Churches in California ignore Governor Newsom’s Lockdown Order: ‘Christ, not Caesar, is head of the church

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FRESNO COUNTY, CA – Remember…rioting good, praying bad.

Such is life in the coronavirus era, at least in states or cities run by Democrats. The Sacramento Bee is reporting that some churches have chosen to defy California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s latest assault on the first amendment’s freedom of religion provision, choosing to reopen their churches for services in defiance of Newsom’s most recent banning of indoor religious services.

Last week, Governor GQ banned places of worship from holding indoor services in 29 counties in the state, effectively banning services for 80% of California residents, according to the Los Angeles Times.

“This virus is not going away anytime soon,” Newsom said, according to the Times.

“I hope all of us recognize that if we were still connected to some notion that, somehow, when it gets warm, it’s going to go away or, somehow, it’s going to take summer months or weekends off—this virus has done neither.”

In Fresno, Pastor Jim Franklin of Cornerstone Church held services indoors, in defiance of Newsom’s order.

“It was a great service today many people showed up. We had people that drove all the way here from Visalia, because they say they are looking for a church that is open,” Franklin said to KFSN.

Breitbart News reported that Grace Community Church, located in a suburb of Los Angeles, saw their pastor, John MacArthur post a letter on Friday entitled, “Christ, Not Caesar, Is Head of the Church.”

In his letter, Pastor MacArthur laid out a ‘biblical case for the church’s duty to remain open.”

According to the letter, in part:

Christ is Lord of all. He is the one true head of the church (Ephesians 1:22; 5:23; Colossians 1:18). He is also King of kings—sovereign over every earthly authority (1 Timothy 6:15; Revelations 17:14; 19:16). Grace Community Church has always stood immovably on those biblical principles.

As His people, we are subject to His will and commands as revealed in Scripture.

Therefore, we cannot and will not acquiesce to a government-imposed moratorium on our weekly congregational worship or other regular corporate gatherings. Compliance would be disobedience to our Lord’s clear commands.

Some will think such a firm statement is inexorably in conflict with the command to be subject to governing authorities laid out in Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2.

Scripture does mandate careful, conscientious obedience to all governing authority, including kings, governors, employers, and their agents (in Peter’s words, “not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable” [1 Peter 2:18]). Insofar as government authorities do not attempt to assert ecclesiastical authority or issue orders that forbid our obedience to God’s law, their authority is to be obeyed whether we agree with their rulings or not.

In other words, Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2 still bind the consciences of individual Christians. We are to obey our civil authorities as powers that God Himself has ordained.

When any government official issues orders regulating worship (such as bans on singing, caps on attendance, or prohibitions against gatherings and services), he steps outside the legitimate bounds of his God-ordained authority as a civic official and arrogates to himself authority that God expressly grants only to the Lord Jesus Christ as sovereign over His Kingdom, which is the church.

His rule is mediated to local churches through those pastors and elders who teach His Word (Matthew 16:18-19: 2 Timothy 3:16-4:2).

Therefore in response to the recent state order requiring churches in California to limit or suspend all meetings indefinitely, we, the pastors and elders of Grace Community Church, respectfully inform our civic leaders that they have exceeded their legitimate jurisdiction, and faithfulness to Christ prohibits us from observing the restrictions they want to impose on our corporate worship services.

The letter also continued that the church does not need permission from the state to hold church services, and it urged other congregations to follow suit.

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“Our prayer is that every faithful congregation will stand with us in obedience to our Lord as Christians have done through the centuries,” the letter concluded.

Several weeks ago, Calvary Church Chino Hills, which is also in southern California opened for services on May 31, otherwise known as Pentecost Sunday—which is the holy day that celebrates the anointing of the church by the Holy spirit.

In a video in which he addressed other pastors, Pastor Jack Hibbs said, “The church transcends the governments of this world and the politics of this world because the church is a living, breathing, divine institution.

“We want to be safe. We want to be wise. We want to be sensitive to the weakest among us,” Hibbs said.

“Are we going to open our doors? Are we going to preach the Gospel?” Hibbs said.

He continued that he hoped that a “revival might break forth across this land,” due to the fact that California churches had opened their doors.

On Sunday at Cross City Church in Fresno County, hundreds of people showed up to take part in an outdoor worship service, according to the Fresno Bee. As a matter of fact, cars started lining up to go into the parking lot just before 8 a.m.

Attendees, some who wore masks and some who did not gathered together in a courtyard outside the main worship center as they awaited a worship band to being playing. A typical Sunday service would see ten times the number who showed up Sunday for the church’s two services. The services were, however streamed online.

Pastor Brent Deffenbacher said that it was important to have an in-person service, “lovingly within the updated guidelines.”

“There is such a hunger and desire for a congregation to meet.”

Meanwhile across town at Cornerstone, services were held inside in defiance of Newsom’s order. Pastor Franklin explained that the church had been proving that it had sufficient safety protocols in place, and noted that other churches in the area had been operating safely.

There have been no outbreaks from houses of worship, Franklin said.

Attendance has been lagging at the church since it reopened in May, attributed to the fact it has been unable to operate it’s daycare, and has advised those with health conditions making them susceptible to the coronavirus to remain at home and view services online.

“The No. 1 thing as a pastor that I’m concerned about is the welfare of the people in my auditorium—the sheep that I shepherd as a pastor,” Franklin explained in a video.

“I want to be sure that they are physically safe, that they are spiritually safe, that they are mentally safe. And so, right now we want to see if we can do that. And I believe the answer to that is yes.”

He also explained that the church serves a vital role, one that is protected by the First Amendment.

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