A week before Virginia implemented a statewide stay-at-home order, Bishop Gerald Glenn of New Deliverance Evangelistic Church in Chesterfield held services.
As CNN reports, Glenn told worshippers: “I firmly believe that God is larger than this dreaded virus.” He added that he was not afraid of death.
On April 12—Easter Sunday—the church announced that Bishop had died of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. That is, unfortunately, not where the bad news ends for Bishop Glenn and his family.
CNN is now reporting that four of his relatives have tested positive for the virus: Glenn’s daughter, Mar-Gerie Crawley, her mother, her sister, and her husband. Crawley told CNN anchor Chris Cuomo this week that the family has been too busy caring for the sick members to be able to mourn the passing of Bishop Glenn.
Glenn was among many pastors who received criticism for continuing to hold in-person church services, even as states across the U.S. had already shuttered non-essential businesses and limited the sizes of gatherings, per instruction from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Virginia had not passed a stay-at-home mandate at the time Glenn held services, but other churches in the commonwealth, including the influential Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, had decided to completely shut down in-person events weeks before.
Crawley defended her father’s decision to Cuomo, insisting that he took proper precautions during the late March service.
“When he decided to have services, he was very clear in posting signs and having hand sanitizer, and wearing gloves and not congregating with people after service, during service,” Crawley said. “People were asked to sit six feet apart. Family members sat together. That’s it. After service, there was no talking and hanging around. Everyone left.”
Bishop Glenn held the service in order to give congregants hope as they faced uncertain times, Crawley said:
“He ... wanted to give them a message of hope that it’s OK that this virus is out there. God is out there, too, and we believe that God will protect us.”
The virus, of course, has not been kind to black people, who have suffered from COVID-19 at disproportionate rates. In cities and counties across the U.S., they have died from the disease at the highest rates, and in some cities comprise all known COVID deaths.
No matter where you believe God is, what you believe God sees, or who you believe God saves, one message should be overwhelmingly clear by now: your earthly behind is safest if you stay at home.