For everything there is a season. Trinity Bible Chapel’s COVID-19 saga is officially over. About three years ago, we received our first tickets. Then we were convicted of contempt of court. Then we received more tickets, were convicted of contempt of court again, and the government stole our building. We met outside for worship for the spring and summer in 2021. With all that, the elders incurred dozens of civil charges. The Crown prosecutor recently told the court that there were 78 charges associated with our church. On Tuesday of this week it ended.
We entered a “not-guilty” plea, but we did agree to a minimal statement of facts, essentially stating what I’d already said to the media and on the Internet. The Crown dropped all the charges against the elders, and the church was fined $38,000 plus a 25% victim surcharge. The victim surcharge also goes to the government, as it does in all cases. Here the government is the victim, and Trinity Bible Chapel is the big bad victimizer: You might say Tuesday was opposite-day. In total the fine amounts to about $50,000. That’s after we had to pay $230,000 in contempt of court fines already. If you do the math, it means we’ll have had to pay about $280,000 in fines when it’s all said and done. Now with the chronicle closed, I have a few thoughts.
I am blessed to serve with some amazing men on the elders’ board. Their moral mettle has been tested, and they’ve proven faithful. These brothers were willing to risk their jobs, homes, lifestyles, etc., for the sake of the church and the honour of Christ. Let me be clear, while all charges against these men were abandoned, each had the potential to suffer hundreds of thousands in fines. Equally impressive are the wives, mine included, who supported us throughout, without flinching. Each elder understood his sacred duty, and each joyfully took up his cross to follow Jesus without looking back. The elders of Trinity Bible Chapel are noble men, and their wives are great mothers in Israel. Of special note is Harvey Frey, who chaired the board through this ordeal, with the full support of his wife, Mary. Mary received her reward in heaven last year, so, while cheering for us from the great cloud of witnesses, the Lord took her before she could witness the conclusion of this saga with us. I am honoured to serve with all these brothers, and each one, by his Christian testimony, encourages me to be more holy.
With all our many court appearances, contempt hearings, and appeals, we have not had to pay a cent in legal fees. The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms represented us pro bono. I am thankful for John Carpay’s vision that has been realised in the JCCF and for the excellent work his team does. You can donate to the JCCF here. We’ve met some exceptional lawyers along the way, most notably Lisa Bildy, Rob Kittredge, Jorge Pineda, Hatim Kheir, Sayeh Hassan, and Christopher Fleury. There were others too, but those just named spent hours upon hours with us and on our many files. They advocated for us, and they proved themselves true friends of Christ’s church. I thank God for the JCCF.
God has been kind to us. We’ve spent $280,000 on fines. But, the church has tripled in size. We have had dozens upon dozens of baptisms. Our school and our congregation have run out of space. The experience bonded our congregation. We have some amazing stories to tell, stories that we still laugh about. I chuckle over the time we constructed a make-shift fence around the property so the police and media wouldn’t see us enter the church. I smirk at the time a group of us slept in the church on a Saturday evening, to preempt any police attempts to enter the facility and seize it before our worship service on Sunday. The police-chases down Lobsinger Line are also fond memories. I have never experienced a more palpable display of God’s Holy Spirit than during our first service in contempt of court, January of 2021. And on and on. Truly, the congregation of Trinity Bible Chapel is a blessing to serve. We have some real characters among us – the type you are confident to be in the fox hole with and the type that are fun to be around. It is my joy to be their pastor. With all this, we’ve met like-minded pastors and churches, who we previously didn’t know existed. Overall, notwithstanding the fines, the experience has been fun. Like Abraham and Israel of old, we’ve been released from Egypt with our bags full of treasures.
People online have had interesting reactions to our latest fines. Some have been jubilant, others angry. The jubilant people are jubilant because this final fine won’t bankrupt the church and the elders. The angry folks are angry because they see the injustice: the government continues to rob church resources at gunpoint. Personally, I’m glad it’s over. For that I’m jubilant. I’m also happy that the fines aren’t as big as they could have been. I was facing a maximum fine of $1.1 million, each elder faced several hundred thousand dollars, and the church faced about $60 million, I think. This could have ended very tragically, and it didn’t.
That said the government has stolen our resources once again, with the latest fine. The Bible says we are supposed to rejoice when we are persecuted for righteousness sake. We are to be thankful in all things. I do believe we’ve been treated unjustly. The government has fined us thousands of dollars for worshipping Christ, and we have no recourse in the courts: The Supreme Court of Canada has refused to hear our case. Our corrupt officials have invited more wrath upon themselves, which will hasten God’s judgement upon them. I harbour no bitterness or vitriol towards them, because I believe justice will come, and it will be a glorious display of God’s power when He deals with them and exposes their wicked deeds.
The churches that complied – to the suffering of their congregation – still need to repent, especially the churches and pastors who vociferously pushed compliance like it was Gospel. They really need to repent. I’m talking to you, Paul Carter and Stan Fowler. You employed your positions and credentials to tell the churches not to be churches. You told them not to gather. You told them to worship in a way that Jesus never told them to. You became Erastian messengers of the state. You denied Jesus His worship. You denied Him His crown rights. You put burdens on the backs of God’s people. You grandstanded with all your claptrap about fire codes and public witness and being good neighbours. You’re a disgrace. I hope you repent, so God won’t count your sin against you on the day of His wrath, and I mean that sincerely from the bottom of my heart.
With that, we have some work to do. We learned that most churches are dead and formalistic. Many possess orthodox doctrinal statements, but they are only alive on paper. Having passed through the fire of testing they sided with the spirit of the age, and they tried to justify it with cute platitudes and shoddy exegesis. The likes of Stan Fowler have trained a generation of pastors to whitewash compromise and leadership failure as a winsome witness to store up cultural capital.
We also learned that many of our lost neighbours are hungry for a true Gospel message and a true Gospel community. We, with many like-minded churches, have seen more conversions than we can count. We are running out of space for all the people that have flocked to hear the Gospel. We have work to do. Now is the time to build. Now is the time to start schools. Now is the time to plant churches. Now is the time to train pastors. We need to build new institutions. We need to get work. The harvest is plenty, but the workers are few.
Some have asked how to help towards paying our fines. Thank you for your concern. God has been kind to us, and we have what we need. We have some big plans as a church. We are working towards purchasing 8.5 acres adjacent to the north of our property, and that will cost some money – about $2 million. If you would, please consider giving to our general fund or a “Expand the Border Campaign.”
For everything, there is a season. As the COVID/lockdown season closes, a new season begins. I’m thrilled to turn over a new leaf. God has cared for us in the past, so we can trust Him to care for us in the future.