Pastor dies from coronavirus after defying state's social distancing order; wife, family infected

Bishop Gerald O. Glenn
The late Bishop Gerald O. Glenn of New Deliverance Evangelistic Church in Chesterfield, Va. |

Weeks after he defied a social distancing order with a crowded church service, Bishop Gerald O. Glenn of New Deliverance Evangelistic Church in Chesterfield, Virginia, died from complications of the coronavirus while other infected members of his family, including his widow, are fighting to recover. Glenn was 66.

“It is with an exceedingly sorrowful and heavy heart that I come to you this morning and regret to inform you that last night, April 11 at 11 p.m., our father, Bishop Gerald Glenn, transitioned from labor to reward. I can’t lie, the first thing I asked God was why?” Bryan Nevers, a church elder, announced in a video posted to the church’s Facebook page.

Bishop Glenn’s wife, Marcietia Glenn, three of their children and their son-in-law have also tested positive for the new coronavirus, 8News reported. Marcietia Glenn and the couple’s son are at home recovering. Two of their daughters and their son-in-law are still hospitalized.

In his announcement on Sunday, Nevers urged the church to pray for their recovery.

“Bishop and mother, right now both Derek and Amanda are currently hospitalized with pneumonia in both lungs. We are believing God for healing right now in the name of Jesus. Saints, don’t stop praying,” he said. “Our bishop has always told us as they wheeled him into the operating room, he’ll proclaim that God is still a healer. We now have a duty to embrace one another in the love of Jesus.”

Virginia’s Democratic Gov. Ralph S. Northam announced on March 17 that residents should avoid nonessential gatherings of more than 10 people, in line with federal guidelines on social distancing.

In a fiery church service on March 22, Bishop Glenn who died declared: “I firmly believe that God is larger than this dreaded virus. You can quote me on that.”

He also insisted that his job as a pastor was essential and he would keep his church “unless I’m in jail or the hospital.”

“Practice discipline. Keep 6 feet, better keep 6 feet. And don’t forget that you could be one day 6 feet under,” he quipped during the sermon.

“I just you know, I can’t make y’all think like I’m thinking, but this thing has helped me. It has made me realize my own mortality. And I can honestly tell you of a truth today. If I die, I’m not worried about death,” he said.

“I will not be afraid, I will not be subject. I told my children, don’t be afraid, don’t be neurotic. Yes, it’s out there, but God is out there too. You ought to never talk about the virus without talking about God. Every time somebody talks about the virus you ought to say ‘Jesus.’ When they talk corona, you ought to say ‘to God!’ God is bigger than the virus, God is bigger than our struggles, He’s bigger,” the late bishop said.

Just three days after that message, the bishop began feeling sick, his widow told 8News.

She said her late husband then made several trips to the doctor but his symptoms were thought to be caused by an underlying health condition. He was tested for the coronavirus on April 3 and the results came back positive.

“I want to say to people, don’t take anything, push, push and keep pushing because I think the doctors are doing everything they can and know to do,” M. Glenn told 8News. “This is so new.”

She remembered her late husband as “a loving, compassionate, fair man” and noted that it was hard grieving in isolation.

“It’s been very hard to go through something like this with the isolation on top of it,” the bishop’s widow said.

In his announcement Sunday, Nevers praised his pastor for his stewardship of the church.

“Bishop has taught us that God is big enough to handle our ‘why?’ Bishop has touched our lives in so many ways. We at NDEC share so many of life’s important memories with bishop and mother. Bishop has been there when we were sick, prayed for healing. Bishop has been there when we’ve gotten married, leading us in our sacred vows before God. Bishop has been there for the birth of our children and later leading us into the dedication ceremony. Bishop and mother have been there with us at our spouse’s deathbed comforting through Scripture, prayers and tender words,” he said.

“Most importantly, Bishop Glenn has faithfully stood in this pulpit, Sunday after Sunday and Wednesday after Wednesday preaching the word of God with power. Leading us to the Lord and helping us grow in our relationship with Christ. Our Bishop epitomizes the words of Scripture in Jeremiah. 3:15. ‘Then I would give you shepherds after my own heart who will lead you with knowledge and understanding.

“Our bishop has been a friend as well as a spiritual shepherd to so many of us here at New Deliverance and around the country. He will be missed by us all. NDEC as we enter into prayer in the morning for the next 30 days, let us continue to pray for mother Glenn and the first family. They need our prayers saints,” he said.

Bishop Glenn’s death is attracting national reaction from many, including Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia.

“My heart sinks as I learn this morning that Bishop Gerald Glenn, pastor of New Deliverance Evangelistic Church, died yesterday from COVID-19,” Mr. Kaine wrote on Twitter on Sunday. “He was a friend and pillar of Richmond faith community. May all do as much for so many.”

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