The president of a prominent pro-family group is urging pastors to obey civil authorities and their temporary bans on large gatherings.
Bans are in effect around the country as part of an effort to combat the spread of the coronavirus. Churches aren't exempt – and that's causing some pastors to want to have services anyway … which, in turn, is annoying Tony Perkins.
"I'm really frustrated with some pastors who are now saying they're going to meet regardless; and we're seeing now cases across the country where churches are becoming the epicenters of outbreaks," said Perkins on his "Washington Watch" radio program. "This is real. We can still minister and reach our people and reach the community, but we have to abide by these guidelines."
Perkins, president of Washington, DC-based Family Research Council, isn't alone in his comments. The pastor of an Arkansas church where dozens of people came down with coronavirus urged pastors through Facebook posts to take things very seriously.
"The intensity of this virus has been underestimated by so many, and I continue to ask that each of you take it very seriously," wrote Mark Palenske, pastor of First Assembly of God church in Greens Ferry, Arkansas. "An act of wisdom and restraint on your part can be the blessing that preserves the health of someone else."
Perkins also addressed an argument that he's heard from some of his fellow Christians. "I know there are some pastors who are trying to make this an issue of religious freedom and they're going to meet regardless," he acknowledged. "That's foolish. That's plain foolish."
He continued to address pastors: "You're putting people's lives at risk – people that you are to shepherd and care for, you're putting them at risk; you're putting our healthcare workers at risk … and it's wrong."
Perkins went on to say that "all of these orders have deadlines – expiration dates [if you will]."
"My home state [Louisiana] is still [April] 13th," the FRC president explained. "I know it incorporates Resurrection Sunday, but you can do other things."
For example, Perkins suggested a drive-in service – one that involves people sitting in their vehicle on the church parking lot while the church broadcasts the sermon and special music.
"Have a couple of people come to church and man the phones and put on Facebook and on the Internet that you'll take calls and pray for people," Perkins encouraged. "Open up prayer lines in your churches – but don't be foolish."
If the bans on gatherings involved only churches, then Perkins said he would be the first one in line to say "don't do it."
FRC has published a webpage titled "COVID-19 & The Church." It features, among other things, links to ideas and resources for churches.