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Church in the Age of COVID, or How I Spent My Summer Vacation: A Recap of the Runaway Train that is Grace Community Church

(Gold star if you spotted the Freemason Key and Compass photobomb)

Remember when you were a kid and during that first week of school, you’d go up in front of a class and read your essay, “What I Did over Summer Vacation?” Well, if I had to write one today, it’d be: 1) Spent 2 hours in 95-degree heat for toilet paper at Costco, 2) everything fun-canceled, 3) minimized my whole house, twice, and 4) started a “blog” of little spurious gossip which caught the attention of Grace’s rapscallion religious riotous renegades. I find myself in fine company among those who have dared to write a story about the truth and were hounded by these wolves. Funny thing is, had I been left alone, I would not have known the things I sure know now. More on that.

First, I wanted to settle a few things before speaking about the COVID timeline here.

  1. There are hundreds of churches in LA County who meet indoors, wear masks, and social distance who have never been bothered by the LADPH (Los Angeles Public Health Department). I see this exclaimed all the time on Twitter and personally know of 8 churches where this is true.
  2. There are even more churches in LA County who have decided to meet outdoors who also wear masks and social distance, even though they are outside. Many of whom even go to beaches, parks, and other outdoor venues. They make it work and though I may not agree with their theology, I agree with their eagerness to both worship the Lord and abide by the governmental guidelines.
  3. I do believe in the First Amendment. But as I have said repeatedly online and in my articles, this is not primarily a First Amendment issue. If it were, there would already be an Appeal by Grace Community Church. Jenna Ellis on Fox News stated that an appeal would be filed on Saturday and as of Tuesday evening @ 10:50 pm, no appeal has been filed. Not to say that they won’t, but it’s going to take paying a huge bond ($1 million?) and considerably more legal fees (which may be well over $500,000 by now).

February-March 2020: Life was “normal” (you never know what you had ’til it’s gone!), we heard about this virus from Wuhan, China, but it was downplayed by Trump and probably a “hoax”, so no worries, America. Sleep sound, we’re on that wall like Jack Nicholson in “A Few Good Men”.

March 2020: The Bay Area and several surrounding counties form a bit of an alliance and a “lockdown” is announced.

Mid-March 2020: Eric Garcetti says that though Northern California is under lockdown, it’s premature to say that Los Angeles will do the same, in fact, he says firmly that we will not be placed in lockdown.

Three days later…Eric Garcetti: “ok, my bad…we’re under lockdown, but let’s call it ‘Shelter-in-Place, no, “Safer at Home”.

***The first Health Officer Order from the Los Angeles Department of Public Health is issued and I noted that it had no expiration date. LA Authorities state that the expiration will be April 19th, so I circle it on my calendar, like an idiot. The deadline comes and goes and now it is extended to May 15th, 2020.

April 2020: I start watching videos regarding Sweden’s approach to herd immunity, alternative theories, and doctors who were shedding some light on the numbers they were seeing in their practice which didn’t match the official numbers that we were being told. To me, it didn’t make sense. I started seeing the word “plandemic” thrown around and conspiracy theories surrounding the Bill Gates Foundation, Dr. Fauci, etc. It was hard to know what to think.

May 2020: I joined Twitter (record skip). I started following the LADPH, LAFD, other local authorities, as well as the quirkiest group of spicy, brave-hearted Christians I have ever known. (Shout out to my #Weird Christian Twitter friends). I also saw so many cases of real people with COVID. People who were once healthy, but had the virus months ago and still struggling. People whose parents were in the hospital, whose child was recovering, and for some who lost loved ones from it. It was eye-opening. These people weren’t a statistic. They weren’t shills or liars. I had to honestly re-consider everything that I had known in the light of their experiences.

May 22, 2020: John MacArthur welcomes everyone back to church

May 23, 2020: Grace reconsiders based upon a Ninth Circuit Ruling

July 26th, 2020: The Statement (you were there, you don’t need a rehash)

Jenna Ellis. Trump. Tents. LA County Lawsuit against Grace. Enter Thomas More. Hearings. Small Victories.

September 4, 2020: Hearing. Stanley Mosk (the Mac Daddy of LA Courthouses). Hearing takes all day. It was almost like a short trial. Media requests are denied, so they stay in the hallway and report on the hearing, old school style.

Full credit to Warren Throckmorton’s excellent reporting on this story. I have learned a lot regarding the process as this is not my area of expertise.

So, here we have it. More reading than anyone will do on the subject, but I wanted to have these documents here for your perusal. What are the wider implications?

  1. Every time there is a service, meeting, or gathering, Grace Community Church is acting in contempt of the order. So, then, the County will go back to the Court and tell the judge what Grace has done…week after week.
  2. John MacArthur has no interest in backing down one iota (see, those Greek classes came in handy). I admire that, I do, but when people’s lives are in danger…no. Just no. They will continue to meet in the Worship Center, without masks and sing the same five hymns, go home and get the feels that they “did church”. John will continue to soak in the ovations, ignore the severity of the situation, continue to fire pastors and elders who don’t bend to his will, go on Fox News, and allow his congregation to spin in their imaginations about Mahoney, Twiss, and others. Families are divided. Rifts have formed. But it’s OK, let’s demonize Newsom, LADPH, Garcetti, and ignore the thieves, wolves, and predators among your flock.
  3. They are at the end of the road here. The only thing left is defiance. The County will be forced to issue fines, and yes, as it’s within their power, arrests. If there is an outbreak, though there have been rumors of one, the County will have NO other choice but to lock up the Worship Center and close down the campus altogether. This is where that PPP loan will come in handy, right? It’s an extreme example, but you tell me what other choice they have.

I have very mixed feelings about it as I’m sure you all do. On one hand, I do believe in the First Amendment, but on the other hand, Grace has made it their quarantine hobby to be Trump’s unofficial California evangelical base, which is uncharacteristic for MacArthur, as he’s said many things against using the pulpit for political expression and that the focus should be on Christ. I have no idea how long people will be forced out of their churches and I understand to a point why they did what they did, but it just goes to show that the Bible never intended for a church to be so big. New Testament churches were in houses. Plain and simple. They expanded and grew, expanded and grew and they reached the world for Christ. It was a lovely church model.

If we believe that God is Sovereign, then we must believe that everything that is happening is working towards His glory. I was told that in the early ’80s, Grace Community Church began to grow; however, it didn’t necessarily grow organically but consumed the local churches around them. I saw some figures that over 100 local churches closed because of John MacArthur. Do you really want to tell me that that was a good thing? If those people were devoted to their church, the one that God would have them serve in, they wouldn’t have left for any other church. No, a cult of personality surrounds men like MacArthur, Ravi Zacharias, Joel Osteen, Steven Furtick, Andy Stanley, etc. to the point that people believe that numbers are the manifestation of a healthy church, which couldn’t be further from the truth.

And now, I’ll leave you as always, with a song. “Let the Storm Rage On!” Amazing what people can do from home. God bless, stay healthy!

Long-time Christian. Short-time writer. Times are tough and California needs the hero in all of us. Focus lately on church corruption and the Law. GCC and GTY