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 also tested positive for the illness, 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, 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, the New York Post reported.
Video of the service shows dozens of people in the church. 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 nonessential 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 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.