Hillsong founder says Covid vaccine a personal choice after church member dies

·2 min read
Stephen Harmon died after contract Covid. (Instagram/StephenHarmon)
Stephen Harmon died after contract Covid. (Instagram/StephenHarmon)

The founder of the Hillsong global megachurch is pro-choice when it comes to Covid vaccines.

Senior Pastor Brian Houston encouraged his flock to follow medical guidance while calling the vaccine a “personal decision” following the death of California church member Stephen Harmon.

Mr Harmon, 34, attended Hillsong Church in Los Angeles and spoke out against the vaccine on social media before catching Covid, according to CBS Los Angeles.

In a written statement to the outlet, Mr Houston said his death was a “sad day” for his friends and family.

“As a church, our focus is on the spiritual well-being of the people in each of our local communities. On any medical issue, we strongly encourage those in our church to follow the guidance of their doctors,” the statement said.

“While many of our staff, leadership and congregation have already received the Covid-19 vaccine, we recognise this is a personal decision for each individual to make with the counsel of medical professionals.”

Mr Harmon had chronicled his vaccine scepticism and subsequent battle with Covid in social media posts that have since been removed or protected.

According to reports of the posts before they were hidden, he tweeted on 33 June: “If you’re having email problems, I feel bad for you, son. I got 99 problems but a vax ain’t one!”

“Biden’s door to door vaccine ‘surveyors’ really should be called JaCovid Witnesses. #keepmovingdork,” he wrote in a separate tweet reported by Insider.

As he fought the virus at the Corona Regional Medical Centre, his rhetoric on the vaccine began to soften. He wrote on 8 July that he was not against the vaccine but he was just not in a rush to get it.

“Ironically, as I continue to lay here … in my Covid ward isolation room fighting off the virus and pneumonia,” he added in the Instagram post, according to CNN.

In his last post alongside a photo in hospital on Wednesday 21 June, Mr Harmon said he had chosen to be intubated.

“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 [sic] rather it be willingness than forced emergency procedure,” he wrote. “Don’t know when I’ll wake up, please pray.”

His posts are no longer viewable online and neither is the initial confirmation of his death from Mr Houston, who said on Instagram the next day that Mr Harmon had died as a result of Covid.

“He was one of the most generous people I know and he had so much in front of him,” Mr Houston wrote in the since-deleted post.