Alberta Health Service and Provincial law enforcement have announced that they are physically shutting down “arrested and now released” Pastor Tim Stephens’ Church*, barring their doors to get them to cease gathering. Despite these strongarm tactics, the defiant minister explained on social media that “the church must gather,” and that they had every intention of doing so, building be damned.
Fairview Baptist Church will be joining James Coates’ GraceLife Church, Jacob Reaume’s Trinity Bible Chapel, and two others in having their church shuttered and doors locked by power-tripping government officials, all for refusing to adhere to the provincial lockdown laws that limit church attendance to 15 people inside, or 5 people outside.
Taking to Twitter, Stephens says that he is grateful for everyone who prayed for his release from jail and that though the church building has been ordered closed, they are actively seeking a new place to gather together, implying out of sight and underground if need be. They would join several other churches currently hiding out from the government, some traveling over 80 miles to get to their hidden church location.
This is done with the hopes that if they meet in secret, they will be left alone and not subject to crushing monetary fines or even further arrests.
With pastor Stephens being released from prison after two days, it is still unclear exactly what restrictions and conditions were placed on him that enabled him to be released. AHS has been actively petitioning to keep him incarcerated or to lock him back up if he re-offends and continues to lead services, and it Is uncertain whether they will arrest him on sight if he attempts to lead church publicly.
As far as whether the province plans to relent from their harsh lockdowns, Premier Jason Kenny’s government is unlikely to relent soon, announcing that in his great benevolence, they have made an allowance for 12 whole frontline workers to attend a hockey playoff game, in a stadium that fits 18,500 people.
That’s the kind of fear and illogic ruling political decision-making. If he will not allow more than 12 to gather in a literal stadium, (who incidentally, are all sitting next to each other, so much for social distancing) he will not allow a couple of hundred saints in the house of God.
*We know it’s not their church, but the Lord’s Church.
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