets all angry when he says words like intersectionality and postmodern so that really hooks some of my evangelical brethren, I guess. I have a hard time following what he says so I don’t get it. The video below is a good illustration of why his work seems like what he criticizes.
asking jordan peterson whether he believes god exists or jesus was resurrected gets you the most incomprehensible, incoherent verbiage masquerading as profundity — which is ironically what his ilk accuse “postmodernists” of pic.twitter.com/EtK6W8T9a7
— ☀️👀 (@zei_nabq) December 16, 2018
“It all depends on what you mean” is fine when he wants to use it but it isn’t fine when his ideological opponents want to do it.
Carl Jung, who I think Peterson considers an intellectual influence, didn’t particularly like this question either. Once, Jung compared himself to a witch doctor who found God in his dreams. On another occasion, Jung said he didn’t have to believe, he knew. According to his disciples at the time, he believed in a spirit or at least an immaterial existence but didn’t hold to the Swiss Reformed doctrines of his family.
Image: Dr.Jordan Peterson delivering a lecture at the University of Toronto in 2017. March 20, 2017, Source: Adam Jacobs, Wikimedia, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.