Another Gay Evangelical Minister

Just over a month ago New Life mega-evangelical Ted Haggard was outed by his gay lover. Now another evangelical preacher has resigned after being confronted by church elders. Paul Barnes of Grace Chapel in tony Englewood, Colorado recorded a taped confession that was played last Sunday for the 2,100 member congregation. According to the Reuters story and the Denver Post, Barnes was outed when an anonymous tipster told church leaders that he heard someone threaten “to go public with the names of Barnes and other evangelical leaders who engaged in homosexual behavior.” So if this tipster’s source is credible I guess that closet door will be swinging wide open in the weeks or months to come.

While it’s tempting to do so nonbelievers should refrain from gloating over this sad event. Where Haggard was cocksure and politically active against gays and lesbians — for instance publicly supporting Colorado’s Amendment 43 to prevent gay marriage — Barnes is described as being very private and introverted. An associate pastor said that he had never heard him preach about politics from the pulpit. I truly hope he is able to put his life back together and work things out with his family and community.

One of the church elders in the Post story was asked if this opened up the evangelical community to charges of hypocrisy. He had an interesting reply, saying hypocrisy is valid only “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. Does that mean we have to change what we say about the word of God? We can’t do that.”

This is the same argument that gets evangelicals in trouble time and time again. The Church used to believe that the Bible taught that the Earth was at the center of the universe. They fought bitterly against Copernicus’ heliocentric theory even long after it fell into general acceptance by those without a religious agenda. On most matters Christians can never agree on what the so-called word of God says. They often read into the biblical texts whatever they want it to say or think it might say. Then they form a hundred denominations for a hundred interpretations. Several million southern evangelicals found support in Scripture for the institution of slavery in the 18th and 19th centuries. Now strangely no evangelical understands the word of God to support slavery.

Now it’s homosexuality’s turn. Like the heliocentric theory and slavery before it, most folks don’t see being gay as a sinful indulgence, Satanic possession, or a lifestyle choice but simply a condition into which one is born. Barnes himself said he struggled with being gay since he was 5 years old. It just won’t do for evangelicals to ignore this reality, throw up their arms and say, “What can we do? God says it’s wrong so it’s wrong; nothing we can do about it.”

Of course God says no such thing. It’s The authors of the Torah who insist that God told Moses about certain priestly rules and what people ought and ought not to do. And we have absolutely no idea who wrote Leviticus — scholarly consensus at this point suggests the documentary hypothesis of Torah authorship in which four or five different authors over several centuries wrote the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures. I can tell you this: the words didn’t come from a burning bush. They came from men. At most we know that some priests several centuries before Christ thought that being gay was an abomination. Wow. Tell me something I didn’t know. As for the Apostle Paul, all we learn in his letters to the Romans and the Corinthians is that Paul thinks being gay is being disobedient to God and such people won’t go to heaven. Again tell me something I didn’t know. This is coming from the guy who goes on to celebrate the virtues of celibacy. It’s no surprise he’s against sex.

It’s time for evangelicals to face reality and consider the possibility that human sexuality is a lot more complicated than the written opinions of certain priests in the ancient world.

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  • steven

    Is perfection the mark?

    Didn’t Jesus tell his followers to ‘Be perfect, as your Father in Heaven is perfect’

    It is in the Sermon on the Mount, which we are told contains wise words.

    If Matthew 23 is a guide, Jesus would have looked with disfavour on any preacher who did not practice what he preached.

  • James Still

    “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48).

  • Ross

    I must take issue with your mention of the apostle Paul. In the letter to the Corinthians, Paul was writing to a group of Christians who were living in a sexually permissive community. Corinth was a centre of paganism, and a highly promiscuous city, and a centre of worship of Aphrodite, the Roman goddess of love. A temple to Aphrodite was built there, and there were many temple prostitutes there. Sacramental promiscuity was rife in this city. Paul was writing in reply to a letter the Corinthian Christians, who had come out of this culture, had written to him. His advice to them was that it was good to live a celibate life, but because of the sexual immorality in their culture, most of them would find it very difficult. He’s giving them his personal opinion (v. 6); this isn’t from God. It’s his optional advice to this church. For their own good, he had to lay down some guidelines for them to live in these conditions. Also, it is believed that Paul was once married. Paul, when he was known as Saul, was a member of the Sanhedrin. To be a member of the Sanhedrin, it was mandatory to be married. It’s reasonable to assume that if he was married, the marriage was consumnated. Therefore, he wasn’t against sex. What became of his wife isn’t known. Either she died or left him after his conversion to Christianity.

  • James Still

    Thanks Ross for weighing in with some insightful comments. I don’t disagree at all with your main point that Paul was writing to the Corinthians in the context of the paganism that surrounded them. The new converts had left behind the established pagan rites for the new cult and needed clarification on many theological points. However, I don’t think you can project back onto these people the distinctly American (Puritanical) view of sex, i.e., Corinth was a “highly promiscuous city” and a culture of “sexual immorality.” Cult prostitution and fertility rites in pagan temples, if they occurred in Corinth and I think this is an open question, was an ancient practice without connotations of sin. It probably came from the Near East and older Indo-European practices going back to Goddess worship. Temple prostitution was not considered immoral by the standards of the day and the Corinthians would not have seen it the way you do through our modern lens. It is an interesting speculation as to whether the pre-Christian Paul was married. I have no idea whether he was or not. My point was only that by the time of his teaching and promulgation of Christian ethics he had decided that sex itself was problematic. Even natural law fundamentalist philosophers of today would not go that far. But I understand the point you’re making. In fact, I think you strengthen my argument. Fundamentalists today are obsessed with homosexuality and comb through every passage of the Bible looking for anything that would condemn gays and lesbians. If Paul’s views on sex are more complicated than I have suggested then this just demonstrates my point.

  • Son of a Bishop


    My heart really goes out to this guy. This is a prime example of how the traditional conservative religious organization forces their leaders and congregants into a lifestyle of passive-deceit due to the “sin of homosexuality/lesbianism”. This pastor’s experience display what is being perpetuated throughout the religious communities of this country. I am a 41 year old African American man who was raised in a very religious household with parents who are ministers in an ultra- conservative religious organization. I finally had to face the reality of my sexuality/homosexuality; I am yet a very strong Christian. I would love for you to read my very short self-published testimony entitled;
    “Son of a Bishop, My Testimony”
    Samuel Marcus Brown or
    you can google the info. here is the link.

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