A Canadian pastor was arrested at his home Monday after holding a series of underground services at outdoor locations in violation of provincial COVID-19 health restrictions.
Tim Stephens, the pastor of Fairview Baptist Church in Calgary, was placed into a police car and driven away as his wife and young children watched. The emotional scene was captured by a Rebel News video and shows the children crying as Stephens calmly walks to the vehicle.
“Bye, Daddy,” one of the children can be heard saying.
Alberta Health Services, the province’s health department, closed the church’s building earlier this month, but Stephens and the members kept holding services at undisclosed outdoor locations. Videos of the services were posted online.
A police helicopter discovered the location of the outdoor service on Sunday, according to Rebel News.
His wife, Raquel, posted a message on Twitter Tuesday saying Stephens had “refused the bail condition” and “will remain in custody until his next court date June 28.” The bail condition involved him obeying all health restrictions.
She said Stephens refused the bail because doing so would “prevent him from faithfully shepherding the flock that has been entrusted to his care.”
“We are shaken, but our faith is not,” she wrote. “We are sorrowful, but always rejoicing. … In God’s providence, Tim’s imprisonment will strengthen us in the faith and embolden us to love and obey Christ, no matter the cost.”
She asked for believers to pray that her husband would “stand firm” and be comforted. She also requested prayers for his release.
Tim was arrested again for holding an outdoor service in violation of Alberta’s health orders. He went before a Justice of the Peace this evening and refused the bail condition so he’ll remain in custody until his next court date June 28.@tim__stephens https://t.co/MDAuLCfeng pic.twitter.com/UCtPRjNohq— Raquel Stephens (@RaquelAStephens) June 15, 2021
In the video, she tells a police officer, “No other jurisdiction is imprisoning pastors for breaking health orders.”
In a blog last month, Stephens acknowledged COVID-19 is “serious” but argued the “cure should not be worse than the disease,” pointing to problems of mental health and suicide. His church had not had a “single transmission” of COVID-19, he wrote.
At the time, church worship services were limited to only 15 people.
“Restricting the church to 15 people – which essentially restricts the church from gathering – is against the will of Christ and against the conscience of many who desire to worship the Lord of glory according to his word,” Stephens wrote.
Photo courtesy: Pixabay
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.