Published On: Tue, Mar 31st, 2020

Christians Protest the River at Tampa Bay Church for Risking the Spread of COVID-19, Including Pastor’s False Promise to Cure the Coronavirus

More than 5,000 Members of the Advocacy Organization Faithful America Have Called for all Pastors, Including Florida’s Rodney Howard-Browne, to Suspend In-person Worship Services.

Boca Raton, FL – Thousands of members of the Christian advocacy organization Faithful America are raising their voices against ongoing in-person worship services during the coronavirus pandemic. This includes services held at The River at Tampa Bay Church, where Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne falsely claims to have cured Florida of Zika and now promises to do the same for COVID-19.

The Tampa megachurch’s livestream showed hundreds of worshipers packed into the church on March 29, standing less than six feet apart from one another. There is nothing Christian about this behavior, which risks the spread of coronavirus throughout Florida. A local sheriff has since arrested Howard-Browne.

More than 5,500 Faithful America members have signed an open letter to America’s pastors, titled “Christians ask every church to suspend in-person worship.” As of this press release, 388 of the signatures are from Floridians, including 176 who signed the petition today in response to Howard-Browne’s March 29 service. The open letter, first published March 16, reads,

As Christians, we call on every church, bishop, pastor, and priest to suspend in-person events until the COVID-19’s exponential curve has been flattened, including worship services.

The best way to follow a savior who healed the sick is to slow the spread of this novel coronavirus, which we can accomplish only by loving our neighbors from a safe distance. Together we can find new ways of being God’s church in the world, exploring innovative new approaches to worship, pastoral care, and community.

To leaders who have already taken the painful step of suspending in-person worship, we say thank you, and we support your decision.

Many Faithful America members added personal comments to their signatures, including Grace in Nokomis, who wrote, “By your reckless actions, you are endangering many vulnerable people. What’s Christian about that? As a fellow Floridian, age 77, I miss church as much as anyone, but there’s a time for everything.”

Faithful America is the largest online community of Christians putting faith into action for social justice. Our members are sick of watching the religious right hijack Jesus’ message of good news to serve a hateful political agenda. By raising our collective voices through online campaigns, Faithful America organizes the faithful to challenge such extremism and renew the church’s prophetic role in building a more free and just society. Members are both clergy and lay; represent every major Christian denomination; and live in all 50 states, D.C., and Puerto Rico. More than 6,000 members reside in Florida.

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