Brian Houston, founder and global senior pastor of Hillsong Church, stresses that getting the COVID-19 vaccine is a “personal decision” following the recent death of a congregant who refused to get the vaccine and died from the virus.
On Wednesday, Stephen Harmon, a member of Hillsong Los Angeles, died from COVID-19 after he was hospitalized from the virus on June 30. He was 34.
During his time in the hospital, Harmon also got pneumonia as a result of COVID-19.
According to posts on his social media page, which has since been made private, Harmon expressed opposition to getting the COVID-19 vaccine, CBS LOS Angeles reports.
“Got 99 problems but a vax ain’t one,” he wrote tweeted in June.
In a July 8 Instagram post, however, he clarified that he was not “anti-vax” but rather, he was “pro information.”
“I’m not against it, I’m just not in a rush to get it,” Harmon explained at the time. “Ironically, as I continue to lay here ... in my covid ward isolation room fighting off the virus and pneumonia.”
Harmon added that he still couldn’t get the vaccine if he recovered.
A day before his death, Harmon tweeted that he was going under intubation, which is the procedure used on patients when they can no longer breathe on their own.
“I’ve fought this thing as hard as I can but unfortunately it’s reached a point of critical choice & as much as I hate having to do this I’d rather it be willingness than forced emergency procedure. don’t know when I’ll wake up, please pray,” he said.
In a now-deleted post on social media last week, Houston announced Harmon’s death.
“Stephen was just a young man in his early 30s,” Houston wrote last Thursday, according to The Christian Post. “He was one of the most generous people I know and he had so much in front of him.”
In a recent statement to CNN, Houston further elaborated on Harmon’s death, saying that “any loss of life is a moment to mourn and offer support to those who are suffering and so our heartfelt prayers are with his family and those who loved him.”
Houston stressed that Hillsong’s focus was on spiritual well-being and that its members should “follow the guidance of their doctors” when it comes to “any medical issue.”
“While many of our staff, leadership and congregation have already received the Covid-19 vaccine, we recognize this is a personal decision for each individual to make with the counsel of medical professionals,” he concluded.
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Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer. He is also the co-hosts of the For Your Soul podcast, which seeks to equip the church with biblical truth and sound doctrine. Visit his blog Blessed Are The Forgiven.