Bishop Gerald O. Glenn, 66, of New Deliverance Evangelistic Church in Virginia, died over the weekend after testing positive for COVID-19. His death comes after he defied social distancing guidelines to avoid mass gatherings.
Bryan Nevers, a church elder, announced that Bishop Glenn had died on the congregation's Facebook page.
“The first thing I asked God is, ‘Why?’” Nevers said in a video. “The bishop has touched our lives in so many ways.”
The bishop's wife, Mother Marcietia Glenn, 65, also tested positive for the virus, according to the couple's daughter, Mar-Gerie Crawley. Crawley had previously stated that her father was on a ventilator.
“It becomes very real to you,” Crawley wrote in a Facebook post. “I just beg people to understand the severity and the seriousness of this, because people are saying it’s not just about us, it’s about everyone around us.”
"He has diverticulitis, so it's not uncommon for him to get fevers or you know virus or sinus infection," Crawley explained in the post.
"The next day he was very lethargic, so my mom decided that evening, once his breathing became labored, she took him back [to the hospital] and at that point they kept him," Crawley said. "They did the COVID-19 test on him and we got it back that day and it was positive."
Bishop Glenn's death comes after he opposed social distancing guidelines that told Americans to avoid nonessential gatherings. On March 17, Gov. Ralph S. Northam told Virginians to heed federal guidelines and avoid gatherings of more than ten people.
On March 22, Bishop Gleen preached to a group of a "few dozen" at an in-person service according to local media. "I firmly believe that God is larger than this dreaded virus," Bishop Glenn told worshipers.
According to the New York Times, Bishop Glenn had also stated that he would keep preaching “unless I’m in jail or the hospital.”
The next day, March 23, Gov. Northam issued an executive order banning all public and private gatherings of 10 people or more. Days later on April 4, Bishop Glenn's daughter revealed her parent's diagnosis.
In a post announcing Bishop Glenn's death, the church asked others to allow the "First Family to grieve in their own way."
"It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of our beloved Bishop Gerald O. Glenn, the Founder, and Pastor of New Deliverance Evangelistic Church on Saturday, April 11. at 9:00 p.m," the church said.
"Please be in prayer with us for Mother Marcietia Glenn, our first family, and the NDEC church family. We ask that you respectfully allow our First Family to grieve in their own way."
Another Richmond Pastor, Pastor Joe Ellison Jr, told CBS 6 that he looked up to Bishop Glenn.
"You know my heart is heavy. You know this is a tough one. You know this is a blow to the body of Christ," he said.
"I said this guy is not only a pastor. Even back then I saw the calling of a Bishop on his life, because he was a pastor to other pastors. And that's what made Bishop Glenn so unique."
"He made me realize that I could be an outstanding pastor, outstanding husband, an outstanding father most importantly, an outstanding leader."
Pastor Ellison said that the last time he spoke to Glenn, the Bishop was consoling him about the passing of his brother.
"The last thing he said was, 'I love you son... Love your family... and I'll see you soon,'" Ellison recounted. "Not knowing that would be the last time that I would talk to him."
U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner of Virginia issued a statement after Glenn's death, saying: "Bishop Glenn was my great friend for more than 20 years. He was an extraordinary spiritual and community leader, and we will all miss him very much."
Senator Tim Kaine, also of Virginia, added: "My heart sinks as I learn this morning that Bishop Gerald Glenn, pastor of New Deliverance Evangelistic Church, died yesterday from COVID-19. He was a friend and pillar of the Richmond faith community. May all do as much for so many."
The best way to prevent contracting or spreading coronavirus is with thorough hand washing and social distancing. If you feel you may be experiencing symptoms of coronavirus, which include persistent cough (usually dry), fever, shortness of breath, and fatigue, please call your doctor before going to get tested. For comprehensive resources and updates, visit the CDC website. If you are experiencing anxiety about the virus, seek out mental health support from your provider or visit NAMI.org.