Pastor John MacArthur on Sunday commended GraceLife Church in Alberta, Canada, which is meeting in secret after the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) barricaded their building behind three layers of chain link fence. He also read a heartfelt letter that the church’s pastor sent to MacArthur’s congregation.
Rising to address the members of Grace Community Church in Los Angeles, which has been legally wrangling with county and state authorities since deciding to resume in-person services last July, MacArthur first noted how James Coates and his congregation are meeting in a location they refuse to publicize after RCMP raided them at dawn last Wednesday.
“Amazing to have an underground church in Canada,” MacArthur said. “This because the government of Alberta triple-fenced the church in and locked it so people couldn’t go there.”
MacArthur observed how out of the province’s millions of residents, approximately 2,000 people have died from the virus in Alberta since the beginning of the pandemic, most of whom were in nursing homes. He claimed there was “no legitimate reason” for authorities to forcibly shut down GraceLife Church for continuing to hold services in defiance of Alberta’s Public Health Order, which capped church services at 15% capacity.
“But they did,” MacArthur said. “This is a first for the Western world, to have the government lock out believers from a church.”
MacArthur went on to mention how Coates, who is a graduate of the seminary affiliated with Grace Community Church, was imprisoned for more than a month in a maximum security facility in Edmonton. As The Daily Wire reported, Coates said fellow prisoners were aware of his situation and came to him seeking spiritual advice.
MacArthur then noted how the Alberta government has been met with intense backlash for how Coates and his church have been treated. “The scene is changing,” he said. “There is a massive outcry against the government for doing this.”
Approximately 300 people gathered at GraceLife Church on Sunday morning to protest, some of whom ripped down portions of the three-walled barrier erected around the building, which was guarded by about a dozen police officers, according to the Western Standard. “Dozens of RCMP cruisers blocked access roads for kilometres surrounding the church,” the outlet reported.
A church in Edmonton, Canada wouldn’t obey politicians and lock its doors. So they jailed the pastor for 35 days. The church still wouldn’t close. So police raided it, turned it into an armed garrison & occupied it. And still the Christians come. pic.twitter.com/yNZRUXXudl
— Ezra Levant 🍁 (@ezralevant) April 11, 2021
Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro personally approved the raid against GraceLife Church last week, according to reporting that the Western Standard based upon a United Conservative Party lawmaker who spoke to them on condition of anonymity. Shandro has since denied the allegation.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has faced internal backlash from members of his own caucus for his COVID-19 restrictions, several of whom signed a letter rebuking Kenney for reinstating restrictions on Albertans.
— Drew Barnes (@Drew__Barnes) April 7, 2021
After recounting the situation with GraceLife Church, MacArthur later read Coates’ letter:
To Grace Community Church, which is in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
Grace to you and peace in Him. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has superabundantly glorified Himself through you.
For decades, you have been a strong and steadfast pillar and support of the truth, so much so, the Lord established many other beacons of truth throughout this world as a direct result of your ministry. You have exemplified a profound love for the brethren, warm service and hospitality, and an undeniable love for God and His Word.
In fact, His Word has sounded forth from you with such power and precision, that the fruit of your ministry is absolutely immeasurable this side of Heaven. Pastor John’s 52 years of faithful ministry is as much a testimony to you as it is to him. May God richly reward you for your faithfulness.
Thank you for the way you cared for me, my family, and congregation during my imprisonment. Your love and prayerful support were vital to our steadfastness in the face of suffering. The letter from the elders was an immense encouragement. The support from Dr. Nathan Busenitz and The Master’s Seminary was both humbling and strengthening. And the pastoral care provided by Pastor John was incredibly comforting. It was also a rich blessing to receive letters from a number of you while imprisoned. Those letters provided necessary fuel for my resolve.
My wife Erin also sends her greetings and thankfulness. She was and continues to be greatly strengthened by your letters. You poured into her early in her spiritual development and you are pouring into her now, as well.
You have suffered well for the gospel. It is an indescribable blessing to join you in that suffering. Our congregations have been counted worthy for this purpose. May we rejoice in this, as did the apostles in their sufferings. Jesus Christ is the sovereign Lord over all creation and the supreme head of the Church. We will bow to Him and Him alone. Only He is worthy.
And now may He continually strengthen you unto all faithfulness and may He constantly radiate His honor and glory through you. To Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.