Pastor John MacArthur and the elders of Grace Community Church say they plan on defying Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order banning indoor worship. And their prayer is that other congregations across California will join their cause.
“Christ, not Caesar is the head of the church,” the pastor and elders declared in a lengthy statement posted on the church’s website. “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.”
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On July 13, Newsom announced new restrictions requiring churches in a number of counties to cease holding indoor services. He had previously ordered all churches to stop singing hymns and worship songs.
“We cannot and will not acquiesce to a government-imposed moratorium on our weekly congregational worship or other regular corporate gatherings,” MacArthur and the elders wrote. “Compliance would be disobedience to our Lord’s clear commands.”
It is unclear what will happen when the church resumes services. However, the executive director of Grace to You wrote on Twitter that “the local authorities say their plan is to shut off power to the church.”
The local authorities say their plan is to shut off power to the church.
— Phil Johnson (@Phil_Johnson_) July 26, 2020
Grace Community Church is not making a constitutional argument, they are making a biblical argument.
“God has not granted civic rulers authority over the doctrine, practice, or polity of the church. The biblical framework limits the authority of each institution to its specific jurisdiction. The church does not have the right to meddle in the affairs of individual families and ignore parental authority. Parents do not have authority to manage civil matters while circumventing government officials. And similarly, government officials have no right to interfere in ecclesiastical matters in a way that undermines or disregards the God-given authority of pastors and elders,” they wrote.
Therefore, 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, the elders explained.
Pastor MacArthur and the elders also point out something we’ve been discussing on my national radio show for a number of weeks — that this “temporary” shutdown may not be temporary.
“Major public events that were planned for 2021 are already being canceled, signaling that officials are preparing to keep restrictions in place into next year and beyond,” they wrote. “That forces churches to choose between the clear command of our Lord and the government officials. Therefore, following the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, we gladly choose to obey Him.”