Christian Leaders Push for Pentecost Reopening in California

Pastor Dan Carroll speaks during a Church United news conference at Water of Life Community Church in Fontana, California, on May 7, 2020. Video screengrab via Church United

Southern California pastors Jack HibbsRob McCoy, Matt Brown and Dan Carroll agree with Gov. Gavin Newsom.

It’s time to start opening up their state — including its churches — after weeks of being shut down to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

They disagree, however, on how fast that should happen. And when churches should be allowed to worship in person.

Right now, churches can reopen in stage three of Newsom’s four-stage reopening plan. They can start holding services around the same time that movie theaters, gyms, nail salons and other areas designated as higher-risk workplaces reopen.

The church leaders are urging Newsom to bump religious services to stage two, which the state began moving into on Friday (May 8).

“We are not here to rebel. We’re not here as activists. We just want to be deemed as essential and open up,” Carroll, senior pastor for Water of Life Community Church in Fontana, told Religion News Service on Monday.

“We’re not asking for extra treatment, just fair treatment. … Let us open back up.”

Carroll, Hibbs, McCoy and Brown are among the pastors who support a “Declaration of Essentiality for Churches,” prepared by Tyler & Bursch, LLP, a law firm based in the Inland Empire that focuses on Christian institutions and churches.

The statement calls for churches to be seen as essential organizations by the state.

“The clergy of this state are convinced that they must reopen their ministries to fully serve the needs of their communities. The spiritual services of ministries are absolutely essential to the health and welfare of the people of California,” the statement reads. “Therefore, the religious leaders of California are coming together to make their voices heard in Sacramento. In times of national crisis, the clergy have a responsibility to lead.”

The declaration notes that churches, under the First Amendment, have the right to the free exercise of religion and the right to gather and worship.

Church leaders have also stressed that Christianity is a religion that should be practice in community — not alone.

“Christianity is not a personal religion, it is a ‘with others’ religion,” said Brown, pastor of Sandals Church in Riverside, in a video calling for churches to reopen.

The declaration also includes a link to a letter signed by California Republican legislators urging Newsom to include houses of worship in stage two.

In early May, a federal judge ruled that Newsom had the right to ban church assemblies in the interest of public health during the coronavirus outbreak. In a news conference on Thursday, Newsom said his office was working with faith leaders to address their concerns.

“Our fear is simply this, congregations of people mixing from far and wide coming together … in an enclosed space at large scales is a point of obvious concern and anxiety,” he said. “We are already working on guidelines for physical distancing and working with faith leaders looking at the unique conditions that exist within their own facilities. … None of this is etched in stone.”

Click here to read more.
Source: Religion News Service