Christian medical group urges churches to stop gathering amid pandemic: Don't make church an idol

CDC hospitalization surveillance graph
CDC hospitalization surveillance graph | CDC COVID-19-Associated Hospitalization Surveillance Network

The Christian Medical and Dental Association is urging churches to pause in-person meetings in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

In a statement released last week, the CMDA highlighted the record number of daily cases in the United States, stressing that the pandemic is surging in light of recent data.

According to the COVID Tracking Project, the United States hit a new record last Friday with 193,000 daily cases.

“We have to slow the rising tide of COVID-19 cases, or our hospitals will be overrun,” the CMDA said in its "A Plea to Our Churches" statement, which was authored by Jeffrey Barrows and Dr. Christopher Hook. Hook is a hematologist and medical ethicist from Minnesota. Barrows is an Ohio-based obstetrician and a medical ethicist.

“The time it takes for the U.S. to accumulate one million cases has dropped from 44 days to just seven days. The pandemic has not only arrived; it is hitting with hurricane force and has reached a crisis point.”

“The sector that is bearing the brunt of this raging pandemic is our healthcare system, particularly the healthcare professionals who constitute the backbone of our healthcare system.”

While church is a priority, "it should not become an idol," the group stressed, grounding its statement in Jesus' words in the Gospels about loving one's neighbor.

"Loving God with all our heart, mind and strength is our first priority, and it can be done with our families outside of church. It can be done via the gifts of electronic communication that allow us to join virtually with other church members. We are not being prevented from having Bibles, reading Scripture and singing songs of praise because we can do them at home and with the church through these virtual tools," it said.

“The issue here is the second greatest commandment: to love one another as we love ourselves. Restricting meeting for a season is not about fear of contracting the virus ourselves.

“Rather, it is about loving one another and minimizing risk to the vulnerable around us. As members of the body of Christ, we are called to be His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20). That means that Christ has chosen us to reveal His love and grace to all those around us. Choosing to put off gathering together as a church is a statement of love."

The CMDA went on to lament that Christians are becoming more despised in society because it appears that they only care about individual liberties and are contributing to others getting sick.

"As Christian healthcare professionals, we will voluntarily restrict our ‘freedoms’ for a time to help protect my neighbor," the CMDA said.

“Voluntarily choosing not to gather allows us to make a statement that is not overshadowed by a government restriction. It enables a church to proclaim to their locality that they care so much for their members, family and friends that they are willing to give up their right to gather together. It allows each church to make a statement of love, not just by their words, but through the action of no longer gathering together."

The letter comes following a series of contentious legal cases where various states have been imposing restrictions on churches because of the public health crisis. Religious groups in New York and California, among others, have sued over the gathering limits.

Founded in 1931, the CMDA has a membership of over 20,000 healthcare professionals.

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