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By Leslie Robinson
What is it with the state of Colorado?
Mere weeks after Ted Haggard landed in a scandal of biblical proportions, another Colorado pastor of the evangelical sort has resigned over gay sex allegations.
I’ve always considered the notion a joke, but maybe there really is something in the water. Or at least the holy water.
You’ll remember that Haggard lost his gig as the leader of the Colorado Springs megachurch he founded, as well as the presidency of the National Association of Evangelicals. In a letter to his congregation, he admitted to “sexual immorality,” such a benign way of describing three years of drug-fueled fornication with a male hooker.
Now Paul Barnes, founding pastor of Grace Chapel in Englewood, has performed a belly flop from the pulpit.
The story is that his church got an anonymous call from someone who overheard a person talk about exposing preachers on the down low, including Barnes. Over a few days the pastor confessed, resigned, and videotaped a Sunday message to his flock.
Presumably he learned from Haggard that lying into a TV camera while in the car with your wife and kids isn’t the shrewdest approach.
In his half-hour video, The Denver Post reported, Barnes said he had had sex with men. “I have struggled with homosexuality since I was a 5-year-old boy … I can’t tell you the number of nights I have cried myself to sleep, begging God to take this away.”
Now that’s a winning strategy. Be honest and specific in your confession, unlike Mr. Sexual Immorality, and you’ll make your congregation sympathetic and gays everywhere empathetic.
These straying evangelical pastors are still working out the bugs in getting caught. When the next Colorado reverend’s gay revels are revealed, I have to believe he’ll be toting a script.
There are important differences between these two closet cases. Barnes wasn’t a national figure, unlike Haggard, who powwowed with the White House. Barnes avoided politics, staying out of the furor over Colorado’s same-sex marriage ban. Barnes did, though, preach homosexuality is a sin.
Which he believed. In his videotape, he described the one talk his father had with him about sex. Dad discussed what he’d do if a “fag” approached him. “‘Is that how you’d feel about me?'” Barnes thought. “It was like a knife in my heart, and it made me feel even more closed.”
That was one time when a parent would’ve been better off saying, “Son, talking about sex makes me nervous. Go pick it up on the streets.”
A Christian conversion at 17 didn’t make his homosexual feelings go away, as he’d hoped. Barnes said he can’t accept that a person is born gay, so he must look to his childhood. If he thinks he’s going to find an explanation for his gay longings in the fact that his mother once beat him at pick-up sticks, his suffering is far from over.
In the wake of these ecclesiastical scandals in the Centennial State, The New York Times asked if evangelicals might revisit the belief that gayness is sinful. Nope, said those interviewed. What could happen is greater compassion.
Haggard’s successor as the evangelical association president said, “When you discover people you know and respect are struggling with homosexuality, suddenly you’re more compassionate because they are real people who are around you.”
Apparently, all of us who have been out are not real people.
The Denver Post noted that when the Haggard mess broke, Barnes scrapped his sermon and wrote a new one stating that, “Most of us … wear masks.” Now that his is gone, here’s hoping he starts to like the look of his own mug.