Many California pastors have pledged to reopen their churches on May 31 “or sooner,” regardless of whether their plan lines up with a schedule put forth by Gov. Gavin Newsom.
What We Know:
- The pastors released a letter Thursday arguing that churches are “essential” during the pandemic and that people of faith have a right to worship in person.
- Dan Carroll, the senior pastor of Fontana’s Water of Life Community Church, said he thinks Californians of faith feel like they’ve been “kicked to the curb” and “marginalized”.
- “We are feeling like we aren’t counting as critical at any level,” Carroll said earlier this month at a press conference. “We’re doing all the essential things to care for people behind the scenes but when it comes to worshipping together, we’re restricted and not allowed to do that.”
- “We’re not here to be activists, we’re not here to be rebels; we’re here to be helpers,” Carroll added as he announced the pastors’ initiative to open their churches by the end of May.
- On May 5, a federal judge ruled that Newsom had the right to ban church assemblies during the coronavirus outbreak, in response to a lawsuit filed by an evangelical church in Lodi.
- Newsom stated Thursday that churches might be able to reopen earlier than previously expected, but officials are still concerned about the possibility of large groups of people gathering together in closed spaces.
- “I take very seriously those concerns about people of faith and I’m very sensitive to those who want to get back to church,” he said, according to the Orange County Register. “But the health of those communities is foundational.”
- California moved into the second phase of Newsom’s four-part reopening plan on Friday, which meant business including bookstores, florists and clothing stores could reopen. Churches are part of Phase 3 of Newsom’s plan, as are salons, gyms and movie theaters.
- Carroll said the pastors in his group feel they should have been included in Phase 2 of the recovery plan. In their open letter to Newsom and California’s public health officer, the pastors ― who are mostly evangelical Christians and claim to represent 1,500 churches in the state ― say the mandated shutdown of houses of worship has been detrimental and argue churches should be considered “essential.”
- Calvary Chapel Chino Hills plans to hold outdoor public prayer meetings on its megachurch property on the Sundays leading up to May 31, while implementing measures such as requiring face masks, distancing between family groups, and setting up hand-sanitizing stations.
In a video message urging other California clergy to join the movement, Pastor Jack Hibbs expressed frustration that churches haven’t received a firm date from state authorities about when they will be allowed to reopen. “The church, like a can, is getting kicked down the road,” said Hibbs, who signed the open letter to Newsom.