Pastor of local mega-church tests positive for COVID-19 days after White House Christmas party

GAINESVILLE, Ga. — The lead pastor of a metro Atlanta mega-church has tested positive for COVID-19 just days after attending a Christmas party at the White House.

Jentezen Franklin is the pastor at Free Chapel in Hall County.

[SPECIAL SECTION: Coronavirus Pandemic in Georgia]

In Sunday morning’s service, pastor Javon Ruff announced that Franklin was absent due to his recent diagnosis.

“We want to make you aware that Pastor Franklin has come in contact with COVID, but he is doing perfectly fine. He actually is doing great,” Ruff said. “He went and got tested and his test came back positive so he is doing the right thing to do and staying quarantined and continuing to be distanced. We’ll continue to pray and lift him up.”

Sunday Service with Pastor Javon Ruff

Sunday Service with Pastor Javon Ruff Welcome to Church! New to Free Chapel? Click here: https://freech.pl/FCwelcome Gave your life to Christ tonight? Click here: https://freech.pl/FCaltar Partner with us! Click here: https://freech.pl/FCgive Find your next step at Free Chapel. Click here: https://freech.pl/FCnextsteps

Posted by Free Chapel on Sunday, December 20, 2020

Ruff announced that Free Chapel’s Christmas Eve candlelight service will be held virtually only “out of an abundance of caution.”

TRENDING STORIES:

New strain of COVID-19 in UK prompts several EU nations halt flights

Gwinnett teen sentenced to months in prison for breaking Cayman Islands quarantine

‘If I make it through this’: Man pens heartbreaking letter to wife before dying of COVID-19

Hundreds of people were in attendance at the Sunday service, with few wearing masks.

Last week, Franklin posted a photo of himself and his daughter at a White House Christmas party. The series of more than a dozen parties have been criticized for being held indoors and not enforcing masks.

“Thank you @flotus and @realdonaldtrump for inviting us. It was gorgeous!” Franklin wrote on Instagram on Dec. 15.

On Friday, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp posted similar photos of himself and his daughter at the White House for another event the same week.

Kemp issued a statement to Channel 2 Action News, saying that he did not attend the same event that Franklin did.

“The governor’s office confirmed that Kemp was at a different White House Christmas party,” a spokesperson for the governor said. “He attended one on Friday the 18th.”

Kemp’s office said he and his daughter “wore their masks except to take a few socially distant pictures.”

It’s unclear if Franklin was exposed to the coronavirus at the White House.

South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster and his wife Peggy attended a party at the White House on Dec. 14. Peggy McMaster has since tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Associated Press.

The White House also had parties scheduled for Dec. 14 and Dec. 16, according to the New York Times.

Trump has put Franklin in the national spotlight before. During a National Day of Prayer back in March that was held virtually, Trump tweeted that he would be tuning in to Franklin’s service.

[DOWNLOAD: Free WSB-TV News app for alerts as news breaks]