John MacArthur’s Grace Community Church postpones event after reluctance from health officials

LOS ANGELES (RNS) – Grace Community Church in Sun Valley announced Friday, February 12, that it will postpone a three-day annual ministerial conference after Los Angeles County public health officials expressed concerns about the potential of the event to spread COVID-19.

The Shepherds’ Conference, scheduled for March 3-5, had more than 30 speakers to address hundreds of pastors and academics from Florida, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington state. The Reverend John MacArthur, pastor of Grace Community Church, said in a promotional video that the conference would be “controversial” and “passionate” because “we strive to reclaim true evangelism.”

But in the Friday posts on Facebook and Twitter, the church said that because California and LA County threatened to take action to stop the event, “we have decided that the safest course of action at this time is to postpone the Shepherds Conference.” .

Although a Supreme Court ruling lifted the ban on indoor worship in California, county health officials said they determined the Shepherd’s Conference was not considered a worship service .

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A conference hosted by a church or anyone else is banned, county officials said in a statement provided to Religion News Service.

“A gathering of thousands of people from across the country and the world can turn into a mass event and can be fatal,” the statement said.

The church appeared to allude to the Supreme Court ruling in its Facebook post. “We will depose key health workers and county officials and hold them to answer for their oppressive acts under oath,” his post said, “and request all documents and information to support their arbitrary attempts to restrict our freedom. religious as a church “.

The Los Angeles Times, in an article on the conference Friday, reported that two men from Washington, including a 90-year-old pastor, died of complications from COVID-19 weeks after attending the Shepherds’ Conference. last year. It is not known if their cases were related to the conference.

In its statement, the church said that “its leaders remain firmly committed to the truth that Christ is the head of the Church. … We will not give in to the government’s breach of the biblical commandment to worship and assemble. We intend to firmly defend this truth and obtain appropriate constitutional and legal protections and other remedies from the Court. “

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The church has been embroiled in a legal battle with the county as MacArthur openly defied public health restrictions during the pandemic. As of July 2020, MacArthur has been hosting in-person services with worshipers singing and sitting next to each other without masks.

On July 24, MacArthur and church elders released a statement titled “Bible Case for the Church’s Duty to Stay Open.”

The statement says that Grace Community Church has always been faithful to Bible principles. He asserts that while the government is responsible for protecting civic order and well-being, “God has not granted civic leaders authority over church doctrine, practice, or policy.”

Norma P. Rex