Bethel Church, the controversial megachurch in Redding, California, that also runs a school of supernatural ministry, suspended their “faith healing” ministry at local hospitals where they are known to lay hands on the sick, due to the new coronavirus.
“Though we believe in a God who actively heals today, students are not being encouraged to visit healthcare settings at this time, and moreover, are taught that even under normal circumstances, they must receive permission from both the facility and the individual before engaging in prayer,” Aaron Tesauro, a church spokesman, told The Sacramento Bee.
A feature of the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry is to help students learn how to heal the sick as well as cast out demons.
“The Good News without power is not good news. Paul was glad that his preaching wasn’t with persuasive words but demonstrations of power (I Cor. 2). One of our goals is that every student would know how to cast out demons, heal the sick, and preach the Gospel,” the school’s website says.
The suspension of the church’s faith-healing work at hospitals has come in the wake of increased panic over the rapid growth of the new coronavirus infections and death around the globe.
The number of confirmed U.S. cases of the virus rose past 1,000 and the national death toll stood at 28. Globally some 4,369 people have already died from the virus that has infected more than 121,000. Just over half of those infected have recovered, according to data from the Johns Hopkins University Centre for Systems Science and Engineering.
An unidentified Redding woman told The Sacramento Bee on Saturday that on Jan. 31, two Bethel students approached her in the emergency room at Mercy Medical Center in Redding and said “they would pray over the people there and put Jesus in their hearts and this would heal us all and we didn’t need to stay at the ER and could go home.”
She said she later filed a complaint with the hospital alleging that one of the students had touched her 5-year-old daughter without her consent.
When asked about the complaint, Tesauro told The Sacramento Bee that he was surprised to learn about the mother’s experience.
“We are surprised and saddened by the mother’s reaction and want to apologize for any unintended offense,” he said.
California’s Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday that California has 157 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and that thousands of residents may have come into contact with the disease.
Kerri Schuette, a spokeswoman for Shasta County’s Health and Human Services Agency, urged residents to respond cautiously to faith healers.
“I would say that having a healthy barrier between yourself and other people is a good way to protect yourself from any of the diseases that are circulating right now,” she said.
Tesauro also framed Bethel Church’s response to the coronavirus as part of God’s wisdom.
“Through email communications, signage, and church announcements, we are actively encouraging health practices and precautions to our whole community,” he said. “We believe that wisdom, modern medicine, and faith are meant to work together, and express the value for each in the pursuit of continued health and healing.”