Monday, December 11, 2006

Another Megapreacher Comes Out

Ho-hum, another day, another big preacher falls out of the closet.
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. Pastor resigns over homosexuality

These guys ... what can you say?

I am becoming more and more convinced that the real powerhouses of the anti-gay movement are gay guys themselves, who decided out of shame to pretend to be straight, and then have spent their whole lives resenting those who chose to be honest with themselves. I used to think the theory was unkind, but when I see the damage they've done, the wreckage of lost souls, I don't care.

And here's a nice little piece of insight for the "it's a choice" folks out there:
"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."

Can somebody tell us why a 5-year-old boy would choose to be gay?

And then, having chosen that, why was he crying himself to sleep? Why didn't he just choose to be straight?
[Associate pastor Dave] 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."

I don't know, I am actually feeling sort of sorry for this one. He avoided the political stuff. Yeah, he preached about the sins of homosexuality but he didn't join in with the ones who wanted to pass the anti-marriage-equality amendment. I think he knew this day would come.

Strange little story here:
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.

OK, what would it take for these guys to start a new kind of Evangelical movement that accepts people the way they are? There must be enough of them now, aren't there? They could set it up so the "straight" preachers could join up with them and it wouldn't be, y'know, an admission of anything.

Lots of gay folks have strong religious feelings, and the church's rejection of them hurts more than anything. Even if your family can't accept you, you hope that God can. And then you find out He can't.

Why would be it be so hard to make that little adjustment? This poor guy here, weeping, knew at the age of five, doesn't know why he feels the way he does, tried to keep it a secret, and now his life is destroyed.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Can somebody tell us why a 5-year-old boy would choose to be gay?"

No. It doesn't make sense. Aren't you in some other psycho-sexual stage at age 5?

"I don't know, I am actually feeling sort of sorry for this one."

Let's chalk it up to growth. Congratulations, Jim.

"OK, what would it take for these guys to start a new kind of Evangelical movement that accepts people the way they are?"

Already happened. Guy named Mel White and his group, Soulforce. As you may remember, conservative Christian colleges allowed him to speak on their campuses last year.

Problem is, their position, while based on some clever theological rationalizing, is unscriptural. Assuming that TTF views on innateness and immutability are someday found proven true- and they haven't been yet- Christian believers would be called to celibacy.

December 11, 2006 4:33 PM  
Anonymous David S. Fishback said...

There is the real disagreement. Some people believe that God commands that gay people be celebate. Others believe that a loving God would not deprive gay people of the intimacy afforded straight people. Since many believe that, as mere mortals, they cannot be be arrogant enough to be certain of the nature of God, they choose to believe that God is good and loving. What other humane choice do we have?

I would be very interested in hearing responses from the Anonymii.

I feel truly sorry for Rev. Barnes. He has gone through hell for nearly his entire life. I am thankful that my children were not born into such a community.

December 11, 2006 10:56 PM  
Blogger Orin Ryssman said...

Sorry that this is off-topic for this entry, but I did read an eloquent (yes, you heard me correctly) ELOQUENT defense of teaching ONLY evolution in K-12 science curriculums in anop-ed in Sunday's Denver Post. Here is the link,

It appears that the writer works for the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center from the email. Anyhow, give it a look it is an example of not just good argumentation, but elegant yet simple prose.

Oh, and yes, I would like credit for the find if posted...

December 12, 2006 6:01 AM  
Anonymous David S. Fishback said...


Thanks for the post. Very good piece.

Back to the topic at hand, this article from this morning's NY Times is very interesting:

December 12, 2006
Gay and Evangelical, Seeking Paths of Acceptance
RALEIGH, N.C. — Justin Lee believes that the Virgin birth was real, that there is a heaven and a hell, that salvation comes through Christ alone and that he, the 29-year-old son of Southern Baptists, is an evangelical Christian.

Just as he is certain about the tenets of his faith, Mr. Lee also knows he is gay, that he did not choose it and cannot change it.

To many people, Mr. Lee is a walking contradiction, and most evangelicals and gay people alike consider Christians like him horribly deluded about their faith. “I’ve gotten hate mail from both sides,” said Mr. Lee, who runs, a Web site with 4,700 registered users that mostly attracts gay evangelicals.

The difficulty some evangelicals have in coping with same-sex attraction was thrown into relief on Sunday when the pastor of a Denver megachurch, the Rev. Paul Barnes, resigned after confessing to having sex with men. Mr. Barnes said he had often cried himself to sleep, begging God to end his attraction to men.

His departure followed by only a few weeks that of the Rev. Ted Haggard, then the president of the National Association of Evangelicals and the pastor of a Colorado Springs megachurch, after a male prostitute said Mr. Haggard had had a relationship with him for three years.

Though he did not publicly admit to the relationship, in a letter to his congregation, Mr. Haggard said that he was “guilty of sexual immorality” and that he had struggled all his life with impulses he called “repulsive and dark.”

While debates over homosexuality have upset many Christian and Jewish congregations, gay evangelicals come from a tradition whose leaders have led the fight against greater acceptance of homosexuals.

Gay evangelicals seem to have few paths carved out for them: they can leave religion behind; they can turn to theologically liberal congregations that often differ from the tradition they grew up in; or they can enter programs to try to change their behavior, even their orientation, through prayer and support.

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.

“A lot of people are freaked out because their only exposure to evangelicalism was a bad one, and a lot ask, ‘Why would you want to be part of a group that doesn’t like you very much?’ ” Mr. Lee said. “But it’s not about membership in groups. It’s about what I believe. Just because some people who believe the same things I do aren’t very loving doesn’t mean I stop believing what I do.”

The most well-known gay evangelical may be the Rev. Mel White, a former seminary professor and ghostwriter for the Rev. Jerry Falwell. Mr. White, who came out publicly in 1993, helped found Soulforce, a group that challenges Christian denominations and other institutions regarding their stance on homosexuality.

But over the last 30 years, rather than push for change, gay evangelicals have mostly created organizations where they are accepted.

Members of Evangelicals Concerned, founded in 1975 by a therapist from New York, Ralph Blair, worship in cities including Denver, New York and Seattle. Web sites have emerged, like and Mr. Lee’s, whose members include gay people struggling with coming out, those who lead celibate lives and those in relationships.

Justin Cannon, 22, a seminarian who grew up in a conservative Episcopal parish in Michigan, started two Web sites, including an Internet dating site for gay Christians.

“About 90 percent of the profiles say ‘Looking for someone with whom I can share my faith and that it would be a central part of our relationship,’ ” Mr. Cannon said, “so not just a life partner but someone with whom they can connect spiritually.”

But for most evangelicals, gay men and lesbians cannot truly be considered Christian, let alone evangelical.

“If by gay evangelical is meant someone who claims both to abide by the authority of Scripture and to engage in a self-affirming manner in homosexual unions, then the concept gay evangelical is a contradiction,” Robert A. J. Gagnon, associate professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, said in an e-mail message.

“Scripture clearly, pervasively, strongly, absolutely and counterculturally opposes all homosexual practice,” Dr. Gagnon said. “I trust that gay evangelicals would argue otherwise, but Christian proponents of homosexual practice have not made their case from Scripture.”

In fact, both sides look to Scripture. The debate is largely over seven passages in the Bible about same-sex couplings. Mr. Gagnon and other traditionalists say those passages unequivocally condemn same-sex couplings.

Those who advocate acceptance of gay people assert that the passages have to do with acts in the context of idolatry, prostitution or violence. The Bible, they argue, says nothing about homosexuality as it is largely understood today as an enduring orientation, or about committed long-term, same-sex relationships.

For some gay evangelicals, their faith in God helped them override the biblical restrictions people preached to them. One lesbian who attends Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh said she grew up in a devout Southern Baptist family and still has what she calls the “faith of a child.” When she figured out at 13 that she was gay, she believed there must have been something wrong with the Bible for condemning her.

“I always knew my own heart: that I loved the Lord, I loved Jesus, loved the church and felt the Spirit move through me when we sang,” said the woman, who declined to be identified to protect her partner’s privacy. “I felt that if God created me, how is that wrong?”

But most evangelicals struggle profoundly with reconciling their faith and homosexuality, and they write to people like Mr. Lee.

There is the 65-year-old minister who is a married father and gay. There are the teenagers considering suicide because they have been taught that gay people are an abomination. There are those who have tried the evangelical “ex-gay” therapies and never became straight.

Mr. Lee said he and his family, who live in Raleigh, have been through almost all of it. His faith was central to his life from an early age, he said. He got the nickname Godboy in high school. But because of his attraction to other boys, he wept at night and begged God to change him. He was certain God would, but when that did not happen, he said, it called everything into question.

He knew no one who was gay who could help, and he could not turn to his church. So for a year, Mr. Lee went to the library almost every day with a notebook and the bright blue leather-bound Bible his parents had given him. He set up his Web site to tell his friends what he was learning through his readings, but e-mail rolled in from strangers, because, he says, other gay evangelicals came to understand they were not alone.

“I told them I don’t have the answers,” Mr. Lee said, “but we can pray together and see where God takes us.”

But even when they accept themselves, gay evangelicals often have difficulty finding a community. They are too Christian for many gay people, with the evangelical rock they listen to and their talk of loving God. Mr. Lee plans to remain sexually abstinent until he is in a long-term, religiously blessed relationship, which would make him a curiosity in straight and gay circles alike.

Gay evangelicals seldom find churches that fit. Congregations and denominations that are open to gay people are often too liberal theologically for evangelicals. Yet those congregations whose preaching is familiar do not welcome gay members, those evangelicals said.

Clyde Zuber, 49, and Martin Fowler, 55, remember sitting on the curb outside Lakeview Baptist Church in Grand Prairie, Tex., almost 20 years ago, Sunday after Sunday, reading the Bible together, after the pastor told them they were not welcome inside. The men met at a Dallas church and have been together 23 years. In Durham, N.C., they attend an Episcopal church and hold a Bible study for gay evangelicals every Friday night at their home.

“Our faith is the basis of our lives,” said Mr. Fowler, a soft-spoken professor of philosophy. “It means that Jesus is the Lord of our household, that we resolve differences peacefully and through love.”

Their lives seem a testament to all that is changing and all that holds fast among evangelicals. Their parents came to their commitment ceremony 20 years ago, their decision ultimately an act of loyalty to their sons, Mr. Zuber said.

But Mr. Zuber’s sister and brother-in-law in Virginia remain convinced that the couple is sinning. “They’re worried we’re going to hell,” Mr. Zuber said. “They say, ‘We love you, but we’re concerned.’ ”

December 12, 2006 7:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"There is the real disagreement."

No, it's the theoretical disagreement based on what TTF hopes science will eventually discover.

Apart from that, celibacy is considered a gift that some have in orthodox Judeo-Christian doctrine. Far from deprivation, it is believed there are better experiences than carnal pleasures. If the latter prevents the former, it is considered preferable to forgo it. Judeo-Christianity is, in this sense, similar to most other major world religions.

December 12, 2006 8:53 AM  
Blogger Orin Ryssman said...

Thank you David for the article from the NY Times...

My favorite passage? Oh, this would have to be it, no doubt at all:

Mr. Lee said. “But it’s not about membership in groups. It’s about what I believe. Just because some people who believe the same things I do aren’t very loving doesn’t mean I stop believing what I do.”

Good for him! I think his attitude can be best summed up by the statement:

I am here, I am who I am, and I am not going away. Now there is a positive challenge of faith to faith.

December 12, 2006 8:56 AM  
Blogger digger said...

"I am here, I am who I am, and I am not going away."

A variation on the anthem of the gay civil rights movement. Thanks for remembering, Orin. I hadn't thought of this so much as a statement of faith, but it really is, isn't it.


December 12, 2006 11:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Your story in the NY Times.

If someone says they can't change their homosexual attractions but will remain abstinent to stay consistent with scripture, any evangelical church would consider them a communicant.

If they believe it's OK to act on those feelings, they don't believe in the same things as evangelicals and are not in fellowship with them. They are free to find a group that believes what they do or start their own group.

This is a position many find themselves in. Homosexuals are not alone. Churches are not country clubs. They are groups of people with common beliefs.

December 12, 2006 12:49 PM  
Blogger Dana Beyer, M.D. said...

Clarification, please. So a gay couple that remained abstinent would be welcome in many evangelical churches?

December 12, 2006 6:12 PM  
Blogger andrear said...

Sorry -Anon- I know you think God spoke to you but there are Christians and churches who do not agree with you.

December 12, 2006 9:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Clarification, please. So a gay couple that remained abstinent would be welcome in many evangelical churches?"

To clarify, I said if they believed they were immutably gay and abstained, they would be considered a part of the fellowship if they were believers. I think they would have to respect the institution of marriage as well- being believers.

December 12, 2006 11:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Sorry -Anon- I know you think God spoke to you but there are Christians and churches who do not agree with you."

Sorry, Andrea, but if you've paid attention, you'll know i've said the same thing many times.

December 12, 2006 11:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, you say you're aware that not all Christians agree on a chastity requirement for non-heterosexuals. That begs a question IMHO. Do you think that kids in high school should be made aware that there are "Christians and churches who do not agree with" the view that homosexuals are called to chastity?


December 13, 2006 7:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a problem with teaching that, JN, unless you also disclose other things taught by those churches. Otherwise, they might get the wrong impression. All this should really be in a comparative religion class which kids absolutely need to understand this world we're living in. Let's start pushing for it.

December 13, 2006 9:24 AM  

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