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Pre-2008 Posts

Another Conservative Christian Pastor Steps Down, He’s Gay

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 Douglas 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.

Barnes says he has struggled with homosexual thoughts since he was five years old.  He is married and has adult daughters.  His confession came after he received a phone call warning him that he might be outed.

Unlike Ted Haggard, who stepped down after he was outed by a male prostitute, Barnes was not politically active, either personally or from his pulpit.  Like Haggard, Barnes started the church in his basement and it grew to 2,100 members over time.

It’s interesting that these outings are occurring during a time of increasing masculinization in the church, as though publicly denouncing the “limp-wristed,” as Mark Driscoll recently did, is going to keep the gay bogeyman out of the pulpit.  It won’t.  Sometime, the church is going to have to deal with this issue, and not in the way they have “dealt” with it until now.




13 thoughts on “Another Conservative Christian Pastor Steps Down, He’s Gay

  1. Heart, this tales are distressing, but hopeful.

    When are churches gonna realize how damaging homophobia is? How many closeted friends and colleagues are they gonna have to lose for them to see the light? Trained clergy know very well that homophobia is not sanctioned by scripture, but they keep letting their congregations believe that lie.

    Are churches that invested in the system? That’s the very pitfall Jesus himself warned against. Now I haven’t been a regular church-goer since I was a teen, but much of my family (which includes a handful of preachers) are active church members. I guess I will never understand.

    Thank you so much for covering these stories, Heart. They are as important to radical feminism as anything else.

    Posted by Y. Carrington | December 14, 2006, 7:39 am
  2. Hey, Y. Carrington, I so agree. The church is central to the perpetuation of gender as a subordinating mechanism, and persecution of gay and lesbian people in the church is one way gender is enforced and male heterosupremacy reinforced. At some point, I think the hemorrhage of gay and lesbian people cast out of the church is going to be too great and too public, and maybe then the church will realize it’s going to have to deal.


    Posted by womensspace | December 14, 2006, 12:11 pm
  3. Thanks for posting that, Rich, and thanks to catte, too. Twisty blogged abuot this a couple days ago, I should get the link, “Godmen” was in the title of the post. On the one hand, it’s ridiculous. Except that these guys are serious!


    Posted by womensspace | December 14, 2006, 12:15 pm
  4. I think your statement regarding the “masculinazation of the church” is an important one. I think I might blog about that phrase that you are offering the world of blogs, and perhaps a critical approach will help break the silence and repression of sexuality in faith communities! Thanks for writing!

    Posted by robyn | December 14, 2006, 5:47 pm
  5. “break the silence and repression of sexuality in faith communities!”

    A resounding, “huh?”

    Posted by Rich | December 15, 2006, 3:05 am
  6. He’s Gay? Oh, you mean he’s happy? Yeah, I can see how being happy might upset Christians. Gets in the way of all that shame guilt. 😛

    Posted by Luckynkl | December 15, 2006, 8:07 am
  7. I’d be interested in seeing what the suicide rate is amongst conservative denominations.

    All this outing, either by others or the individual, is just making me sad. A lot of folks are focusing on the hypocrisy of these men, saying they have a right to mock them because of their homophobic public lives. Personally, I think it’s homophobic to mock them. [not that you are doing this Heart, it’s just on my mind]

    I knew I was gay when I was eight, and basically I was fine with this until I was in highschool and the conflict between my desire to be a faithful Christian and my deep understanding that I was lesbian drove me into depression. My first suicide attempt was at 15 and was directly fueled by the conflict between the church and my sexuality. And I was in a fairly progressive congregaton!

    But I’ve always been a fighter; always been stubborn. After my third suicide attempt at age 21, I said fuck it. The church wasn’t worth my death.

    But if I hadn’t been stubborn? I could see me staying loyal to the church, marrying a nice Christian, Forestry Management guy and having the two boys and one girl that I thought I had once wanted. We would camp, go to Vacaton Bible School, go to church for midnight services on Christmas Eve. Shit, just typing that out makes me still want that — in a fairytale kind of way — because that’s how freakin’ normative that paradigm was for me.

    But what would have become of my passion? my desire? When would that fairytale give way under the weight of my suppressed sexuality and desire? How would my love of women ever come to fruition? How would my personality have been warped? Would my depression, which wound up lasting 13 years anyway, ever have lifted?

    And what if I suppressed myself deeply enough and long enough that I came to fear all other lesbians – feared them for what I felt for them, feared that they could read my emotions and lust (which the probably could), feared that they would destroy my fairytale security net?

    So, if I can have compassion for the me that-might-have-been, I can have an even deeper compassion for these men, despite their shortcomings and hypocrisy. Being gay in this society is still traumatic.

    Posted by Q Grrl | December 15, 2006, 4:05 pm
  8. OTOH, these guys didn’t just get a domestic fairytale (though they got that in spades, too: there’s plenty of “straight” guys who never achieve that measure of straightness and the sexist rewards that come with it), they also got power and influence over the multitudes.

    There’s nothing like that in your fairytale.

    So, duh, the closet is a different place to be for men and women, advantage men, again duh, but for that same reason, I think it’s reasonable to point out how their behavior was damaging and would still be damaging even if they weren’t hypocrites, and how they continue to enjoy benefits from their past actions even in their “fallen” circumstances, regardless of whether they choose to leave the church or jump though hoops to get back in.

    But yeah, that’s a far cry from a lot of the nyah-nyahing on the left.

    Posted by Rich | December 16, 2006, 6:52 pm
  9. On a lighter note:

    Posted by Ian | December 18, 2006, 3:43 pm
  10. When I read all of the comments, I must say “courage and compassion” to all of you. I was raised in Tennessee before the civil rights movement. My mother and I were shopping downtown, I saw a water fountain and bent down to take a drink when suddenly my mother snatched me back because of the “colored” label over the spigot, but not before I took a long slurp of the cold water. I remembered that she said to me, ” You drank from the wrong fountain.” I’m sure she was humiliated, but the water tasted good. Sixty years later, I can still picture me and the fountain in that restaurant.
    Now the same shame and fear that my mother felt that day has divided people by color, kept women in submission to men in all aspects of our society, now hovers and divides people by sexual identity. The institutional church is rapidly being forced to pull its head out of the sand and become more honest and Christ-centered on this issue. There are individuals on both sides of the issue who are researching and writing about this.
    Finally, I think we need to remember that God is not a human being and does not think like us (Isaiah 55). Two themes that span the Bible are a warning against judging and a mandate to do justice. I pray each of you to have courage to search for the real truth and to practice compassion toward each other and that we all pray for the day of honesty, transparency, and acceptance toward all.

    Posted by Lila | December 20, 2006, 2:49 am
  11. Q grrl, beautiful comment, thanks for what you wrote there. I’m glad you are stubborn and a fighter, I’m glad you are okay now and still around, kicking patriarchal butt like none other. I’m glad you got out of the church world, even though I know what you mean that there is still that draw when you talk about the old dreams.

    I can’t stand the viciousness when it comes to outed gay men, and especially when you compare it to what happens to women when they out themselves (because I’m not recalling, now that I’m thinking about it, any woman who has been outed as these men have). What’s with all the hate and especially when it’s someone who fancies himself/herself to be progressive or feminist. I swear to freaking god wonkette *lives* to trash outed fundies, and it disgusts me. As though the church is not one of the most central and gigantic purveyors of gender EVER– all that dancing on someone’s symbolic grave does is prove she doesn’t get the significance of outings in fundamentalist churches.

    I know what you’re saying, Rich, so far as these guys enjoying male privilege, comparatively, but it’s not so different for lesbian women in the church, most of whom marry, have kids, and struggle as Q-grrl describes and yet who, again comparatively, enjoy privilege, given that they are perfectly fulfilling their male heterosupremacist-ordained role in life as a wife, mother, etc. The thing is, too, that they are not nearly so despised when they are outed or out themselves as men are despised. They are, of course, viewed as reprobate, sinners, walking in darkness and so on, and yes, they will be ostracized and shamed, but outed men are hated as none other in that world because of the way that world bows at the feet of masculinity, the masculine, men, a male godhead. A woman, after all, can just repent and get right with God and get married to a man and have kids or go back to her marriage or whatever, and, too, women are viewed as “prone” to deception and are also not viewed as fully human in that world, as made in the “image of god,” the way men are made in the image of god. Once a man is outed, he’s despoiled the sacred holy maleness that is central to Christian teaching/doctrine, and I need to think more about this, because I’ve never exactly thought about it this way before, but I know I’m onto something.

    It’s interesting, in so-called “open and affirming” churches like the one I go to sometimes, churches which are full of gay and lesbian people and where gay and lesbian people lead, are priests, etc., (and fwiw, these churches absolutely delight me– they are actually alive and vibrant whereas the rest of the church in the U.S. is dead as a doornail, or dying, in its death throes) there is still imo too often a sort of underlying adoration of masculinity– even where there are efforts in the direction of gender neutral language and where there is interest in the Sophia movement or the de-gendering of the Divine. Christianity as it is practiced in the John-Wayne-West is just very very male and het, and so whatever violates the sacred holy het/male is anathematized, and I think it’s that impulse that is working in people like wonkette and liberal men and others who attack gay men with that gleeful viciousness that feels (to me) like garden variety homophobia.

    Q grrl: But what would have become of my passion? my desire? When would that fairytale give way under the weight of my suppressed sexuality and desire? How would my love of women ever come to fruition? How would my personality have been warped? Would my depression, which wound up lasting 13 years anyway, ever have lifted?

    Q grrl, I think I wrote about this somewhere around in here, but maybe it was elsewhere– I met a woman in my “Confronting the Religious Right” workshop at Michfest last year whose experiences in the church absolutely paralleled my own. She was about my age, she had entered into progressively fringe-y expressions of church life, she had been married, had children, homeschooled them, and she was finally excommunicated, but not for the reasons I was. She was excommunicated because church leaders had come to know somehow that for most of the years she was a fundamentalist Christian, married, a mom, she had *also* been in relationships with women in the church. When she was excommunicated, she wasn’t involved with a woman, but she had befriended a so-called “ex-lesbian” and church leaders were afraid of what would happen (and paradoxically, after she was excommunicated, she and the woman did have a brief relationship, of course, self-fulfilling-prophecy style.) Anyway, even though she had all of these relationships with women, she never thought of herself as a lesbian. I think this is common-common-common in fundamentalist churches– that there is a kind of “splitting” that goes on where women, feeling as you describe there, get intimately involved with women and just don’t call it what it actually is, maybe they feel confusion or are not even sure what it is they are feeling, just that it is passionate and overwhelming and very different from the feelings they feel for men. I wonder if this splitting is something that goes on with men, too. I think the human psyche is capable of some interesting twists, turns and permutations when it comes to desire, and that this can be a matter of survival in a world in which certain desires are so severely punished that it is unthinkable even to face up to having them, and so people view themselves as struggling with some “besetting sin”, like the “thorn in the flesh” Paul wrote about that he asked God to take away, but God would not. I think it’s possible that many, many gay and lesbian Christians view themselves as struggling with “temptation” or “sin” and so when they have these relationships, like the woman in my workshop, or Ted Haggard, or this pastor I blogged about here, they understand themselves to have “fallen” but they keep hoping they’ll have the strength not to fall next time– maybe all the way til the time they are outed or excommunicated and finally maybe then they face up to the truth of their own longings.

    Well, there’s a lot to think about. Lila, thanks for those peaceable words.


    Posted by womensspace | December 20, 2006, 4:27 pm
  12. Those preists were Evangelests, and the first one was a televangelist. They’re not mainstream religion, they’re just basically cult movements that hide behind the veil of Christianity. And like you said, the biggest ones have around 1000 members at the most. In more mainstream religion, though it is still highly frowned upon, they justify it by saying that everyone is a sinner and hate the sin and not the sinner. I’ve see a couple gay preists and recently I’ve started seeing women preists as well as altergirls in the more popular Christian and Catholic Churches that are not dominated by reactionary fundamentalists. So yeah eventually the whole homophobic damnation thing is going to die out, but until then I say just smile and nod at the telemarketing devotees and try to be a good Christian the way you interpret the bible for yourself. My IMO 🙂

    Posted by girlwrestler | December 21, 2006, 11:29 am

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