Gerald O. Glenn, a Virginia bishop who defied his state’s social distancing recommendations and boasted about his church’s packed pews amid the coronavirus pandemic, died over the weekend of complications from the virus, his church announced on Facebook on Sunday.
Glenn’s wife has also tested positive for the disease, known as COVID-19. The couple’s daughter has since urged the public to “understand the severity and the seriousness” of the virus.
Glenn, 66, was the founder and pastor of New Deliverance Evangelical Church in Chesterfield, located about 20 miles south of Richmond.
On March 22, in the last known in-person sermon he delivered at the church, Glenn boasted about being “controversial” and “in violation” of state social distancing recommendations, New York Post reported.
Video of the service showed dozens of people in the church at the time. Virginia officials were urging social distancing at the time.
“I firmly believe that God is larger than this dreaded virus. You can quote me on that,” Glenn told the congregation.
A day after his sermon, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam issued an order calling for the closure of all non-essential services and the prohibition of gatherings of more than 10 people.
Glenn told parishioners, however, that he would keep church doors open.
“I am essential,” he said, according to the Post. “I’m a preacher — I talk to God.”
According to a post on the church’s Facebook page, Glenn did announce an indefinite suspension of church services following Northam’s order ― and urged congregants to “be mindful” of the heightened risk that large gatherings could pose in the spread of the coronavirus.
The church said on April 4 that the bishop and his wife, Marcietia Glenn, had both been sickened with COVID-19.
The couple’s daughter, Mar-Gerie Crawley, told WTVR-TV at the time that her father had been treated with a ventilator.
Crawley defended her father’s March 22 sermon and said the service had been held not in defiance of social distancing measures but to support those in the community who were feeling scared. Still, she warned the public to take the pandemic seriously.
“It becomes very real to you,” Crawley told the station. “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.”
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Qasim Rashid, a Virginia Democrat running for Congress, expressed sadness at Glenn’s passing.
“He was a friend and pillar of Richmond faith community. May all do as much for so many,” Kaine wrote on Twitter.
“This is depressing. Please y’all, stay home & stay safe,” Rashid said in response to the news.
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