The National Black Church Initiative, a coalition of 34,000 African American and Latino churches working to eradicate racial disparities, has urged leaders of churches in their network to “respect the science” of the new coronavirus and warn their at-risk congregants to stay home amid the pandemic.
“We must follow all of the CDC’s guidelines pertaining to those who are at least 60, especially those with underlying health conditions and compromised immunities. We are taking this extraordinary action in light of the fact that we must show moral leadership here in order to get everyone singing the same song — God will take care of us if we listen and obey those who he was empowered to help us protect ourselves, our families, and our communities,” the Rev. Anthony Evans, president of the NBCI said in a recent statement.
Churches in the coalition are comprised of 37 denominations and 26.7 million members with an additional 116,000 sister churches.
The NBCI warning comes amid a lack of consensus among church leaders nationwide on whether churches should shutter their doors and meet remotely.
Paul S. Morton, founding bishop of The Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship International headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, has been fielding withering criticism online for insisting churches should remain open, like hospitals and police stations across the country, amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“No matter how bad things get in shutting down a City in a Crisis. At least 2 entities hv 2 remain open. Hospitals & Police Departments. But God’s Church must be on that list. The Spiritual Hospital The Spiritual Police Department. Don’t cancel God out. We can’t do it without Him,” Morton tweeted Monday morning.
Evans, in his statement, acknowledged that while not everyone will agree with his call to stay away from church, those who insist on attending church should practice social distancing.
“The Ministers are not doctors. I know that there are some churches and ministers who are going to defy this moral declaration. If you do so, you must be willing to institute the principles of social distancing as an extra measure to protect all those in your congregation,” Evans said.
“The Bible is clear about using sound, moral judgment in light of our faith in Christ Jesus. In this case, both the scripture and God want us to heed the sound judgment of scientists, doctors, and government officials who are trying to keep us safe. Our faith in Christ relies not only on our faith in God, but also those individuals who God has empowered as scientists, doctors, and those who are in the government at this time,” he continued. “The Black community should step away from the politics of the hour and focus on those who are trying to keep us safe.”