A Virginia bishop who defied warnings about the danger of religious gatherings during the pandemic and vowed to keep preaching “unless I’m in jail or the hospital” died over the weekend after contracting Covid-19, his church said.
The bishop, Gerald O. Glenn, 66, the founder and pastor of New Deliverance Evangelistic Church in Chesterfield, Virginia, died on Saturday night (April 11), according to Mr Bryan Nevers, a church elder.
Mr Nevers announced Bishop Glenn’s death during an Easter sermon, which was posted on the Facebook page of the Richmond-area Pentecostal congregation. He said that Glenn had transitioned from labour to reward.
“The first thing I asked God is, ‘Why?’ ” Mr Nevers said. “The bishop has touched our lives in so many ways.”
Mother Marcietia Glenn, 65, the bishop’s wife, also tested positive for the virus, Ms Mar-Gerie Crawley, their daughter, said in an April 4 post on the church’s Facebook page. Ms Crawley said at the time that her father was on a ventilator at the hospital.
“It becomes very real to you,” Ms Crawley said on Facebook. “I just beg people to understand the severity and the seriousness of this; because people are saying it’s not just about us, it’s about everyone around us.”
The church’s members held vigil and some fasted for Bishop Glenn, whose death was widely mourned; including by Senator Tim Kaine, D-Va.
“My heart sinks as I learn this morning that Bishop Gerald Glenn, pastor of New Deliverance Evangelistic Church, died yesterday from Covid-19,”Mr Kaine wrote on Twitter on Sunday. “He was a friend and pillar of Richmond faith community. May all do as much for so many.”
The bishop’s death came as church leaders from Pope Francis to local pastors grappled with the challenges of social distancing.
Some church leaders have notably defied pleas from governors and public health officials to shutter houses of worship. In Florida, the pastor of a Pentecostal megachurch was arrested last month after holding services with hundreds of worshippers.
During a March 22 sermon, Bishop Glenn preached to a few dozen worshippers at the church; video on the website of the television station WTVR showed. The sermon was posted on YouTube and later removed.
At the time, the bishop was quoted by local media outlets as saying that “I firmly believe that God is larger than this dreaded virus.”
Local media reported that the bishop said he would keep preaching “unless I’m in jail or the hospital”. On March 30, eight days after that sermon, Governor Ralph S. Northam issued a stay-at-home order in Virginia.