Conservative Pastor Says His Church 'Will Never Close' Because of Coronavirus: 'We're Raising Up Revivalists, Not Pansies'

A conservative evangelical pastor has told his followers he will not be closing his church amid the coronavirus outbreak because they are not "pansies."

Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne, leader of the Florida-based Revival Ministries International, even went as far as telling his congregation to shake each other's hands while he was delivering his sermon at the River Tampa Bay Church on March 16.

"Well I know they don't want us to do this, but just turn around and greet two, three people. Tell them you love them, Jesus loves them," Howards-Browne said, according to the website Right Wing Watch.

"Listen, this has to be the safest place. If you cannot be saved in church, you in serious trouble."

Authorities have repeatedly warned people against shaking hands, and advise frequently washing your own hands and avoiding touching your face and eyes.

The Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also recommended that all mass gatherings events with 50 or more people be canceled for the eight weeks in order to help prevent the spread of the virus.

Speaking during his sermon, which was attended by a large crowd of people, Howard-Browne said he has no plans to cancel his congregations.

"We are not stopping anything," he said. "I've got news for you, this church will never close. The only time the church will close is when the Rapture is taking place.

"This Bible school is open because we're raising up revivalists, not pansies."

In 2017, Howard-Browne visited the White House in order to "lay hands" on President Donald Trump in the Oval Office, along with several other pastors.

The same day as Howard-Browne's sermon, Trump tweeted advice on how people "stop the spread" of coronavirus, which included limiting handshakes.

Last month, Howard-Browne claimed he has plans to stop the coronavirus having previously "cursed" Zika from Florida in the name of Jesus, but will only do so in the U.S.

"We are doing the same thing with the coronavirus," Howard-Browne said in a video posted on his Periscope on February 24. "We do not need it on these shores, and somebody said 'Well, what about the rest of the world?' I mean, I can't be responsible for every city, or whatever."

The pastor, known for his "holy laughter" sermons, also made headlines in January after suggesting Jesus Christ should have "beat the crap out of" former National Security Adviser John Bolton for turning against President Donald Trump with his book and suggesting there was a quid pro quo agreement with Ukraine—the main basis of the president's impeachment trial.

Howard-Browne's church has been contacted for further comment.

There have been more than 3,370 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the U.S., with 69 fatalities, according to Johns Hopkins University. A total of 12 patients have managed to recover from the virus.

church
(File photo) Christ Episcopal Church Georgetown is shown March 09, 2020 in Washington, DC. A Florida-based evangelical pastor said he will not be closing his church amid the coronavirus outbreak because they are not “pansies.” Win McNamee/Getty

World Health Organization advice for avoiding spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Hygiene advice:

  • Clean hands frequently with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Wash hands after coughing or sneezing; when caring for the sick; before; during and after food preparation; before eating; after using the toilet; when hands are visibly dirty; and after handling animals or waste.
  • Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your hands, nose and mouth. Do not spit in public.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing. Discard the tissue immediately and clean your hands.

Medical advice

  • If you feel unwell (fever, cough, difficulty breathing) seek medical care early and call local health authorities in advance.
  • Stay up to date on COVID-19 developments issued by health authorities and follow their guidance.

Mask usage

  • Healthy individuals only need to wear a mask if taking care of a sick person.
  • Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
  • Masks are effective when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning.
  • Do not touch the mask while wearing it. Clean hands if you touch the mask.
  • Learn how to properly put on, remove and dispose of masks. Clean hands after disposing of mask.
  • Do not reuse single-use masks.