Pastors are accountable to God, not government, for how they lead their congregations, says Ohio State Rep. Jena Powell.
Fear of the COVID-19 Delta variant has convinced local and state leaders to wield unprecedented power in demanding that people get vaccinated or lose everyday privileges.
But a different fear is swelling among those who would rather live in freedom — albeit safely — than in isolation. Considering the power that the American populous handed to local governments on a silver platter in 2020, it is not unreasonable to assume that shutdowns will once again be commissioned from the tyrannic arsenal of local and state leaders. These shutdowns, if applied as they were last year, would include houses of worship.
Rep. Powell has been a strong voice against shutdowns, especially for houses of worship, and is exhorting pastors to remember their place before God rather than government. Powell joined Standing For Freedom Center’s editor-in-chief John Wesley Reid to discuss the matter.
Reflecting on the church shutdowns of 2020-2021, Reid identified the potential for a repeat in shutdowns and the resulting challenges that pastors will have to face.
“Now it looks like we are potentially going down that same road again. It was looking like we were a little freer — a little less Cuba, a little more America. But now we’re getting these threats of forced vaccinations, we’re getting mask mandates. So, logically speaking, historically speaking, the potential is that we’re going to see some more shutdowns. And churches are going to have to face that question and pastors are going to decide, ‘Am I going to be a Daniel or am I not?'”
After giving fair charity to the fact that early 2020 did not provide much data about COVID-19, thus pastors were justified to temporarily close their doors, Powell identified the spike in suicide rates in Ohio and urged pastors to re-open to address the depressed and vulnerable, a topic she addressed at a recent town hall meeting:
“In our state, we saw a huge spike in mental illness and suicide. And this is where I’ve called many churches and said, ‘You guys need to open your doors and figure out a way, how you feel is best, figure out a way to serve the most vulnerable in this time,’ because it is a really difficult time for people in our state.”
“What I actually started realizing during COVID was the network of churches in government were not very good. There wasn’t much communication between myself and many other pastors and church leaders in our community. I believe that if we want to change a community, it starts with talking to the church leaders, talking to the business owners, talking to the parents and allowing them to be informed.”
Powell went on to say that recently she invited 40 pastors to the statehouse to talk about truth in the public square and cited the important connection between churches and government.
“My voice to the church over and over again in our community as we’re looking at potentially more shutdowns and mandates and orders is to say that you are accountable for your flock to God. You’re not accountable to the government for what you do and how you lead the hearts and minds of your church. It is close to impossible to lead well when you’ve shut your doors and you stay at your home as a pastor and you don’t reach out and serve the most vulnerable.”
Powell concluded with a strong reminder: