Pastor Who Attended John MacArthur’s Shepherds’ Conference Dies From Suspected Case of Coronavirus; Attenders Not Notified

By Julie Roys
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An elderly man who attended John MacArthur’s Shepherds’ Conference earlier this month has passed away due to a”highly suspected case” of coronavirus, according to multiple Facebook posts. Yet someone who attended the conference, which gathered about 5,000 people at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, says attendees still have not been informed of their possible exposure to the virus. And Phil Johnson, executive director of Grace to You and one of the speakers at the conference, has deleted his Facebook post about the man’s death.

On Thursday evening, Johnson posted about the death of Alexey I. Kolomiytsev, pastor emeritus of Word of Grace Bible Church, an evangelical, Russian-American church in Battle Ground, Washington. (Kolomiytsev’s son, Alexey A. Kolomiytsev, is the current pastor of Word of Grace Bible Church.)

Johnson wrote: “Alexey Kolomiytsev and his father were at the Shepherds’ Conference two weeks ago, and shortly after returning home, Alexey’s dad tested positive with the Wuhan virus. Alexy (sic) writes: ‘Our dad has gone to heaven . . .’ Nothing is known about the funeral yet. We will let you know as soon as it is clear.”

Soon after Johnson posted, several people who had attended the conference on March 4-6 began asking why the Shepherds’ conference had not notified attenders about their possible exposure to the virus. Simo Jovovic, an Australian who told me that he had traveled to California to attend the conference, posted, “With 5,000 men there in attendance, it’s only reasonable for ShepCon to make an announcement of possible exposure.”

I corresponded with Jovovic and he confirmed seeing Johnson’s post on Thursday evening. Jovovic added that as of 1 a.m. Central Time Saturday morning, he still had not heard anything from the Shepherds’ Conference.

I reached out to Phil Johnson, asking him why he had deleted his post, but he did not respond. (see update) I also reached out to John MacArthur, pastor of Grace Community Church, asking him why the conference had not notified attenders that they may have been exposed to coronavirus, and also inquiring about whether the church had notified government authorities. To date, MacArthur has not responded.

I also checked the Facebook page for  the Shepherds’ Conference and it has no mention of Kolomiytsev’s death or of conference attenders’ possible exposure to coronavirus.

I contacted the health department in Los Angeles County, where Grace Community Church is located, and asked if anyone from the church had contacted them, but have not yet heard back. I also reached out to the health department and sheriff’s office in Clark County, Washington, where the deceased pastor lived, but have not heard back from them either.

I  reached out to Alexey A. Kolomiytsev, seeking confirmation of the details posted to Facebook, but he has not responded. However, the family has multiple posts on Facebook concerning the elder Kolomiytsev’s death. One mentions that Kolomiytsev was a “highly suspected case of coronavirus,” but says the family is still awaiting results.

Lance M. Roberts, a missionary sent by Grace Community Church to the Czech Republic, also posted to Facebook about Kolomiytsev’s death and confirmed that both the younger and older Kolomiytsev were at the conference. “Please pray for my friend Alexey,” Roberts wrote. “He just lost his father to the coronavirus. His dad attended Shepherd’s (sic) Conference with him where I was two weeks ago and upon returning home fell ill with the virus.”

Roberts has since deleted his Facebook comment. I reached out to him to ask why, but he did not respond.

I will continue to monitor this situation and post updates as they become available.

UPDATE: Phil Johnson has since responded and said he deleted his Facebook post because someone close to the family told him that the cause of Kolomiytsev’s death has not been determined. According to a post by a family member, Kolomiytsev was a “highly suspected case” of COVID-19, but not confirmed. The copy has been revised to reflect this information.

UPDATE 2: The Shepherds’ Conference today posted an update online, which informs attenders that a 90-year-old man who attended the conference passed away. It adds, “There are posts online that he passed away from the coronavirus, but the physicians who treated him have not confirmed that information at this time.” To read the full update, click here.

UPDATE 3: The Shepherds’ Conference just posted another update, confirming that Kolomiytsev died from COVID-19.

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63 thoughts on “Pastor Who Attended John MacArthur’s Shepherds’ Conference Dies From Suspected Case of Coronavirus; Attenders Not Notified”

  1. 5000 people from all over the world gather in one place before social distancing is promoted and one elderly gentleman dies. That’s not news. Anyone who was in public during that time has potential for exposure.

    I’m with you about 90% of the time Julie, but presuming that ShepCon’ s failure to make an announcement is somehow negligent is just stirring the pot.

    1. Nobody thinks they were negligent at the time. You are right that they couldn’t have known at the time anyone might be at risk. However, now that we know he may have exposed people it would be the right thing to do to notify people. They are probably near the end of the incubation period, but they should be made aware.

      I would venture to say that they know they should be telling people- which is why all of the posts were removed. What would be the reason for doing that otherwise. Care for the people is what is missing in this story. Ironically, we usually call that being a shepherd.

      1. This is exactly what JC was talking about in stirring the pot. This article and this comment are full of speculation. Spreading misinformation all in favor of casting a negative light on JMac without any truth. This is poor journalism again by Julie.

        1. The article reports on what happened and what didn’t happen. That’s it. I’m sort of baffled by the “speculation” critique.

    2. I am in healthcare. So I do know how serious this disease is. I also know that the only means to determine whether or not it is the flu, which is still causing sickness in our country, or pneumonia, etc. Is to have a confirmed positive test. Because of how similar the symptons are. And the only entity that would accurately know if the test came back positive would be your health department. They are the front lines. Health departments know immediately from whoever did the testing. Health departments then have a system in place to begin the extensive process of determining who the individual was in contact with. With a positive test, that process begins. Our health departments are working tirelessly during this effort. I am certain that the health department knew that this gentleman was at the conference. Those channels began immediately. We need to be careful on relying on social media to be our source for a “positive” corona test. Also note, reaching out to your local health department, will not work. Privacy rules (HIPPA) prevent that. However, if you truly have been exposed to someone that has tested positive, you will be notified from the proper authorities. Just as our local school administrators were last Saturday from an exposure on March 5th, of a confirmed case of the virus. So rely on God. Rely on our wonderful health department. All for God’s glory! !!

  2. For Such A Time As This

    I agree with you wholeheartedly, Julie, that all the attendees of this conference should have and still should be notified IMMEDIATELY…especially since they came from all around the world. I pray that John MacArthur wasn’t the instigator of not having his staff send out an urgent notice about this. Christians are not automatically immune to COVID-19 or anything else for that matter. As Christ followers, what we do know is where we will go when we die. Sending all these Pastors back to their congregations in whatever country they minister, without notifying them about the death of someone from COVID-19 who attended the conference, is nothing less than pure negligence or worse. As Christ followers, we need to pray for these pastors and their congregations that they do NOT get COVID-19. I hope the CDC was notified of this, as required by law.

  3. The lack of concern and hiding critical info by the church and those in authority at GTY is disgusting. Why would they do such a thing? I’m sure no one knew during the conference the this man was infected but given the severity of this epidemic it seems the only reasonable and responsible thing to do would be to contact as many of those who were in attendance as possible in some way. Again and again and again the body of Christ has not stepped up to the plate (in America) to do what is right and good for its brothers and sisters. Let’s just keep the bodies coming, the money flowing and the prestige of being a celebrity pastor protected from any scrutiny. Excuse me. I’m going to vomit, AGAIN.

    1. Sam Spina- Your neighbors possibly have Covid-19. The woman who checked you out at your grocery store may have Covid-19. Your mother, father, son, daughter, wife, brother, sister may have Covid-19.

      You said, “I’m going to vomit, AGAIN’ “. Sam, perhaps you have Covid-19 ?
      lol; seriously, If you trust in GOD, you will not be so anxious and fearful of what is going on around us today.

      “Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.” John 14:27
      “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”. Philippians 4:6-7

  4. Pastor Johnson should have replied to Mrs. Roys, knowing she was going to do a story on this. It doesn’t matter that he’s a busy man; if he’s that busy, I bet he has a staffer who keeps track of his email. He can still take action. He needs to notify everyone who attended, even this late, and ask if anyone else has gotten the Wuhan flu. If they have, he should let everyone else know.

    He should also say he’s sorry that he didn’t so earlier. If this story is wrong, which I doubt, he still has a duty to speak up and tell us that, and to apologize for having posted what he did on Facebook. He is not to blame for having a conference in early March, but he is to blame for not telling us what he knows. How can we know what to pray for if we don’t know what’s going on?

    You can’t just post and delete that someone at a conference had Wuhan flu and then delete the post without saying why you posted and why you deleted it.

    1. You should check out Phil’s response on Twittier.

      Julie did not “reach out” to him in a legitimate way.

  5. Julie, it’s sad that this pastor died. But what you are doing in assuming the worst about men whose entire lives reflect a pattern of integrity, is an extreme lack of integrity on your part.

    In the midst of this rapidly changing and fluid environment, it’s tragic that you feel the need to play “whistleblower” before giving the ones your accuse the time to respond. It would appear that article clicks are what you value more than anything else. But while Truth is a virtue, so is patience.

  6. So sad when a Christian journalist who “seeks and uncovers the truth” is ready to speculate with unverified information to get more popularity…

  7. COVID has been in the news in California since late January, and by March there was already a lot of discussion of how the state would need to deal with it. People who had been exposed were in voluntary isolation. So, maybe it wasn’t early enough to cancel the conference, but all attendees should have been notified. I live in Santa Clara county,where the first big US outbreak occurred.
    MacArthur’s association isn’t in heaven yet, thus not immune to the health problems of the world. He could be sued over his irresponsibility.

    1. It’s not about where the pastor was exposed.,,,it was about who was exposed to him at the conference, informing the attendees, which will allow them to get in contact with their health care professional, self-isolate, etc.

      For those of you who think this is all exaggeration and media-hype, come to California where we have been hunkered down in our homes for a week and Ieaving home only for a grocery run. Talk to my two friends who are nurses, work at local hospitals and are given ONE disposable face mask per day as they care for COVID patients. Better yet, go to Southern California where my step-mom can’t get in to the hospital to see her husband and my father because of a head injury he sustained in a fall last night-all because of virus quarantine measures. This is why those attendees need to be informed.

      It’s not the conference’s fault they had an ill attendee, but it is their responsibility to let people know that a person was present who was infected with COVID. But, MacArthur is all about image these days. Perfection won’t happen until heaven. Now his organization needs to be responsible.

    2. Daniel / Terry Unruh

      Michael, how he was exposed is completely irrelevant … the point is that he could have (obviously unknowingly) been infecting others.

  8. What is not speculation is that no one attending the conference has been notified. This is about protecting image. So sad.

  9. With all the media hysteria about this virus, why would they need to be told specifically by this organization? I’ve about had it with all the shaming going on around this virus. Ridiculous!

  10. This conference should never have taken place. Virtually every company cancelled gatherings weeks before this was help. Irresponsible and dangerous for so many.

      1. Brilliant response Tim. Does that apply to other gatherings or just church conferences? I brought it up because I saw so many other meetings in my industry cancel gatherings in February out of concern for the participants and society at large. And it cost a lot of money to cancel.

  11. To all those that stated it was wrong and speculation on Julie’s part to report this is truly inaccurate. If I was there at the SC personally and/or if my Pastor was there; I would have wish it to be known immediately that someone at the SC had the CV-19 virus. Thus I could be tested and be self-quarantine so no one else I contact could be affected. In withholding the most basic information as this, how many pastors have spread the virus to it congregation and others? We chastise the Chinese government in not releasing this information sooner and to its fullest extent; and now we see the results with both Italy and Spain (from those who have returned from China). Italy now surpassing China and leading the world in CV-19 deaths. Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz thought he was funny in a news conference touching all the microphones amidst the CV-19 hysteria. He signed an autograph for a child and unbeknownst transmitted CV-19 to this fan and other NBA players. It is common sense and due diligence for the church to be open and transparent to this type of information. Churches are now being proactive in its prevention in cancelling in-person Worship Services and promoting online programs. Shame on GTY in not being more forthcoming. Thanks Julie in not allowing us to put our heads in the sand and believe that all is OK. In not revealing truth; the James MacDonalds, Bill Hybels, David Jeremiahs, Mark Driscolls and others will continue their “worldly and secular business as usual philosophy” in the church.

    1. Thank you Julie for making us aware that someone has died from possible exposure to the China virus. It is imperative that the moment we suspect that someone may have died as a consequence to exposure (possible) everyone (5,000 attendees) must be informed about it. A lot of negative comments about your report have been posted in this forum. Do not let those negative comments prevent you from reporting and even possibly saving people’s lives. Be blessed Julie and stay safe. Please, keep us posted on any updates. Baruch Haba B’Shem Adonai.

  12. Daniel / Terry Unruh

    It is discouragingly obvious that many of these comments are posted by people who are still not grasping (a) the magnitude of the potential crisis that COVID19 could represent and (b) that “over reaction” is the only action that offers any chance of blunting its impact.

    1. Daniel / Terry Unruh

      This particular case is an example of how the necessity for drastic action either simply isn’t on some people’s radar or else is being dismissed with comments about “media hysteria”, etc. With today’s communication options you can bet that virtually all of the 5,000 recipients could have been reached with a two paragraph e-mail explaining the situation (wouldn’t require the use of names) with the investment of 5 minutes by the conference organizers.

      This is real life with real people living and dying … it’s not a theoretical computer simulation on our computers. I appreciated the recent comment by one of the top people (whose name I can’t recall) in the area of pandemics who was asked what he would say two months from now if his projections were proved totally wrong and his recommendations unnecessary … his response was that he hoped people would be throwing parties to mock his statements and he would be willing to buy the drinks.

  13. Shepherds Conference sent out an email to attendees today and it included a section concerning the brother that passed. I attended the conference and was very near the attendees shown in the photos. I am not ill nor are any of the people I was attending with ill either. Per the email message, they do not have any confirmation of COVID-19. Let’s keep the family in our prayers, as well the world, as we navigate these difficult times together. Psalm 18:2 – “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”

    1. Robert,

      First, it’s interesting that the email you and the other attendees received was sent the very same day and potentially AFTER Julie’s article was posted. I have to wonder: but for the posting of this article, would an email have even been sent out to all of you? We’ll never know for sure.

      Second, you state: “I am not ill nor are any of the people I was attending with ill either.” Irregardless of how you feel, the point is that you and the other people could unknowingly still have mild viral symptoms and pass the virus along to someone who has a compromised immune system. That is what is so insidious about this virus. This isn’t about YOU, it’s about the potential of adversely affecting someone else. Do you not yet understand that?

      So, with that said, if there was even the POTENTIAL of someone having the virus at the conference, then the right thing would have been for an email to go out to the attendees as soon as this information was known (from what I understand, that would have been the middle of last week). Even if it turned out to be a ‘false alarm’, no one would have faulted them for being over-cautious and at least having the courtesy to let the attendees know and then give them the opportunity to respond appropriately according to their personal situation. That would have been the decent thing to do. Sadly, it would appear that they had to be shamed into doing it.

      Yes, let’s pray for the family. Yes, let’s keep Psalm 18:2 in mind as we navigate these difficult times together. At the same time though, let’s also practice common sense, respect and mindfulness of others during the navigation of these difficult times.

  14. The bottomline is what did they know and when did they know it? MacArthur and is staff are morally obligated to tell attenders of potential exposure and give them the option to pursue being tested. Playing cat and mouse with Facebook posts is not the correct course of action.

    If there’s credible information that contradicts this article then I am open to reading it.

  15. Phil Johnson has explained this on Twitter. He was asked about this. His response was ” Thursday evening I linked a FB request for prayer for the family of the man who died. The post erroneously claimed that he had tested positive for CV *My bad for not verifying.* I deleted my link immediately when I learned no official cause of death had yet been determined. “

  16. My question: Now that
    (1) Phil Johnson has explained why he took down his post (i.e., because he listened to a rumor) and
    (2) now that the conference has indeed notified all those who attended about the details of this tragic death,
    should the headline be changed to “all attendees have been notified”?
    Is it just me, or does it seem like people are quick (eager?) to accuse the conference of negligence, irresponsibility, moral failure, protecting their image, etc?
    My opinion is that the headline “Attenders Not Notified” contributes to disinformation, and ultimately is not helpful.

    1. The appropriate thing to do when an organization takes action after an article publishes is not to change the headline, but to add updates. The fact that ShepCon did not notify conference attenders until after my article published is noteworthy.

      1. I appreciate your zeal, Julie, but you know where and how much you are in error. Is it really that hard to fully own your wrongdoing? You are rapidly losing credibility.

      2. Julie Roys is totally in the right on this one. MacArthur and his staff blew it and they can’t own up to it…..Pride!

        1. Sorry, you’re wrong. She at least gave a quasi-confession. They may or may not have handled things inappropriately, but she definitely did.

  17. I forgot to add to my previous post. We need to remember how rapidly information is changing. How rapidly decisions are being made by our state governments. How rapidly local health departments are processing all this massive amounts of information. There has never been any health crisis ever world wide that has affected so many people, so many nations, so rapidly as this corona virus outbreak. Not even ebola.
    Remember this is approximately 4 MONTHS, that we have been in this WORLDWIDE pandemic. Our flu season in the United States alobe is October thru March. So in this crisis, I have come to learn to not point fingers because of how rapidly things are changing. I have come to learn not to be so rapidly accusitory in my tone, because there is no precedent. I believe we all can learn to do the same.

  18. Tim, you don’t seem to be getting the point.

    the conference potentially exposed thousands of people to the virus. These thousands go on their way and potentially expose everyone else they come in contact with. There isn’t enough medical capacity to handle the magnitude.

  19. I see a pompous, arrogant, white-washed septic tank of a celebrity anti-Christ leader is in the news again because he does not give the slightest damn about anyone other then himself. JohnMac loves telling the Holy Spirit where it can stuff the gifts that belong to him. Read or listen to Julie’s podcast about Narcissism in the pulpit. They are talking about John and others exactly like him here. What is happening here is just fruit falling off a rotten tree. Do not call what is evil, good and good, evil. This man’s ministry is pure evil and the fruit stinks. Why do you think God sent this plague of pestilence on His own church? Have you not heard the words of the prophet about how God hates our religious festivals and no longer wants to listen to our praises? He is talking to us here, and not just some Jews that died thousands of year ago:

    Amos 5:21, “I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me.
    Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them.
    Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them.
    Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your (guitars) harps.”

    1. Are you kidding me?

      Mister , with an accusatory post like that , how do you expect anyone to take anything you say seriously? Is it your issue with him as a cessasionist (sp?) with your “stuff his gifts” comment, or do take issue with his biblical stance on woman “preachers” taking the pulpit, “his ministry is pure evil”! I’m sorry but I am open to the comments here but your comments are a little over the top. You have obviously been hurt by his verse by verse exposition of the text. I will have to search GTY.ORG to hear his exposition of Amos 5:21…..If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear. Mark 4:23

      1. So, a man who is greedy and gives millions in unearned income to his own children is good? A man who tell the Holy Spirit where He can shove His Gifts that He owns the He can do what He wants with is good? A man that makes millions off of selling a go$pel is good? Have you read what the N.T. has to say about those who are rich? Jesus talked plainly about how difficult it was for a rich man to enter heaven. Why would any Christian in there right mind want to become rich and put their eternal destiny in jeopardy? Go$pel $elling is the problem with all of these guys. They are all just like their father the Devil. Jesus said the same to the rich religious in His day.

        By the way, why aren’t you commenting under your own name as I do? Hiding a relationship where you are making Mammon off of Mac Arthur in exchange for defending him? You cannot serve God and Mammon for you will love the one and despise the other or you will hold to the one and the other becomes your dreaded enemy…

  20. I just heard about this report by Julie Roys. If none of this is true, I hope she apologizes. Will she? Her speculations are shaky. If she is correct, then I will apologize for this comment. I truly hope she is checking her heart before God, because He is the One she will give an account to about this shaky story.

  21. UPDATE 3: Julie Roys did not reach out to Phil Johnson through a legitimate medium.

    Check Phil’s twitter for the full interaction.

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