The spread of the new coronavirus infection in U.S. communities has sparked debate over whether to close the church or not.
According to the Christian Post on Tuesday(local time), Bishop Paul S. Morton, who founded The Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship International in Atlanta, Georgia, insisted that hospitals and police stations should not be closed down in the face of the epidemic.
According to the Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering tracker, more than 5,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus infections have been diagnosed in the U.S. as of Tuesday, and 85 people have died.
With the spread of COVID-19, the local government and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended not to hold public gatherings. Many churches are moving to convert to online services.
Bishop Morton posted a picture on his Twitter of church worshippers, calling them "true soldiers," putting his hand on the shoulders of the congregation and praying and offering Sunday services. The posting of the Bishop of Morton caused controversy among other Christian leaders and health experts.
"No matter how bad things get in shutting down a City in a Crisis. At least 2 entities hv 2 remain open. Hospitals & Police Departments. But God's Church must be on that list. The Spiritual Hospital The Spiritual Police Department. Don't cancel God out. We can't do it without Him," Morton tweeted Monday morning.
Bishop Morton also noted that Atlanta's health authorities are changing the number allowed at public meetings from 250 to 50, but even one will remain in the church.
The Rev. Chris Thurman, an associate minister at Joshua Baptist Church in Charleston, South Carolina, said the restriction was a "precautionary step" to slow down the infection, adding that God didn't give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a SOUND MIND, leaving a hashtag on his Twitter: #PrayAndAct.
Karen Priester, an anesthesiologist, said, "In some hospitals in Italy, up to 40% of new cases were hospital workers. They not only use universal precautions, but they also had Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Why risk your life or that of someone you love?" raised the question to Bishop Morton.
There are people who believe they can go to church if they can shop at Walmart or go out in general," Priester replied: "Is your God only in that building? Stay out of Walmart. Stay out of restaurants. Please stay home. Spend some time in communion with God without the middleman."