Fairview Baptist Church has been shut down by the Alberta Health Services for violating COVID health restrictions. AHS said in a release issued on Saturday that the church has been physically closed and that access to the building and its grounds has been disallowed until its pastor, Tim Stephens could "demonstrate the ability to comply with these restrictions."
According to CBC News, Fairview Baptist Church had repeatedly violated public health restrictions and allowed services that exceed required capacities to take place for weeks every Sunday. Attendees did not practice physical distancing and at times did not wear masks. Up to 57 public complaints have been filed against the church, Canadian authorities said.
"AHS recognizes that the vast majority of places of worship are compliant with required public health measures for the protection of not only those who attend services, but for the protection of their families, friends and communities," the AHS release said. Rebel News captured footage showing the church building with its doors closed.
BREAKING: Alberta Health Services have locked another Pastor's church in Alberta.
Pastor Tim Stephens of Fairview Baptist Church found out this morning that his church in Calgary, Alberta has been seized.
Rebel Reporter @ATSoos will bring you updates.pic.twitter.com/wDqul1nta0
— Rebel News (@RebelNewsOnline) June 5, 2021
Under its Stage 1 reopening plan, only 15% of fire code occupancy is allowed for places of worship. On June 10, this will increase to 35% of fire code occupancy under Stage 2 of the reopening plan.
But Pastor Stephens remains unmoved. He changed the locks at the church to prevent anyone from entering. He also called out the provinces' "most senior government officials" who were caught "photographed flouting health orders."
Pastor Stephens argued that the AHS is forcing the congregation to comply with public health restrictions "that violate the commands of our Lord and undermine the fundamental freedoms afforded to all Canadians."
"Fines, injunctions, imprisonments, and seizure of property will only demonstrate the folly of their actions and bring glory to Christ," Pastor Stephens declared. "They can take the building but they cannot take the church."
In May, Global News reported that Pastor Stephens was served a copy of the Court of Queen's Bench order as obtained by AHS, which he acknowledged but failed to comply with. The order was served just a day after the pastor was arrested for organizing services that did not comply with public health guidelines such as wearing masks, physical distancing, and attendance limits. About 100 to 150 church attendees were seen leaving the church without their masks on.
Pastor Stephens argued that varying capacity limits will not "change nothing for a church that takes its cues from God rather than medical fear-mongering," the Calgary Herald (CH) reported in May.
"Our actions are borne out of theological commitments to the Lordship of Christ and his instruction to the church as revealed in Scripture," Pastor Stephens wrote in the official website of Fairview Baptist Church. "This, above all, is the reason why we have been gathering and will continue to gather...the consequences may be severe. But we stand before Christ rather than bend before consequences."
Pastor Tim Stephens is not the only Christian leader who has been in frequent confrontations with local authorities strictly enforcing COVID restrictions. Pastor Artur Pawlowski of The Fortress (Cave) of Adullam church, as well as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church of Edmonton, have also faced prison for standing for Christ against the restrictions.
CH said on Sunday that Calgary reported 231 new COVID cases amidst a decline of active cases and number of COVID patients in the ICU. Calgary continues to push for vaccination, with bookings for the second dose beginning on June 14.