Brian Houston, the founder and global senior pastor of Hillsong Church, emphasized his belief that getting the Covid-19 vaccine was a "personal decision" despite seeing the direct effects in his congregation.
On Wednesday, Hillsong reported that Stephen Harmon, a 34-year-old attendee of Hillsong Los Angeles, died from Covid after being infected on June 30. Harmon also caught pneumonia in the process, thus complicating his medical recovery. Local news outlets found that Harmon was a vocal opponent of the vaccine, tweeting several times in opposition. Instead, his faith was an integral tool in his recovery. In a tweet posted three days before Harmon's death, he said, "If you don't have faith that God can heal me over your stupid ventilator then keep the Hell out of my ICU room, there's no room in here for fear or lack of faith!" Harmon described himself as not anti-vax but "pro-information."
Houston had several positive things to say about Harmon. In an interview with the Christian Post, Houston described Harmon as "one of the most generous people I know, and he had so much in front of him." Houston expressed that he mourned Harmon's death, telling CNN 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."
However, Harmon also emphasized trusting medical professionals. He wanted his members to "follow the guidance of their doctors" when it comes to "any medical issue." However, he would not make a definitive statement regarding the vaccines. "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,"