Bias Watch

Church cancels “faith healings” due to coronavirus

A man being faith-healed by a woman's hands. Faith healing is represented by a white light. It's a stock image.
Photo: Shutterstock

A well-known megachurch that promotes conversion therapy has canceled faith healing hospital visits to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

The Bethel Church in Redding, California is known for their belief that prayer can heal physical illnesses, but they’re telling their faith healers to stay away from hospitals at the moment.

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A man who lives in the same county as the church tested positive last week for coronavirus, but no members of the church have tested positive so far.

But they aren’t taking any chances. The church has canceled missionary trips and is telling congregants who are feeling sick to stay home. They’re encouraging their over 9000 members to wash their hands frequently, too.

They say they’re not yet ready to close the church but that they’re working with public health officials.

“We believe that wisdom, modern medicine, and faith are meant to work together, and express the value for each in the pursuit of continued health and healing,” church spokesperson Aaron Tesauro said.

People who have actually experienced Bethel Church’s faith healing, though, say that the church’s claims are stronger than that. One woman who wanted to remain anonymous told the Sacramento Bee that two members of the church approached her when she was in the emergency room in a Redding hospital.

The two members were students at the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry, which says that it teaches students to, among other things, “heal the sick” and “cast out demons.”

They said, according to the woman, that “they would pray over the people there and put Jesus in their hearts and this would heal us all and we didn’t need to stay at the ER and could go home,” she said. She later filed a complaint when one of the church members touched her five-year-old daughter.

Bethel Church said that the two congregants believed they had permission from the woman to faith-heal the daughter.

“It’s clear that when it comes to something really serious like coronavirus, their actions speak louder than their words,” said Michael Shermer, a professor at Chapman University who has been a critic of the church. “So, God is omniscient and omnipotent and can cure diseases if he wants, but just in case: wash your hands!”

Bethel Church promotes conversion therapy. For example, a post from their Instagram from just last year promoted the ex-gay organization Changed. Bethel said that LGBTQ people turned straight “through encounters with the love of Jesus.”

View this post on Instagram

Post 2 of 5: Jesus gives His love freely to all, regardless of where we are in our individual journeys. When Jesus enters into our lives, He engages with our deepest feelings and beliefs. He knows us better than we know ourselves and wants to lead us into His vision for humanity. Sometimes, that is countercultural. The love of Christ declares, “I want you! I am for you! And only I satisfy!” His love gently leads us to surrendering all—even what we believe about ourselves—in order to be fully satisfied and full of life.⠀ _⠀ CHANGED is a community of friends who once identified as LGBTQ+ and through encounters with the love of Jesus, have experienced His freedom in their lives. @changedmvmt wants to invite you to look deeper, to go beyond the cultural labels and expectations, and to find lasting fulfillment. To learn more or receive help on your journey, visit #oncegay (Link in profile)

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The church also shared the story of a woman who claims that she was a lesbian who became heterosexual after she “studied Christian doctrine.”

View this post on Instagram

Post 1 of 5: "Throughout most of my life I always felt excluded, and I questioned my sexuality and my gender. I didn’t feel like a girl, but I also didn’t identify as a boy. I 'came out' when I was in my early twenties after a brief marriage to a man fell apart. I felt lesbianism explained my childhood and young adult experiences. I thought I was finally being authentic and true to myself. I felt powerful and asserted myself in stereotypically masculine ways. I attended seminary as an openly gay student. ⠀ _⠀ "After seminary, I began working with youth, but questioned my faith. In that season, I reevaluated what I believed about God, what I believed about the Bible and what I believed about myself. I resolved to follow my faith sacrificially, which required re-evaluating what I understood the Christian sexual ethic to be. Up to that point, I believed I was born gay and that God had created me that way. As I further studied Christian doctrine, I no longer believed I was born a lesbian. My experience of God’s love, the Christian community around me, and my desire to pursue a life of prayer had a dramatic influence on my life.⠀ _⠀ "I pursued pastoral care and counseling that addressed my childhood hurts and perceptions. I acknowledged that I had rejected myself as a woman. I did not specifically seek change in my sexuality; nevertheless, I began experiencing changes in my desires. I became attracted to a man (which was one of the most unexpected and humiliating experiences of my life since I had so fully identified as a lesbian). He and I got married and have had a strong marriage of 13 years thus far. Today I am happy, joyful, and feminine – all things I never was while living as a lesbian. I am no longer sexually attracted to women. Rather, I am a strong advocate for their empowerment." – Elizabeth Woning #oncegay #iamHis @changedmvmt

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The church lobbied against California’s attempt to ban conversion therapy in 2018. In a livestreamed sermon, Bethel pastor Kris Vallotton told congregants to send letters to their representatives to oppose the legislation.

“In 2018, we took a position in favor of this belief by advocating for legislation that would ensure access to counseling and other resources for those who do not wish to embrace same-sex attraction,” a church spokesperson told The Daily Beast last year. “The purpose of our advocacy was to protect all people’s freedom to access resources that they feel will best aid them in their personal journey.”

“We stand against any and all forms of therapy that involve manipulation, force, humiliation, or physical harm to bring about change in one’s sexuality.”

Even though they believe that God can “change” LGBTQ people, a church spokesperson said “it’s foolish to take unnecessary risks” when it comes to coronavirus.

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