Fences going up around James Coates' church

I think it would be helpful to reread that book published by Warhorn on persecution. As I read the book, I couldn’t help but see parallels to today. For example The church has always been at the center of culture war. We change the culture through gospel proclamation, Christian living, and self sacrifice. That has always brought the church into conflict with the false gods of the culture which almost always is most readily visible in the state.

In early days, the church said no to Caesar as Lord and was in conflict with the religious system of that day. We are no less in that same conflict. The religion of the day may not have Jupiter/Zeus and a pagan pantheon behind it but it still is a false religion. The state bolstered by secular humanism sees itself as the ultimate authority and the church as just some little cult club it can do with what it pleases.

So on one hand all these arguments about how spheres over lap and how technically limiting seating isn’t out of their jurisdiction might be good to have but on the other the state doesn’t care. The church has to push back on this in some way and make sure the state knows it’s limits.

There is one story in church history of how the church refused to let the emperor arrest his enemy who sought refuge in the church during worship . Some might say this was the church taking too much authority but rather the church was letting the emperor know that the worship of the Lord was vital and would not be interrupted by civil affairs. The emperor might have authority over the civil realm but he was not to interpret the worship of God because his authority was limited.

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You are giving examples that are far more extreme than the situation in Alberta. GraceLife was told to limit their worship space to 15% capacity at a time, temporarily. The Apostles were told to stop preaching Jesus. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednigo were told to bow their knees to a giant idol or be cast into a fire.

I see differences here. Not everything is persecution.

I can’t help but think there is a romanticism at the root of much of the extremism we’re seeing today. Hard not to go that direction after 50 years of opposing the slaughter of children in the womb without much progress. Every generation wants a revolution, a raison d’être. There may be good reasons for it today but temporary capacity restrictions? Nah.

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Here is a short interview yesterday with Pastor Coates. Thought it might be helpful for all to watch:

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I have never been accurately quoted or reasonably characterized in the media. When we find ourselves within a media storm, those people who seek to hear us speak on our own behalf are as rare as the Bereans. I trust some of us have considered our brother’s declarations on this conflict.

We creed proclaiming protestors have a history declaring our reasons.

@jander lifts the branch. The limited and derived nature of human authority is rooted in our central doctrines… our Theology… our Anthropology.

Without this, no Reformation.

I have sat on Asian feet; my back supported on the bent knees of the brother behind me; hundreds of people squeezed together into spaces where Americans would only welcome dozens.

I’ve listened to legal, state-approved congregants justify why they report illegal assemblies to the Communist party . . . using arguments perilously close to those dominant in the Midwest today.

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Transcript of the RebelNews interview with Pastor Coates:

[1:21] Sheila Gunn Reid for Rebel News, and I’m here at the site of GraceLife Church, west of Edmonton, Alberta. This is the church where the man beside me, Pastor James Coates, turned himself in to provincial authorities on February 16 to serve 35 days in a maximum security facility for not complying with the public health order on places of worship that would have forced you to turn away 85% of your congregation, forced them to distance from each other and wear masks and not even sing. Not even sing. And today at dawn, the church itself behind me here was fenced off–we’re standing just off the church property, because not only is the church fenced off, but congregants and supporters are not even allowed on the grass here. There’s two layers of fencing, and a black–I called it a sarcophagus, but really it is a mask; they’ve put the church in a mask because the congregation wouldn’t wear one. Pastor James, tell me, what’s your reaction to seeing the church this way? It’s very jarring.

[2:32] A: Well I think the government is trying to go toe to toe with the Lord of Glory in this moment, and the church is not a building, the church is the people of God who come together and worship the Lord Jesus Christ, and so, while it’s unfortunate that we don’t have access to our facility, that in no way impedes or obstructs the work of the gospel, the building up of the body of Christ, and so I see this as a wonderful opportunity for the Lord to put His glory on display.

[3:05] Q: You told me something similar when I spoke to you after you came out of jail–you took the opportunity of jail to minister to the other inmates and for you to see this as an opportunity to–what you’re doing now, tell people about the Word of God.

[3:23] A: The gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ, that we can be reconciled to God through His Son, who went to the cross and died and bled and suffered under the wrath of God and rose from the grave on the third day. And so what an opportunity to make that message known, and so we are so thankful for that opportunity and the platform that the Lord has given to us, and we want to be faithful in that endeavor.

[3:47] Q: Now I spoke to your lawyer, James Kitchen from the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, this morning, and he said that he didn’t know that they were going to do this today. Sounds like they are enforcing the January closure of your church. But I think everybody was sort of blindsided by this?

[4:06] A: Well I think what you have is an embarrassed government, the government is embarrassed at this point in time, and the statistics and severity of Covid-19 are coming out so clear that the lockdown measures are not necessary–the people of Alberta are coming to realize that that’s the case, and we are a black eye on our government, because we can either meet–we have met for 37 Sundays in a row without a single Covid case, let alone a breakout–and so we are exposing the reality that these lockdown measures are not just unjust, they’re harmful and unnecessary. And so I think the closing of our facility is necessary in order to prevent any further embarrassment to Alberta Health Services, as well as to Jason Kenney.

[4:53] Q: Now how did you find out that your church was being seized?–that’s what happened here, the church property has been seized from the rightful owners, and that’s the people of GraceLife Church.

[5:06] A: I found out through a text as our administrative gentleman reached out to us and let us know that our building was being locked up; and at that point in time I had, uh, excitement in my heart. I mean, they are going toe to toe with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and in general that does not go well. It certainly doesn’t go well in the end, and it has the potential to not go very well even now; and so even when that news arrived, it was just another development in the saga of this staredown between GraceLife Church and AHS. And Jesus Christ is Lord, and we are going to follow Him all the way, to whatever means necessary.

[5:54] Q: Now this really has become an international story I know, even just for myself, because I’m the only reporter that you’ve allowed on the property here, and I’m so grateful for that; but it’s constant international interest, particularly the Americans, who, uh, take religious freedom very seriously; and yet here in Alberta Jason Kenney, our premier, doesn’t really seem to want to acknowledge what’s happening here.

[6:20] A: Well Jason Kenney is an incredible disappointment to this province; and I would say democracy at this point in time is dying, because he is not governing in accord with the mind of the people. It is abundantly apparent that Albertans want to go back to life as usual, and the excuse that it’s a health issue that is preventing us from doing that is just that, an excuse. There clearly is some underlying agenda that is shaping the governance of Jason Kenney, and it’s to the detriment of the people of this province. And I would just say to the people of Alberta, the only way you’re going to get your province back is if you take it back. It is time now to, not in any kind of violent manner, but to peacefully return to your life. I was at Costco on Monday and it was packed. No social distancing. The only thing that was there was the masks. And all that Costco folks need to do is take off the masks. All we need to do is go back to life as normal. If everyone goes back to life as normal and the mask comes off, the pandemic goes away. The premium outlet mall–packed on Monday as well. People are not afraid. And so we just need to live our lives and do so peacefully, and return to life as usual, and this pandemic goes away. We are ultimately in control–but if you are waiting for the government to hand you back your civil liberties it’s just not gonna happen.

[7:46] Q: Now, what can people do to support you? Because I think people want to help you, they just don’t know what to do.

[7:54] A: Well I think pressure needs to be placed on MLAs [Members of the Legislative Assembly]–I think the people need to let their MLAs know what they think about what’s happening here; we need to put pressure on the Premier; we need to just return to our normal lives. I think businesses need to consider opening; I think obviously churches and pastors need to open their churches; it’s time to go back to life as normal. And at the end of the day, Covid-19 is a reality, and yeah, you could lose your life to Covid-19–you have to assess whether or not you want to live this life in a lockdown type society where your civil liberties are removed from you, or whether you’re willing to go back to freedom at the risk of the possibility of contracting the virus and losing life–and you know, that’s where the gospel of Christ comes into play, because if you are in Christ you are not afraid of death; He conquered the grave, and if you would turn from your sin and believe on Him you wouldn’t have the fear of death, and you’d be able to live your life to the glory of God, and, and even if you should die you would have everlasting life with Him in heaven. So I would just say this is a wonderful time to understand reality as it really is, Jesus is Lord, and you confess Him as Lord; believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, and you will be saved.

[9:14] Q: Pastor Coates, a last word to you, do you have a message for the politicians out there who are continuing these crackdowns on churches–I think churches are the most brutal victims of the lockdown here in Alberta, just only slightly ahead of small businesses. Do you have a message for the politicians who have somehow asked for Albertans to give them over an entire year of their lives, only for us to be right back at the beginning?

[9:46] A: Yeah, I would just say come clean. Either you are deceived or you are deceiving the people. There’s no way that what’s happening right now is in accord with truth. There are so many doctors and experts that have come out and challenged the science and medicine that is being propagated by AHS and our government officials that it is now to the point that you are not responding to the information that is available to us the people, and so either you are deceived or you are deceiving the people–at this point in time it’s time to come clean. Time to wake up. For those who are in the government, that understand the world as we see it, they need to wake up, they need to speak out, it is time to return to the civil liberties that are ours in this nation, and right now our nation and province is being fundamentally altered to the point that I don’t think it’s ever going to look the same unless we the people, along with the politicians that are on board, step up and rise to the occasion.

[10:48] Q: Pastor Coates, I want to thank you so much for taking the time to do not just this interview, but the other interviews that you’ve done with me. And I want to thank you for taking the time to pray with me before we started this interview. And I know people around the world are just praying and praying for GraceLife, and they don’t know what they can do, but maybe prayer is it.

[11:10] A: Well Sheila thank you for just giving us an outlet to be able to deliver this message and know that we’re not going to be sliced and diced as we would be in the mainstream media. And I would just say at this point in time, mainstream media is essentially and effectively state-run media, and that is why we don’t give them our time, because we know we’re not going to get a fair hearing, and it’s just not worth it to give them our message.

[11:37] Q: Well I appreciate your trust. From here at GraceLife Church on the day the church was seized by the province and locked away from the congregants and Pastor James here. I’m Sheila Gunn Reid.

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I like Coates for many reasons. He did quite well in this interview, but the presupposition of his remarks (especially those around 5:06 mark) is that the Canadian government is singling out the Christian faith. Moscow men and Coates have to maintain that falsehood to portray this as Christian persecution. It may be persecution against Canadian citizens or American citizens or a real infringement of our civil liberties…but Christian persecution it is not.

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Brother @Krlamb1, I am not missing that point, I oppose it. Your “always” is inaccurate; your “we” is prejudiced. I assert every lower jurisdiction has previous authority over occupancy: the property owner, the individual attendee, the family. I assert it is not the magistrates role to keep people safe.

Oregon has a law that driver’s may not pump their own gas.

I assert that children can drive tractors, pick strawberries, and sit on rooftops lifting power lines to help their father’s house moving business succeed. Free people can ride bikes without wearing helmets, drive without seatbelts and jump horses over fallen timber. In our individual and family jurisdictions we may accept risks that terrify our neighbors. We may scale rock-faces, raft rapids, bungee jump off bridges, play tackle football in our muddy front yards, and pay SpaceX for a ride to orbit. We may dance in a 100 year old barn with pre-code wiring.

Home-owners-associations and 15-days-to-flatten-the-curve both violate jurisdictions granted by your Creator to your neighbors.

We used to agree more widely on the definition of a busy-body.

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It is my understanding that Alberta has not shut down any of the mosques meeting in large numbers. https://protestia.com/2021/04/09/video-while-gracelife-church-is-shut-down-islamic-mosques-are-left-alone/m

Edit: I just realized that protestia is run by JD Hall, for those who like me had never heard of it.

We live in a nanny state. No doubt about it.

The temper-tantrum libertarian response of denying that the government has the duty to protect life is not the solution.

Whether one follows the general equity or the more explicitly theonomic understanding of OT judicial law, Deuteronomy 22:8 makes it clear your position is untethered from Scripture:

“When you build a new house, you shall make a parapet for your roof, so that you will not bring bloodguilt on your house if anyone falls from it."

Whose responsibility is it to deal with blood guilt? The magistrate has the duty to punish the evildoer. What was the wickedness the magistrate was to punish? Having an unsafe house that injured others.

Reject this understanding of the law, and you deny the government the right to make a law against abortion or murder, since it is only a law of protection. You also deny the magistrate the right to interfere in the “procedure” of the abortion, given the fact that it is not the government’s role to protect others.

I believe I’ve written this before…

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Since when does government overreach have to target Christians (or the church) specifically to count as persecution? @adionne, you know church history better than that. Don’t let your legitimate disdain for the Moscow men and their divisiveness over masks cloud your judgement in this matter.

And using the Chinese church is a simplistic comparison at best and a straw man at worst. There are massive ecclesiological implications in deciding to meet as a number of smaller bodies, especially if that decision is made indefinitely. A mandatory 15% of a congregation indefinitely has huge ramifications for an ecclesiologically independent congregation, particularly if they’re not prepared from an eldership perspective to divide into eight mini congregations.

Those who hate masks and love Moscow need to chill out in their comparisons with Coates. He didn’t go to jail over masks.

I agree with Evangel generally in their critique of Moscow, but let’s not get carried away and lump everyone who decides it’s necessary to take a stand into the same mould.

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There’s a difference. Do I really have to point this out? I’m willing to concede that MacArthur, Coates, and Wilson have suffered some kind of persecution. Libertarians, Librarians, and Restauranteurs have suffered the same persecution (and I’m being generous in using that word). Are they suffering because of their Christian witness? MacArthur, Coates, and Wilson have all maintained disingenuously that it is specifically because they have confessed Christ. No, they have resisted ordinances about buildings, masks, and social distancing—all of which have applied broadly to all. I’m perfectly willing for them to team up with civil libertarians and constitutional scholars and conservatives to push their disputes about governmental overreach and liberty, but they’ve all claimed persecution for their Christian faith. Hogwash. And a disgrace to those who are truly suffering because they’ve maintained their Christian witness in the face of threats, in the past and present. It’s theatre ready-made for social media. It’s shameful.

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But part of the solution is the non-temper-tantrum public insistence that the government’s duty to protect God-given Life and Property does not give it unrestrained powers to provide (every tyrant’s mantra of) Safety.

Safety is not Life. Safety is subjective an illusory. Life is objective and real.

How high must the parapet be? What must it be made of? May I refuse careless teen idiots access to my roof? Or must I get them to sign a Moses approved waiver before I allow them upstairs to enjoy the Pleiades? Moses left those points to the household. Neighbors who disapproved could only call for sword-wielding magistrates after actual harm occurred. The fear of possible harm doesn’t get Asher one of Judah’s cows.

The magistrate has the +God-granted duty to punish the +convicted evildoer.

Like the Philippian magistrates, those soldiers faced the author of Romans 13 telling them their abuse of power was unlawful. Ten verses later Paul quotes Moses re: honoring authority then immediately tangles the Sanhedrin in a debate no less contentious than mask-mandates and as familiar and predictable to that generation as the 2nd Amendment is to ours.

Paul was not breaking Romans 13 when he terrified the centurion. Paul was not breaking Exodus 22 when he triggered dissention in the council.

God keeps us “safe.” Governments don’t have the resources.

Current laws, despite incremental expansion, that pretend magistrates have a safety mandate may be righteously opposed.

Men do not make laws. They do but discover them. Laws must be justified by something more than the will of the majority. They must rest on the eternal foundation of righteousness.
Regan’s favorite: Silent Cal

No he didn’t. He left them to judges over ten. And 100. And 1000.

At which point a judgment was made and you had case law about what the expectation in the eyes of the law was in more details.

Deny it all you want, but the requirement to build parapets is about safety in order to protect life and is directly in the hands of the civil magistrate. Judging you. For how you built your own house.

Nobody here is denying the ability of any man to challenge the magistrate on the legality of his actions. So quit muddying the waters.

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Every man is to be subject to the governing authorities unless they tell him he shouldn’t pump his own gas?

Maybe I’m missing your point. Are you arguing that governments shouldn’t regulate these things? Then I agree.

Or are you arguing that governments have no authority to regulate these things? In which case, the Bible and the authorities’ swords beg to differ.

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I genuinely don’t understand what you are saying here. You’re a pastor, a shepherd with sheep. Have some compassion for a man who cannot comply with a regulation that he may not shepherd more than 1/8th of his congregation at a time. For a year, and with an indefinite statute. (Are we seriously arguing the validity of this point???) When he was willing to comply initially. Have some compassion for a pastor who feels he must obey God rather than men, and who has suffered jail time for it.

This is your thread. You brought this up. Separate, for just a moment, Coates from Wilson. They are so clearly not the same, and you’re muddying the waters by continually conflating the two. You keep writing about the magistrate’s prerogative and authority. What about the minister’s authority to shepherd the flock, to preach the word, to administer the sacraments?

What, the magistrate must explicitly state a targeted malice towards Christianity? That’s your standard for persecution? The early church fails your test. Nonconformist ministers in 1662 fail your test.

Note again I’m not defending those who rail against masks and authority and sow division amongst our flocks over trivial matters.

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Gold right there.

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Yes. I am arguing government should not.
And I know WHY they should not.
Why do you agree governments shouldn’t regulate these things @FaithAlone ?

No. I am arguing that civil magistrates have authority. Specific, derived, temporary, limited authority granted by God and bound by public covenant. I am also trying to help my brothers realize that the perverted version (general, inherent, prolonged, unlimited authority usurped my Man in defiance of public covenant) it just as wicked as abortion and homosexual pastors.

I selected my examples intentionally.

God did not compel Noah’s peers to board the Ark. Safety regulations are a Trojan Horse. The sword is neither a shovel, nor a chalk board, nor a scalpel, nor a pulpit.

I think Coates, in his sermon (linked above) does a fine job clarifying the difference between “protecting lives” and “securing the right to Life.”

Why, yes it is. There is oppression and there is persecution. AHS may be oppressing her people, all of them. If they were persecuting, they would have singled out Christians for their faith and focused their sword exclusively on them. They may hate the church and even have it out for the church, but they have not singled out the church.

The examples you gave actually prove my point. Rome was particularly aggressive toward Christians, beginning with Nero. Even Jews had protections that Christians lacked. And the Act of Uniformity was singularly focused on the Christian church—down to her prayers, ordinations, and sacraments.

Persecution is religious in nature. Persecution is as Jesus’ said: “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me” (Matthew 5:11).

And I’ve never said we shouldn’t be concerned about oppression. We should and should avail ourselves of any legal measures to confront that oppression. But if we don’t make a distinction between oppression and persecution, we’re in danger of conflating our faith and our citizenship.

There are other orthodox churches in Canada that have determined to yield to the government’s decrees. Mark Jones and Stephen Wedgeworth’s church in Vancouver BC is an example. They believe the restrictions are oppressive, even “soul-destroying,” for the church but they’ve yielded (while being creative to meet outside, etc.). They haven’t framed this as persecution, given the Canadian government’s broad application of rules to everything from churches to mosques to restaurants to bars to nightclubs. They understand it is oppressive, but I do not think they would deem it persecution.

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I agree with your distinction between persecution and oppression, and I think it’s important to keep this distinction straight.

But I hope we’re also keeping it straight that we ought not simply go along with every form of oppression just because its being applied in an equal opportunity fashion. The church ought not be willing to go along with a mandate to cease its commanded worship and ministry just because that mandate happens to target other faiths as well.

This is not a direct, one-for-one application, I grant, but consider that Darius’ decree was not that people could not pray to Yahweh. It was that they could not pray to any other god. Daniel did not need to make the distinction between targeted persecution and nationwide oppression here to know what faithfulness to God required.

You are right that we are not being persecuted. I only hope that you not miss the fact that people are still being commanded to bow the knee to the gods of secularism. It doesn’t need to be straight up, Christian persecution before Christian faithfulness demands that we disobey. And at that point of disobedience, it very well may shift into persecution.

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I think you’re drawing too fine a distinction here. You’re correct that some Roman persecution was a result of personal malice, but the policies that resulted in the majority of the periods of persecution in the early were most certainly not targeting Christians. They were, as you said,

Everyone had to issue the pinch of incense, regardless of his own religion. By your own definition, the persecution of Christians in China is merely ‘oppression’ as it is also targeting Muslims as well. This hair splitting baffles me.

Biblical Christianity just happens to be the religion most likely to make faithfulness a matter of life and death (as happened in Ancient Rome and as is happening in present day China).

This is the distinction that keeps being missed: not going to bars and nightclubs and restaurants isn’t a sin. Not going to church for a year is. It doesn’t matter whether the policy is deliberate or not. The policy forbids biblical Christianity. Malice or incompetence matters little. The end result is the same. How a Christian and a pastor can miss this is something I don’t understand.

I’ll say this again, and then I’ll bow out: I agree broadly with your critique of Moscow and I admire your boldness in reminding Christians of their responsibility to honour civic authority, but your distaste with their divisive rhetoric is leading you to make historically dubious and theologically careless distinctions. Remember, Jesus said some of the worst persecution would come not from those who claimed to hate him by claimed to follow him and offer faithful service to him.

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