Wednesday, December 13, 2006

there's just something about those Colorado basements...

in a weird twist in what is now an old story, another megachurch pastor in Colorado came out over the weekend. if this is the church I think it is, I attended here, briefly, and hated on it a little bit over palm sunday last year. things that are interesting about this story are the parallels with haggard; apparently, Paul Barnes started a church out of his basement, too. also interesting: last week CO approved a measure to define marriage as between a man and a woman. it's gotta be getting weird out there.

denver & the west
Pastor resigns over homosexuality
By Eric Gorski
Denver Post Staff Writer
Article Last Updated:12/11/2006 02:49:00 PM MST

Barnes' Sermon

To hear what the Rev. Paul Barnes said during the fall of fellow pastor Ted Haggard, about the "masks" most of us wear, click here.

In a tearful videotaped message Sunday to his congregation, the senior pastor of a thriving evangelical megachurch in south metro Denver confessed to sexual relations with other men and announced he had voluntarily resigned his pulpit.

A month ago, the Rev. Paul Barnes of Grace Chapel in Doug las County preached to his 2,100-member congregation about integrity and grace in the aftermath of the Ted Haggard drugs-and-gay-sex scandal.

Now, the 54-year-old Barnes joins Haggard as a fallen evangelical minister who preached that homosexuality was a sin but grappled with a hidden life.

"I have struggled with homosexuality since I was a 5-year-old boy," Barnes said in the 32- minute video, which church leaders permitted The Denver Post to view. "... I can't tell you the number of nights I have cried myself to sleep, begging God to take this away."

His wife, Char, cradled his hand. Barnes declined an interview request through the church.

Unlike Haggard, who had the ear of the White House, Barnes is not a household name. He is a self-described introvert who avoids politics, preferring to talk about a Gen-X service at the nondenominational church he started 28 years ago in his basement, church officials said.

Barnes and Grace Chapel stayed out of the debate over Amendment 43, a measure approved by Colorado voters last month defining marriage as between one man and one woman.

"I can't think of a single sermon where he ever had a political agenda," said Dave Palmer, an associate pastor.

Palmer said the church got an anonymous call last week from a person concerned for the welfare of Barnes and the church. The caller had overheard a conversation in which someone mentioned "blowing the whistle" on evangelical preachers engaged in homosexuality, including Barnes, Palmer said.

Palmer met with Barnes, who confessed. At an emergency meeting Thursday, a board of elders accepted Barnes' resignation after he admitted "sexual infidelity," violating the church's code of conduct. Church leaders also must affirm annually that they are "living the moral and ethical teachings of Scripture in my public and private life."

Asked for details of Barnes' transgressions, Palmer called them "infrequent events in his life" that to his knowledge did not take place in recent months.

Sitting cross-legged in jeans and an open-collar shirt, Barnes spoke in his video about evolving feelings growing up in a firm moral family: from confused little boy to adolescent racked with self-loathing and guilt.

In their only talk about sex, Barnes said his father took him on a drive and talked about what he would do if a "fag" approached him.

Barnes thought, "'Is that how you'd feel about me?' It was like a knife in my heart, and it made me feel even more closed."

When Barnes experienced a Christian conversion at 17, it gave him a glimmer of hope. But his homosexual feelings never went away, he said. He said he cannot accept that a person is "born that way," so he looks to childhood influences.

Barnes said he asked God many times why he was called to ministry, to start Grace Chapel, carrying a "horrible burden."

The soft-spoken Barnes is an unlikely big-church pastor.

After graduating from Dallas Theological Seminary, Barnes and his wife moved to Denver and began a Bible study. His church met in a school and a mortuary, bought property at Colorado Boulevard and Arapahoe Road, and now occupies a campus off County Line Road that used to be a car dealership.

Barnes described struggling with what he believes is the biblical teaching that homosexuality is an abomination. Over the years, he grew to accept that "this is my thorn in the flesh."

Barnes expressed hope for a future where one can "be who you are" and be accepted and loved in the Christian community and also spoke about "separating some of the teachings from Scripture" from Jesus Christ.

Palmer said he wasn't sure what Barnes meant, but Barnes told him that he believes God views homosexuality as a sin.

Barnes said he has been in counseling three times and never found anyone he could talk to.

His wife said on the video that she didn't know about her husband's struggles until he confided in her last week. The couple has two daughters in their 20s.

Char Barnes said she feels "like I'm living someone else's life" but was grateful her husband revealed himself. The couple said they hope to stay in Denver. Near the tape's end, Paul Barnes says, "This is what it is, it's right, and it's time."

Church elder Russ Pilcher said the reaction at services Sunday was largely concern for the couple. "I thought, 'Where did I fall short in making myself so unapproachable that he couldn't come to me?"' Pilcher said.

Paul and Char Barnes will get counseling, but unlike Haggard, they will not go into seclusion or report to a board of reconcilers, Palmer said. He said it will be more personal and that church members will play a role.

Associate pastor John Zivojinovic is the interim senior pastor, and choosing a successor is still months away, Pilcher said.

Given the Haggard story, Pal mer was asked whether Barnes' fall from grace would expose the evangelical community to further charges of hypocrisy.

"The criticism is valid if you look at perfection being the mark, because the next person who stands at our pulpit is going to be guilty of not being perfect as well," he said. "Does that mean we have to change what we say about the word of God? We can't do that."

Staff writer Eric Gorski can be reached at 303-954-1698 or egorski@denverpost.com.

6 Comments:

At 12/14/2006 9:58 PM, Anonymous scott said...

I can simply tell you that it is not an easy burden to bear for whatever reason it comes about. I know from experience. And I have a feeling I know what posts are coming.

 
At 12/15/2006 11:44 AM, Blogger Joey said...

And what posts do your feelings lead you to believer are coming?

 
At 12/15/2006 5:20 PM, Anonymous scott said...

I think...(from what I have personally experienced)...that people that have not struggled with this, even if they are well-intentioned are often unsure of how to tackle the subject. And, in turn, throw a random scripture reference here, and a meth and gay message joke there. However, I will admit, it is something that has no easy answers...if answers at all.

 
At 12/15/2006 7:10 PM, Blogger jonny said...

There were a pair of interesting articles from the NY Times about the topic this past week. The first concerns a possible empathetic softening from evangelicals on the issue, due to the recent struggles of Haggard and Barnes. A quote from the article:

“Those who don’t have homosexual inclinations can be judgmental towards those that do. When you discover people you know and respect are struggling with homosexuality, suddenly you’re more compassionate because they are real people who are around you, members of your church and community, and the compassion level rises. It should.”

A feature article the same day concerns a growing number of gay evangelicals who don't feel welcome in either evangelical churches or liberal/mainline denominations. An excerpt:

"But as gay men and lesbians grapple with their sexuality and an evangelical upbringing they cherish, some have come to accept both. And like other Christians who are trying to broaden the definition of evangelical to include other, though less charged, concerns like the environment and AIDS, gay evangelicals are trying to expand the understanding of evangelical to include them, too."

We've had a few posts about the broader debate over homosexuality on the site, the most recent barnburner just last December, which sort of sputtered out once we reached a kind of impasse. There's not a whole lot to say that hasn't been said before, so after a while it gets difficult to keep writing and discussing and shaking your fists. But we shook anyway, just, you know, for the fun of it I guess.

 
At 12/16/2006 10:38 AM, Anonymous scott said...

Thanks Johnny, that was cool for the info :)

 
At 12/18/2006 2:23 PM, Blogger Liza said...

I noticed that NY Times article as well... not sure if the timing was good or it was hurriedly planned, but I felt that it was appropriately placed just the same.

Unfortunately, this issue almost always leads to an impasse.

 

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