Pastor of Chicago Megachurch Tells Staff to Keep an Outbreak of COVID-19 Among Pastors & Staff Secret

By Julie Roys

The lead pastor of Calvary Church of Naperville—a megachurch in the Chicago suburbs with an attendance around 6,000— this week told his staff to keep secret news that an assistant pastor had tested positive for COVID-19. Calvary Lead Pastor Martyn Sloan also instructed his staff not to tell anyone that the assistant pastor’s wife and son, who’s also a pastor at the church, were having symptoms.

This is according to two emails leaked to me earlier this week by a staff member who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of losing his job.

Also, despite knowing that staff and volunteers had been exposed to the sick pastor and family members who live with him, Pastor Sloan continued to record online services with multiple staff, the sick pastor’s family members, and volunteers.

Pastor Martyn Sloan

Pastor Sloan has since informed his church about the pastor with COVID-19, as well as another staff member who tested positive for coronavirus. However, Sloan did this only after I emailed him the leaked emails and pressed him about why he had not informed his church about the confirmed cases.

The pastor at Calvary who tested positive for COVID-19 is Pastor Angel Escamilla, assistant pastor of Calvary Español. Also showing symptoms is his wife, Becky Escamilla, and son, Michael Escamilla, an associate pastor at Calvary.

The staff member with COVID-19 is a videographer who was required to attend recording sessions with the Escamillas and dozens of others.

On Tuesday of this week, church staff received an email from the Escamilla family, informing them that Angel Escamilla had tested positive for COVID-19 and pneumonia and was “seriously ill.” The email also said that Becky and Michael Escamilla “have had symptoms but are improving.”

The email added, “For our privacy and for the peace of mind of our church family, we and the leadership team ask that this news be kept in confidence within our staff.”

“(W)e and the leadership team ask that this news be kept in confidence within our staff.”

On Tuesday evening, Sloan sent a follow-up email to church staff through his executive assistant, Becky Lopez. In it, Sloan said, “If pressed for information (about the Escamillas’ health) you should confidently reply with the following: ‘Please understand that if I knew anything about anyone’s medical condition I would not be at liberty to speak’ and then stop talking.”

Recordings Continue Despite Known Exposure to Sick Pastors & Family

According to the anonymous staff member, Pastor Sloan first knew that Angel Escamilla was sick on March 15. Yet for nine days, Sloan continued recording and livestreaming services with members of Escamilla’s family and those who had been exposed to the Escamillas, both staff and volunteers.

Even on Tuesday evening, after learning that Angel Escamilla had tested positive for COVID-19 and that his son and wife were sick, Sloan required staff who had been in recent contact with the Escamillas to record a service, which included a volunteer.

I asked Sloan specifically about these charges in an email I sent to him at 12:50 p.m. on Friday. This was in response to an email from Sloan’s assistant, saying that Sloan would respond to emailed questions.

Sloan still has not responded to my questions. However, at 2:26 p.m. on Friday, Sloan sent an email to the congregation, informing them for the first time that Angel Escamilla and another staff member had tested positive for COVID-19. 

According to the anonymous staff member, Angel Escamilla had attended Calvary’s weekend service on March 15, which was livestreamed online and included all staff pastors, several support staff, volunteers, and several church attenders. The staff member said Angel Escamilla left during the 9 a.m. service because he felt sick, but not before coming into close contact with about 10 pastors.

The staff member said that on March 17, Pastor Sloan required several staff to attend a recording session of a prayer service with Michael Escamilla and his wife, Lynelle Escamilla, who both live with Angel and Becky Escamilla. The staff member said that when several staff objected due to concerns about infection, Sloan asked them if they wanted to remain “essential,” because if not, that could change.

The staff member said that when several staff objected due to concerns about infection, Sloan asked them if they wanted to remain “essential,” because if not, that could change.

The videographer who taped the March 17 recording has now tested positive for COVID-19.

The service, which was posted online, also included about a dozen volunteers. (The anonymous staff member said that when the church failed to inform the volunteers of their likely exposure to someone with coronavirus, some staff told them.)

Band at March 17 service where Michael Escamilla preached

Recordings continued on March 21, 22, and 23 with various staff members and a volunteer percussionist.

On the evening of March 24, hours after learning about Angel Escamilla’s positive test result, the church recorded another online service. On the recording are three pastors who were present at the March 17 recording session with Michael and Lynelle Escamilla, as well as the volunteer percussionist. Also on the recording is Pastor Sloan, who, according to the volunteer, videotaped his sermon just prior to the service.

On March 25, Pastor Sloan, apparently undaunted by news of his sick pastors and other staff, posted a video to Facebook. In it, he announces that weekend services will livestream as before at 5 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. on Sunday.

Pastor Sloan Appears Lighthearted; Flies to Florida

Though Pastor Sloan had contact with the Escamillas, and others recently exposed to the Escamillas, Sloan and his son, Landon Sloan, took a flight to Tampa International Airport on March 25. The two then took a “transport” to Southeastern University, where they packed up everything in Landon’s dorm and drove home.

This is revealed in a Facebook live video Sloan posted on March 26 while driving back from Florida with his son Landon Sloan. In the video, Sloan appears lighthearted and jokingly asks for prayer because he’s having to endure listening to country music.

Sloan on FB Live

The video is one of several Facebook live videos Sloan posted on the 26th. I asked Sloan about the appropriateness of the videos in the email I sent on Friday, March 27.  All the Facebook live videos were deleted soon afterwards.

My first email to Sloan was on Thursday evening at 6:38 p.m. This email included the leaked emails about keeping the news about Angel Escamilla’s COVID-19 diagnosis quiet, and requested a call back. Sloan did not answer the email.

However, at 6:53 p.m., Sloan sent an email to “All Staff” through his assistant Becky Lopez, telling staff not to visit the church campus next week. Sloan added, “The care and concern for you and your family is a high priority.”

On Friday, March 27, at 9:19 a.m., I sent Sloan another email with additional questions. I also informed Sloan that I was aware that a videographer had recently tested positive for COVID-19.

At 11:45 a.m. on Friday, Sarah Dawes, associate executive director of communications at Calvary, sent an email to 33 church staff members, informing them that the videographer had tested positive for COVID-19. She added, “You are on this email because (videographer) traced his steps to a point of contact with you in the week prior to his symptoms.”

On Friday evening, Pastor Sloan posted a video to Facebook, urging church to pray for Angel Escamilla’s healing.

Today around noon, Calvary posted a FB message, encouraging people to tune in for weekend services online, noting that Pastor Sloan will be preaching on the book of Psalms.

UPDATE: On Monday, March 30, Pastor Angel Escamilla, who was 68, went to be with the Lord. On Facebook, Calvary Español posted: “Our Pastor Angel fought the good battle and his career is over. Today he was greeted in heaven ‘Well done good and faithful servant Enter into the presence of your Lord…’ Angel has passed into eternity, and is where we all want to be one day… in the eternal presence with God.”

UPDATE 2: Received this email from Kevin Sur, external affairs officer for Dupage Co. Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Management , on April 1 at 5:28 p.m.: “The DuPage County Health Department Medical Officer Dr. Rashmi Chugh has attempted to reach the Calvary Church of Naperville but has not heard back from them.  At this time, we are still reaching out to them.”

UPDATE 3: Calvary Naperville now is requiring staff, contractors, and volunteers to sign a waiver, releasing the church of responsibility if they get sick or die. To read new story, click here.

Below are the emails sent to Calvary Naperville staff on Tuesday:

Below is the email Pastor Sloan sent to his congregation about 90 minutes after my email. Included was an excerpt of the email from the Escamilla Family:

 

 

 

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167 thoughts on “Pastor of Chicago Megachurch Tells Staff to Keep an Outbreak of COVID-19 Among Pastors & Staff Secret”

  1. I thank God for Julie and her endless work in bringing the corruption in the church to the front lines. God is not only cleaning the swamp in politics, but also the church. Any pastor that would keep this information from his flock is only thinking of himself. I was laying awake last night and thinking myself, why didn’t they announce this to the congregation so everyone could pray? Maybe there would have been a different outcome here.
    Julie, do not be discouraged. Well done good and faithful servant. Open your eyes “Christians!” The church is filled with sin and pride and corruption and deceit.. Look up the churches in the book of Revelation. What kind of Church do some of you belong to? The Holy Spirit lives in our hearts. Here to guide us and comfort us and give wisdom and fill us. Just think of the prayer power that could have come from this big church for the Pastor who passed. I feel so badly for the family. And sick about the situation at Calvary. I have a family member and friends that go there. I said to them. Get out! God is cleaning house. Willow, Harvest and now Calvary!

  2. I interpreted that as possibly losing their jobs..not catching the virus..this whole situation is deplorable…there needs to be some investigations done..other Pastors of diff Churches were arrested for still holding services. To me this is way more serious knowing they had infected people there

  3. My question to Ms Roys: when receiving “leaked” emails from a source who chooses to remain anonymous, what is the BIBLICAL path forward? Correct me if I’m wrong, but “leaked” usually means these emails were sent to an unintended recipient. When do you advise or support the source in Biblically confronting and addressing the matter versus seeing the emails as an opportunity for a blog post?
    I send my prayers to the Escamilla family and also pray that we as a FAMILY OF BELIEVERS do not see “leaking” emails as the new way to address sin in our midst.

  4. Preach it Brother, The god of this world age has blinded the minds of the semi-believers, so that they cannot see the light”. GJV GJ’s paraphase)

    1. My 1:11pm comment was in support of misterjesperson comment on April 1, 2020 at 10:32 am. (my reply should have piggybacked his)

  5. Friend, in this case you are straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel. For the love of all that is holy, do you not see how human life trumps the trivial “point” you are trying to make? Thank God for those who refuse to remain silent in the face of events such as these.

    1. You may see my point is trivial, but leaks of emails and private conversations have contributed to rumors, half truths, misconceptions, and false accusations that have destroyed churches, friendships, and fellowships. I’ve been witness to it. I’ve had family members falsely accused based on it (and vindicated years later). It is heartbreaking to experience and equally hurtful to watch happen to a family of believers. So while those happenings may be trivial TO YOU, I stand by my question on what is the Biblical path forward when one is the recipient of such. I wouldn’t wish the disappointment, confusion, and hurt on ANYONE just to “be right”.

    2. Broken fellowships, divided congregations, and untrustworthy leadership are not trivial. I have seen the damage of leaked emails, forwarded texts, rumors, factions, finger pointing, and the like on both my spiritual and physical family (I have several pastors in my extended family). It is heart breaking and has the ability to damage the faith of many. I don’t find that trivial. That’s why I don’t think there’s anything wrong with asking what the Biblical protocol is when receiving “leaks” to minimize that from happening among any body of Christ. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

      1. With respect, and I’m sincere here, I still believe the saving of human life trumps everything you just said. Fellowships broken but human lives saved? I’ll take the human lives. Divided congregations but human lives saved? Human lives. Damage to the faith of many? You get the idea. Everything you cited is the heartbreaking fallout of the state we find ourselves in, but topping the charts of that list should be the putting of flesh and blood human beings in harm’s way when every possible warning has been sounded.

        1. And I understand your sentiment too. But you say “Damage to the faith of many? You get the idea.” I DO ask – isn’t the health of our faith – and the faith of many – more important than the health of our physical bodies? There are actual VERSES that speak to this. Now I don’t believe that we should put anyone else in harm’s way–especially not for selfish reasons–but that particular part of your comment stood out to me as I can point to scriptures that say otherwise.

          Based on the contents of this article and comment threads, there seem to be a lot of questions about actual evidence and intent that give me pause. I don’t personally know the parties involved, and I can’t say there’s enough here for me to jump in on the accusations and condescending finger pointing claiming to know the heart and intent of others.

          BUT I do know that receiving “leaked” information hasn’t just happened in this one case. I asked my question about what is the Biblical path forward when one receives information like this, period, because it is happening with more frequency, even in matters concerning the body of Christ. The more tools and technologies we have, the more opportunities there are to send and receive leaked information. How are we to handle it Biblically, so we don’t have a lot of speculation and mistrust running rampant within the body of Christ? When do we empower the “leaker” to handle the information they have Biblically, and when do we jump in to handle ourselves? Still looking for an answer to that. You may find my question to be “wrong”, but we can simply agree to disagree on it.

          1. Knowing Julie’s character I’m sure she had proper verification to go with her story. She is an unsung hero in my opinion not being afraid to call people out when something is amiss. Without her James Macdonald would still be doing what he was doing at Harvest. If pastors are living up to who and what they are called to be there wouldn’t be a whole lot of leaking going on.

  6. In fairness to you, MH, I was so stunned by what I read in the blog posting regarding so many people’s exposure to the virus that, I confess, I didn’t hone in carefully enough on your actual question, which was how the (purportedly Christian) recipient of leaked information should behave. Scripture does give us guidelines for dealing with it within the church (one church member should first address it, then two or three, then the entire congregation if necessary). I think your question is a valid one which deserves a lot of careful thought and soul-searching on the part of those who are considering leaking something, as well as those who identify themselves as Christian journalists. It’s just that the introduction of that question at that particular time, juxtaposed against the actual death of a staff member, the infection of another, and the exposure of many to the virus, struck a very discordant note. I don’t think the pastor for one moment intended harm. Neither do I think the blogger was thinking, “Oh, wonderful! What a post this is going to make!” Several members of staff told the pastor their concerns and got his reaction. It was at that point that the leaker thought the pastor wasn’t going to deal with it. I don’t imagine he was glad at the idea of sharing what he knew outside of his congregation. Probably he was very conflicted about it. (In fact, an old maxim I’ve often remembered is that if you relish the idea of pointing out another person’s sins or shortcomings, you’re the wrong person to be doing it.) You obviously know your Bible, MH, and so do I. I think if we’d had this conversation in person, it wouldn’t have sounded quite so strident. Take care.

    1. I posted a similar comment earlier in this thread, but this section is extremely long, so I’ll post it again. Matthew 18 does not apply to leaders caught in wrongdoing. It applies specifically to personal offenses. The passage is certainly one of the most misapplied passages in the Bible, and often used to shame people who blow the whistle on wrongdoing. See this article:

      https://julieroys.com/3-ways-wrongly-apply-matthew-18/

      The biblical passage that specifically applies to pastors/elders who are sinning is 1 Timothy 5:20. It says, “But those elders who are sinning you are to reprove before everyone, so that the others may take warning.”

      1. Julie, thank you for pointing this out, and for the link. Will look it over carefully because I’m one of those people who always thought the Matthew protocol applied to anyone, including leadership. Never saw those two passages together like that. Thank you.

  7. Where is the Sloan response? I’d like to hear the other side of the story. How can he go int Easter and not respond to this.

    1. To Maddie (4/5 9:07 am post)

      Amen, Maddie!

      I have a pretty good idea why Sloan will not respond. It’s because he knows he did something horribly wrong and what is he going to say? There’s no good defense for what he did. Under these circumstances to not inform people immediately when he knows it’s a matter of life and death, to try to hide behind keeping it all in the family or protecting privacy is insane.

      There was an ignorant man out there citing HIPAA repeatedly (and in ignorance calling it HIPPA), but HIPAA does not apply to this situation, churches do not need to follow it, it is a law that affects health care providers, not the average private employer.

      There was a shrill woman here saying that this article has spread misinformation and rumors and misconceptions, etc., but in spite of having every opportunity to set us all straight and explain the misunderstanding, did nothing of the sort. Just threw out allegations but backed them with absolute nothingness.

      There are people here screaming about Matthew 18, misapplying it in such a way that a church leader could do all manner of things and get away with it so long as there aren’t enough witnesses to line up. So, folks, if a little girl claims she was abused horribly by said pastor, she’s to be shouted down unless pastor did it in the presence of 2 or 3 people? You really think the Prince of Peace, the way, the TRUTH and the life, meant that? Really? You really think that’s the proper way to interpret it in light of the scripture which says to call a leader out in front of the whole body?

      If the faith of many is damaged by the cold hard truth, then they never had faith to begin with in my opinion. Those who just hate it when the truth gets out don’t think much of Jesus, it appears. This church sounds like an outright mess based on some of its supporters here. Doesn’t sound one little bit like Jesus. Not at all.

  8. I just love all these self righteous people making their comments about something that they no nothing about. Why should pastor Marty respond to you Julie. Is he accountable to you or is he accountable to God.
    As I see it you jumped in to try to manage something that you knew nothing about And didn’t trust those that were impacted to handle it. All these people that sing your praises and believe in you, I question why are they believing in you and not God because you certainly are Not all-knowing. I have asked friends of mine that have seen this article to squelch it and not pass it on. That is my contribution to stopping the madness of passing along Information that has not been Validated.

    1. Interesting that you did not give a single solitary rationalization or justification for what your pastor did. Nothing. You just attacked Julie and gave no good reasons for your position, told us not single lie Julie told. Either tell us what she said that was wrong or shut up and admit you’re a liar.

  9. Thank you for the link to the Mark Ballenger article explaining the misuse of Matthew 18 when it comes to rebuking spiritual leaders. Mr. Ballenger gets it exactly right – Jesus’ words here only concern matters of personal offense. Peter did not follow Matthew 18 protocol when condemning Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5, and Paul did not follow Matthew 18 protocol when condemning Peter in Galatians 2. It would have been wrong to do so.

  10. He is still a man of God. People make mistakes. It’s easy to attack someone who is in a position of leadership. Yes, it’s disappointing and sad how he and others handled things.

    I would love to know the other side of the story. And really pathetic punch talking about his personal posts.
    I know him and his personality. He didn’t mean to offend even though it did to some people.
    Show some forgiveness.

    1. To EM (April 9 post)

      How can you say with certitude he’s a “man of God”? For all you know he hates God and is a destructive narcissist. I don’t care what a person’s position is, I don’t care what they call themselves or what they say, and I shouldn’t. Neither should you. We should care about what people do, their fruits. That’s it. Those fruits don’t save you, but they sure do give an indication of where your heart is and whether or not you are a man or woman of God. That’s Christianity.

  11. Does this indicate how much he cares for his flock vs himself??? Leaders lead, they don’t bully. He should be considered “nonessential”.

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