Erin Coates, the wife of jailed Canadian Pastor James Coates, says of her husband, “His job as a shepherd of the sheep is to open the doors and allow people to worship according to their conscience and according to the Word of God.” Said Coates, “We have done that really wisely, putting many precautions in place.”
Stuckey asked Coates a number of questions regarding her husband’s arrest and time in jail for choosing to “obey the Lord Jesus Christ” instead of government restrictions that forced GraceLife Church‘s indoor worship services to only 15% capacity, which led to Pastor James Coates’ arrest.
Host Stuckey focused her interview with Mrs. Coates around whether the actions of her husband and GraceLife Church should be considered religious persecution.
When the government mandated the COVID-19 restrictions, did Pastor Coates say we weren’t going to adhere to those guidelines or was he just going to give people the choice “no matter what,” Stuckey asked.
Mrs. Coates explained that her husband and the GraceLife Church elders felt like it was not their responsibility to mandate these government COVID-19 restrictions “but to allow people to worship freely according to conscience…they left it to the people to make that decision.”
Stucky asked Erin how she feels when other Christians, both Canadian and American, weigh in on their current situation and say that what they are going through “isn’t persecution” because he’s not in jail for preaching the gospel or for holding a church service, but because Pastor James violated COVID-19 restrictions.
Repeating what she said that her husband said, Erin peacefully said, “I’ll leave it up to the Lord whether it’s persecution or not. I think that people’s definition of persecution probably needs to be broadened a little bit. 2 Timothy says that “All those who desire to live godly and righteously in Christ will be persecuted.” She boldly said, “I do want to make it clear, he’s not in jail because he didn’t obey the restrictions. He’s in jail because he obeyed the Lord Jesus Christ and His headship over the church and did not restrict the gathering to anybody.”
In their area, she shared that big box stores like Costco and Walmart have thousands of people going in and out of them with no restrictions, as well as restaurants being open. Pointing out the attack from Satan her family and GraceLife Church feels currently and when people mention that restaurants have restrictions too, she said “It’s really sad because Satan doesn’t really care about whether a restaurant is open or not…he does care about destroying the local church and he does care about destroying the lives of people that comprise the local church.”
Describing what the church is when it gathers to worship, Coates said, “She is an expression of the blood-bought body of Christ and when she gathers she’s testifying to the world of the greatest and glory of God and His worth to be worshiped…restaurants aren’t doing that, the church is doing that.”
“I don’t have to wave the persecution flag, He [The Lord] can deal with all of that.”
Coates was asked if she was surprised by other Christians who are quick to discard the persecution talk regarding what is happening to their church and her husband. She responded by saying “yes” and “no,” explaining that it’s sad to see people slow to speak but quick to judgement because they don’t know all the details. Christians are at “varying degrees of sanctification” so she said she has to be patient with them because “if they’re truly saved by Christ, He’s going to sanctify them…It doesn’t surprise me, [because] there’s a spiritual war.”
“I know my husband and his heart,” Coates told host Stuckey, so the things that others are saying about him don’t bother me. “It’s not my job to defend myself or James,” she said “I’ll let the Lord deal with that. We are all going to stand before Him on the day of judgement. It’s just my job to make sure that I’m taking every opportunity to herald Jesus Christ and Him crucified as the only way of salvation.”
Coates shared that it has been challenging for her husband, James, who was in solitary confinement due to COVID-19 protocols at the time of the interview. “He has had some dark moments,” she said and continued, “You have the enemy just seeking to devour you in a situation like that…but he just says that he’s been strengthened and encouraged by reading the Word and praying.”
She said it brings joy to her heart to see people they don’t even know writing letters of encouragement to her husband and remembering those who are in prison.
Speaking of her husband, she said, “He understands that ‘God’s Will’ will be done and that nothing can thwart that. So wherever God needs to use him most greatly that’s where He’s going to put him.”
After being asked how this has affected her, she shared that she knows that God brings things into her life so she would “know Him, love Him, obey Him, and therefore glorify Him” more. That doesn’t mean it is easy for her. She said, “There are times I have woken up in the middle of the night crying and can’t breathe.”
“It is hard. It’s supposed to be hard because it’s the hard and difficult things that we see our weakness in the power of God on display in our life”
Coates also briefly shared that her oldest son (18) has had some emotional moments being able to comprehend well what his father is enduring, and she said her 11-year-old son has really missed his dad. The mother of two said, “Everything is a teaching opportunity for us; we have to learn how to love and how to love Christ more.”
Her message to others listening Coates said is “share with your pastors who have opted to close the church just the damage what the lockdowns are doing to you. I receive so many messages from people that are really struggling to thrive in Christ. When you have them isolated, they are just prime target for the enemy to pounce on.”
Coates pleaded with others–especially those in Canada–to, “Open your churches to the glory of God.”
The biggest things someone can do for us at this time is “pray for us,” she said. “We are on display as a church and our earnest desire is to be faithful…this is about Jesus Christ’s Lordship over His church and whether the government can mandate how we worship Him as individuals and corporately.”
Coates asked for grace as she explained a lot of the negative comments toward her husband are not coming from pastors and that pastors will have to “stand before the Lord and give and account on judgement day for the souls that have been entrusted to them especially for GraceLife.”
You can watch the full interview here.