Evangelical pastors respond to Trump’s call for churches to reopen

CDC releases health guidelines for worship services to resume

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks from the Truman Balcony during a Rolling to Remember Ceremony: Honoring Our Nation’s Veterans and POW/MIA at the White House May 22, 2020, in Washington, DC. President Trump hosted the event to honor America’s veterans and fallen heroes. | Alex Wong/Getty Images

Evangelical pastors and leaders expressed their gratitude for President Trump Friday after he urged the Center for Disease Control to release guidelines for reopening houses of worship.   

“At my direction, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is issuing guidance for communities of faith. I’m identifying houses of worship ⁠— churches, synagogues and mosques ⁠— as essential places that provide essential services,” the president said at news conference on Friday.

The president said he also plans to “override” governors who are not allowing churches to reopen. “Some governors have deemed liquor stores and abortion clinics as essential, but have left out churches and other houses of worship ⁠— that’s not right. So I’m correcting this injustice and calling houses of worship essential.”

Agreeing with Trump, the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez of New Season church in Sacramento, California, wrote that “the spiritual health of our nation is essential. Churches can reopen safely with all CDC recommendations in place.”

Rodriguez, the president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, thanked the president “for federally recognizing this truth.”

Jentezen Franklin, author and the senior pastor of Free Chapel, a multi-site church based in Gainesville, Georgia, also praised the president's comments, in a post on Twitter, saying, “Thank you Mr President! @realDonaldTrump you always have the back of people of Faith!!!” 

“We appreciate this very much. We will use wisdom about reopening but it’s our call, not the governments!!!!” Franklin added.

On Friday, the CDC released interim guidelines encouraging church staff as well as attendees older than age 2 to wear masks. It also said churchgoers should remain 6 feet apart, whether standing in a line or seated.

While the CDC acknowledged that “millions of Americans embrace worship as an essential part of life," it also cautioned that “gatherings present a risk for increasing the spread of COVID-19."

The CDC guidelines also advise churches to “temporarily limit” the use of prayer books and hymnals that are touched by multiple people, and to cease using a communal cup for communion.

It also encouraged churches to add outdoor services or additional in-person worship times so that the number of congregants attending each service is reduced. 

Pastor Miles McPherson of Rock Church in San Diego said in a statement to The Christian Post that he's glad "churches are finally being acknowledged as essential," but added that his church won't be reopening on Sunday. 

"... The community often turns to their local church in a time of need. No one can find ‘hope’ in the aisle of a department store or by sitting in a restaurant. Churches specialize in offering hope and spiritual support through prayer and counseling. We look forward to churches across the U.S. being able to open again and provide that much needed hope and service to their communities," he said. 

"As for this Sunday, we need a bit more time to have things in place so that attendees can worship in a socially distant setting. We will continue to follow the county's guidelines implemented during this time. We look forward to worshiping together in person as time permits," McPherson added. 

The Rev. Johnnie Moore, a commissioner at the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, wrote that “virtually every church, synagogue & mosque, etc. has been totally responsible.”

"And they “WILL BE responsible, deliberate & patient in reopening,” he added.”

The 40,000-member Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, announced that it will be reopening services on May 31, which is Pentecost Sunday.

“I didn’t want to come back looking like a MASH unit,” Jack Graham, senior pastor of Prestonwood, told Faithwire. “When people come back, we want it to be a Prestonwood experience, a true worship experience

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