Canadian pastor arrested for holding outdoor service after church was seized by authorities

"Tim Stephens, who serves as pastor of Fairview Baptist Church in Calgary, Alberta, was arrested Monday after refusing to abide by the order from Alberta Health Services to refrain from holding worship services that don't comply with the provincial COVID-19 rules." - C.Post

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Don Johnson's picture

I read through most of my commentaries on Hebrews again. As stated above, none of them take "not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together" as a command to assemble. There is a debate on what "not forsaking" means.

Some take it to mean erratic attendance (reason not specified), others take it to mean abandoning, a kind of apostasy (although maybe not quite in such a strong term as apostasy). It's worth more study, I think.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

dcbii's picture

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Don Johnson wrote:

I read through most of my commentaries on Hebrews again. As stated above, none of them take "not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together" as a command to assemble. There is a debate on what "not forsaking" means.

Some take it to mean erratic attendance (reason not specified), others take it to mean abandoning, a kind of apostasy (although maybe not quite in such a strong term as apostasy). It's worth more study, I think.

I've always understood the "command" in more your latter sense above (abandoning) vs. erratic attendance.  Comparing that with the pandemic, I saw no issues in having to skip meeting in person for a few weeks, or even a couple of months, and I think most believers were the same.  In our state, it only lasted a couple months total due to a good court decision.  But in many places it has gone more than a year.

Comparing not assembling during a pandemic with what we would say under normal conditions, most churches (before the pandemic) would consider 6 months without attendance to be forsaking, let alone a year.  In fact, many church constitutions specify removal from the church roll after 6 months with no attendance, let alone a year.  Throw in the disparate handling of stores vs. churches (at least in many places, if not in Canada), and I think you can at least understand the thinking of those who believe this issue is something worth taking a stand on.

On the other side, the current situation is not completely the same as abandoning, since just as you mentioned, there are other ways to "meet," even if it's not ideal, like Zoom, or FM broadcast to cars, etc.  Now that things seem to be opening up again, this issue may temporarily go away.  However, given this could happen again, I agree that this issue is not only worth more study, but something to be studied in the near future, both the theoretical and the practical.  I think most churches will want to have plans in place for what to do about this in the future, as well as to clarify what they mean by assembling, and how to handle "attendance" when no one can attend in person.

Dave Barnhart

Don Johnson's picture

dcbii wrote:

I've always understood the "command" in more your latter sense above (abandoning) vs. erratic attendance.  Comparing that with the pandemic, I saw no issues in having to skip meeting in person for a few weeks, or even a couple of months, and I think most believers were the same.  In our state, it only lasted a couple months total due to a good court decision.  But in many places it has gone more than a year.

Comparing not assembling during a pandemic with what we would say under normal conditions, most churches (before the pandemic) would consider 6 months without attendance to be forsaking, let alone a year.  In fact, many church constitutions specify removal from the church roll after 6 months with no attendance, let alone a year.  Throw in the disparate handling of stores vs. churches (at least in many places, if not in Canada), and I think you can at least understand the thinking of those who believe this issue is something worth taking a stand on.

I completely understand the thinking, I personally resent the ridiculous lengths governments and others have gone to in their attempts to address the pandemic. The wide disparity of "solutions" with essentially the same results everywhere call into question the wisdom of the "solutions."

Nevertheless, we have to follow the word. We have people claiming a command, mainly based on a passage that is debatable, at least, that it is indeed a command. Mark noted above that he thought that this wasn't the best passage to teach a command for attendance. I don't think any of the other passages he mentions command it either. Rather, I think the NT assumes church attendance. This is what Christians do.

When it comes to obeying the government, though, we have explicit and clear commands. If we are going to disobey (as we sometimes must) we had better have a pretty clear Scriptural reason for doing so.

dcbii wrote:
On the other side, the current situation is not completely the same as abandoning, since just as you mentioned, there are other ways to "meet," even if it's not ideal, like Zoom, or FM broadcast to cars, etc.  

The issue is the heart. Suppose someone is stricken with a severe illness and is bed-ridden. They are faithful church members. If they could be in church, they would be. Have they "abandoned" the assembly? No.

There are many reasons why someone might not be able to attend at all, though they would if they could. Have they abandoned the assembly? Again, no.

I agree that stop-gap measures are not ideal, but they don't mean we've abandoned the assembly.

There is one case where assembly is required, I think, and that is for communion. However, we are not instructed on how often we must have communion. Nevertheless, one of the biggest burdens of the lockdowns, restrictions, has been suspension of communion services. We feel that keenly. We haven't yet resumed that in our church, due to the current restrictions. I think things will loosen up after July 1, so we will resume communion soon after that.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

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