Another Canadian pastor was arrested Sunday for holding a church service in violation of COVID-19 health restrictions, making him the second minister this month and the third this year to be taken into custody by police for organizing a worship service.
Pastor Tim Stephens of Fairview Baptist Church in Calgary, Alberta, hugged his wife and children before being placed in a police vehicle and arrested for violating local restrictions, which limit church services to a maximum of 15 individuals.
In a blog this 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, he said, had not had a "single transmission" of COVID-19.
"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.
Adam Soos of Rebel News said in a Sunday video that Stephens is "nothing like pastor Artur Pawlowski," who was arrested last week. Stephens is a "quiet, reserved man who is simply leading his congregation in worship," Soos said.
"He didn't make this a large political deal," Soos added.
The church is affiliated with the Fellowship of Evangelical Baptist Churches in Canada.
"The pastor acknowledged the injunction, but chose to move forward with today's service, ignoring requirements for social distancing, mask-wearing and reduced capacity limits for attendees," Calgary police told CBC in an email.
Stephens' wife, Raquel, tweeted Sunday that the "kids have been in tears all afternoon," and she was "still in shock."
"He is calm as ever, rejoicing that he was counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name," she wrote. "He was able to share the gospel with the officers that drove him away! He asked specifically that you pray for his freedom, and the freedom of the church."
Raquel Stephens released a letter her husband wrote to the children. It read, in part, "I have been arrested because I am convinced by the word of God, reason, and science, that we must gather as a church and live our lives with freedom in Christ."
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Stevanovicigor
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.