Bob Bryant, associate pastor of a California megachurch that defied a state order and instead opened for indoor services has died after getting infected with the virus, the church announced this week.
Bryant, 58, died just weeks after the Water of Life Community Church in Fontana in Southern California moved services inside, defying a California regulation that allows only outdoor services.
The late husband and father of four children will be honored at a memorial service Monday inside the church, according to the church website, again in defiance of health regulations.
Bryant became sick and did not return to the church after he began experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, according to a church spokesperson.
He suffered “aggressive pneumonia” and a heart attack, and was placed on a ventilator, his wife, Lori Snider Bryant, said in a Facebook post.
Dan Carroll, senior pastor of the 20,000-member Water of Life church, didn’t address the controversy over the church’s decision to ignore health regulations.
“It’s very painful,” Carroll said of Bryant’s death in an interview with KABC. “The whole COVID experience is very painful.”
Carroll was one of several church leaders who signed a letter in mid-May vowing to reopen his church regardless of state restrictions designed to help stem the tide of COVID-19 infections.
“We’re not here to be activists, we’re not here to be rebels; we’re here to be helpers,” Carroll said at a news conference at the time. He complained that “Californians of faith” felt as if they’d been “kicked to the curb” and “marginalized.”
A federal judge ruled May 5 that Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) had the right to ban church indoor assemblies during the coronavirus outbreak.
Bob Bryant, 58, pastor at the Water of Life Community Church in San Bernardino County, California died from COVID-19, five weeks after his megachurch REOPENED in DEFIANCE of the state’s ban on indoor religious services. https://t.co/IQFrAvvdVv pic.twitter.com/mIQRMHxcaE
— Cleavon MD (@Cleavon_MD) December 5, 2020