Recently I wrote an article titled COVID, Canadian Churches, and Daniel. This post is a follow up to one of the stories I mentioned in that post. Pastor Jacob Reaume and Trinity Bible Chapel in Waterloo, Ontario recently decided to defy the draconian and arbitrary “lock down” orders of their province. How did they defy these orders? They gathered for corporate worship. That is, they had big church.
In the aftermath of that decision, Pastor Jacob, the elders, and Trinity Bible Chapel faced the possibility of enormous fines and even jail time. After some consideration, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice handed down its final decision. The total fine is $83,000. Various pastors owe between $5,000-$3,000 each, the church itself owes $15,000, and the church has been ordered to cover the legal fees of the Ministry of the Attorney General in the amount of $45,000. The fines are final and cannot be appealed. You can read a full update here, Our $83,000 Act of Worship.
You may disagree with Pastor Reaume and Trinity Bible Chapel on matters relating to COVID and public health. You may disagree with Pastor Reaume and Trinity Bible Chapel on matters relating to strategy and whether or not they should have just waited out the most recent “lock down” period. You may disagree with Pastor Reaume and Trinity Bible Chapel on all sorts of things … but step back and consider the big picture in this situation.
The Canadian government has fined a local congregation $83,000 simply because they gathered together in their building to worship Jesus together. Caesar has openly tried to take control of the congregational life of a local church in the name of “public health.” This is a gross misuse of power on behalf of the Canadian authorities. God has ordained human government to carry out a number of important functions. Yes, governments ought to act to protect life and this includes legitimate issues of public health … but governments must also act to protect worship and to restrain evil. In this instance, the actions of the Canadian government are limiting worship and punishing those who simply want to worship the Lord Jesus according to their biblically informed consciences.
Additionally, this development creates a frightening precedent for future action. Now that the Canadian government has stepped in to tell churches when they can and cannot gather for worship, and they have done so in the name of the “public good,” what will prevent the same government from shutting down churches who are not LGBTQ+ affirming in the name of the “public good?” Additionally, now that Canadian authorities have arrested – not fined, but arrested – Pastor James Coates for gathering with his church for corporate worship, what will prevent the same government from arresting other pastors who are not LGBTQ+ affirming, again, in the name of the “public good?”
These are disturbing developments with respect to religious liberty, and they are happening on our continent. These are not the cruel actions of some totalitarian government driven by a radical ideology like communism or Islam. These are the cruel actions of a nation that supposedly leads the world in democracy and freedom. As you think about this story and the developing story of Pastor James Coates, consider the following:
- Pray for our brothers and sisters in Canada who now face fines and jail because they gather for worship. Pray that pastors, Christians, and people who value freedom in Canada would speak up and point out the injustice in these situations. Additionally, if you are so inclined, you can give to help cover the fines of Pastor Reaume and Trinity Bible Chapel here.
- Pray for our leaders in the United States. We are coming out of a remarkable period of human history when life as we knew it came to a screeching halt. With infection rates declining, vaccines available, and therapeutics improving, most Americans are ready to get back to some form of “normal.” Pray that our government leaders would wisely balance health and freedom.