Charter Rights Violated; Pastor in Shackles
Who would have thought we’d see the day when a Canadian pastor would be taken away in shackles, simply for preaching to his flock? Sadly, that day has arrived. Pastor James Coates of Grace Life Church in Spruce Grove, Alberta (just west of Edmonton), has been arrested and remains in custody for doing what Canadian pastors have always done: preaching to congregants in the church sanctuary.
He preached on Feb. 14, was arrested on Feb. 16, and at his bail hearing on Feb. 17, he was told that he would only be released on the following conditions: he would have to stop pastoring and would not be allowed to enter the church building. He was unwilling to accept these conditions and so was taken away in handcuffs.
This brings to mind images of the apostles and others throughout history who have been ordered not to preach; Pastor Coates is in good company when he indicates that he intends to be true to his calling and obey God rather than men, in spite of pressure from government authorities. Peter and John, Paul and Silas, and many since then have understood the life-saving value of ministry and have refused to obey the orders of civil authorities when those orders conflicted with obedience to the Word of God. Of course, the reason given for these COVID health orders is unique, but the result is the same: believers and unbelievers alike would be denied the opportunity to gather for in-person corporate worship, prayer, and teaching.
Grace Life Church has posted a very well-written explanation for their actions and the actions of Pastor Coates. It’s well worth a read. We know that many churches and congregations have taken a different approach to the COVID restrictions on church gatherings, but whatever your thoughts are on these things, Grace Life Church’s explanation really conveys their deep sense of responsibility to the flock and to the gospel. Like most churches, Grace Life carefully followed the COVID restrictions imposed at the beginning of the outbreak. They have learned much more about the virus since then, as we all have.
Over the past several months, the stakes have been getting higher for churches that have continued to keep their doors open for in-person worship services. There have been fines levied against pastors, churches, and congregants in the past, but this is the first time that I can remember a pastor in Canada being locked away simply for preaching in his own church. This time it was because of a health order. The reason given next time might be different. It could be that a government agent finds a particular Bible passage offensive. It could be that a pastor counsels a parishioner contrary to a “Conversion Therapy” ban . . . or some other complaint.
We call on the Judiciary in Alberta to release Pastor Coates without conditions. We call on the federal government to protect our God-given rights, which are defined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing Pastor Coates. May the Lord grant them success! Pray for Pastor Coates, for his family and for the Canadian church. The Bible tells us that “all who live godly will suffer persecution.” We need God’s wisdom in these days more than ever.
The CHP stands arm in arm with all those who are defending our freedoms: freedom of speech, assembly, movement, worship, conscience and association. We encourage you to join us in standing for freedom!
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