A pastor in Maryland ripped up a cease and desist letter in front a congregation of 100 people on Wednesday after he was ordered to stop hosting in-person services during coronavirus lockdowns.
Governor Larry Hogan said last week that places of worship could reopen at 50 percent capacity and some of Senior Pastor Stacey Shiflett’s 400-member Calvary Baptist Church attended a service last Wednesday.
But on Thursday Baltimore Council Executives decided against it on a local level, putting Shiflett in violation of Baltimore County Department of Health and Human Services’ rules.
Pastor Stacey Shiflett received a threat of a $5,000 fine and he ripped up the order on Wednesday night in front of 100 people at Calvary Baptist Church in Baltimore on Wednesday
Baltimore Mayor Jack Young has limited religious and spiritual gatherings to just 10 people in his order extension.
On Tuesday Shiflett asked social media followers to pray for him after he received a threat of a $5,000 fine and the following night he returned to the 600-seat church regardless and that he’ll keep ignoring local orders.
‘With this cease-and-desist letter in my hand, the Bible says to the New Testament church “not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together as the manner of some is, but so much more as you see the day approaching,” and the closer we get to Jesus coming back, the more church we ought to be having, not less church,’ he said at a Wednesday church service, before ripping the piece of paper.
‘Now that’s God’s parameters. So I’m tearing up this cease-and-desist order right here, and I’m telling you right now, we’re gonna do it God’s way! God tells us how to worship Him, nobody else gets to do that.’
Shiflett has been vocal about his opposition to the social distancing lockdowns.
After communicating with local government he intended on opening May 24 if lockdowns hadn’t been lifted but after they were at a state level, he has promoted the usual service schedule which includes children’s Sunday School at 10am before the regular hours of 11am to 5pm. Service also includes a 7pm Wednesday session, and a Friday 7pm meeting for Reformers Unanimous Addictions Ministry.
In a letter to his congregants, he wrote that they are re-opening ‘because I believe God is leading us to do this’.
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan said last week that places of worship could reopen at 50 percent capacity so Shiflett held a service at Calvary Baptist Church (pictured) last Wednesday
‘We just want to go back to church; together; the way God intended. We believe that the CHURCH IS ESSENTIAL – and to say otherwise is an offence to Almighty God and to every churchgoer in this state,’ the pastor said
‘We are not seeking notoriety or publicity. We are not trying to cause trouble,’ he explained. ‘We just want to go back to church; together; the way God intended. We believe that the CHURCH IS ESSENTIAL – and to say otherwise is an offence to Almighty God and to every churchgoer in this state.’
He explained that after Baltimore officials decided in opposition of the governor, he didn’t have the heart to tell church-goers that they couldn’t return just yet.
‘I did not have it in me to inform our church that we would NOT be having church on Sunday after I had already announced to them that we would. Proverbs 13:12 says, ‘Hope deferred maketh the heart sick…’ Our hearts have been sick for two months over the closing of our church; I refused to add to that disappointment,’ he explained in a letter shared on the church website.
‘I have been telling our precious church people for two months – (twenty-four church services) – that they could not come to church. It killed me inside to do that – knowing that they should be there and that they wanted to be there. I can no longer with a clear conscience keep my church members from worshipping together if they desire to do so.’
The cease-and-desist letter states that officials do not want to prevent them from free exercise of religious practices and advises video streaming services
On Twitter he has also criticized that some small businesses can reopen but massage parlors, nail salons, tanning beds and tattoo shops must remain closed, exclaiming: ‘God have mercy!’
He has also urged people to stand up for their right to assemble, stating ‘governmental overreach can never happen again’.
In Maryland there were more than 43,500 coronavirus cases and at least 2,159 deaths as of Thursday.
Referencing the First Amendment, he added on the website: ‘We do not believe the churches should have ever been shut in the first place. We maintain with strong conviction that the Governor did not have the authority to shut the doors of our church, and neither does the Baltimore County Executive.
‘The freedom of religion found within the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Maryland did not become obsolete with the arrival of a virus.
Source: dailymail US