Only a month has passed since Ted Haggard’s fall from grace in Colorado, and already we have another high-profile pastor who is resigning over homosexuality. The Denver Post reported that Pastor Paul Barnes, founder of Denver’s 2,100 member Grace Chapel, resigned by video recording to his congregation.
The Post described Barnes as “tearful” and that he had “several relationships with other men.” To some, this might be another Jimmy Swaggart mixed in with a Ted Haggard situation. It has tears, queers, and fears all mixed into one.
If we look a little closely, we’ll see that there’s something unusual here. It’s something that we didn’t even see with Roberts Liardon. In a stunning confession, Barnes tells his congregation of his deeply intense and lifelong struggle:
“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.”
Instead of spending a considerable amount of energy by covering up that struggle like Rev. Ted Haggard did, Barnes lays it all out. I might be a little presumptuous in saying this, but I feel a certain amount of a kindred spirit with Pastor Barnes. This is the very same thing I would have said five years ago, before I began to come to terms with my own sexuality.
Yes, Pastor Barnes, I understand. I know what it’s like to have an open shooting war between my spirit and my flesh. Most of us who are gay Christians are keenly aware of that raging conflict. The article then outlines more of Barnes’ comments that tell of his long and personal struggle. When he converted to Christianity, he saw a “glimmer of hope” in his struggle. But his homosexual feelings never went away.
More and more, I realize just how much I and so many other evangelical gay Christians have in common with Pastor Barnes. Even when he said that he doesn’t believe a gay person is “born that way,” we understand.
Barnes and his church were not actively political over gay marriage. His sermons are reported to have been compassionate and well-thought out. I’m reminded of how my own actions were toward other gay men before I came to terms with myself. I could never condemn anyone, nor did I judge someone. I was keenly aware of my own struggle, so why would I want to judge anyone else? I suspect that Pastor Barnes felt the same way.
Finally, he said something that really IS a glimmer of hope:
“Barnes expressed hope for a future where one can “be who you are” and be ccepted and loved in the Christian community and also spoke about “separating some of the teachings from Scripture” from Jesus Christ.”
This was quickly dismissed by other pastoral leaders in the church, but I think there’s a genuine process in which Pastor Barnes is becoming much closer to self-acceptance than we might think. This last quote is exactly what inclusive Christianity is about. Those of us who are in the church must absolutely accept people as they are before they’ll give one red cent about what we preach. I think Pastor Barnes is beginning to understand that.
My thoughts and prayers go out to his wife Char and their two children. He has lived a lie for more than twenty years during their marriage, and now that lie has destroyed all he’s worked for. My prayer is that there will eventually be some real healing in their family and in their church.
His sin isn’t that he’s gay. It’s that he committed adultery. The fact that he snuck around with men instead of women is irrelevant. And yes, he has to answer for that. But it’s tragic that he felt he had to try to fix being gay rather than coming to terms with his God-given sexual orientation.
And maybe, just maybe, we’ll begin to see that God’s love is for everyone. Even Ted Haggard. Even Paul Barnes. Even me.