A prominent central Virginia bishop passed away after contracting the coronavirus, his church announced.
The New Deliverance Evangelistic Church said its founder and bishop, Bishop Gerald O. Glenn, died Saturday, the day before Easter.
According to The New York Times and multiple other outlets, the bishop in March defied warnings about the danger of religious gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic and vowed to keep preaching “unless I’m in jail or the hospital.”
The bishop’s wife also tested positive for the virus, their daughter wrote on the church’s Facebook page. Mar-Gerie Crawley said her father was on a ventilator at the hospital before his passing.
“It becomes very real to you,” Crawley wrote on Facebook. “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.”
The Times reported that during a March 22 sermon, about a week before the state’s stay-at-home order, Glenn preached to worshipers inside his church. The sermon was also uploaded to YouTube but has since been removed.
“I firmly believe that God is larger than this dreaded virus. You can quote me on that, you can quote me on that. I am essential, I’m a preacher. I talk to God!” the bishop said.
“Please be in prayer with us for Mother Marcietia Glenn, our first family & the NDEC church family,” the church said in a Facebook post after the bishop’s passing.
According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Glenn worked in a variety of other roles throughout his career, including as director of the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice, and he helped run then-Gov. Mark Warner’s Crime in Minority Communities Initiative Task Force.
“Bishop Glenn was my great friend for more than 20 years,” Warner, now a U.S. Senator, said in a statement Sunday. “He was an extraordinary spiritual and community leader, and we will all miss him very much.”
Virginia’s other Senator, Tim Kaine, also weighed in, saying on Twitter, “He was a friend and pillar of Richmond faith community. May all do as much for so many.”
The New Deliverance Evangelistic Church said it will announce funeral arrangements in the coming days.