A document obtained by The Roys Report shows John MacArthur’s Grace Community Church (GCC) last week knew of at least a dozen people in one of its fellowship groups with COVID-19.
However, there’s no evidence these cases were reported to local public health officials. This, despite an order requiring churches to report when at least three coronavirus cases are identified among a church staff or congregation within a 14-day span.
Also, yesterday, John MacArthur was scheduled to preach at GCC. But GCC Staff Pastor Tom Patton announced during in-person services that “our pastor is resting today” and that another pastor would be preaching.
Patton also said that evening services at GCC were being cancelled so that church members “can spend more time with (their) family.”
This news comes about a week after I reported that GCC was apparently having a new outbreak of COVID-19 and that church members were being pressured not to report COVID cases to DPH for fear the church would be shut down.
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For months, MacArthur has defied public health orders, which had banned indoor worship services. Indoor services are now permitted, provided churches require masks and practice strict social distancing, which GCC has not done.
GCC pastors have not responded to multiple requests for information about MacArthur’s condition, which I sent yesterday. The only response I received was an out-of-office email from pastor and elder, Phil Johnson.
GCC pastors also have not responded directly to requests I sent on December 19 for information about the alleged new COVID outbreak. Pastors also did not reply to emails yesterday, requesting an explanation as to why the dozen cases of COVID in the Sojourners Fellowship Group have not been reported to the health department.
COVID outbreak in Sojourners
The information about the COVID outbreak among the Sojourners Fellowship Group—one of seven fellowship groups at GCC—was included in the group’s prayer sheet for the week of December 13. (The sheet was linked in an official church email sent on December 24 to Sojourners members.)
The sheet requested prayer for nine members of the group with COVID and three members recovering from COVID. Another two members were reported as sick with “possible COVID.”
Since GCC’s first outbreak in October, the website for L.A. County’s Department of Public Health (DPH) has consistently reported five cases of COVID among GCC staff and zero cases among non-staff. On December 19, the health department confirmed in an email to The Roys Report that no additional outbreaks had been reported by the church.
Last week, the number of confirmed COVID cases at GCC listed on the county’s website changed to four cases among GCC staff and one confirmed case among GCC non-staff.
I spoke with Jim Layfield, one of the area leaders of the Sojourners group. He confirmed that a number of people within the group have COVID. When I asked why these cases weren’t listed on the health department website, he responded: “I don’t know who’s keeping score, but it doesn’t seem to be adding up.”
Layfield said he didn’t have any knowledge whether the church reported the cases or not.
I reached out to the health department today and over the weekend, asking about the additional cases at GCC. (I had also reached out to DPH last week, following reports that several of GCC’s staff and members of the church’s Gracelife Fellowship Group had COVID.)
DPH replied that a “follow up” and a response to my request is “in process.”
Phil Johnson responds by accusing me of lying
Though no pastors from GCC have confirmed or denied reports of a new COVID outbreak, Pastor Phil Johnson responded to my December 20th article by accusing me of lying on social media.
Johnson tweeted: “Not only did she NOT contact me for comment; she blocked me months ago on social media.”
I responded by tweeting the email I had sent to Johnson and GCC Pastor Mike Riccardi via their fellowship group called Gracelife. (That email is below:)
In a twitter thread, someone pressed Johnson to reply to specific questions regarding whether the cases at GCC had been reported to the health department and what parts of my article were true.
Johnson tweeted that he would reply by email, but not publicly on social media to “kooks and miscreants who like to showboat.”
I reached out to the person Johnson addressed in that tweet. He said he never sent an email to Johnson because he wanted Johnson to respond in public.
120 thoughts on “John MacArthur’s Church Knew of at Least a Dozen Congregants with COVID; No Sign Church Reported”
Jonathan….John Macarthur himself has made his churchs’ response to covid quite public….julie has every right to bring it to light….furthermore…John Macarthur typically does NOT accept rebuke…especially from a woman!!!!
Dear Julie, I am not a regular follower of you, so I cannot comment on your rationale for this “investigation” of John MacArthur and GCC. I am and have been however, a faithful follower of MacArthur for over 35 years. I “grew up” on John’s tape ministry and books, no thanks to the local church and its weak teaching. John has been nearly a lone wolf in exposing false teachings when no one wanted to touch the hot potatoes. He has been blasted for 50 years because of cutting the scriptures straight. When the Lord finally takes him home, Christians will lose the most profound teacher of our lifetime. As for his character, it’s above reproach. You will look long and hard to find negative character here. Even when he believed and taught a different view on Eternal Sonship (which I disagreed with), he eventually recanted his position IN PRINT and admitted he was wrong! That shows integrity, humility and his adoration for the TRUTH of scripture above all. I do not understand your desire to dig up dirt and stir the pot to his ministry and GCC! What are your motives? What “Truth” and “Church” are you attempting to “Restore?” What do you want to happen to a faithful preacher and a faithful congregation? Let me review some of the facts that I believe to be true. John followed the “guidelines” in the beginning and preached every Sunday to an empty sanctuary. Eventually when it became apparent there was a double standard for what was essential and what wasn’t, GCC members started walking in the sanctuary to listen in person. HE INVITED NO ONE! They came on their own. They longed for fellowship and needed encouragement. When they were threatened with fines, GCC told the health department they would wear masks and distance if they could remain open. The answer was NO! Church is non essential! So, abiding by the guidelines wouldn’t matter. Julie, these people are adults with a mature faith that understands Who is in charge of life and death. I understand completely how non Christians would be terrified to die, but Christians? If you have listened to John since this whole things started, and especially lately, you would appreciate the encouragement and clarity he is giving all who would listen. For instance: “Who’s to blame for the Riots?” I have shared with numerous people who have been blessed. This is a confusing time for us all! That’s just one of MANY sermons with explanations NO ONE ELSE IS ADDRESSING! And he isn’t afraid to speak. I have read the comments from his critics about his dogmatic views and that this is a cult. You are fostering this untruth, Julie. John MacArthur is a beacon of light in this reprobate society and you seek to, what, destroy him? Who’s going to take his place? You? You have gone after the likes of James McDonald and rightly so. This time, you’ve crossed into a dangerous area. As for that one staff member who said he was afraid to report Covid cases; are you going to build a case on that? My personal opinion about Covid is not important (although I agree with John). The issue is the character of MacArthur and GCC is at stake here. Be careful you are not aligning with the forces of darkness to stamp out that Beacon of Light in our generation. You might be a part of the wrong team Julie. Thanks for reading.
I appreciate you sharing your concerns and can sense sincerity in what you write.
As a journalist, I try to be as fair as possible. And I neither protect high-profile leaders because I like them, nor do I go after leaders because I don’t like them. I evaluate stories based on their newsworthiness. MacArthur deciding to defy public health guidelines was a story and I’ve been covering it even-handedly since July. GCC experiencing a second, and allegedly widespread outbreak, and failing to report it is a story, as well. The fact that a leader and several members say they’re being pressured not to report is a story, too.
I think it should be noted that I’ve made numerous efforts to hear GCC’s side of the story and no one has responded. Instead, Phil Johnson called me a liar, when in fact, I told the truth. At the very least, I would hope that concerns you. Not only is orthodoxy important; orthopraxy matters too.
By now you know you reported false information about a Covid outbreak that was unreported in MacArthur’s church. If you are truly a Christian like you claim, you should offer a public apology for what many see as harassment.
Shirley, You need to read my latest article on the COVID outbreak. Nothing in my reports has been discredited. MacArthur’s claims about my reports, however, are patently false, as I show in the article. https://julieroys.com/john-macarthur-defends-churchs-failure-to-report-covid-outbreak/
Hello, Carol. I am sorry that you were not able to find a local church with solid Bible teaching over many years. I know what that is like myself. I, too, for a time relied heavily on John MacArthur’s teaching because of weak teaching in my own local church. Thankfully, that is no longer the case. As much as I was blessed by MacArthur’s teaching, that was not a substitute for my local church, and it is not really the model that is laid out in Scripture.
Regarding MacArthur’s position on eternal sonship, I am familiar with his original position. To say he changed his position in print is only partially true. Yes, he at one point released a statement about it; however, both his study Bible and his NT commentaries on Romans and Hebrews still teach the incarnational sonship view, and there are millions of those in circulation. I wonder how many people even know about this.
As for people showing up to GCC during the pandemic without being invited, that is true. Still, the church could have regulated that. Our church has a registration process for people who attend in-person services so that they can accommodate social distancing. Also, even when GCC was told that church was not essential and they continued to meet anyway, they never required people to wear masks or social distance. At least that would have shown a good faith effort to meet responsibly.
Julie, as a supporter of your investigative reporting and a regular listener, I am somewhat disturbed at your reporting of GCC defying the oppressive authority of the governor of California. Perhaps you should give your readers the many stories being played out by the churches in Southern California. Small churches that can’t even have outside services because of the “ noise pollution “ are being targeted by men giddy with power. Church is essential. If you can separate believers, you can cripple the body. Your article was a bit snarky in my opinion. I do agree that Phil Johnson’s response was not appropriate and was a knee jerk protective measure. But with that said, you had an edge to your article that was unlike your history.
I would very much like you to do a series of articles about how the churches have been effected in oppressive states like California and Illinois. Frankly their Covid numbers are comparable to other states that value the gathering together of the saints. California is “ on fire” right now… go figure
I have reported some stories about churches that claim they’re being unfairly targeted by authorities in California. Here’s one: https://julieroys.com/church-harassment-lawsuit/
I also reported numerous stories about Grace’s battle with L.A. County and the state. I’ve just followed this story where it’s gone. I’m not sure what you thought was snarky or was edgy about this article. Maybe you could be more specific?
I would like to know what LAW has been created in California that would force these standards on ANY church.
“For months, MacArthur has defied public health orders, which had banned indoor worship services. Indoor services are now permitted, provided churches require masks and practice strict social distancing, which GCC has not done.”
He defied public health orders? Orders from whom? What teeth do these “orders” have exactly? I was in California in July of 2020 and their were standing orders not to congregate at the beaches. Do you know what I saw? People congregating at the beaches.
Indoor services are now allowed – when were they NOT allowed and under what LAW were they shut down? So now they are allowed IF they require masks and practice social distancing? Under what law are those regulations written?
I want you to CLEARLY understand what you are doing Julie – you are taking suggestions and “executive legal fiat” and turning them in to LAW. You are invading an organizations freedoms and rights to push “executive suggestions.”
The truth is this: There are no laws created by the California state legislature that give these restrictions any teeth. This is why California isn’t arresting people – they KNOW they will lose in court. They can merely fine and threaten to shut off public utilities to these establishments.
Gov Newsom is a tyrant. The state of California imposes these restrictions without any data to back up whether they will work or not and look what is happening with that state – they are starting to once again lead the nation in outbreaks.
Let the church worry about the church. I suggest keeping your nose in your own business.
I’ve heard Pastor MacArthur and others complain about the “oppressive authority” by Gavin Newsom and other government authorities. Frankly, I feel these complaints are very “whiny” especially when considering the persecution faced by Christians in Iran, China, and other countries, not to mention at various times in the history of the Church. It’s almost an insult to Christians who have sacrificed far more than we have for the sake of Jesus Christ. In contrast, I don’t think we are being asked to sacrifice much when the government asks us to wear masks and social distance.
Thank you Julie for your reporting. I appreciate your boldness in holding church leaders accountable.
Persecution is persecution. Regardless of the immediate harm or levels of physical hardship it brings. By taking a stand against the trending efforts of the government to eliminate worship, GCC is performing it’s Bibical and God given right to oppose this apparent trend. I agree wholeheartedly with how Pastor Johnny Mac and the congregation at GCC is responding to the government and its hypocritical enforcers.
Hello, Linda. Please remember that Julie is a person, not a news organization who has dozens of reporters following up on every story out there. She obviously spends a lot of time researching, investigating, and writing; and the quality of her reporting is more important than the quantity. In all fairness, she cannot report on every news story out there related to COVID and churches. Furthermore, the issue at GCC is a high profile story that has gotten a lot of bad press in the secular media, with some of it even bordering on mockery. I am grateful for her unbiased and objective reporting, of which the world and the church is badly in need.
Thru my life, like most people, I have been looking for meaning and truth. It’s elusive and hard to find. When you do find it, you know it and it’s apparent. Pastor John is not perfect, no human is, but he’s real and there is no doubt he cares about his message and about others. It’s not hard to find the bad faith actors in this story, the virus has been predicated on bad faith and the actors that sew the seeds of division and distort meaning and truth to keep there real belief and intentions hidden. This situation like countless others just exposes more bad faith. A population with ulterior motives. These people are turned off, inverting reality to suit there ideals. This story has no real meaning, it’s judgments doesn’t care about people getting ill or dying, or fear or sadness that plague our society. It continues to perpetuate the ongoing campaign. And in its feeble attempt to capture my mind, its message will always fail to capture my heart. No fear, God stand strong with the true believers, help us see each other and not look away.
According to JHU, the test positivity rate in California is around 12%. Unless GCC’s test positivity rate exceeds that of California as a whole, why do you conclude GCC is the source of an outbreak? From the CDC’s page on measures of association in their basic epidemiology course:
So it sounds like GCC actually has a LOWER incidence rate than the California population given their thousands of members, and therefore there is no association of GCC with COVID.
I am simply amazed that you folks think you are going to control this by doing things like limiting church functions. California is once again close to leading the nation in outbreaks even with these archaic restrictions in place – restrictions that have no penalty of WRITTEN LAW behind them mind you. Someone give me a law passed by the California State Legislature that 1) says churches cannot gather or 2) they have to wear masks, social distance and report their cases in order to continue church functions.
I don’t care what Newsom SAYS. He is not a king. He does not carry with him the rule of law in that state. The head executive merely ENFORCES existing state law. ALL LAWS much originate in the HOUSE. That is THE LAW.
I never thought I’d see the day when Christians were turning other Christians in for something like this. Absolutely amazing. Now I understand where persecution for the actual church is going to come from – it will come from within.
And sadly I think you are spot on. Persecution will come from within. It strikes me as incredibly petty to ‘dob’ in John Macarthur and his church. Frankly, some decent research around this Covid ‘pandemic’ is much needed. And I don’t mean msm. Cases do NOT equal death’s from Covid.
Hello sir, you wrote: “I am simply amazed that you folks think you are going to control this by doing things like limiting church functions. California is once again close to leading the nation in outbreaks even with these archaic restrictions in place.”
The reason those restrictions do not work is because people do not follow them. You said as much yourself when you commented about people congregating on the beach.
Beyond hand-washing and quarantining the sick, none of these other measures have robust scientific evidence behind them. Social distancing has been studied in computer models, not controlled trials. Robust evidence for masks has been inconclusive and they are likely ineffective. The more-onerous measures such as masks and social distancing have been emphasized at the expense of hand washing and staying home if you’re sick.
The reason people are not following the guidelines is that many of them are impractical, especially social distancing and lockdowns. Much of the virus spread is within households – the so-called “secondary attack rate.” How realistic is social distancing within a house, including lower-income higher-density housing? What about lockdowns? The spread between households can be mitigated, but for how long? How realistic is it to tell people not to gather with friends and family when the duration keeps shifting? We’re on 8 months of this in California.
The belief that we have much control over the virus is a belief in magic. At best, you can slow the spread somewhat using handwashing and quarantining of the ill. VIruses come and go according to a natural process absent vaccines. Widespread lockdowns and social distancing are unproven, unrealistic measures in an urban world of 8 billion people.
This whole episode has proven to me that doctrinal unity is a necessary, but insufficient condition for church unity in the coming decades. Different parts of the church are going to have different opinions on how things should be handled and will have to go their separate ways.
“Beyond hand-washing and quarantining the sick, none of these other measures have robust scientific evidence behind them. Social distancing has been studied in computer models, not controlled trials.“
How would you propose to set up a controlled trial of social distancing and mask wearing. Do you think maybe people would doubt the results and say it was rigged in order to convince us to bow to the government mandate because the virus is just a hoax?
It saddens me that MacArthur who spent so much time teaching us how to discern this kind of spiritual abuse is now engaging in it.
Controlled trials of both have been run. Here’s one for social distancing:
Here’s a review of the best evidence regarding masks:
As Fauci and the Surgeon General said in March, masks are not effective for the general public.
Handwashing and quarantining the sick are.
“As Fauci and the Surgeon General said in March, masks are not effective for the general public.”
Bryce, that is outdated information. The CDC later updated their guidance after more was understand about the virus.
What did the CDC learn about the virus that caused them to overturn the best evidence from randomized controlled trials from previous viruses? Here’s a bibliography of strong evidence showing their lack of effectiveness:
If you want to wear one, fine. I actually don’t care. I just don’t want to be accused of murdering grandma for not wearing one, even though I have to in the stores and at church. There are a lot of people on high-horses these days.
In general, I’ve found that high level epidemiology bureaucrats are changing their opinion on masks, vaccines, herd immunity, etc based on elite opinion rather than science. If you find them credible, it’s certainly a reasonable opinion but I am also entitled to mine.
Hello Bryce, I agree that we are each entitled to our opinions. Likewise, I, too, do not like some of the comments that we will be “murdering grandma for not wearing” a mask. That seems extreme and unhelpful. Also, there are differing opinions about masks and the virus, even among medical professionals. Last year I went to see a doctor about a problem, and he spent the first 10 minutes of our visit telling me why masks were not effective and that people like Dr. Fauci should be fired. Additionally, I also think that he could have done a better job looking into my problem as it may have helped diagnose my cancer sooner. All the same, despite opinions of people like him, the overwhelming majority of medical experts endorse basic protocols such as mask wearing and social distancing.
But the issue in this article is more fundamental. It has to do with how churches handle these things. If a business knowingly, recklessly, or carelessly exposed people to some risk, or at least did not provide communication about it, there would almost certainly be liability. In the case of GCC, they have failed to endorse or require basic safety measures, and then publicly said that there is no pandemic. Whether we as individuals think that people should wear masks, church leaders have an obligation to look after their members. In Romans 14 where Paul discusses matters of conscience, he says, “It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles” (v. 21). Pastors, more than anyone else, need to yield their opinions for the sake of those they serve.
How did you come to this conclusion – that the majority endorse mask wearing and social distancing?
Didn’t your own doctor tell you otherwise? Have you read the Great Barrington Declaration?
What constitutes “reckless?” I would think staying home if you’re sick would be enough to avoid that charge. Since when can you sue for spreading a respiratory illness?
What basic safety measures did they fail to endorse besides social distancing and masks which we’ve agreed are a matter of opinion? Did they tell anyone to stop washing their hands and come even if they’re sick? They said there was no pandemic? Link?
Bryce, I am starting to look forward to these daily chats. The doctor who thought that masks should not be worn was not my primary care physician. He was an urgent care physician. His opinion was definitely an outlier. I know that because since then I have been in numerous medical facilities due to my cancer and dealt with various doctors and nurses, and not one of them has said that masks or social distancing are useless. Furthermore, both the CDC and WHO have stated that masks and social distancing are important. I do not know of any medical facility that is not following that guidance.
As for the Great Barrington Declaration, I had not heard of it. Thank you for bringing it to my attention. Having said that, the advice it espouses is not in line with or endorsed by the WHO. It is also not an official medical document, even though it was signed by numerous medical people. It was produced by a think tank.
Concerning the issue of liability, that is one of the reasons why Congress wanted to include COVID liability protections in the latest stimulus bill. Apparently some states have even passed laws to that effect. Besides, in a litigious society such as ours, you and I both know that this is a liability issue.
You asked, “What basic safety measures did they fail to endorse besides social distancing and masks which we’ve agreed are a matter of opinion?” What else should they have endorsed? I am sure they would tell people to stay home if they were sick. That would be a basic safety measure. But what about the countless people that spread it without showing any symptoms? That is whole point of wearing the masks and social distancing: to slow the spread and reduce the risk of transmission. Also, the church failed to report that COVID was spreading in the church. That was the whole point of Julie’s article. That would been the honest and transparent thing to do, and that would have provided protection for everyone. We had people in our church who were diagnosed with COVID. They were asymptomatic, but our church told everyone that there were some cases and then opted to not meet in person for a few weeks during that time. That protected all of us. People, even pastors, may have an opinion, but that is why I referenced Romans 14:21. Leaders, and especially pastors, have an obligation to protect their flock.
So, that brings up the issue about John MacArthur saying that there is no pandemic. Here is a link to that.
Using masks and PPE in a medical facility as a disposable is entirely different than the general public using them where they’re touching them all the time and re-using them where germs from the mask are transferred to the hands. Even if you can find a representative poll of doctors showing that they all think masks and social distancing are effective for the general public, that does not mean that they are scientifically-validated measures, or even practical ones. Are we socially-distancing in Costco or WalMart? What did you think of the studies I sent you?
It’s definitely a counter-point to your claim that every doctor and epidemiologist is on board with the lockdowns and other measures because it was signed by many of the same. Pretty much every doctor who has spoken out against these measures has been reviled.
Good point. I guess we can start suing each other over cold and flu season.
Have they told people to show up if they’re sick? As far as I know, they haven’t told anyone they have to come at all. One video I saw of John MacArthur said that you could come if you wanted to and many did. A huge chunk of Christendom thinks other believers are sinning by wanting to go to church, as if spiritual health was a distant second to physical health.
You keep coming back to this. There’s no proof that this works. There is a lot of proof that hand washing and quarantining the sick works, but that’s not the strategy pursued by our government out here over and against everything we’ve known about epidemiology for the past 100 years. If anything, telling everyone to wear a mask lets them believe they can go out into public if they’re sick regardless of how much they spread the virus to surfaces with their hands.
I dealt with this above. Right now, there’s no proof that the virus is “spreading in the church” anymore than it is in the general population. If anything, based on Julie’s evidence, GCC’s rate of COVID is lower than the rest of the state indicating that GCC is not the source of an outbreak. Speaking of “outbreak”, the state of California has defined it onerously for churches. We are not obligated to obey the magistrate in everything. Protestants have a long tradition of resistance to government.
So would telling the sick to stay home. You strike me as very scared of this. The church in North America is aging. Are you afraid to die? If so, should your fears be the sole basis of church policy? What about the rest of us who are younger for whom this is a common cold? While this is certainly more contagious than the seasonal flu, it is not more deadly for most people. 99.98% of people survive this. It is far more deadly for the elderly, but so are all viruses generally.
That website seems to indicate Marxist critical theory is dominant in the SBC. MacArthur shouldn’t have said that, but I don’t know of any ministers who are innocent of making remarks they now regret about this. In California, you can go to Costco and WalMart and do a host of other things but not meet inside for church. Many churches can meet outside, but there is bad weather in other parts of the state. No one knows when these restrictions will end. One half of North American Christendom seems to think we’ll do what the government wants until they say this is over. But the government, at least out here, has shifted the goalposts more than half a dozen times and at the very least could’ve allowed indoor worship during the summer which has never been the peak of a cold or flu season. The government’s onerous, fickle, and unrealistic measures have caused many of us to conclude what Christians always have: we are not obligated to obey the government in all circumstances. The magistrate definitely has an interest and authority to maintain public health from a virus but not at the expense of everything else. If you want to obey, fine. No one is binding the consciences of fearful or frail members. Many of us want to go back to church inside as we’ve always done. The rest of you have no right to bind our consciences in this matter.
Bryce, I can see that you are very passionate about this subject, and that is admirable. Please try to understand that many people are afraid of this. I, for one, am not fearful of this or fearful of death, but I am not foolish either. I am also in a higher risk category, so I sympathize with the elderly and others who are genuinely fearful.
You are right that staying home when sick is what people should do, and that is only sensible. Keep in mind that the issue about wearing masks is so that people who appear to be healthy, but are really sick, reduce the possibility of passing it on to others inadvertently. The people in our church who were diagnosed with COVID were asymptomatic. Without policies requiring masks and social distancing, people like that can potentially infect others, who may not be so fortunate. Also, people can pass on viruses to others prior to showing any symptoms, so masks and social distancing can help with that.
Also, COVID is more deadly than the flu. Numerous studies have pointed this out. Here is one, for your reference.
In reference to the John MacArthur’s comments about the pandemic you said, “MacArthur shouldn’t have said that, but I don’t know of any ministers who are innocent of making remarks they now regret about this.”
Just because other pastors have said similar things does not excuse John MacArthur from saying it. Furthermore, MacArthur is not just “any” pastor; he is one of the most influential pastors in America. Not only that, but his church is not just “any” just. It is a very, large church with thousands of weekly attendants. Additionally, the church did not make a good faith effort to abide by ANY guidelines or recommendations. You also added that “John MacArthur said that [people] could come if [they] wanted to and many did.” So regardless of whether people just started showing up initially, MacArthur also extended an invitation to them. Remember, the real point of this article is about how GCC is handling this issue.
Finally, you said, “The magistrate definitely has an interest and authority to maintain public health from a virus but not at the expense of everything else. If you want to obey, fine. No one is binding the consciences of fearful or frail members. Many of us want to go back to church inside as we’ve always done. The rest of you have no right to bind our consciences in this matter.”
Nobody is trying to bind your conscience, but please remember also that Paul says in Romans 14:21, “It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles.” If those of you who are strong in faith do not think that you need to wear masks, I understand and respect that; but for the sake of those “fearful or frail members” who also “want to go back to church inside as [they have] always done,” why not be a little more sympathetic and kind, and defer your rights for their sake? Should not churches make sure that they are sensitive to these issues so that it is a place where everyone can feel welcome, not just those who are young and healthy and for whom COVID is just a common cold?
Correction to be post above: Not only that, but his church is not just “any” just.
It should say: Not only that, but his church is not just “any” church.
What if they touch a surface such as a mask and then you touch it? The contact tracing performed in our county showed that Costco, Walmart, and nursing homes were the biggest spreaders. Everyone is wearing a mask in those places. 40% of the deaths are in nursing homes. Wash your hands.
I’ve heard both sides of the “asymptomatic spread” idea. In general, people who cough and sneeze more spread viruses more with higher viral load. This has always been true. I posted a study above from the Israeli army in which strict mask wearing and social distancing were enforced except during sleep where masks could lead to suffocation. There was no effect on the spread versus a control group. The study claimed that most of the spread was asymptomatic. Either way, much of the spread is within households where I guarantee most people are doing no social distancing or mask-wearing. Again, how realistic is the idea of social distancing in Costco or Walmart or the grocery store? I’ve squeezed past many people in aisles.
You should also consider the possibility of false positives in the people you mentioned above. False positives are greater depending on the prevalence in a population and can only be ruled-out with another test. RT-PCR testign has not been used for this application before.
Saying, “It’s more deadly than the flu” is not the same as saying, “the infection fatality ratio (IFR) is greater than the flu.” I agree that this is killing more people than the flu, but only because it spreads much more easily. It is the most contagious coronavirus ever and definitely the deadliest form of SARS CHina has ever produced. However, most of the people infected are – as you say – minimally-affected.
I concede that he has a greater influence. I wish he wouldn’t have said what he did. Nevertheless, he was right about this as a threat to our religious liberties and a supreme court justice and several other judges have come to the same conclusion. Many of you are being naive about this. As John Milton said, “Necessity is the plea of tyrants.” Many of us do not trust GAvin Newsom because he is a known liar, a cheat, and lawbreaker. He hasn’t kept to his own standards. See his French Laundry photos. It’s naive to believe he is acting purely in good faith. We are to be as wise as serpents as well as gentle as doves.
I’d like to see some more balance on the coverage of John MacArthur rather than hit pieces which convince me that this is just another blue check assault by the evangelical left.
I am being sympathetic and kind. If someone wants me to wear a mask around them, I do. However, there is a balance to be struck with this and a weaker brother lording over my own conscience. God alone is Lord of conscience and He has given his people liberty of conscience as explained in the Westminster standards. You should be careful that your push for every brother to yield for the sake of your conscience does not put you in the place of God who is Lord over others’ consciences. You should likewise be careful not to despise the gifts and graces of God, including the first amendment. Once these rights are lost, they take centuries to recover.
Bryce, we are not being naive about what is happening in California, nor do we take our religious liberty for granted. Gavin Newsom may be all those things and worse, and you may not trust him. I live in Illinois, and we have our own political issues here. All the same, as Christians, we should take to heart Paul’s words in Romans 13 or 1 Timothy 2:2.
There has been no imbalance in reporting what has happened to John MacArthur. He brought this scrutiny on himself.
I do not see anything in Romans 14 about a weaker brother lording his conscience over a stronger brother. Paul is asking the strong to yield to the weak.
Do you have any Scripture to support your points of view? You have referenced a lot of other sources like the Great Barrington Declaration, John Milton, and the Westminister standards to name a few. What about God’s word?
We’ve all revisited those texts this year. We’re all not going to come to the same conclusion. This will likely split the North American church into different camps over different issues in the coming decade.
We all have a choice what to pay attention to. Watch blogs all end the same way. At first, they go after legitimate targets and provide a much-needed disinfectant. Over time, watch bloggers run out of legitimate targets and turn their guns on less-legitimate targets, kind of like our bombing campaigns against the North Vietnamese. Sooner or later, they’re bombing illegitimate targets (the innocent) simply because you have bombers and, well, they’re no good sitting on the tarmac/flightdeck. This eventually results in backlash as nobody likes being bombed when they don’t deserve it. No one likes a bully and bullies accumulate enemies whether they’re on the Right or on the Left. This is a Leftist watch blog but the end result will be the same for reasons of simple math.
I leave to everyone else to determine if he bullied weaker brothers into removing masks. For all we know, the overwhelming majority of his church doesn’t want to wear them. Without data, we don’t know. The issue is complicated by the fact that the government has told its serfs that they are endangering each-other by being too close, in which case building capacity cannot be used to its fullest which harms both weaker and stronger brother alike by excluding a large percentage from corporate worship inside. The government also revoked GCC’s parking lot lease.
The case of food sacrificed to idols seems much more straightforward.
I do wear a mask as required by the government in outdoor worship. We are not allowed inside though our session has decided we are going back inside after a certain date whether or not the government allows. After worship, I ask if the brother wants me to wear one, otherwise I do not know if he is, in fact “weaker.”. AFAIK, I am loving the weaker brother.
I’m Reformed and we believe Confessions are an accurate summary of Scripture. The Westminster standards have been an accurate summary of Scripture since 1646. Scripture is relatively silent on how to handle a pandemic. For that, we need natural law, science, and common sense.
Also please study the New York smallpox outbreak of 1947. They took it seriously because they knew mild or a symptomatic cases can spread it just as fast. Stopped it in its tracks.
Don’t tell us this kind of thing hasn’t been studied or dealt with before. You clearly have no clue.
I would recommend listening to a podcast called this week in virology if you want to learn. Yes, disregard the parts about evolution when they come up, it doesn’t mean they don’t understand viruses and how they spread.
They may have successfully quarantined the sick in 1947 but they had a vaccine from cowpox since 1796 and had greatly reduced its prevalence by the 20th century in the West. It is also far less contagious than coronaviruses. It might’ve been possible to do this with SARS-CoV-2 at the beginning, but not now that it’s widespread.
PJ, how about a little more love in what you say? I think that is one of the big problems in all of this. People are so insistence on stating their opinions that they forget about the unity of love. Please look over 1 Corinthians 8:1 and 13:1-2.
PJ, by the way, I agree with what you are saying. Thanks for the feedback.
I don’t understand what is so surprising about this? He’s been fighting the state mandates for a while now. Why would we think the church would keep up on the reporting? Also, is there evidence that all of the people with Covid that are members have actually attended GCC while sick or that they contracted it from attending GCC?
So what is the solution here? If mandates to wear masks and socially distance are “oppressive” and “tyrannical” what do people suggest? Everyone just go on and ignore this virus and “let it be”? “Pray it away”? That is cult like. I strongly believe that God has blessed us with medical professionals to guide us in being and staying healthy. The gospel of Luke is written by a doctor whom God clearly blessed and led according to his faith!
Just because you don’t like being limited to social distancing, gathering outside, meeting in small groups or only attending online services (ALL are viable options!) does NOT mean you are being prohibited from worshipping altogether. That is the LIE many of you are claiming. Tell the truth: that is not the way YOU want to worship. That’s a start….by telling the truth. It’s ok to dislike government leaders or mandates, but do NOT lie on them. We are able to worship under specific guidelines.
I’ve said it before, that I’m not a lawyer but am interested in the legal aspect of this. Some religions believe in live sacrifices, but the law doesn’t allow it for protection of people and animals. Does that mean those religions are prohibited from worship? Is requiring masks or social distancing in the same category of protecting people?
Is requiring students to have their vaccines up to date before setting foot in a classroom “oppressive”? (I went thru this both a grad student and parent). Or is that protective?
I’d love for those who don’t want to wear masks, socially distance, meet outside, meet in small groups, or attend online to provide a resolution that protects themselves and others. I’ll wait.
MS; have thought carefully over my additional comments to your previous post. And I’ve concluded that you cannot be persuaded by anything that I can say or any of the other mountain of people who have read and dissected Julie’s investigative journalism and found it to be not only completely credible but God honoring as well. I do notice one thing however. How is it that you make comment on Julie’s posts concerning John MacArthur, and no one else? Julie writes a lot of stuff about a lot of other messes, and those that have caused them, yet you say nothing about that. My best advice to you is this, don’t waste your time reading what Julie posts seeing as how in all likelihood you will not agree or be convinced otherwise. As I said earlier, Julie, just like anyone else is not perfect. But there is no mistaking that she is committed to excellence and integrity in the work the Lord has called her to produce. And if you disagree with that statement, you will disagree with anything concerning her. Again Julie, stay strong, and in the power of His might. You and others like you are badly needed for the mess the church is in right now. A complete house cleaning is badly needed and you along with those like you have the broom in your hands! Keep it going!!
I have posted some other comments here, but there is more that needs to be said. First, I love John MacArthur and have followed his teaching for a long time. I have dozens of his books, including his NT commentary series, his study Bible, and his book on systematic theology. I have read or listened to dozens of his sermons, interviews with him, and question and answer sessions over the years. His teaching has helped me immensely. So I am not a MacArthur hater. I think that is why his comments on the COVID pandemic have been so disheartening. Not only that, but seeing Phil Johnson say some of those things to Julie makes me feel like those of us who read her blog are all fools of some sort.
Second, MacArthur has been a strong proponent of expositional preaching and has repeatedly stressed the need for preaching only the word (see 2 Timothy 4:2). In his book, “Preaching: How to Preach Biblically,” he quotes John Calvin as follows: “Let us not take it into our heads either to seek out God anywhere else than in his Sacred Word, or to think anything about him that is not prompted by his Word, or to speak anything that is not taken from that word” (pages 36-37). Do not speak anything that is not taken from the word. I wonder what Scripture prompted MacArthur’s comments about the COVID pandemic.
Elsewhere in that same book he writes that “illumination does not extend beyond God’s Word. Illumination does not mean a Christian will have better insights as a businessman or a lawyer than an unbeliever would have. It does not guarantee that Christians will sail through school without studying because the Holy Spirit helps them understand biology and history. Its scope is limited to God’s Word” (page 82). Does MacArthur have some special insight into the pandemic that nobody else has?
John MacArthur, like all of us, has his opinions about the pandemic, social distancing, wearing masks, and civil authority; but his job, like all preachers, is to preach the word, not his opinions. When someone of his influence gives his opinion, people will inevitably take it as the truth, whether it is intended that way or not. The pulpit is not the place for opinions; it is the place where God’s word should be preached.
Very good observations. I have noticed many of these men stand condemned by their own words which they have previous rightly spoken in accord with scripture.
Today for the second week in a row, MacArthur was not in the pulpit. According to the livestream of today’s service (it looked crowded and I didn’t see a single person on video wearing a mask), he was said to be resting and preparing for the Shepherds Conference (which doesn’t begin until March 3). There was also a sort of odd tribute to him (with lots of applause) and statement that he was the last man standing in evangelicalism, and that he would “outlive all of us.”
I have no idea what is happening, but it did seem odd to me. Certainly it leaves me with more questions than answers. I’m not too surprised at the lack of transparency. As someone with a relative who is a long-time MacArthur devotee, I no longer expect straight answers or humility.
I noticed he wasn’t in the pulpit yesterday again… Let’s be real, he has COVID
And now la county is having to triage EMS services
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