Canadian Pastor Arrested for Holding Church Services: Faces Jail Time

A Canadian Pastor has turned himself in after police informed him he was going to be arrested for violating provincial lockdown orders, the result of continuing to hold church services in defiance of a public health order which prohibits houses of worship from gathering at more than 15 percent capacity.

According to the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, the firm representing James Coates, the Senior Pastor of Grace Life Church that is at the center of the controversy, the arrest is the result of escalating tension between the church and Alberta Health Services, the government body charged with enforcing breaches of lockdown restrictions. They’ve been seeking to end the in-person services since mid-December, with the JCCF explaining:

On January 29, AHS issued a Closure Order, purporting to entirely close down Grace Life and prevent any congregants of Grace Life from gathering for in-person worship services at the church building. Grace Life and Pastor Coates continued to act according to their conscience and beliefs, and gather each Sunday for normal, in-person worship.

On Sunday, February 7, after the morning worship service, two RCMP officers met with Pastor Coates and a few others in his office at the Church. The officers told Pastor Coates that he was under arrest and must agree to stop breaching the CMOH Orders. Pastor Coates explained to the officers that he could not do that because to do so would violate his conscience and prevent him from fulfilling his duty as a minister to lead his congregation in worship. The officers then left, without arresting him…

Grace Life again gathered for worship on Sunday, February 14 and again an AHS inspector entered the Church and reported the activities of the attendees. RCMP have notified Pastor Coates that they plan to arrest him again on Tuesday, February 16, and bring him before a Justice of the Peace, forcing the court to decide if Pastor Coates will be imprisoned.

Coates has maintained that he will not cease to preach and teach and is willing to go to prison if need be. His lawyer, James Kitchen, appeared on CTV News and confirmed his convictons:

He’s a shepherd of those people at that church, that’s what he sees himself as. So he believes he has an important role to play and he’s prepared at this point to be imprisoned to fulfill that duty.

Kitchen went on to say that if Coates spends any time in jail to the point that he misses a service, another elder will just fill in for him at the church.

As a result of being one of the only churches open in the entire province, attendance has skyrocketed, with many guests driving over 6 hours to attend.

The province of Alberta has a population of 4.4 million and has has 1782 deaths from COVID. Seventy-eight percent of the deaths have come from nursing homes/senior care homes and 97 percent of deaths are in people over the age of 60, with the average age of death being 83 years old.



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8 thoughts on “Canadian Pastor Arrested for Holding Church Services: Faces Jail Time

  1. False info. 33 percent capacity and all churches may stay open. As a pastor in Alberta, I’m surprised when churches close. They don’t have to. Wear a mask and go to double services. It’s not persecution.

  2. I wonder what Pastor Coates thinks of I Peter 2:13 and 14 –
    “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors…”

    1. There is also Hebrews 10:25, “ do not forsake the gathering together of the saints…”

      In the book of Daniel the king issued an edict that forbade anyone from worshipping any other God except for the king for three days. Daniel could have obeyed that rule by simply praying to no one for three days. (The same way Christians can obey the government by not meeting for church for a year or so.) However, Daniel was blessed and protected from the Lions for being faithful and praying to God regardless of the laws of the land. The Bible makes it clear that Daniel did the right thing by continuing to pray.
      And Hebrews makes it clear that we should not forsake gathering together. So if you are asking believers to disobey God and not gather together, then you are asking us to betray our own faith and conscience.

    2. Kev,
      The Apostles themselves, Paul in Romans 13, and Peter here in this passage you quote, taught us that it is proper to respect authority. But, if I may, you cannot just take isolated verses from the Scriptures, or you will not have the full picture, and in fact, will contribute inadvertently to falsehood. So, for example, Peter does say, Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: . . .” But it was also Peter (and John) who were arrested and commanded NOT to speak anymore in the name of Jesus. And it was Peter (and John) who replied to those authorities, “whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge: for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts. 4:18-20). And after Peter and John were released from custody, they went to the fellowship and reported what happened to them, then they all prayed, “. . . And now Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence, while You extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Your holy servant Jesus. And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled the the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness. . . .And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon then all.” Acts 4:29-31, 33. (God put abundant grace upon them)

      So, Peter did teach to respect the authorities of our governors. But Peter (and God who blessed Peter’s behavior to continuing to preach in the name of Jesus) also knew that there was line to be drawn where obedience to the earthly authorities would violate obedience to God and could not be followed. God’s commandment to honor those in authority was not a commandment without limits. When those in authority command us to violate the commandments of God they force us to make a choice.

      Here’s where I personally draw the line. When an authority figure countermands or presumes to set aside a command we have already received from God, that person (or government) is abusing his authority and expressing an illegitimate command, and for me to remain faithful to God, requires me to take a course of non-compliance with the earthly authority figure. There has always been this tension and narrow path to walk in the Christian faith. Peter and John did it. Even our Lord Jesus disobeyed the authorities in his day, and they crucified him. In more recent times we have the examples of Dietrich Bonhoeffer who denied the laws of Nazi Germany and was executed for his faithfulness or Marin Luther King Jr. who broke the laws of civil injustice that violated God’s laws of equality of creation and redemption of all races and skin color. Or I encourage you to study Hebrews 11 and see how many of the persons listed in that chapter, whom God calls faithful, were put to death for defying an earthly ruler.

      I hope this is helpful.

  3. From a brother in Christ in the U.S.A.

    Hebrews 13:3 “Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves are also in the body.”

    For the early church members the threat and reality of imprisonment for preaching and living their faith in Christ was real. We have lots of “prison ministries,” today. But this is NOT the prison ministry spoken of in the New Testament. The New Testament (read it for yourself) always referred to fellow followers of Jesus Christ, when it referred to prison or prisoners. It was not referring to criminals in prison. But for faithful followers of Jesus Christ to be put in prison for their faithfulness to God is NOT justice. It is an evil practice of rebellion against God, imprisoning God’s faithful (and law-abiding) children. But in the West, we have not known such persecution.

    In Canada and the United States, the Church and her faithful have historically enjoyed the support of society-at -large. But also historically, this congenial co-existence for the past 2000 years and around the world, has been the exception not the norm. But times, they are a changing! We must do all we can to defend the liberties we have been given by God to worship Him according to our consciences under the Word of God. And Scripture tells us exactly where to begin that defense (Christian, are you listening?). — 1 Peter 4:17: “For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?”
    — 2 Chronicles 7:13-14: “If I (God) shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send a plague among My people, 14 and My people who are called by My name humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” That’s “My people who are called by My name,” says the Lord God will humble “themselves,” and pray and seek God’s face and if GOD’S people will turn from “their wicked ways,” then . . .

    It is too easy for us to ask God to heal our land and to think and pray about all the wickedness of people “out there” in non-Christian society causing the trouble. But, deaer faithful one, God speaks to US Christians to repent from OUR wickedness. Lord, have mercy by first showing ME where I need to repent of MY wickedness. Let us join the humble and repentant manner of David of old who prayed, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in ME, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24

    Hebrews 13:3 “Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves are also in the body.” (. . . since you yourselves are also in the body = these prisoners and you are from the same family! They are your brothers in Christ. And also, since you yourselves are also in the body = if they can be arrested, so can you!

    May God bring deliverance for our brother and bring peace again to the earth.

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