Alberta Health Services (AHS) released a statement this morning announcing the closure of GraceLife Church (GLC) in Edmonton.
AHS says that they have prevented access to the building until “GLC can demonstrate the ability to comply with Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health’s (CMOH) restrictions.” A large fence has been erected around the building and security is on the scene to ensure people stay out.
The church's pastor, James Coates, remained in police custody for over 30 days after he refused to agree to bail conditions after being accused of violating health orders. Most charges against Coates were dropped in March and he was released from custody. The Edmonton Journal reports that Coates has lead services three times since his release, including Easter Sunday.
The church held public worship gatherings in excess of size limits, and with many inside reportedly not wearing masks or following distancing guidelines.
AHS says they have been attempting to work with the church over the past months.
These steps were taken before closure:
- An order issued by AHS on December 17th, 2020, requiring GLC to comply with CMOH restrictions.
- A Court of Queen’s Bench Order obtained on January 21st, 2021, requiring GLC to comply with the previous order.
- A Closure Order issued on January 29th, 2021, requiring closure until compliance with the restrictions was attained.
- On March 27, 2021, AHS sent a letter to Pastor Coates providing him with information on the continued spread of COVID-19. Last week, AHS invited Pastor Coates to meet virtually to discuss the risks presented by COVID-19, however the church has not provided any dates to meet.
AHS says that “GLC has decided not to follow these mandatory restrictions, nor have they attempted to work with AHS to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.”
Churches in Alberta are allowed to gather but are currently limited to 15 per cent of capacity according to public health orders.
The AHS statement says that the need to minimize the spread of the virus has become more urgent with COVID-19 cases and variant cases increasing.
AHS reports receiving 105 complaints from the public about GLC from July 10, 2020, to April 6, 2021 and has conducted 18 inspections at the site in this period. Violations are reported at each visit.
The church has not yet made a public statement. However, Coates' wife, Erin, has shared pictures on social media of a chainlink fence being erected on the property.
"Now they’ve chained the doors of GraceLife Church enclosing in chain link fence," she writes. "This is all under guise of a health order. Too bad the Church isn’t a building, it’s a blood bought people - Christ has and will prevail."