Police Block and Barricade Canadian Church Over COVID-19 Violatons

Health officials in Alberta, Canada, made the decision to “physically close” a local church building until its leaders agree to finally comply with coronavirus regulations.

Police vehicles blocked entrances to the parking lot of GraceLife Church in Edmonton Wednesday morning and temporary fencing was erected around the building. The congregation has met normally since summer 2020, despite requirements that church gatherings limit capacity, require masks, and practice social distancing.

Over the last nine months, the province’s health department fielded more than 100 complaints about GraceLife and conducted 18 inspections, resulting in multiple fines and orders to comply. Its pastor was arrested and spent a month in jail refusing the conditions of bail, that he agree to follow health regulations.

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, which represents GraceLife and its pastor James Coates, said the move to barricade private church property prevents citizens from “exercising their Charter freedoms of peaceful assembly, association, and worship.”

As officials surrounded the church, dozens of GraceLife members gathered outside and sang hymns, according to a report by the Globe and Mail.

“Please pray for wisdom as our elders navigate this new development!” one member tweeted, posting a screenshot of the view of the new fencing from the church’s security camera.


Premier Jason Kenney told Albertans a week ago that the province is in its third wave of COVID-19 outbreaks. He suggested that more stringent enforcement by police may be necessary at this point, saying authorities have “been very patient during a difficult time trying to get compliance through education, through voluntary compliance, and using sanctions as a last resort.”

The GraceLife case has drawn the attention of those in both Canada and the US who fear government overreach during pandemic. Alberta legislator Dan Williams, a conservative politician and a Christian, spoke up to defend worship as a fundamental freedom. He said while he respects the 15 percent capacity limit for gatherings, “it is a different line to cross to barricade a church, a place of God.”

GraceLife leaders consider the COVID-19 risks overblown and claim that their ability to continue gathering without spreading the virus is proof.

“We believe love for our neighbor demands that we exercise our civil liberties,” the church wrote. “We do not see our actions as perpetuating the longevity of COVID-19 or any other virus that will inevitably come along. If anything, we see our actions as contributing to its end—the end of destructive lockdowns and the end of the attempt to institutionalize the debilitating fear of viral infections.”

Pastor Coates is due in court next month for violating gathering limits at GraceLife.


Franklin Graham’s views on marriage cannot be characterised as ‘extremist’, says court




The Time for Hope adverts ran on local buses before being removed by Blackpool Borough Council and Blackpool Transport Services.(Photo: BGEA UK)

Blackpool Borough Council and Blackpool Transport Services discriminated against Christians when they removed bus adverts for an event with US evangelist Franklin Graham, a court has ruled. 

The adverts ran on local buses to promote the 2018 Lancashire Festival of Hope with Graham, the son of late evangelist Billy Graham. 

They displayed only details of the event and the slogan “Time for Hope”, but were removed after a social media campaign by LGBT activists.

But the court has now sided with organisers the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA UK). 

In a judgment handed down on Thursday, Judge Claire Evans said the removal of the ads over Graham’s religious views on marriage was a violation of the Equality Act 2010, and an unjustified interference in the organisers’ freedom of expression. 

The judge also concluded that a secular organisation advertising “in exactly the same way … would not have had its advertisements removed”.

Elsewhere, the judgment said that Graham’s views were shared by many religions.

“They may be offensive to some people, but they cannot properly be characterised as ‘extremist’,” it said. 

Judge Evans ruled “overwhelmingly in favour” of the Lancashire Festival of Hope, saying Blackpool “had a wholesale disregard” for the event’s right to freedom of expression while simultaneously giving preference to the rights and opinions of the LGBT community.

Removing the adverts was a violation of the Equality Act 2010.(Photo: BGEA UK)

BGEA UK said Thursday’s ruling was a “strong and clear rebuke of the cancel culture sweeping the UK”. 

“We thank God for this ruling because it is a win for every Christian in the UK,” said Graham.

James Barrett, Chairman of BGEA UK, said: “This ruling confirms that all Christians in the UK have the right to share their beliefs in the public square without being discriminated against or interfered with by public officials and other groups that want to silence them.

“I am grateful the courts have once again reiterated that the freedom to speak only what is not offensive is not freedom of speech at all.”

Some 9,000 people attended the Lancashire Festival of Hope in Blackpool in September 2018, with more than 50,000 watching online. 

Welcoming the judgment, Simon Calvert, Deputy Director for Public Affairs at The Christian Institute, said the ruling safeguards future evangelistic events in the UK. 

“This ruling is good news for the Good News. Lancashire Festival of Hope was an entirely positive presentation of the gospel and had nothing to do with the controversies activists tried to link to it,” he said.

“Evangelistic events like this can go ahead in the future safe from hostile attempts by local councils to mute their message.

“This ruling is a warning to local authorities who don’t like Christians because of their beliefs about marriage. The message is clear: if you discriminate against us, you are breaking the law.

“The Festival’s bus adverts were agreed by all sides to be inoffensive. Yet Blackpool banned them, then lit up the Tower in rainbow colours during the Festival to show their solidarity with LGBT activists and their opposition to Christians.

“The judgment strongly condemns Blackpool’s actions, and rejects the arguments of their legal team that sought to defeat the entire purpose of equality and human rights law.”




Blackpool Council discriminated against Christians by cancelling Franklin Graham adverts – court




The Time for Hope adverts ran on local buses before being removed by Blackpool Borough Council and Blackpool Transport Services.(Photo: BGEA UK)

Blackpool Borough Council and Blackpool Transport Services discriminated against Christians when they removed bus adverts for an event with US evangelist Franklin Graham, a court has ruled. 

The adverts ran on local buses to promote the 2018 Lancashire Festival of Hope with Graham, the son of late evangelist Billy Graham. 

They displayed only details of the event and the slogan “Time for Hope”, but were removed after a social media campaign by LGBT activists.

But the court has now sided with organisers the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA UK). 

In a judgment handed down on Thursday, Judge Claire Evans said the removal of the ads over Graham’s religious views on marriage was a violation of the Equality Act 2010, and an unjustified interference in the organisers’ freedom of expression. 

The judge also concluded that a secular organisation advertising “in exactly the same way … would not have had its advertisements removed”.

Elsewhere, the judgment said that Graham’s views were shared by many religions.

“They may be offensive to some people, but they cannot properly be characterised as ‘extremist’,” it said. 

Judge Evans ruled “overwhelmingly in favour” of the Lancashire Festival of Hope, saying Blackpool “had a wholesale disregard” for the event’s right to freedom of expression while simultaneously giving preference to the rights and opinions of the LGBT community.

Removing the adverts was a violation of the Equality Act 2010.(Photo: BGEA UK)

BGEA UK said Thursday’s ruling was a “strong and clear rebuke of the cancel culture sweeping the UK”. 

“We thank God for this ruling because it is a win for every Christian in the UK,” said Graham.

James Barrett, Chairman of BGEA UK, said: “This ruling confirms that all Christians in the UK have the right to share their beliefs in the public square without being discriminated against or interfered with by public officials and other groups that want to silence them.

“I am grateful the courts have once again reiterated that the freedom to speak only what is not offensive is not freedom of speech at all.”

Some 9,000 people attended the Lancashire Festival of Hope in Blackpool in September 2018, with more than 50,000 watching online. 

Welcoming the judgment, Simon Calvert, Deputy Director for Public Affairs at The Christian Institute, said the ruling safeguards future evangelistic events in the UK. 

“This ruling is good news for the Good News. Lancashire Festival of Hope was an entirely positive presentation of the gospel and had nothing to do with the controversies activists tried to link to it,” he said.

“Evangelistic events like this can go ahead in the future safe from hostile attempts by local councils to mute their message.

“This ruling is a warning to local authorities who don’t like Christians because of their beliefs about marriage. The message is clear: if you discriminate against us, you are breaking the law.

“The Festival’s bus adverts were agreed by all sides to be inoffensive. Yet Blackpool banned them, then lit up the Tower in rainbow colours during the Festival to show their solidarity with LGBT activists and their opposition to Christians.

“The judgment strongly condemns Blackpool’s actions, and rejects the arguments of their legal team that sought to defeat the entire purpose of equality and human rights law.”




Sunday Worship Is More Than Songs and a Sermon

As a proto-hipster of the late 1990s, I entered the worship wars of my local church with mandolin and accordion in hand, ready to change the world with quirky acoustic folk music for Jesus. Had you asked me why that was important, I wouldn’t have given you a good answer. I wanted things to change in gathered worship because I wanted it to be relevant—that is, to my liking. As I ventured further into music ministry in later years, I realized not only how self-centered I was, but how shortsighted my view of gathered worship had been.

In Corporate Worship: How the Church Gathers as God’s People, Matt Merker—director of creative resources and training for Getty Music and composer of “He Will Hold Me Fast,” among other hymns—argues that in order to understand what is best for gathered worship, we must first understand the local church. With a robust ecclesiology as the foundation for corporate doxology, we’ll better appreciate the corporate aspects of worship—including prayer, Scripture reading, responsive reading, confession, ordinances, sermon responses, and singing.

Assembly

By definition, the church is an assembly or gathering (ekklesia). When the pandemic first struck, a megachurch pastor said he couldn’t wait to show the world that we don’t need to gather to be the church. It’s odd to imagine, though, that an assembly need not assemble.

Corporate Worship: How the Church Gathers as God’s People

Matt Merker

Corporate Worship: How the Church Gathers as God’s People

Matt Merker

Crossway. 176 pp.

Christians worship God at church every week, but many don’t know exactly what worship is or why they do it. For some, it’s a warm-up for the sermon. For others, it’s a “me and Jesus” moment. What is the biblically informed way to understand corporate worship?

In this book, Matt Merker shows that corporate worship is the gathering of God’s people by his grace, for his glory, for their good, and before a watching world. He offers biblical insights and practical suggestions for making worship what it truly is meant to be: a foretaste of God’s people worshiping together for eternity in the new creation.

Crossway. 176 pp.

More than an activity to be performed, assembly is an identity to be lived. We gather as those united to Christ by faith (Matt. 18:20). “We don’t ‘go to church’ to worship,” Merker writes, “we worship because we are the church” (37). It follows that Christians should be about the business of giving glory to the God who has called them to assemble, following the counsel of his sufficient Word (2 Tim. 3:16).

In order to understand what is best for gathered worship, we must first understand the local church.

Many churches have sought to stress the comfort of non-Christians when designing gathered worship, neglecting the command to “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Col. 3:16). Of course, every church family should strive to be hospitable to outsiders (1 Cor. 14:1–19), but the church needn’t suppress the communal culture of the kingdom in order to be attractive. Merker gives a helpful example on this point, comparing corporate worship to a Honduran tailgate party he saw before a soccer match:

Flags flew. Music blasted. Meat sizzled on the grill. . . . I both felt like an outsider and was attracted to their gathering.

Most of us would love to be invited to this party, and we would be disheartened if we received only a burger and fries because we’re American. Likewise, the local church is an outpost of a glorious kingdom unknown to the world, with strangely beautiful truths to proclaim, profess, and celebrate for all to see.

It’s in obedience to our King (first) and in service to one another (second) that we can create an attractive culture of corporate worship in our churches. We assemble, not as individuals vying for our preferences, but as a unified people submitting to Scripture and glorifying God. In this kind of gathering, we’re reminded of the truths we profess and are thereby encouraged, convicted, sharpened, and enthused.

Family Meal

Corporate worship is a family meal, as Merker calls it, which differs from eating alone. Creating an environment in which we experience the presence of the gathered church—not just those up front—is crucial to the corporate aspects of worship. A service that elevates entertainment over engagement fails to involve the gathered church in the work and witness of worship. “The real action is in the pew, not on the platform,” Merker writes (40).

We assemble, not as individuals vying for our preferences, but as a unified people.

For many of us, the pandemic has highlighted how good it is to gather for this family meal, as many have been forced to “eat alone” for a long time. A meal enjoyed alone can accommodate our individual preferences, but it can’t replace the same sense of joy, community, love, and connection that can come from gathering with other people. Will it always be completely to your liking? Probably not. But if the Lord has given you pastors and church members who prepare a table where you can gather to be nourished, rejuvenated, and sustained, then show up and dig in.

After all, you’re not coming for the quirky acoustic folk music for Jesus­—you’re coming to join in a family meal.