ROYAL OAK –
Funds raised from production of the successful new play “Masks” that debuted in early June at Royal Oak Missionary Church will be donated to a national LGBT organization.
The two-hour play, which was written by the church’s lead pastor and local playwright Bill Barnwell, attracted nearly 600 people over three performances. Eighty percent of the show’s proceeds will be donated to the The Trevor Project, the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBT and questioning youth.
Barnwell said this is an unprecedented donation for an evangelical church like his. “I have been unable to find any evangelical church anywhere in America that has given financially to The Trevor Project or put on an event like this. A small number of non-evangelical churches have, but I can’t find anyone else from the conservative Protestant tradition that has done so.”
The amount of the donation is significant: Over $6,500. “The check will be in the mail next week,” says Barnwell.
The donation to the Trevor Project has sparked controversy. Barnwell has been harshly criticized for giving to a “liberal” organization and “caving into the homosexual agenda.” Barnwell claims these assertions are ridiculous.
“The question should not be, ‘why would a pro-life church give to The Trevor Project?’ The better question should be, ‘why wouldn’t they want to?’ It’s very hard to show Christian love to somebody who is already dead. Numerous studies and statistics consistently demonstrate that LGBT teens face much higher rates of suicide. Very few evangelical churches anywhere in the nation have taken this issue very seriously, and shame on them.”
The show itself, Barnwell said, was a great success.
“Had we done an already well-known dramatic show as a community play and brought in 150 a night, that would have been very respectable. We exceeded that and brought in over 200 on our closing night. This is quite remarkable for a play that was just written months ago, that nobody had previously ever heard of, which was a non-musical, and a PG-13 play that dealt with such heavy subject matter. I’ve already received so many letters and emails from complete strangers about how this show has given them hope.”
The show tackled issues few other evangelical churches have addressed, such as compassion towards the gay community, suicide, infidelity and religious faith’s sometimes destructive power.
Barnwell is already planning his next theatrical project.
“In 2013, I will be debuting a show called ‘Choice’ which will explore the complexities of our national abortion wars along with the heartache of an infertile couple. All my shows are based on real life people and events. My goal is that the quality of the script will exceed what we did with ‘Masks’.”
Barnwell also plans to make the script for “Masks” available for outside groups to use for their own productions, as well as the distribution of a DVD from the debut performance.
ROYAL OAK –