GraceLife Church Denies Congregants Participated in Controversial Protest

By Jackson Elliott
GraceLife Church fence
Protesters tear down fence surrounding GraceLife Church during protests Sunday. (Source: Twitter video screengrab)

GraceLife Church in Edmonton, Canada, today is distancing itself from a protest Sunday that resulted in fences on church property being torn down and accusations of trespassing from a nearby First Nations tribe.

According to John Carpay, president of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, which is representing GraceLife, no church members participated in the protest.

“Grace Life Church congregants were not at the protest that occurred on Sunday, April 11, 2021 near the Church’s facility,” Carpay wrote in a statement posted online. “Grace Life Church recognizes the place for peaceful protest within the context of a democracy.”

However, Tanya Cardinal, communications head for Enoch Cree Nation, a local First Nations tribe, disputes Carpay’s claims. She said six GraceLife members who attended the protest contacted her to apologize for mistakenly parking on Cree land.

According to a press release from the Cree nation, 150 trespassers parked their cars on a private road. One trespasser vandalized a Cree chief’s car and another was arrested for attempting to assault a tribal councilor, the release added.

Give a gift of $30 or more to The Roys Report this month, and you will receive a copy of “Wounded Workers: Recovering from Heartache in the Workplace and the Church” by Kirk Farnsworth. To donate, click here.

The protest Sunday gathered 300 to 400 protesters from various parts of Alberta in a mostly peaceful standoff with police outside the fence at GraceLife that Canadian authorities had erected earlier in the week.

At one point, though, some protesters tore down sections of the fence. Soon afterwards, others helped police repair the fence.

The protest is the latest in a series of clashes involving GraceLife Church and local authorities.

Despite Alberta public health rules requiring religious services to limit capacity to 15% and to wear masks, GraceLife has continued to host church services at full capacity and without masks.

GraceLife Pastor James Coates spent 35 days in jail for refusing to follow the COVID guidelines. He was released on March 22. On April 7, local authorities fenced off the church.

The protest mixed aggressive and peaceful actions, City News Edmonton reported. Some protesters prayed or sang worship songs, and others shouted at an estimated 200 police officers guarding the fence.

Some protesters also carried signs with statements like “I am standing up 4 freedom,” “Stop Communism,” “No Gestapo Policing,” and “COVID Vax are killing people.”

According to Corporal Tammy Keibel, the media relations officer for central Alberta police, no police officers were injured and no arrests were made at the protest.

The protest began before 10:00 am and ended in the late afternoon, according to the Edmonton Journal.

According to Erin Coates, James Coates’s wife, GraceLife’s congregation met in a secret location on Sunday to avoid the police.

“For the first time in months we worshiped without the harassment of the police, media, and health services,” she said. “Our people have been through so much, the emotional toll was lifted for just one day. It was a joy to worship unhindered. That’s all we’re asking for.”

“They can take our facility, but we’ll just find another one,” said James Coates in his April 11 sermon.

James Coates graduated from The Master’s Seminary, where MacArthur serves as chancellor emeritus. MacArthur’s church has also faced legal battles for violating COVID guidelines.

“This is a first for the western world to have the government lock out believers from a church,” MacArthur said in yesterday’s sermon. “There’s massive outcry against the government for doing this.”

Before his sermon, MacArthur read a letter from James Coates.

“Thank you for the way you cared for me my family and congregation during my imprisonment,” the letter said. “Your love and prayerful support were vital to our steadfastness in the face of suffering. The letter from the elders was an immense encouragement.”

John MacArthur on GraceLife Church lockdown:

Alberta has some of Canada’s least restrictive COVID-19 regulations. However, the province increased regulations last week in response to a rise in COVID-19 cases, according to Global News.

“Restaurants and churches, they’ve all been associated with large-scale transmission events,” said Dr. Zain Chagla, the medical director of infection control at St. Joseph’s Healthcare, an Ontario hospital. “It’s imperative that those settings are mitigated as much as possible.”

Jackson ElliottJackson Elliott is a Christian journalist trained at Northwestern University. He has worked at The Daily Signal, The Inlander, and The Christian Post, covering topics ranging from D.C. politics to prison ministry. His interests include the Bible, philosophy, theology, Russian literature, and Irish music.




Keep in touch with Julie and get updates in your inbox!

Don’t worry we won’t spam you.

More to explore

19 thoughts on “GraceLife Church Denies Congregants Participated in Controversial Protest”

  1. Walmart, Cosco, liquor stores, marijuana dispensaries, TV filming sets, NHL Hockey players and abortion clinics are considered essential in Canada but not churches.
    And Is this applying the law equally to all citizens?
    We are to obey God rather than man.

    1. You do understand that all those can operate as long as the social distancing and occupancy restrictions are met. If they don’t they are fined and continued defiance means they are shut down. But UNLIKE the cult leader Coates, those other establishments have opted maintain the occupancy limits and social distancing. Same thing with most of the other houses of worship in Alberta.

      But don’t the facts get in the way of you drinking the Kool-Aid.

    2. Michele Veldman

      From Ottawa, a fellow Canadian here…as you don’t want to obey these laws regarding masks and distancing…why not remove fire extinguishers, alarms, and other items in your church that are also mandated by law?
      There may be little risk of contracting Covid at church, but the risk of Covid is still higher than the risk of a massive fire in your church….I weep at how the Body of Christ is sating itself on rhetoric and how Alberta or Canada is being demonized as forcing the church “underground”…Stop protesting, put on your mask, and help a brother or sister by encouragement, a meal, a phone call…

  2. Does anyone know the process of adding a book to the New Testament canon? This first epistle of James Coates seems like a definite contender.

  3. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has spoken up.
    Along with yesterday, he is referring to a rally outside the provincial legislature today, were a key speaker was Maxime Bernier is a former Conservative Member of Parliament who founded The Peoples Party of Canada in 2018.
    Premier Kenney:

    1/ Yesterday a protestor was arrested for shouting racial insults at a First Nations woman on Enoch Reserve.

    Dozens of protestors also trespassed on reserve land, & Chief Morin’s car was vandalized.

    Today protestors at the Legislature called for Dr. Hinshaw to be “locked up.”

    2/ They also chanted “just say no” to vaccines.

    Albertans respect the freedoms of speech and protest. But breaking the law, trespassing, threats and intimidation go too far.

    I condemn these actions and statements. It is increasingly clear that many involved in these protests

    3/ are unhinged conspiracy theorists.

    Their words and actions are unacceptable.

    Reasonable people can disagree about the best way to respond to the respond to the threat of this pandemic. But spreading misinformation, conspiracy theories, and making threats is beyond the pale

    4/ It’s particularly offensive to threaten a committed public servant like Dr. Hinshaw, a consummate professional who has offered the best possible health advice to govt.

    I call on those responsible to stop the threats & law breaking, which is a disservice to their own cause.

    GraceLife’s statement through their lawyers regarding the protest blames the government and there is no call on the part of the pastor, elders, congregants or lawyers for calm.

  4. Sorry, John MacArthur. I am an Alberta pastor. There is NO “massive outcry against the government” as you claim. Most pastors/churches I know here are giving Pastor Coates & Co a collective 🙄

    1. When they came for Gracelife, I rolled my eyes because they were crazies.
      When they came for those who used the wrong pronouns, I rolled my eyes because I use people’s preferred pronouns.
      When they came for those who preach homosexuality is a sin, I rolled my eyes because I preach God’s love.
      When they came for those who say Jesus is God, I rolled my eyes because he was just another good example to follow.
      In the end, they did not need to come for me because they already had me, I was part of the world system.

      1. John:

        To quote the colourful Michael Coren:

        Blessed are the doctors, nurses, caregivers
        Blessed are those who observe the lockdown
        Blessed are those who listen to science and sense
        Blessed are those who reject hysteria and conspiracies
        Blessed are those who love others.

        GraceLife leaders and congregants aren’t crazies.
        MacArthur clones for sure, misguided and politicized in a world wide pandemic.
        God help them if Covid-19 invades their little bubble.

    2. Hi Tim:

      Bene D here.
      Been seeing you around online since I shut the blog down.
      Glad you are well and I continue to appreciate your thoughtful comments and insight.
      I wonder if James Coates is more politically naïve than I first thought.
      GraceLife rhetoric mirrors MacArthur to a ‘t’.

      I join you in your eyeroll.

    1. The byline Seems to imply that all the protesters acted foolishly. The article shows that is not true.

      Some did act foolishly by crashing the fence, and taunting the tribal leader and parking on Cree land. And shouting maybe when they didn’t need to.

      Yet, many protested peacefully. Some helped police repair the fence. 6 did apologize to the Cree for parking on the their land. Some sang worship songs. Some prayed.

  5. Let me continue to point out that the Apostle Paul wrote that Christians are supposed to obey authorities even while the emperor was Nero in Romans 13. Note that the letter was written to the Church in Rome, where Nero’s seat of power was. Disobedience to the scriptures is what has set this whole affair into motion. And I am concerned as I see an increasing trend in those calling themselves conservative Christians towards violence. To me it is clear that the pastor behind the church is rebelling directly against God and there is nothing Christian about that. Paul is clear in this point that we should not be doing that. Trying to ignore all precautions during a pandemic is just plain stupid. I think Solomon said something to that effect…

    1. The reason is obvious. They have been blinded by idolatry (in this case the idol of individualism, my “rights” and my “FREEDUMB” etc.). This Canadian has picked up all the bad habits of the nationalistic, wrapping the flag around the Cross, etc. of the evangelicals in the US. But then he is John MacArthur acolyte, so I am not surprised.

  6. Some have said that MacArthur was hospitalized with Covid. If that’s true, it would have been at the height of the surge in California, and he would have been lucky there was a bed to put him in. And, if that’s true, MacArthur must be one of the proudest, most hard-hearted people alive.

  7. It seems James Coates wanted and got what he hoped for and that is attention from John MacArthur. And to get there there had to be some misrepresentation of the truth. Lead away in chains? Not. He turned himself in. Maximum security jail? Not. It was the Remand Centre where they hold people awaiting trial. I don’t get the repeating of lies. Surely Satan is the father of lies and when someone of John MacArthur’s stature gives credence to them that should worry all of us. He is an old man. Won’t someone love John MacArthur?

The Roys Report seeks to foster thoughtful and respectful dialogue. Toward that end, the site requires that people use their full name when commenting. Also, any comments with profanity, name-calling, and/or a nasty tone will be deleted.

Comments are limited to 300 words.

Leave a Reply

The Roys Report seeks to foster thoughtful and respectful dialogue. Toward that end, the site requires that people register before they begin commenting. This means no anonymous comments will be allowed. Also, any comments with profanity, name-calling, and/or a nasty tone will be deleted.
MOST popular articles

Don't miss the stories that matter!

Sign up to receive our Daily News Digest


Hi. We see this is the third article this month you’ve found worth reading. Great! Would you consider making a tax-deductible donation to help our journalists continue to report the truth and restore the church?

Your tax-deductible gift helps our journalists report the truth and hold Christian leaders and organizations accountable. Give a gift of any amount to The Roys Report this month, and you will receive a copy of “Wounded Workers: Recovering from Heartache in the Workplace and the Church” by Kirk Farnsworth.