You may recall that last week, evangelical investigative journalist Julie Roys revealed that one of the nation’s most prominent megachurches was trying to cover up a COVID outbreak. Namely, Grace Community Church in LA’s San Fernando Valley, pastored by longtime evangelical heavyweight John MacArthur. Roys uncovered compelling evidence that what passes for leadership at Grace knew several members had COVID. However, not only did Grace not notify Los Angeles County public health officials about it despite being required to do so, but Grace leadership appeared to be pressuring staffers and members to keep quiet about it. This despite several members of a Facebook group for church members mentioning that quite a few of their compatriots have the virus.
Well, on Sunday, Roys got her hands on what appears to be the strongest evidence yet that Grace leadership knows there’s an outbreak at their church and is covering it up. She got her hands on the prayer request list for the Sojourners Fellowship Group—one of seven fellowship groups at the 8,000-member church. The list mentions prayer requests for nine members who have COVID and another three who are recovering from COVID. Two others are sick with “possible COVID” symptoms.
The significance? All churches in LA County are required to notify the Department of Public Health if they have three cases among staffers or members in a 14-day period. However, for some time, the LA County public health database only listed five COVID cases among Grace staff, and none among non-staff. By December 19, it had been updated to four among staffers and one for a non-staffer.
And yet, based on this prayer request list, there are at least 12 cases in the Sojourners group alone. That’s on top of the cases Roys uncovered last week—including seven tied to the staff Christmas party, as well as an apparent outbreak in the church’s Filipino ministry and an apparent outbreak tied to another fellowship group, Gracelife.
Roys had a chat with one of Sojourners’ area leaders, Jim Layfield. He confirmed that a number of his the group members have COVID. When asked why there was no mention of those cases on the public health database, he replied, “I don’t know who’s keeping score, but it doesn’t seem to be adding up.”
This comes as a number of Southern California hospitals are in the same predicament that Italy faced in the early days of the outbreak—having to go into rationing/triage mode. Eric Feigl-Ding got his hands on this alarming memo from Huntington Hospital in Pasadena.
Covering up an outbreak is nothing short of criminal—but especially so when hospitals have literally run out of beds.
For most of the year, Grace has openly thumbed its nose at COVID restrictions. MacArthur openly flouted capacity limits this summer, preaching to crowds of well over 6,000—with almost no masks and no social distancing. The county was forced to tweak those measures in light of recent Supreme Court decisions. While capacity limits have largely been lifted, churches must still require masks and social distancing—and Grace isn’t doing either. Indeed, MacArthur has spent most of the year spewing all manner of alternative facts about COVID, and has led a push to have churches declared “essential”—i. e., allowing them to open with no restrictions. From the looks of it, the bill is coming due—and Grace is doing absolutely nothing about it.
Grace’s response to Roys’ bombshell report from last week has been pure shrill. One of Grace’s leading pastors, Phil Johnson—who is also the executive director of MacArthur’s media ministry, Grace to You, tried to accuse Roys of making the whole thing up. But Roys has receipts.
But when pressed, Johnson said he’d respond. Just not in public.
Johnson probably won’t be able to stonewall for much longer. Roys has reached out to the Department of Public Health for information about the additional cases at Grace. She was told that a response is “in process.” Given the circumstances, that process is likely to be rather unpleasant for Grace.
This comes amid a last-minute change to the preaching schedule for this past Sunday. MacArthur was slated to be in the pulpit, the audience was told that MacArthur was “resting,” and another pastor would be delivering the message in his place. Requests for comment have One can only hope that MacArthur, who has led Grace for over 51 years and is due to turn 82 this coming February, isn’t getting a sobering reality check.
But regardless of whether MacArthur is sick or not, he and his staffers need to explain a lot, and need to do so in short order. After all, we have what is now irrefutable evidence of an outbreak—and equally irrefutable evidence of a cover-up. I repeat—if anyone outside GCC gets sick or dies and it can be traced to that church, MacArthur faces being sued into poverty, and GCC sued out of existence. And not even the most warped interpretation of the First Amendment would protect him.
MacArthur has espoused some pretty bass-ackwards views about gays causing AIDS, and has suggested that parents completely disown their LGBT kids. But this is minor-league stuff compared to covering up an outbreak—especially in a metro whose hospitals are buckling under the strain. It cannot be repeated enough—this church is literally killing people.
Christian Dem in NC
Since this made the rec list, I thought I’d share an MSNBC story that details just how bad things are getting in Southern California hospitals. Wilderness Voice mentioned this in the comments—shows just how obscene and criminal MacArthur’s behavior is. I repeat—this church is killing people.