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US pastor apologises for holding church service in defiance of ban

Published: (Updated: ) in Australian News by .

A pastor in Pennsylvania is facing a public backlash after holding a church service in defiance of guidelines urging no public gatherings larger than 10 people.

A pastor in Pennsylvania is facing a public backlash after holding a church service in defiance of guidelines urging no public gatherings larger than 10 people.

Tom Walters, senior pastor of Word of Life Church of Greensburg, has now apologised on church's Facebook page for the service on Sunday and his refusal to follow government guidelines on the coronavirus.

Earlier he described the advice as an "attack" on the church.

"I don't want anyone telling us we can't worship our God collectively as a body," Rev. Walters said during his sermon.

"This could possibly be, disguised in everything else, a direct attack against the church itself."

The US Centres for Disease Control recommends no public gatherings larger than 10 people.

Rev. Walters' defiant tone in holding what local media described as a "large gathering" provoked fierce reaction on social media.

He has now apologised and explained on Facebook that he and the staff did not ask anyone to attend but opened the doors to those who wanted to join the service.

The pastor maintained "it was not out of arrogance or defiance, but solely for the purpose of praying for our churches, communities and nation" that the church opened.

The church will hold livestream-only services for the foreseeable future, Rev. Walters says.

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The incident follows another pastor in Louisiana who defied an order not to hold gatherings of larger than 50 people, instead drawing about 1000 to a Sunday service.

Pastor Tony Spell said his Life Tabernacle Church in Baton Rouge drew the crowd to its services, in part by busing people in from across five parishes, reports CNN.

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The pastor plans to hold services again, despite the governor's stay-at-home orders, a petition seeking his arrest and a flood of criticism from fellow Christians.

Rev. Spell has said he believes the pandemic is "politically motivated".

Local police said they are investigating the service.

Earlier this month, Lousiana Governor John Bel Edwards issued an emergency order barring gatherings of larger than 50 people to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Source: 9News https://www.9news.com.au/world/coronavirus-us-pastor-defies-mass-gatherings-covid-19-word-of-life-church/7dc8fa4c-4126-4d05-ba3c-1e888cac9c67

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