Leon Fontaine, Canadian megachurch pastor, dies at 59

Leon Fontaine, senior pastor of the Springs Church, a multisite congregation based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in a Facebook video posted Dec. 2, 2020.
Leon Fontaine, senior pastor of the Springs Church, a multisite congregation based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in a Facebook video posted Dec. 2, 2020. | Facebook/Leon Fontaine

Canadian megachurch Pastor Leon Fontaine, who garnered recent attention for his refusal to adhere to ongoing and restrictive COVID-19 lockdown orders banning churches from holding in-person or drive-in worship gatherings, has died at age 59.

A video posted online featuring Fontaine's five children confirmed that he passed away on Saturday evening, though it did not mention a specific cause of death.

“I know you’re probably shocked and we’re really shocked too,” said the late pastor's daughter, Danielle Fontaine Craig, as reported by the Winnipeg Sun. “The last couple of days all of a sudden it just took a really sharp turn that we really didn’t expect.”

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In addition to his five adult children, Fontaine also leaves behind his wife, Sally, and five grandchildren.

Many condolences were posted on social media, including a Facebook post from the Canadian branch of Kenneth Copeland Ministries on Monday.

“One of our very own Generals of Faith, Leon Fontaine has transitioned to his forever home in Heaven. He was an incredible leader, communicator, and pastor who was a strong voice for the church in Canada,” stated the ministry. “He has served the Lord, his country and the church well, and we will miss him dearly. We rejoice with him as he has now entered into his eternal reward.”

Canadian Sen. Don Plett also posted condolences on Facebook, explaining that he was “saddened to hear of the untimely passing of Leon Fontaine.”

“Leon was a man of integrity who led with compassion. Betty and I offer our deepest condolences to his wife, family and friends,” Plett stated.

Fontaine was the lead pastor for the multisite Springs Church, which was based in Winnipeg and boasted 10,000 regular worshipers.

He was also a televangelist, serving as CEO of the Miracle Channel and hosted such television programs as “The Spirit Contemporary Life” and “The Leon Show.”

He was also the founder of a United States-based ministry known as Spirit Contemporary International, as well as president of Springs Christian Academy & College.

In 2018, he became a board member of the Congress of Christian Leaders, which notable Hispanic Evangelical leader, the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, launched.

Fontaine garnered controversy in theological circles, as some charged him with being a proponent of the prosperity gospel, the belief that God wants Christians to be wealthy and healthy in this life. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Fontaine and his church faced litigation when they decided to continue holding in-person and drive-in worship services, despite the government's orders to shut down churches. 

In December 2020, Manitoba loosened its restrictions on drive-in worship services after the Springs Church sued the province after it received four $5,000 citation tickets for holding safe gatherings.

Fontaine said in a statement at the time that the drive-in ban singled out houses of worship for worse treatment than secular businesses like bars and major retail outlets.

“The government has established rules which prohibit people from gathering with people who aren’t members of their household. They have deemed these rules sufficient to keep people safe as they drive to the liquor, cannabis, or big box retail store, park their car, and enter those facilities,” Fontaine said at the time.

“If this is the case, we have to ask ourselves why the government has deemed it unsafe for Manitobans to drive to their place of worship with their windows rolled up for the entirety of a service and practice their faith. We believe this is an oversight on the part of the government of Manitoba.”

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