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California churches defy worship restrictions


Pastor John MacArthur leads the congregation in prayer at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, Calif., on Sunday. Facebook/Grace Community Church

California churches defy worship restrictions

Worshippers, many without masks, filled Grace Community Church’s 3,500-person-capacity sanctuary in Sun Valley, Calif., on Sunday. Pastor John MacArthur on Friday wrote that his church would not comply with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s renewed coronavirus restrictions, arguing that the government overstepped its authority by regulating worship. The Democratic governor halted reopening plans in several counties two weeks ago following a surge of COVID-19 cases. Other churches in the state met on Sunday in defiance of restrictions, as well.

What are courts saying? The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday voted 5-4 to deny a request from Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley in Dayton, Nev., for an injunction blocking the enforcement of a 50-person cap on worship services in the state. Nevada has allowed casinos, restaurants, and other businesses to operate at 50 percent capacity. Justices Samuel Alito, Brett Kavanaugh, and Neil Gorsuch all wrote sharp dissents. “There is no world in which the Constitution permits Nevada to favor Caesars Palace over Calvary Chapel,” Gorsuch said.

Dig deeper: Read Steve West’s report in Liberties about Newsom’s singing ban.

Editor’s note: WORLD has updated this report to clarify the Supreme Court’s decision in the Nevada case.


Rachel Lynn Aldrich Rachel is an assistant editor for WORLD Digital. She is a Patrick Henry College and World Journalism Institute graduate. Rachel resides with her husband in Wheaton, Ill.

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Lee

It is very hard to sing as a group on zoom or the like. Singing hymns and spiritual songs are best done together. Physical interaction is important for encouragement. When we first met together we felt the presence of God and were extremely blessed. 

I do agree that we can worship anywhere, but it ought to be the choice of that local group and not anyone else's decision. Let them follow God's leading rather than man. 

Rebecca I

The reporting on the Supreme Court denial in Nevada is not quite accurate.  Calvary Chapel requested the Supreme Court place an injunction on the Nevada ruling prohibiting more than 50 worshippers at a time (reasoning that Casinos and more got a different treatment).  That injuction was to be put in place as they were appealing the ruling.  It was the injunction which was denied, not the appeal. In the dissenting opinion, the justices mentioned that Calvary Chapel would very likely win a 1st amendment appeal, and they therefore thought that the injunction should be put in place. 

Calvary Chapel may continue to appeal this Nevada ruling; but they are told to abide by the ruling in the meantime. Maybe they should hold church in a Casino!!!!! Or a bowling alley where 500 can meat at a time. 

If the 'heart of the King is in the harnd of the Lord, who turns it where He pleases' (Proverbs) perhaps God is telling us to take our worship to the streets and open spaces and glorify him there, in the midst of people who may never enter a church otherwise. 

Steve Shive

My point and question is whether government restrictions and edicts are preventing us from obeying God. If so, and to quote Francis Schaeffer, "How should we then live?" Maybe the fallout from this pandemic and governmental over reach is giving us opportunities to reexamine how we "DO Church" to make us conformed to His image and be part of his Divine plan that began before the World began!! As pointed out in another WORLD piece, men fall asleep during sermons and long for something more...

Not desiring to be pedantic, but in an attempt to peel back the onion layers a bit, please allow me to make a point about the oft quoted part of Hebrews 10:25

"Christians are therefore commanded not to forsake the practice of meeting together" (paraphrase from the Grace Community statement linked to this article).

The context goes like this (Hebrews 10:19-25):

Therefore brethren having boldness to enter the holiest by the blood of Jesus (10:19)

Then three commands:

1)let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. (Heb. 10:22)

2)Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. (Heb. 10:23)

3) And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, (Heb. 10:24)

Those are the only 3 commands in this context. ONLY 3!

And then a subpoint in verse 25:

'not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together... BUT exhorting one another..."

This is not a command in Greek and should not be made one in English. But we love to take verses out of context and use them to support our agenda. The command most closely associated with "not forsaking...but exhorting" is "Let us consider."

So, that being said, what is the church called to do?

Can she accomplish her task, vis a vis the three specific commands in this passage in Hebrews by sitting in pews and listening to a sermon?

Are we called to simply gather and thus have fulfilled God's call on our lives? Does this allow us to consider one another to stir up love and good works? If so we must do it. If not, or if there are other ways to obey these injunctions, we should pursue them!

Again, my point and question is whether government restrictions and edicts are preventing us from any of this? And if so, "How should we then live?" Maybe God is giving us opportunities to reexamine how we "DO Church" to make us conformed to His image and be part of his Divine plan that began before the World began!! As pointed out in another WORLD piece, men fall asleep during sermons and long for something more...

not silent

I respectfully disagree. It seems clear from the picture (assuming it is actually from this past weekend) that we are NOT smart enough to protect ourselves and those we love from death by a virus.  There have been numerous other reports of people who defied guidelines and wound up infecting people who later died. 

I PERSONALLY have a friend who was invited to a party and told by the hostess (who is known to all as a "born again Christian") that she would not wear a mask, use social distancing, or engage in any of the guidelines recommended for such gatherings. My friend works in healthcare; and, even if SHE is not in one of the at risk groups, her patients ARE and some of the other guests are also.  One of her other friends, who is Jewish, commented, "Didn't Jesus say to help other people?"

We have no control over the pride demonstrated by others, particularly non-believers.  But we DO have control over OURSELVES.

VolunteerBB

Yes, you are free to worship and hear from God's word, with or without masks.  We are smart enough to make decisons for ourselves and don't need politicians to tell us, especially when it comes to churches and preventing people from meeting and/or singing.

Nanamiro

I am so glad to see a prominent pastor willing to stand up and declare that gathering as believers is important. I have not yet read his letter, but I am sure he trusts his congregation to decide for themselves personally whether coming back to church, mask or not, is a risk they want to take. If not, they can continue to meet online. At such a horribly divisive time in our country as now, the church needs to be together and not living in perpetual fear.

Nanamiro

I am stunned by the pride of our government authorities, media and even church leaders who don't think we are smart enough or self-preserving enough to protect ourselves and those we love from death by a virus. I believe most people are smart enough and love life enough to not take part in behaviors that will likely lead to their deaths. If a parishoner is at a higher risk of complications or death by Covid, influenza or any other contagious virus, they will stay home or take extra precautions to not catch the virus. Our leaders are so arrogant that they feel we need them to save us from ourselves. 

Nanamiro

If meeting in the flesh is not important, then why do we do it? Wouldn't it be cheaper to just stay home every Sunday and watch/listen to some worship music and a sermon? Why do we gather? If meeting together is so unnecesary that a virus, that doesn't cause any lasting harm in the vast majority of people who get it, is enough reason to not meet, why do we do it at all? 

VolunteerBB

As Christians, we want to go along to get along, and to obey the authorities.  However, there comes a time when we must disobey, and this is one of them.  It is interesting to me to read about those who scream about separation of church and state when there is a cross at a cemetary or nativity scene on public property, but how silent they are now when a government is actively shutting down churches or curtailing their attendance, yet a casino and marijuana stores are business as usual or close to it.  Civil government serves at the pleasure of the people, not the other way around.  

Most of us are old enough to know that if A leads to B leads to C leads to D and D is death (or whatever), then we had better start resisting at A and not wait until it is too late and more things are entrenched.  Just think about the abortion issue (right to privacy), gay rights (just leave us alone and what we do in the privacy of our own home is no one's business), look where we are now.  Abortion on demand from conception to almost birth for any reason; and LGBTQ, etc., now forcing their beliefs on everyone, including prohibiting minors from talking to a counselor if they are having gender/sexual identiy or same sex attraction issues.  Already law in CA, coming to a community/state near you.  Slippery slopes y'all!  We've seen them, experienced them, and know they will continue.

Uff Da

Gather?  Certainly!

Wear masks?  Yes!!!

MTJanet

I am no fan of Newsome, but there is nothing that says we have to meet in a "church" building to have church or to worship.  It's a slap in the face to 1st century Christians and all Bible readers to imply otherwise.  What Bible verse covers this?  I agree with Heb. 10:25 - that still does not imply a building.  And not wearing masks in a crowded facility is simply not being wise.  I don't know how many will be infected from this episode, but I hope there are no deaths.