The Edmonton Remand Center became the hub of a major protest, as hundreds of men and women turned out to a rally in support of imprisoned Pastor James Coates. The GraceLife Church pastor has become a symbol for freedom of religion and opposition to tyrannical government persecution after he was arrested and remains detained for refusing to close down the church he pastors.
Alberta’s Public Health Act limits church gatherings at 15% capacity and imposes a string of further restrictions on masking, singing, and social distancing during services. With GraceLife Church refusing to abide by it, Coates was eventually arrested. According to the RCMP, Coates “was charged with two counts of contravention of the Public Health Act and charged for failing to comply with a condition of his undertaking, under the Criminal Code.”
Coates was given the opportunity to serve his time at home until his trial, on the condition that he does not step foot inside the Church. Believing he would not be able to effectively shepherd his congregation if he could not do this, he remains remanded.
As a result, hundreds turned out in support of the pastor, in contravention to Alberta’s restrictions on social gatherings which limits them to no more than 10 people. On the other side of town, more were gathered at the Legislature building in opposition to the lockdown and also in support of Pastor Coates.
People peacefully sang and prayed, singing Amazing Grace, delivering a message to the Premiere of Alberta Jason Kenny, and encouraging other churches to open. Pastor Henry Hildebrandt of the Church of God in Aylmer, Ontario showed up to share a message. Hildebrant has been engaged with law enforcement for nearly a year over his own church being open, initially fighting to have even drive-in services, up to recently where 47 congregation members were each issued $880 tickets for violating lockdown orders.
Erin Coates, wife of James Coates, described it as a “sweet joy” to see everyone gathered in support of her husband and told the crowd, “I know my husband is fighting for freedom, but more he’s fighting for the lordship of Christ over his church.”
She encourages them to listen to and circulate this sermon preached by her husband on his last Sunday before his arrest, which explains the roles of the church and government in society. As far as what people can do to support them and the church, she said:
Open your churches. Petition your [unintelligible] to open the Churches. Take a stand for the Lord Jesus Christ and take a stand for the people. Love them. Open the doors. That’s what we need to do right now. People are hurting. They need to hear about Christ. They need to hear about him who has paid the penalty for sins so they can be reconciled to God.
And so I hope that happens through all of this. Open the doors of the churches. Sing your hearts out to the Lord. Love one another…and be kind to those who oppose us, because we’re doing this in love. And they’re not going to understand it – they didn’t understand Christ, they won’t understand us either. And that’s ok, because we love them anyway.
So go on my brothers and sisters with boldness. Proclaim the gospel, use every opportunity to share what he has done in your life and who He is because there’s eternal souls at risk right now, and so I just thank you all for being here.
More rallies and protests are planned for next week.
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