n EFCA West church violated California’s guidelines on the COVID-19 pandemic. The Bridge Fresno as led by Andrew Smith decided to hold an indoor service despite Fresno County being moved to the Purple tier. It is a poor decision and raises a lot of questions, especially with a COVID outbreak and at least two staff testing positive for the virus. Staff’s health was threatened, the church was exposed to risk possibly even affecting its insurance policy. Plus pastors like Andrew Smith should not be making medical decisions. Leave that to the Centers for Disease Control and trained medical professionals as that is what they are trained to do. Let them do their job, and Andrew Smith needs to learn how to his, because this blog is not impressed by what I have learned. But this issue within a pandemic boils down to one simple question this blog has for the EFCA, and its EFCA West District Superintendent Tim Jacobs. What is more important? Money or human life?
“For me, no ideological or political conviction would justify the sacrifice of a human life. For me, the value of life is absolute, with no concessions. It’s not negotiable.”
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
John 14:6 ESV
Tim Jacobs who leads EFCA West
In this video the EFCA’s Andrew Smith of The Bridge Fresno states that despite new restrictions in California, this EFCA Church will continue with indoor services. The church ended up closing because of a COVID-19 infection among EFCA staff.
This is a post that has loomed in my mind last night and off and on throughout the following day. In a pandemic you learn a lot about society, culture and what is of importance to people. Pandemics bring out the best and also the worst aspects of humanity. And this blog has been seeing it frequently, since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Early on this blog wrote a post about how the COVID-19 pandemic will reveal the systemic problems and flaws of evangelical Christianity. You can read about this in, “How the COVID-19 Pandemic is Going to Reveal the Dark Flaws and Systemic Issues of Evangelical Christianity.” Since the pandemic descended upon the United States that has indeed been seen.
Yesterday this blog learned of a disturbing situation that shows how Andrew Smith of The Bridge Fresno has exceptionally poor judgment. On November 17, 2020 The Bridge Fresno released a video explaining why they were going to have indoor worship service despite California going into more restrictions because of the COVID-19 spread. That included Fresno County entering the Purple Tier. Andrew said that we know more medically about the coronavirus than we did in March. He also said that he was going to go against the recommendations and thus defy them. You can hear all this in the YouTube video up above. About a week after that video was released there was an outbreak of COVID-19 among the staff of The Bridge Fresno. At least two staff members were infected and The Bridge Fresno did not release the names of who was infected, so that prevented people who attended or who interacted with the staff from knowing. That is irresponsible of The Bridge Fresno. You can read more about the situation in, “The EFCA’s Bridge Fresno Defies California Health Guidelines About COVID-19. Meanwhile a COVID-19 Infection Breaks Out Among Bridge Fresno Staff.” The behavior of The Bridge Fresno is troubling and concerning on many levels. And while the EFCA is committed to congregationalism it also needs to understand the risks and problems that exist in this situation. The EFCA is opening itself up to risk.
Could The Bridge Fresno Have its Rates Hiked Considerably or Even Lose its Insurance Due to Andrew Smith’s Neglect?
Let’s consider this in greater detail. Did Andrew Smith in choosing to have an indoor service and go against California guidance put employees at The Bridge Fresno at risk? Did his poor decision making result in some of his staff coming down with the COVID-19 virus? If they stuck to outside or did virtual services would the staff have been protected from COVID-19? Yes they would in the view of this blog. But what about The Bridge Fresno’s insurance carrier. By taking that risk and going against state guidance and law are they also taking action that will allow for increase insurance rates or even a possible loss of insurance? These are questions that go through my mind as I stop and think this situation through.
An EFCA Pastor Should Not be Making Medical Decisions. Leave that to Dr. Fauci, CDC or the Likes of John Hopkins University
This is another aspect of Andrew Smith’s decision making process that I find deeply troubling. Andrew Smith said that we know a lot about COVID-19. And since we know a lot more we can do more things in that regard. He said that we can adapt and move forward. Smith even quoted from a Stanford study, and while I have a deep respect for Stanford I don’t think that is how one goes about making decisions of this nature. Quite simply Andrew Smith is not a physician. He does not have the medical training or the background to make such decisions. In the United States we have people who attend medical school and spend years being trained in medicine. We have organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and professionals like Dr. Anthony Fauci who are trained to make these kinds of decisions. They know infectious disease as they work with it. They have poured their life into their career. The CDC and some of the top universities in the country – John Hopkins, University of Washington, University of Chicago, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, University of California San Francisco, Harvard and yes Stanford to are some of the fine institutions working hard on breaking down and studying the COVID-19 virus. The CDC after examining situations and studying them then releases papers which often affect policy in the United States. The CDC and top medical experts are who should be making decisions, and they should be followed. Andrew Smith isn’t trained in this area. I am not trained either but I acknowledge the experts and look to them for advice and guidance. In the process it shows deference, respect, humility, and most important knowing your limits. Growing up in a medical family taught me to be open and consider perspectives from different sides. In the middle of the pandemic you don’t latch onto one study and base everything upon that as its not the way to do it. Some have done that to try and undermine face masks which are proven and safe. Organizations like the CDC wade through the fog and make decisions and help pave the way forward.
Quarantining is Hard. I Acknowledge that Fact But One Should Be Careful About Proceeding
Quarantining and being at home is hard. I know as I have been stuck at home since the pandemic began in March. Its hard on your mental health and I can see some of the issues that go along with it. Not only that but medical professionals are also addressing the issue as well. So are mental health professionals. The Mayo Clinic has written about this topic. The CDC has also tackled this issue. Medical journals like Lancet have written about the stress of the pandemic. That can not be denied. However, why is that being used as an excuse to then place people at risk for infection of COVID-19? Mental health professionals have suggestions for dealing with some of the issues and perhaps its time they be listened to during this pandemic. Its a tension and I understand why some want to move forward. Personally, I would love to just resume the life I had before COVID, but one needs to proceed carefully. And I don’t think Andrew Smith is doing that either. If anything I feel he is grasping for straws to support his conclusions. After all as I wrote about in the post the other day he didn’t care about abuse situations in other context. He tuned over his pulpit to Bryan Loritts who was involved in covering up a voyeurism and child pornography scandal at Acts 29 Fellowship Memphis in Tennessee. You can read about that in, “Rick Trotter is Sentenced for Illegally Recording “UpSkirt” Videos at Richard Rieves Downtown Church and Goes on the Tennessee Sex Offender List; Plus Bryan Loritts Speaking Commitments Including my Former Church in California, The Bridge Fresno” and if you don’t want to read my article you can read about the scandal in newspapers like the Memphis Commercial Appeal. My blog went deeper and dragged out more of the scandal and used some of the same resources the newspaper did. But Andrew Smith didn’t care about abuse in other situations, why does he care now?
Tim Jacobs, What is More Important to the EFCA? Money or Human Life?
And this blog post would like to end with this question being posed to Tim Jacobs of EFCA West and the larger EFCA organization as a whole. What is more important to the EFCA? Is it money or is it human life? Pandemics reveal intentions and motivations of organizations and society. What side of history does the EFCA want to fall on? I would propose that churches can be rebuilt and businesses in time can recover. It will be exceedingly hard, this blog acknowledges that fact. But can a human life be brought back from the dead after its lost because of COVID? And to this situation I also bring this disturbing reality. I know at least 15 people who have had CPVID and am aware of five COVID deaths. I’ve live streamed on YouTube one funeral and one memorial service. Those put a name on COVID-19 and take a pandemic and make it personal. I am not speaking in randomness but of knowing close people who have suffered because of how COVID-19 operates. A virus like this shows no mercy and will not discriminate. The EFCA should not be reckless about this issue. When a life is lost it is lost forever, as death is final and cannot be undone. Its why this blog is so troubled by the behavior of Andrew Smith. So Tim Jacobs as the EFCA West District Superintendent this blog would like to ask you…what is more important to the EFCA? Money or human life? How you answer will reveal volumes about the EFCA and its mission, ethics, Christian values, faith in God, and the core of the denomination. Its your choice in situations like this but one should be able to back up their decision so that in the future one can still be proud and stand behind the decision.