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Another Evangelical Pastor Comes Out Of The Closet

A Commentary

Jim Burroway

December 11th, 2006

Another evangelical pastor has apparently come out of the closet:

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.

If the Denver Post article is accurate, this case appears to be somewhat different from that of Ted Haggard. Rev. Barnes is described as an “introvert who avoided politics,” staying out of the debate over Colorado’s Amendment 43 which banned same-sex marriage.

The Denver Post’s account of Rev. Barnes’ struggle will be very familiar to anyone who has tried to conceal or bury their sexuality. When he was a teenager, his only talk about sex with his father ended with his father describing what he would do if a “fag” approached him, driving the younger man deeper into the closet. And while he converted to Christianity at 17, his feelings for other men never went away. He married, and is the father of two girls. But at the same time, he’s described as someone who is struggling with the biblical teachings of homosexuality with “hope for a future where one can ‘be who you are’ and be accepted and loved in the Christian community.”

And yet, he says that homosexuality is a sin.

I’m afraid that many gay advocates will see in this a simple morality tale of the mighty laid low, the hypocrite exposed, and, of course, schadenfreude. But in this particular case, I can’t quite see it that way.

This is a very deep struggle that many gay men and women must contend with, especially those who are themselves people of faith. We’ve seen Daniel Gonzales at Ex-Gay Watch describe some of his own struggles, before he was able to come out the other side as a fine young gay man. His story is not unique. There are many stories like these that we can all reflect on — those of us who have spent a large measure of our lives trying to reconcile who we are with what we profess to believe. And to believe that being who you are requires a separation from the very God who created you, well, there’s nothing more devastating for someone of faith. The sense of abandonment can be very powerful.

There is a way out of that hopelessness however, and it is the way of profound faith. Faith in the goodness of creation, including your own. And faith in the love of a benevolent Creator and the mercy of a just judge. Perhaps Rev. Barnes will discover that it really is possible to be gay and Christian. Because in the end, love can never contradict Love, and truth can never contradict Truth.

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