Over the past month, members of the Kingston community have taken to social media, attempting to raise awareness of the subject matter being discussed at a local church during their services.
Third Day Worship Centre is a non-denominational church, the “flagship church of Third Day Fellowship of Canada and… also a member of Open Bible Faith Fellowship”. Services are publicly broadcast via live stream videos of the sermons being offered at the church, particularly during the current COVID-19 pandemic. According to their website, “the church’s video streaming is seen across the nation and abroad on Livestream.” Their website also states that Third Day Worship Centre was founded by Pastors Francis and Edith Armstrong.
Recently, Kingston residents have used social media – particularly Reddit and Facebook – to expose some of the practices and preaching of Third Day Worship Centre. On Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020, this online activity more than doubled as a video posted to YouTube began to circulate quickly. That video, titled ‘Francis Armstrong Preaching,’ includes clips of Francis Armstrong preaching at Third Day Worship Centre, the most recent of which occurred on the afternoon of Sunday, Jun. 28, 2020 (Kingstonist cross-referenced the video of the clips with the livestream videos posted on the church’s website).
In the clips, Armstrong speaks of a number of things local residents have taken issue with: his church’s views on homosexuality, some allegations against the Islamic Society of Kingston, and some of his personal views on the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, many of those who have shared the video of the clips have taken issue with the fact that Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson is a member of Third Day Worship Centre.
The YouTube video was posted anonymously, as were a number of posts concerning Third Day Worship Centre on Reddit.
Comment on homosexuality
In one of the first clips in the video, Armstrong speaks of homosexuality having become a “debatable issue” in churches.
“Theologians now deny his blood, are you listening to me? Let me say it another way. What the scripture says, they’ve set up their banners. Can I talk to you about some banners, just quickly? How about the banner of homosexuality?” Armstrong says, prompting some mumbles from the congregation.
“How about the banner of homosexuality that’s set up in the church where once… where this was never a debatable issue, but now we are debating whether homosexuality is ok, like the questions I’ve been asked, I’ve been asked this question: Can someone be a homosexual and not practicing, and still be a Christian? And the answer is still the same: No,” he continues, pacing back and forth as members of the congregation respond with “Exactly!” and “Right!”
“Homosexuality is an abomination onto God, are you listening to me? And those that live like that are going to end up in hell!” Armstrong concludes, raising his voice. “I don’t care if they sit in a church, but where are the preachers that are going to stand up and say it?!”
In another clip, Armstrong discusses the “uproar over one lesbian character on primetime television in 1995,” presumably Ellen DeGeneres.
“Are you listening? Four years later, 1999, there were more than 30 lesbian/homosexual characters, and now, today, it’s on almost every program, every movie. We have a gay channel, and we are still living, ladies and gentlemen, in the days of Elijah. We are still living in a corrupt society,” he continues.
Armstrong then discusses a Christian music artist who recently came out as a lesbian, disclosing she had been in a relationship with another woman for the past six years. He says the artist hasn’t produced an album in about six years, but that the “confusing part” is that she is “coming back, making another Christian album.”
“You’ve got to hear me: You cannot be a homosexual and be a Christian!” Armstrong exclaims in the clip. “Because we’ve lost our sound! And so we’re not prepared for battle! We’re telling the people what they want to hear, instead of telling them what God wants to say!”
For those in the local LGBTQ+ community and those organizations who support them, these comments were not well received.
“I’ve viewed the video of Pastor Armstrong that has been circulating on YouTube and am very disheartened,” said Gilles Charette, Executive Director of HIV/AIDS Regional Services (HARS) Kingston. “As an LGBTQ2+ individual, and a person of faith who was on staff at Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto, I’m upset that these views are being shared from the pulpit of any church, where there are surely young people who are struggling with their sexuality or gender identity. Many studies have shown that even subtle religious anti-LGBTQ2+ prejudice can cause profound negative impacts on mental and physical health from, not only for LGBTQ2+ people, but for heterosexual people as well.”
“The negative impacts can include depression & anxiety, increased suicidality, substance use, and self-harm. Speaking personally as someone who attended an evangelical church and Bible College and who was encouraged to participate in reparative therapy, I know how damaging these teachings can be,” he said.
Charette went on to say that the teachings demonstrated in Armstrong’s preaching are not in keeping with Gospel he follows, which is one of “love and acceptance, where there’s a place at the table for all who are seeking solace, comfort and encouragement.” He pointed to a quote from a MacLean’s Magazine article written by Michael Coren, a British-Canadian clergyman.
“Indeed for many conservative Christians, the litmus test for faith is less a belief in Jesus Christ than a rejection of homosexuality, which is bizarre in that the subject is hardly ever mentioned in the entirety of Scripture, and Jesus never refers to it at all!” Coren wrote.
Charette continued, saying he is “confounded by why some churches are so focused on rejection and division, when there are major social issues religious communities can help to positively impact, including poverty, racism, misogyny and countless other social justice issues.”
“Historically, churches have for many been places of safety and refuge. Teachings like those shared by Pastor Armstrong undermine that safety and the welcome I believe people of faith are called to extend,” Charette concluded. “Religious-based discrimination is best countered by a religious response. So I’m calling on Kingston area religious leaders to speak strongly and unequivocally against the fearmongering and discrimination preached by this pastor. And to the young people who may be confused, angry and hurt by this preaching, know that there is a large community of support available to you, and if you choose, you can be both proudly LGBTQ2+ and a person of faith. So if you are searching and struggling, know that there are churches who will welcome and celebrate you for who you are and who you love.”
Comment on the local Muslim community
In a clip where Armstrong takes issue with the fact that churches are made to pay for municipal sewer services while other non-profit organizations are not, he takes aim at the local Muslim community. The Islamic Society of Kingston hosts a variety of different services and prayer times at the mosque on Sydenham Road, the very same street on which Third Day Worship Centre is located, something Armstrong makes reference to while preaching.
“Now, isn’t it interesting that, down the road from us, is Muslim buildings (sic) that the government helped build, but they won’t give the church a dime?” Armstrong says. “Are you listening to me? And for many of them, they’ll say known terrorist activity goes on in these places, but they support them!”
Mona Rahman, Education Coordinator for the Islamic Society of Kingston, was taken aback by the comments.
“I think it is common knowledge that the Muslim community in Kingston has always worked for the betterment of community, both Muslim and non-Muslim, and stood against any type of terrorist activities,” she said, noting that the local Muslim community has made a point not to take money from external governments. “It is sad that one of our neighbours seems not to know us as a community and as a neighbour. Perhaps when we are out of the COVID pandemic it would be good to sit and get to know each other over tea/coffee.”
Comment on COVID-19
In the most recent clip included in the video, Armstrong claims that, in January prior to the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the world, he woke up to hear the Lord speaking to him.
“The Lord said to me, very clearly, ‘The chip’s coming through the flu shot.’ And I’m like ‘what?!’ not knowing a pandemic was going to hit, and there it is again, you’ve heard it over and over and over and over and over: when we’re all vaccined (sic),” Armstrong says in the video. “Not asking if you want to be vaccined (sic), just telling you when you get vaccined (sic). And that’s the narrative, it has been the narrative from day one, and they’re working – because it’s all about money, you know – they’re working to get the vaccine first so that they’ll make millions and millions and millions and millions of dollars. And then a chipping procedure starts.”
Armstrong goes on to say that “if we think this is about a virus, then we’re only fooling ourselves.”
“Is there a virus? Sure. Is it deadly? Yes, depending on who you are and how old you are. Has anyone seen more than one or two short scenarios of people that have recovered? You won’t find them anywhere, hardly. Unless you know them personally. That have recovered and went through the process of this sickness, that is there, and you will probably find this out, is not much different than a flu that they had at some point in their life,” he says before discussing how he personally contracted the H1N1 virus and that he wouldn’t wish for anyone to have it.
“And are people dying from this one? Sure, but they also died from influenza and other things that hit – H1N1 and SARS and we can go on down the list,” Armstrong continues. “So, there’s another narrative behind that. That’s not a conclusion I’m drawing, that’s a fact that you can see. And so if anybody thinks that we’re going to go back to any kind of normal world that we had, I think we’re fooling ourselves, so we have to forge through this forward with the word of God as our guide. And not the government, cannot be our guide – Cannot be – God bless them, but we have to forge through following the direction of the lord.”
Armstrong then goes on to tell his congregation that they can look into this information for themselves, pointing to ID2020 as a source of legitimate information where they can verify that “Bill Gates, Microsoft, all those guys” are involved in a microchip implanting scheme, and have even patented the chip – the patent number for which is 060606.
“So you can conclude what you want by that. I don’t believe there’s coincidences in the Kingdom, so… he has put in for a patent, for a chipping process, so we know that’s coming. So, are we going to stand in line for that? Just a question. You have a choice… maybe. Maybe not. ’Cause our choices are being taken away from us every single day. I can’t go to Manitoba, do you realize that? … Well, I can go to Manitoba, but I’d have to quarantine for 14 days. So if we think we’re free, like we were six months ago, we’re not. Certain countries still you can’t fly to, and they can’t fly here,” Armstrong asserts. “So it’s choice – that’s what’s gone: Your choice, your ability to choose yes or no is gone, to a large degree. Will it come back? Maybe in parcels, maybe in packages, I’m not sure. So we’ll see. That’s something that we will look at… in the future and find out, but we’ll have to have the word of God as our guide.”
According to some of the more popular fact-checking websites such as Snopes.com and FactCheck.org, ID2020 is, in fact, a conspiracy theory. Examples of those sites articles are linked above, but one can search both sites with keywords such as ‘ID2020’ or ‘microchipping’ and find many, many articles debunking these theories.
Furthermore, family members of those who attend Third Day Worship Centre have contacted Kingstonist to share a flyer that has been circulated within the congregation. That flyer, entitled “In Israel no death from COVID 19” claims there is a cure for the virus, or at least a way to eliminate it. That “simple” recipe is lemon and bicarbonate (baking soda) combined to form a “tea” which is to be ingested every afternoon and “immediately kills the virus” and “completely eliminates it from the body.”
This theory has also been debunked, and people have, in fact, died from COVID-19 in Israel, too.
Kingstonist reached out to Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) Public Health for comment on the spreading of misinformation around COVID-19, but Public Health did not immediately respond to that request. We will update this article if/when local Public Health authorities have addressed this matter.
Mayor Paterson’s response
Mayor Bryan Paterson confirmed he is a member of Third Day Worship Centre, as he has in the past. He then issued a statement, which reads as follows:
“I fully support our LGBTQ community. They are a vibrant and valued part of our city. As far as treatments related to COVID-19, I rely on the advice and wisdom of our Chief Medical Officer of Health and encourage all residents to do so as well.”
When asked if he worries that his regular presence as a congregant at Third Day Worship Centre legitimizes the church’s views, or if he worries that it undermines his stated support for the LGBTQ+ community, Mayor Paterson responded.
“I passionately believe that building an inclusive community is important and that everyone should feel valued and supported. Those are my core beliefs,” he said. “Since the time I was elected, I’ve been clear that my faith is personal. I don’t speak for my church and the church doesn’t speak for me. I’ve also been very clear of my support for the LGBTQ community and these core values will continue to guide how I work to lead our city.”
Update (Wednesday, Sep. 9, 2020) Mayor Bryan Paterson issued a public statement announcing his decision to step away from the TDWC.
Response from Third Day Worship Centre
After reaching out to Third Day Worship Centre for an interview or a statement, the church provided the following:
“I would communicate that Third Day Worship Centre is a church that loves people of all walks of life, despite the fact that we have different world views and experiences.
We believe in the full counsel of the Word of God, which always directs mankind towards its need for a Saviour, one we believe is found in Jesus Christ.
We have been made aware of the compilation video that was created and would like to speak to the general tone of that video. I apologize if a harshness came through, that is not a true representation of the heart of this church. We choose to love the way that God loves us. We practice this love in our city and we consistently look to meet people where they’re at, and will continue to do so, without bias.”
Update (Friday, Sept. 4, 2020)
Following the publication of the article above, both MP Mark Gerretsen and MPP Ian Arthur issued statements via social media on the comments made by Pastor Armstrong.
Comment from MPP Ian Arthur
“The content of recently circulated videos of the Third Day Worship Centre has absolutely no place in this community. If you are hurt by this preaching, or any other hateful actions in our community, please know you are valued and loved and I will always fight for you in the face of such hate.
Everyone has a fundamental right to follow their faith and it is most often a beautiful thing that can guide kind actions and charitable movements. However, the views being put forward by Pastor Armstrong do not reflect this community and frankly have no place in Kingston and the Islands.
In the strongest terms, I condemn actions in our community that exclude or belittle others based on their religion, or their race, or their gender, or if they are a member of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community. We must celebrate and champion diversity. It is what makes our community strong.
The implication that terrorist activity goes on Islamic Centre of Kingston is reprehensible. The Muslim community of Kingston are outstanding citizens and some of the most wonderful people I have been blessed to spend time with. And whenever I have visited, they have welcomed me with kindness, generosity, and an openness to people of all beliefs. We can all learn from this example.
Finally, COVID-19 is real. It is not a conspiracy theory. Treating it without the seriousness it deserves will lead to an even larger public health crisis. Spreading this misinformation is dangerous and will lead to further deaths. Our community is so much more than this. The Pastor and members of this church should pursue serious self-reflection on the values of inclusiveness and community.”
Comment from MP Mark Gerretsen
“This is extremely disturbing.
Attacks on members of our community based on their sexual orientation or religious beliefs does not belong here. Spreading misinformation and unsubstantiated conspiracy theories about COVID-19 is unsafe for our community, friends and family.
Third Day Worship Centre should set the record straight on where it stands on these issues – something it did not do in its response.”
Editorial note (Friday, Sept. 4, 2020)
As there have been a number of comments on social media claiming Kingstonist did not offer to do a sit down interview with Pastor Francis Armstrong, and/or that we refused an offer of an interview from Armstrong, we would like to be entirely transparent about this matter.
Journalist Tori Stafford emailed Third Day Worship Centre on Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020 as follows (with the subject line ‘Request for interview’):
The following day, we received an email response from Deborah Wilson, whose email signature indicates she is the Office Assistant at Third Day Worship Centre. There was no text in the body, but simply an attachment with a signed statement from Pastor Armstrong (see below).
To confirm that there was no possibility of an interview with Pastor Armstrong, the following email was sent in reply:
As of 2:15 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 4, 2020, Kingstonist has received no response to that inquiry. At no time did Pastor Armstrong or anyone from Third Day Worship Centre offer an interview, in person or otherwise.