Bishop Paul Morton Sparks Debate Online After Insisting Churches Should Stay Open Amid Coronavirus Pandemic Like Hospitals and Police Departments

Bishop Paul S. Morton at his worships with his congregation at Changing A Generation Full Gospel Baptist Church in Atlanta, Ga., on Sunday March 15, 2020. | Twitter/CAGFBC

Paul S. Morton, founding bishop of The Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship International headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, has been fielding withering criticism online for insisting churches should remain open, like hospitals and police stations across the country, amid the coronavirus pandemic.

As of Tuesday morning, more than 5,000 cases of the new coronavirus have been diagnosed in the U.S., according to the Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering tracker. At least 85 people have died and 17 have recovered from the virus.

The average age of those who’ve died in the U.S. is 80, according to CNN. In Italy the average age is 81, the BBC reported.

According to the CDC, the complete clinical picture with regard to the new coronavirus is not fully known.

“While information so far suggests that most COVID-19 illness is mild, a report out of China suggests serious illness occurs in 16% of cases. Older people and people of all ages with severe chronic medical conditions — like heart disease, lung disease and diabetes, for example — seem to be at higher risk of developing serious COVID-19 illness,” the health agency said, while reporting illnesses have ranged from very mild (including some with no reported symptoms) to severe.

While many churches shuttered and opted for online gatherings as local governments and the CDC warned against public gatherings and encouraged social distancing to help stem the spread of the virus, Morton praised his own congregants who showed up to his church, calling them “true kingdom soldiers.”

“Thank you CAG for not forsaking the assembling together. True Kingdom Soldiers,” he wrote in a tweet that included photos of him laying hands on congregants.

He then followed up that tweet with several others, including several on Monday that quickly sparked a fiery debate with other Christian leaders and health professionals.

“No matter how bad things get in shutting down a City in a Crisis. At least 2 entities hv 2 remain open. Hospitals & Police Departments. But God’s Church must be on that list. The Spiritual Hospital The Spiritual Police Department. Don’t cancel God out. We can’t do it without Him,” Morton tweeted Monday morning.

“Would U tell All Doctors Nurses Police Officers First Responders to close Hospitals and Police Stations that deal with Crisis. If not don’t tell God’s first spiritual responders what to do about this Spiritual and Natural Crisis. The Church can’t hide like unbelievers in a Crisis,” Morton added.

Morton said that while he was prepared to abide by legal requirements to close if necessary, healthy Christians shouldn’t be advised against attending church when they can still find time to go to the grocery store or gas station.

“Make sure U don’t go 2 work or to grocery store or gas station Just stay home. If UR telling me U hv 2 go 2 those important places but not God’s House. Government Authorities say how many can go to Church by law I will listen to them not Panic,” he said.

The Rev. Chris Thurman, an associate minister at Joshua Baptist Church in Charleston, South Carolina, pointed out in a response to Morton that the limiting of church gatherings is a “precautionary step” aimed at slowing down infections.

“I’d like to respectfully disagree, Bishop. Cancelling service is a precautionary step that shows that you as the shepherd of your flock care about the safety and health of your congregants. God didn’t give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a SOUND MIND. #PrayAndAct,” Thurman wrote on Twitter.

“Right a (Sound Mind) that’s why the Church can’t panic when the government says it’s ok for this many people to go to Church. Every Pastor must lead their own congregation. But for me and My House I just believe the Church should not be the first ones to get scared an close down,” Morton replied.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Leonardo Blair