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The River, Tampa church at center of controversy after holding a large service, is shutting down, pastor says

Posted at 9:13 PM, Apr 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-01 23:10:16-04

TAMPA, Fla. — The embattled pastor who held a large service despite the county's "safer-at-home" order said he is shutting down the church.

"I'm doing this to protect the congregation," the pastor, Dr. Rodney Howard-Browne, said on social media Wednesday night.

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Dr. Howard-Browne's announcement comes just days after the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office arrested him for holding a large service at The River at Tampa Bay Church over the weekend.

The embattled pastor said has no ill-will toward Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister.

"I actually personally like him," Dr. Howard-Browne said on social media. "I got all the texts and conversations with the Sheriff."

The pastor, Dr. Rodney Howard-Browne, is charged with unlawful assembly and violation of a public health emergency order.

The River at Tampa Bay Church held services late Sunday morning at its Tampa location and posted a live stream of it to their YouTube page. The sheriff's office confirmed after the Monday press conference the pastor was arrested.

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The YouTube video showed dozens of people packed inside the church, shoulder-to-shoulder, not abiding by the six-foot social distancing guidelines set by the CDC, or the safer-at-home order put in place by Hillsborough County.

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