Leader of Revival International Ministries and The River at Tampa Bay Church in Florida, Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne, appears to be mending fences with Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister who had him arrested in March for hosting in-person church services during the coronavirus pandemic.
Howard-Browne, who had warned that Chronister would have to “deal with Jesus" for his decision to arrest him, announced in a post on Facebook on April 29 that he met with the sheriff at his home and discussed plans to reopen the county.
“Breaking News: So honored to meet with Sheriff Chad Chronister today! He came to our house and met with @adonicashowardbrowne and I. We had a great lunch together. We discussed the way forward in the opening up of Hillsborough County and the role of the @rivertampabay River Church in cooperation with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s department. It’s time to get our County back to normalcy - thank you Sheriff Chronister,” he wrote.
Chronister confirmed the meeting in a statement to the Tampa Bay Times.
“I met with Pastor Howard-Browne to discuss the future, not the past,” the sheriff said. “We have committed to moving forward together.”
The megachurch pastor was arrested in March for what officials said was the violation of a "safer-at-home" order, which prohibited large worship services during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. His arrest order shows that he was charged with unlawful assembly and violation of public health emergency rules, which are both second-degree misdemeanors, punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a maximum fine of $500.
The charges are being contested on the megachurch pastor’s behalf by Liberty Counsel, a nonprofit litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family.
At the time of Howard-Browne’s arrest, Chronister — who had previously appeared at the pastor’s church as a guest of honor during his “Sheriff Appreciation Day” — called the pastor’s decision to hold in-person worship services “reckless.”
"Our goal is not to stop people from worshiping," Chronister said at a news conference, "but the safety and well-being of our community must always come first.
"It’s a shame that someone has taken advantage of this. For whatever reason, I just don’t understand it. The only reason I can see is it’s a reckless reason – to put your parishioners in jeopardy," the sheriff said.
Many Floridians were upset about Howard-Browne’s arrest, Florida Politics reported, and Brian Boswell, a former Hillsborough County Sheriff’s detective, has filed to run against Chronister for his position. Boswell served 25 years with HCSO but was forced out of his position after disciplinary action dating back to 2014 triggered a demotion, reduction in pay, suspensions and ultimately his job, the publication noted.
Howard-Browne said Chronister will be at his church as soon as it's open for worship services again.
“Sheriff Chad will be there on the opening Sunday when we restart in-house meetings. We will keep you posted as to when that will be,” Howard-Browne noted.