Pastor James Coates is the first Canadian pastor jailed for hosting a Church service in non-cooperation with Alberta’s health rules. The Edmonton pastor was taken to the Edmonton Remand Centre wearing wrist and ankle cuffs. His crime? Refusing to comply with the Government’s COVID-19 restrictions specific to church services.

The preaching style at GraceLife Church is known as expository preaching. That means the preacher teaches through different books of the Bible, verse-by-verse. This allows for a clearer proclamation of God’s word and also mitigates the risk for a pastor solely preaching his own opinions, instead of what is clearly stated in God’s word.

I started attending GraceLife Church in the Spring of 2014. At that time, James Coates was preaching through the book of 1 Timothy in the Bible. I have known Pastor James Coates for seven years and his life has been a clear testimony of all that he preached in 1 Timothy.

The book of 1 Timothy is known as a pastoral epistle. That is, it’s a book in the Bible providing clear descriptions and qualifications of a pastor with an emphasis on the character of the pastor. Some of the qualifications of a pastor, or elders, are that “he must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard. Not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money,” and other characteristics that testify of the man’s moral integrity. For a pastor to preach through such a book requires transparency and inviting his congregation’s public scrutiny as a husband, a father, and a leader. This also goes to show his commitment to truth and a complete abandonment of self-preservation.

Pastor James Coates has always sought to exemplify everything he taught and believes from 1 Timothy. This is the man who was taken to the Edmonton Remand Center on February 17th, 2021. We have to ask: How did he get there? How did the Church get there? How did the Government of Alberta get there? Unfortunately, the clear answer is that the government is so committed to its COVID-19 “pandemic” response that it will lock up a law-abiding citizen. From the perspective of the congregation, Pastor James’ crime was to faithfully practice his God-given rights. Pastor James was treated like a criminal and, from the perspective of the government and Alberta Health Services, Pastor James is a criminal.

If anyone still wonders how committed the government is to its COVID-19 response, remember Pastor James Coates. This treatment of a Canadian pastor by his own government should give us all clarity on what is really going on. It has been over two weeks since he was remanded; he is still in jail, and there is a strong possibility that he will be there for months.

As believers, we are to rejoice in our suffering. James 1:2-4: tells us:

“Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

 It is through this refining process that God sanctifies His Church for His glory. Pastor James Coates is not seeking his own glory. Through his faithful obedience to Christ as the head of the Church, James Coates is suffering for Christ’s sake. To quote Pastor James Coates:

“What I am doing here is a minuscule fraction of what Christ did for me when He died for me while I yet hated Him…”