A US pastor who defied social-distancing rules to host large congregations has died after contracting coronavirus.
The New Deliverance Evangelistic Church, which he founded in 1995, said Bishop Gerald Glenn had died over the weekend.
The 66-year-old had publicly rejected official guidelines to avoid large religious gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic and promised to keep preaching “unless I’m in jail or the hospital”.
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Video shows him addressing his congregation in Richmond, Virginia, five days after state governor Ralph Northam urged people to “avoid non-essential gatherings of more than 10 people”.
He told his congregation: “I firmly believe that God is larger than this dreaded virus.”
It is unclear how long after the 22 March address he became ill with COVID-19, but church elder Bryan Nevers announced the death during an Easter sermon, a video of which was posted on Facebook.
He said: “The first thing I asked God is, ‘Why?’. The bishop has touched our lives in so many ways.”
US senator Tim Kaine was among those to pay tribute to Bishop Glenn, who was the first black chaplain for his local Chesterfield County Police Department.
“He was a friend and a pillar of the region’s faith community,” he said on Twitter.
“My heart sinks as I learn this morning that Bishop Gerald Glenn, pastor of New Deliverance Evangelistic Church, died yesterday from COVID-19. May all do as much for so many.”