Hoping For Another Outcome With Barnes

December 12 2006, 8:37 AM

Another evangelical pastor has come out of the closet, as The Denver Post reports:

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.

Barnes' admission of homosexuality isn't like when Pastor Ted Haggard, of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, finally announced that he was involved in a gay relationship. Haggard had been one of the leading voices in opposition to gay marriage and gay rights and had close ties to the White House and the Bush Administration. Barnes may have preached that homosexuality was a sin, as some believe the Bible indicates, but I'll give him a lot of credit for at least not trying to use his church to impose a political view that is inconsistent with his own lifestyle (if Associate Pastor Dave Palmer's assertion is to be believed, that is). Haggard was vilifed, and rightfully so, for using his pulpit as a means to influence political debate on gay rights issues. When you take that step, as Haggard did, your message is essentially that it is wrong to be homosexual. Unless, of course, you are. Meanwhile, Barnes can point to the Bible to say that homosexuality is wrong, but at least he didn't go so far as to drag the political debate into his pews when that debate would be a lie to himself. Surely the man was fighting his own inner demons, but I can respect him for not trying to fight the war on homosexuality elsewhere. On another note, it will be interesting to see how Barnes handles the likely attempts to "cure him" of homosexuality, as leaders of the evangelical community are doing with Haggard. Barnes freely admits that he knew he was gay as early as age five, which makes it much harder to tell him that homosexuality is not something you are born with; many in the evangelical community like to say that homosexuality is a choice, and can therefore be "cured". That wouldn't seem to be the case with Barnes. Barnes' admission is another black mark on an evangelical community gaining a "do as I say, not as I do" reputation, but here's hoping that we see a different set of teaching than what came out of Haggard's troubles. Maybe it is Barnes who can teach everyone else that he didn't choose to be gay, and that's okay.

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