Below is a news article that I wrote for The Aquila Report last week concerning Pastor Steve Richardson’s legal troubles with the Canadian government for holding services at his church with more than 10 people in attendance. After writing about Richardson in last week’s email to all of you who receive these emails, I was exhorted by one pastor to make sure that I check out my sources before writing such articles lest I lose my credibility. That pastor had contacted a pastor friend in the Canadian Presbytery of the ARP and was told that my article was “false”, “nor did any of our presbyters snitch or report on Steve.” I guess that settles it—except that it doesn’t.
I served four 4-year terms on the Standing Judicial Commission of the PCA’s General Assembly. I understand the importance of facts—not opinions. I know what constitutes facts. You should know, therefore, that I possess various emails from the “snitch” in Canadian Presbytery who reported Richardson to the authorities. Those emails constitute written proof of what I have written. In one email, the pastor who reported Richardson to the government told him that members of the Board of Health came to his church to inquire if his congregation was following the rules. That pastor told them his congregation was abiding by the rules and then wrote to Richardson: “(I) explained to them that you were the man they were looking to speak with. Just to clear that up.” In the email exchanges I have read, there is no contrition or sorrow at all that is expressed by the snitch. His excuse was that he told the authorities because to do otherwise would have been a breach of the 9th commandment.
Now there have been many times in the history of the church that Christians have been compelled to meet against the laws of the state. They have done so because they believed “we must obey God rather than men.” What if Judas had gone back to the other apostles and said, “The authorities were looking for Jesus and asked me where they could find Him. I told them because to do otherwise would have been a breach of the 9th commandment.” Do you think the other apostles would have said, “Well, that is a satisfactory explanation for us?” I certainly do not. Or, hypothetically, what if John Owen had known exactly where John Bunyan was meeting for worship with his Baptist flock and had told the officials, “The man you are looking for is over there.” Do you think John Owen would be celebrated as a great Puritan author today if he had done such a heinous thing? I certainly do not. I have made more than 30 trips to Russia over the past 22 years. When I first started going in 1999, there were several people who had been part of house churches and had to meet underground or in the woods or in homes during Soviet times. Then, they were allowed to meet openly when the iron curtain fell. Hypothetically, do you think someone who had reported to the KGB where Christians were meeting during the 1980’s would have been welcomed with open arms by the churches in the 2000’s unless they had truly repented? I certainly do not.
Why is all this relevant to Vanguard Presbytery? It is relevant because we live in times when Christians are increasingly persecuted for their stand for Christ. Governments are putting more and more restrictions on when and where we can meet and what we can preach. We must stand up for Christ. We must not snitch on fellow pastors who are meeting for worship in contravention of state laws. We must remember what Richard Wurmbrand’s wife, Sabina, told him when the Soviets were trying to get the Romanian pastors to compromise with communism, “Richard, you must do something to wipe the shame off Christ’s face.” It led to Wurmbrand’s imprisonment, but at least he did not have a guilty conscience caused by compromise. And, at least he did not become a state sponsored snitch reporting on other pastors who were meeting for worship.
Three times in my life I have been approached by ARP churches who wanted me to become their pastor. I gave serious consideration to those offers. My concern is not with the ARP in general. My concern is with an ARP pastor who reported another ARP pastor for holding services. Neither do I like what Judas Iscariot, a former apostle, did in betraying Jesus by showing the soldiers exactly where to find Jesus. But I have the utmost respect and appreciation for the other eleven apostles. The church is built on their foundation with Christ Jesus being the chief cornerstone. Surely everyone can understand that clear distinction.
Now, I know who the pastor is that reported Steve Richardson to the officials. His identity is irrelevant in one sense because true justice is blind. God is no respecter of persons and is impartial. I suspect, though, that he will not remain anonymous forever. “Be sure your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23). I have been unable to find other examples of supposedly evangelical pastors who reported fellow pastors to the government for holding church services. That fact alone makes this situation an especially heinous sin. I hope and pray this Canadian pastor comes forward of his own volition and makes his identity known. If he feels he has done nothing wrong, he certainly should do so. So, my appeal is to that Canadian minister is to make himself known. If he remains silent, that is proof that he knows he was wrong in what he did.
ARP Pastor Steve Richardson Faces Possible Imprisonment For Conducting Church Services
Ontario ARP minister charged with allowing worship services with more than 10 people.
Written by Dewey Roberts | Thursday, March 18, 2021
The Rev. Steve Richardson, pastor of Faith Presbyterian Church, of the Associate Presbyterian Church [ARP], in Tillsonburg, Ontario, Canada, was previously fined $850 on January 3, 2021 for breaking an emergency powers order concerning the Covid-19 Public Health Act. Subsequent to that fine, Richardson and his congregation continued to meet for worship services with more than 10 people in attendance.
A minister in the Canadian Presbytery of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (ARP) has a court date on April 1, 2021, with the Oxford County Provincial Offences Court in Woodstock, Ontario, Canada. The Rev. Steve Richardson, pastor of Faith Presbyterian Church in Tillsonburg, Ontario, Canada, was previously fined $850 on January 3, 2021 for breaking an emergency powers order concerning the Covid-19 Public Health Act. Subsequent to that fine, Richardson and his congregation continued to meet for worship services with more than 10 people in attendance because they believe, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
The charges against Pastor Richardson are two counts of “failure to comply with a continued Section 7.0.2 order contrary to the Reopening of Ontario Act.” Richardson’s attorney is Albertos Polizogopoulos, a partner with The Acacia Group in Ottawa, Ontario, represents clients and churches in constitutional and civil litigation. Polizogopoulos was informed yesterday that the Crown might add an additional charge to the two counts against Richardson. If found guilty of these charges by the court, Richardson would face a maximum fine of $200,000 and 2 years of imprisonment.
The news that the Canadian Crown Prosecutors have withdrawn all but one of the charges against Pastor James Coates of Grace Life Church near Edmonton and that he will be released from jail in the next few days is encouraging, but does not guarantee that the same will happen with Richardson’s case.
Christians are urged to pray for Pastor Richardson, the members of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, and, in particular, the pastors and congregations of the Canadian Presbytery of the ARP. Richardson, like Pastor Coates, is taking a stand for the protection of the Charter rights of Canada and the religious freedoms guaranteed in them. His courage should be supported by Christians everywhere.
Dewey Roberts is Pastor of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church in Destin, FL and Moderator of Vanguard Presbytery.
P. S. Donations to Vanguard Presbytery may be sent to: PO Box 1862, Destin, FL 32540.