John MacArthur, pastor of Grace Community Church (GCC) has indicated that he will have indoor services this morning, in defiance of a preliminary injunction granted by a Los Angeles judge that prohibits him from doing so.
On Thursday L.A. County Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff sided with the public health officials hell-bent on shutting down CGG, giving the adversarial officials a win after a string of losses against the church.
The judge overseeing the case ruled that the MacArthur-led megachurch would be barred from having indoor services this coming Sunday as well as every other Sunday for the foreseeable future, arguing that the church being open is an “immediate threat to public health and safety due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
With the County obtaining a preliminary injunction, it means that GCC cannot meet indoors until it is resolved, but may still meet outside, so long as they socially distance, wear face masks, and meet in smaller groups. Judge Beckloff wrote in his decision:
But MacArthur has indicated he will defy those orders, telling Shannon Bream in a Fox News interview friday night “We’re going to have Church on Sunday. There is absolutely no reason not to have church as far as safety goes….Plus we’re under the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ and he says have church, and we’re gonna have it.“
In an op-ed posted this morning by pastor MacArthur on the Daily Wire, he elaborated on his motivations for defying the injunction, writing:
Churches must keep the priorities in order. We cannot sacrifice robust spiritual health, the preaching of the gospel, and the gathering of the church for worship under the power of divine truth in order to guard people from something that is only slightly more threatening than the seasonal flu. We don’t ‘save lives’ in any way that counts for eternity by putting a muzzle on our public proclamation of the Word of life.
Speaking of the commission and purpose for the church, MacArthur asks:
Could anything be more callous than to cause people to fear a virus and then shut them off from the only source where they can have that ultimate fear finally and completely removed?
We, the church, cannot relinquish our duties before God in order to appease the arbitrary, mercurial, and onerous restrictions of a governor who imposes rules on others that he does not even follow himself. Our fear of forsaking the assembly of believers greatly surpasses the fear of being infected by COVID-19 (much less the fear of whatever consequences we might face from government officials). We will put nothing in the way of those who come to church for fellowship, instruction, worship, and the sanctifying benefits of hearing God’s Word proclaimed.
…May the Lord give us all wisdom, courage, and love to honor Him as so many of our spiritual ancestors have done in much harder times than these.
It is not completely clear whether or not the church will have outdoor services, however. So far everything MacArthur has said has indicated that they will not, but rather will continue as usual with their indoor gathering, perhaps buoyed by the knowledge that their lawyer Jenna Ellis has filed an appeal on Friday to contravene the injunction.
As for punishment for intentionally disregarding the court injunction by Judge Beckloff, we read:
- “If a court issues a temporary restraining order or a preliminary or permanent injunction in an action brought pursuant to subdivision (a) or (b), ordering a defendant to refrain from conduct or activities, the order issued shall include the following statement: VIOLATION OF THIS ORDER IS A CRIME PUNISHABLE UNDER SECTION 422.77 OF THE PENAL CODE .
- Section 422.77: Any willful and knowing violation of any order issued pursuant to subdivision (a) or (b) of Section 52.1 of the Civil Code shall be a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than six months, or by both the fine and imprisonment.“
GCC has so far has amassed over $20,000 in fines for having indoor services and singing during those services, an act outlawed by Governor Gavin Newsom’s shut down order. While we imagine they won’t waver about paying the $1,000, there is a very real threat that they could put pastor MacArthur in jail, based on the willful disobedience and open rebellion he has to the judge’s orders.
Given how rapacious the County has been in seeking to have them shut down – being the 5th time they’ve brought this motion forward, as well as canceling a 45 year parking lease, it would not surprise us to see MacArthur led out in handcuffs in the next several weeks. It’s not overly likely, given the severe nature and optic of such a move, but it is not outside the realm of possibility, given how crazy everything has become.
Pray for Grace Church and Pastor MacArthur.
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