Bryan Loritts Joins Darrell Scott as an Alum of Diploma Mill

Evangelical preacher Bryan Loritts has joined Trump endorsing mega pastor Darrell Scott as a prominent alum of diploma mill St. Thomas Christian University. Julie Roys has the story on Lorritts; I wrote about Scott’s honorary doctorate in 2017.

Roys traveled the same road I did in 2017 and found much the same thing. The school isn’t accredited by a state or federally recognized accrediting body and isn’t licensed as a university by the state of Florida. In Florida, religious schools can become exempt from the requirement to be licensed  if they file an affidavit with the state that their degrees are only religious in nature. St. Thomas was out of compliance when I researched in 2017 and they remain out of compliance today according to Roys.

I have researched the use of honorary doctorates and the vast majority of schools discourage the use of the title “Dr.” by those who possess only an honorary degree. This is one of the credentialing issues Ravi Zacharias eventually admitted and apologized for.

This is a significant violation of trust and integrity. Loritts should quickly acknowledge this, apologize, and correct any false presentation of his credentials.

Image from Bryan Loritts Twitter page. 

Eric Metaxas Uncritically Features Anti-Vaccine Proponent

Eric Metaxas has been in the hot seat lately due to his race baiting tweet in response to Joe Biden (see this post for that story). However, there is something else that in times past would relegate Metaxas to the fringe.

On his radio show last week, he gave 36 minutes to Kent Heckenlively, the co-author with Judy Mikovits, of the conspiratorial book Plague of Corruption. Mikovits is the star of the documentary “Plandemic” that made the rounds in early May. Metaxas treated Heckenlively as a serious guest with truth to reveal. In the process, he gave the anti-vax movement a huge public relations win. Watch:

In this video, Heckenlively claims and Metaxas accepts that aborted fetal tissue is in vaccines, and harmful viruses are in vaccines. The fictitious vaccine-autism link is implied along with other wild ideas. Heckenlively is allowed to provide a full recitation of the anti-vax catalog. Metaxas is completely unprepared for these claims and can’t or doesn’t want to offer any skeptical response. For all practical purposes, Eric Metaxas produced a 36 minute commercial for the anti-vax movement.

Recently, the Gospel Coalition and Christianity Today have offered warnings about conspiracy theories in the church. With Eric Metaxas favorably featuring the anti-vax movement, there is evidence they may be too late.

 

David Barton (left), Eric Metaxas (right)

Churches and the Spread of COVID-19 (UPDATED)

Regularly updated. Scroll down for new section (6/29) 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.

Alabama

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.

Arizona

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.

Arkansas

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.

California

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.

Florida

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.

Georgia

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.

Hawaii

An unnamed church on Maui was associated with a cluster of cases in April. No details were given by health officials.

Illinois

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.

A small outbreak of 3 cases was reported at Cornerstone Ministries in Litchfield. The exposure took place between June 21 to June 28. As of July 8, that outbreak grew to 25 cases.

Indiana

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 are now suspended.

Kansas

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.

Kentucky

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.

An outbreak was reported on June 15 at Big Hill Holiness Church in Jackson Co. Sixteen cases have been associated with this outbreak.

In Jackson Co., a small outbreak of six cases has been located in the Annville Holiness Church.

Minnesota

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.

Missouri

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.

Open Arms Baptist Church hosted a revival meeting from June 28-July 2. Six cases have been associated with that meeting in Macon, MO. As of July  9, the number of cases has increased to 21.

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.

Navajo Nation

The Navajo reservation takes in parts of Arizona, Utah and New Mexico. After a March service at Chilchinbeto Church of the Nazarene, 29 people came down with COVID-19.

North Carolina

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.

Ohio

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.

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.

Oregon

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.

South Carolina

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.

Tennessee

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.

Covenant Baptist Church in Cleveland has closed services due to an outbreak of 20 cases there. The pastor is among those who have been infected.

Texas

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:

Virginia

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.

West Virginia

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.

Wisconsin

In Sheboygan County, a Wisconsin pentecostal church has been linked to 23 cases of COVID-19. The person who spread the virus is between 20-30 years of age and had allergy like symptoms.

In Madison, High Point Church reports a few cases but has continued to have church with social distancing.

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 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 later)

Lake Ridge Christian Church – Paris, IL – 7/5/20

Immanuel Baptist Church – Corunna, MI – 7/4/20

Resurrection of the Lord Parish – Standish, MI – 6/28/20

Calvary Baptist Church – West Branch, MI – 6/28/20

Freedom Christian Center – Aurora, MO – 7/5-7/20

New Beginnings Fellowship – Branson, MO – 6/21/20

Bethel Assembly of God – Cape Girardeau, MO – 7/5/20

First Christian Church – Cassville, MO – 7/10/20

Salem Baptist Church – Center, MO – 6/29/20

Grace Pointe Free Will Baptist Church – Marion Co., MO – 6/21/20

Monett Church of the Nazarine – Monett, MO – 6/28/20

First Assembly of God – Jefferson City, MO – 6/14, 21, 28/20

Agape Baptist Church – Stockton, MO – 7/5/20

Holy Family Catholic Church – Las Vegas, NV – 7/5/20

Temple Tots Day Care (in Temple Baptist) – Portsmouth, OH – 7/2/20

St. Albert the Great Catholic Church – Baldwin, PA – 7/5-12/20

South Cleveland Church of God – Cleveland, TN – 6/22/20

First Baptist Church -Farmersville, TX – 7/12/20

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.

France

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.

Germany

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.

South Korea

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),

Summary

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)

Last updated 7/13/20

Eric Metaxas Goes Twitter Blackface (UPDATED)

Let me just get to the point. Here Eric Metaxas’ most recent contribution to his Christian witness.

Metaxas was reacting to Joe Biden’s comments about conservative African-Americans not being black. Biden’s point was not well stated and he apologized for it today.

The fact that Biden was out of line with his comment is no reason for Metaxas to engage in what has been called by Christian professor Karen Prior the “Twitter equivalent of Blackface.”

Anyone following Metaxas over the past three years shouldn’t be too surprised by this. Some prior guests on his show includes Katie Hopkins, (see also this link), Milo Yiannopoulos, and his good friend and opponent of the “hoards” from the third world, Ann Coulter.  And of course, there is Metaxas’ undying support for Donald Trump.

Those folks want to keep America (and Britain in the case of Hopkins) white and European.  I don’t know what’s in Metaxas’ heart, but I could never give those three a platform, let alone call them friends and heroes.

Metaxas is currently getting dragged on social media for this tweet, and rightly so. However, if tomorrow everything goes back to normal, what will it matter?

Ed Stetzer has weighed in:

Now Joe Carter:

After being ratioed all night long, Metaxas doubled down:

In the most recent Quinnipiac University poll, Joe Biden was favored by 81% of black voters over Donald Trump, who was favored by only 3%. Although it was a dumb and insensitive way of saying it, Biden was not untethered to the facts.

If anyone is failing to deal with reality, it is Metaxas and his supporters. They fail to deal with the fact that there are good reasons for the disparity in the black vote. Principally, what Republicans do is criticize black voters for being captivated by “shiny objects” as if black voters don’t have reasons to favor the Democratic party.

Conservatives will make the most of Biden’s gaffe but exploitation can’t cover the fact that members of GOP fight against expanding voting access. Members of which party support Confederate heroes and symbols and find “very good people” among those who want to see a statue of Robert E. Lee remain in a honored place? Not the Democratic party.

According to a recent poll, black Americans feel that racial division has grown and that Trump is responsible for that that. They strongly disapprove of his performance and hold him responsible for an increase in racism on his watch. There are reasons for these results which Republican leaders simply don’t want to confront.

 

 

David Barton (left), Eric Metaxas (right)

Ravi Zacharias, 1946-2020

This morning Ravi Zacharias International Ministries released a statement announcing the death of their founder. Ravi Zacharias had been ill with an aggressive form of cancer. He was 74.

Until late in his ministry, Zacharias was universally beloved among evangelicals as a minister and defender of Christianity. He was affiliated with the Christian Missionary Alliance church. Recently, scandals marred his work, but for the most part his fans continued to stand with him. His organization will continue his apologetics work with his daughter Sarah Davis as CEO.

Davis had this to say about funeral arrangements:

Soon our family will gather for a graveside service. In the days ahead we will provide details for a public memorial service to be held in Atlanta and streamed around the world.

Ravi Zacharias, R.I.P.

 

The Washington Post obituary by Sarah Bailey for Ravi Zacharias contains a link to this blog’s exclusive 2018 apology concerning Zacharias’ claim that he studied at Cambridge and was a professor at Oxford.

 

Rusty Reno Apologizes for His Tweets About Masks

Today, on First Things, Rusty Reno apologized for his “foolish and ill-considered remarks about masks and mask wearing.” It is short, so I reproduce it here.

I regret my foolish and ill-considered remarks about masks and mask wearing on Twitter on Tuesday, May 12. Masks are clearly indicated in many situations. I used over-heated rhetoric and false analogies. It was wrong for me to impugn the intentions and motives of others, for which I apologize.

I wrote about his tweets (now deleted along with his entire account) last week. Given the position First Things has in the world of religion, it would be good to hear what tipped the scale in the other direction.

This seems like a good start. Reno also distorted history in his crusade against social distancing measures and it would be a good thing to see corrections made there as well.

Upheaval at First Things

I’ve been talking about it for awhile. I’m just one of many. First Things, the magazine that calls itself “America’s most influential journal of religion and public life,” is struggling. For me, it started with a broadside against the very reasonable David French by Sohrab Ahmari about a year ago. And then of late, the editor of First Things, R.R. Reno, has used the magazine to carry on a war against social distancing and most recently face masks. Yesterday, the crescendo was this series of tweets, now deleted from Twitter.

Reno today deleted his account from Twitter and did not file a daily Coronavirus diary on First Things as he has done most days during the pandemic.

By the way, in fact soldiers did wear masks.  Or at least these recruits did during the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic.

Others have noticed. Evangelical historian Thomas Kidd tweeted earlier today.

As I read editor Reno, he seems preoccupied with fear. He almost seems afraid to be afraid. In his tweets and articles, fear is the worst thing. Wearing a mask is a sign of cowardice to him. While I understand that fear is a negative emotion, some things should be feared. Fear is a natural part of our ability to adapt and respond to the demands of life. Fear can focus us on what is important.

In his war on fear, Reno has taken liberties with both history and science. In prior articles, Reno said in past pandemics, American citizens didn’t stop their gatherings, football games, and church services. Not true. In the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, many of the very same measures being taken now were taken then.

In his Coronavirus journal entry on May 12, Reno wrote:

Experts estimate that one-third of the residents of New York City have had the disease—a collective condition that makes it nearly impossible for an outbreak of significant magnitude to sweep through the city again. Yet we’re locked down, with no end in sight.

Actually, experts estimate that it would take 60% of the population to be infected for herd immunity to prevent an outbreak. In fact, we don’t know for certain that immunity occurs in all cases of COVID-19, and we don’t know for sure that the antibody tests are reliable. Even if they are and 30% is a valid number, that still isn’t adequate.

First Things once cared about accuracy. There are still good people writing there (e.g., Carl Trueman), but I do agree with Thomas Kidd’s assessment about the publication as a whole and hope for a reset.

Church is Different Than Shopping

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?

 

Darrin Patrick, R.I.P. (Updated with Seacoast Church Statement)

I have sad news to report: Pastor Darrin Patrick died yesterday. Multiple sources have provided conflicting reports about the cause of death.

Patrick currently was a teaching pastor at Seacoast Church in Charleston, SC. He founded megachurch The Journey in St. Louis, MO and was former Vice President of the Acts 29 Network. He leaves a wife and four children.

In 2016, Patrick was removed as pastor from The Journey for pastoral misconduct and recently was the subject of an article by Ed Stetzer in Christianity Today regarding his restoration to pastoral ministry.

His last Facebook entries dealt with the emotions and difficulties of being a pastor.

Seacoast Church just released this statement on their website:

SEACOAST CHURCH STATEMENT ON THE PASSING OF PASTOR DARRIN PATRICK

Charleston, S.C. and St. Louis, M.O. – May 8, 2020 – Seacoast Church today issued the following statement: “We are saddened to announce the sudden passing of Pastor Darrin Patrick. Darrin was a loved member of the Seacoast family, the teaching team, and pastoral staff and we are mourning his loss. Darrin had a gift for teaching the Word and a heart for encouraging other pastors. God allowed Seacoast to be a part of Darrin’s story in a time when he needed a family. He was a gift to us and we are thankful for the time the Lord gave him to us. His influence and impact cannot be measured. We are surrounding the Patrick family with our prayers and support during this time.”

Darrin Patrick served as a teaching pastor at Seacoast Church, and was also the founding pastor of The Journey Church in St. Louis, MO. He is a founding member of the Pastor’s Collective and the author of multiple books including the Dude’s Guide to Marriage.

Additional information on memorial services will be shared on seacoast.org as plans are formalized.

Updated at 5:58pm

Darrin was target shooting with a friend at the time of his death. An official cause of death has not been released but it appears to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound. No foul play is suspected. On behalf of the family we would ask that their privacy be respected during this time, and that all media requests be directed to Margaret Little.

This statement appears to leave some question about whether Rev. Patrick took his own life or suffered an accident. All sources I have spoken to about the situation believe he took his own life.

Image: Creative Commons via Wikipedia, Author: Justin Brackett

 

On Support for Donald Trump: An Open Letter to Albert Mohler

Earlier today, Louisville Baptist pastor Joel Bowman posted this open Facebook letter to likely incoming Southern Baptist Convention president Al Mohler regarding his support for Donald Trump in 2020.

Open Letter to R. Albert Mohler, President, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Dear Dr. Mohler,

I am writing to you in this medium, because the likelihood of you meeting with me face-to-face is quite low. Moreover, your public remarks require my public response.

Sir, you said during the 2016 election cycle, to support then candidate, Donald J. Trump, would cause evangelicals to lose moral credibility. You also said if you were to support him, you would owe President Bill Clinton an apology, given your judgement of his character. Now, you are endeavoring to be president of the SBC, and suddenly, you announced not only your support for Trump, in 2020, but that you would vote Republican for the foreseeable future. Given your position, as well as the position you endeavor to hold, you did not have to voice support for any candidate or party, in 2020. Further, I think it would have been wise for you not to do this.

1. You owe Clinton an apology. Not to give him one speaks of lack of integrity on your part.

2. Given your influence among Southern Baptists and white evangelicals, as a whole, you have inextricably tied the evangelical movement to the Republican Party, for better or for worse, and,

3. Your book, “Conviction to Lead” no longer has a place in my library. It wreaks of hypocrisy and ecclesiastical opportunism.

It grieves me to say you have, in my estimation, lost all moral credibility. You no longer have a prophetic voice. Now, you simply blend in with popular, politicized evangelical thought. Rather than being an apologist for the Gospel, you have become an apologist for political conservatism. Your assertion that a vote for Trump or a Republican candidate is THE expression of a Biblical world view is myopic and tribalistic.

You once had my high respect, though we disagreed on some secondary and tertiary issues. As a Louisville pastor for 21 years with affiliation within the Louisville Regional Baptist Association, Kentucky Baptist Convention, and some involvement in the SBC, I am deeply disappointed. I feel like ripping your chapter out of the book, “Removing the Stain of Racism from the Southern Baptist Convention”. It is all meaningless chatter, empty rhetoric to me, now.

There was a time I was working toward stronger involvement within the SBC, through the Cooperative Program. Due, in part, to your recent remarks, I am placing this on hold. As an African-American of evangelical theology, I lack confidence in your leadership in the area of Biblical justice.

I pray the Holy Spirit convict you in this area. I say all of this with every ounce of love and respect I can muster, as your brother in Christ.

Sincerely,

Rev. Joel A. Bowman, Sr.
Founder & Senior Pastor
Temple of Faith Baptist Church
Louisville, Kentucky

I feel pretty sure that white evangelicals on average do not comprehend how differently their black brothers and sisters on average see the endorsement of Donald Trump. This is a key sentence:

I feel like ripping your chapter out of the book, “Removing the Stain of Racism from the Southern Baptist Convention”. It is all meaningless chatter, empty rhetoric to me, now.

Here is the most recent illustration of the vast gulf between Donald Trump,  his supporters and the minority perspective.  Donald Trump tweeted this about the angry, armed, white men who stormed the Michigan Capitol Building in a re-open Michigan protest.

I cannot believe the results and reaction would have been the same if those protesters would have been angry black men carrying weapons into the Capitol. What a perfect example of white privilege that they were not arrested and got a commendation from the president.

Some of the rallies feature Confederate flags and Nazi slogans and Trump does and says nothing to discourage it. The protesters like him and that’s what matters. You simply have no credibility with most African-Americans if you tolerate white supremacy. There is nothing pro-life about that.