Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Another Evangelical Minister Resigns Over Sex With Men

The Denver Post reported yesterday that Rev. Paul Barnes resigned on Sunday from his 2100 person evangelical megachurch after "confessing" in a 32 minute video that he had had sex with men during his marriage.

Read the article at http://www.denverpost.com/ci_4817067

Barnes, who was apparently about to be "outed", called his attraction to men "the thorn in my flesh" and recounted a not unfamiliar story of homophobic comments from his father and his church and desperate attempts to deny his sexual orientation. He said that he had been to counseling about these issues three times but he could "never find anyone to talk to."

Rev. Barnes, I'm sorry that that was true. You obviously didn't look very hard. If you had looked beyond your own church you would have found that there are faith based organizations in almost every denomination that affirm and welcome GLBT people. There's even a group called Evangelicals Concerned. There are hundreds if not thousands of gay clergy that live their lives honestly and faithfully that would have been happy to talk with you.

I am angry for you that you have lived in a world where you had to hide who you were from the people closest to you and where you have experienced such self-loathing. At the Religious Institute we believe that sexual difference is a blessed part of our endowment and that God loves and welcomes all of us. It is the integrity of our relationships that are important, not the sex or gender of our partner.

We can suggest lots of people -- even people in Colorado -- for you to talk to...Give us a call.

13 comments:

Sparki said...

So...do you mean that if he would have come to you, you would have told him it's okay to keep having sex with men, even though he's married? Are you really okay with him cheating on his wife, as long as it was with men?

Anonymous said...

Pastor Barnes sounds like a good person, a man who has tried his best to grapple with what he feels is a moral problem and spiritual demon. The issue is complicated by the fact that he built a life for himself that contradicts who he really is in the hopes that who he is would submit to the life he built.

How do you right such a wrong done to oneself? I don't know. I know of some couples in similar situations, and some have divorced - but more than one has stayed together.

I hope that ultimately Barnes and his wife can decide for themselves what is best for them - based on what they need as individuals and as a long-term couple that probably still share love.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it sad that people seem to be drawn to the clergy as if it's the strongest tether to keep them on the "straight and narrow" rather than accept what is their natural ilk. And the havoc they wreak along the way is tragic.

By the way, I got no impression that you were condoning infidelity, regardless of the nature of the affairs.

Rev. Debra W. Haffner said...

Thanks, Cheryl...I was not. I feel tremendous compassion for Rev. Barnes' wife and daughters who must be struggling mightily to understand this. Sparki, I would have counseled Rev. Barnes that he was a child of God, that he needed to be honest with himself and his wife about his sexual orientation, that together they would need to decide as lareinacobre says about the future of their marriage, and I would have helped him look at how the soul-numbing denial of sexual difference by his church and his father was the sin not his homosexuality.

Anonymous said...

My sense of compassion is far less progressed than yours.

If his record is clean with respect to never vilifying homosexuality from the pulpit, then I'd give him the olive branch. Because if not, he's only suffering from something he directly participated in creating.

Otherwise, I'd just as soon see him stew in his own personal hell, whatever that may be.

Sparki said...

Ummmm...okay. But where I come from, if you've made a solemn vow to a spouse, you uphold it. You don't bow out later because you have a bisexual orientation. He was attracted to men, he was attracted to his wife and he made his choice. It's not any different than a heterosexual man having to refuse to have sex with any woman other than his wife, even if he's attracted to them. Or if a homosexual person is in a committed relationship, it's wrong for them to violate that commitment by having sex elsewhere.

I just don't think Pastor Barnes' church can be blamed for his lack of faithfulness. If he'd had sex with other women, would you be blaming his church for not understanding him and supporting his sexual desire? That's what you're doing here, though -- it's the church's fault because the church wouldn't accept homosexual behavior.

Rev. Debra W. Haffner said...

Sparki, you raise an interesting question for me...which is if he had been having affairs with women, would he have had to resign? I'm guessing the answer to that is no. If every male pastor who had had an extramarital relationship (with a woman who was NOT a congregant) had to resign...well I'm guessing we'd have many more empty pulpits. I am not blaming his church for his poor decision making -- just for making him so ashamed of who he was that it somehow seemed more just to him to choose to live in the closet and be unfaithful to his wife than accept who he was and maybe not get married in the first place...but I am mindful of Jesus' admonition not to throw the first stone; we really don't have any idea what agreement he and his wife have had.

Sparki said...

When I was an evangelical, the few pastors whose affairs (with women) were found out were indeed made to resign.

One fellow had to resign because he was getting married to a divorced woman (which I didn't think was right at all).

So, while I cannot speak for all evangelical churches, my experience was yeah, if found out, the guy had to resign for heterosexual affairs, too.

You seem to suggest that many pastors are openly having affairs with other women and aren't made to resign -- I've just never seen that. Perhaps it is more common among denominations that have more of a "free love" attitude and less emphasis on marital fidelity? Is that what Unitarian Universalists teach?

Rev. Debra W. Haffner said...

NO, NO, NO Sparki that is NOT what we teach. It is also a gross distortion to label our sexual ethics as "FREE LOVE." Look at our Religious Declaration on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing for the very rigorous sexual ethic we espouse.

And no, I wasn't talking about "open affairs", but I think it's fair to say that there is not ANY denomination that doesn't have ministers who have had sexual relationships outside of marriage. For too long a time, people looked the other way even when such relationships occurred with congregants. We now recognize that as abusive behavior by the clergy. I'm still guessing that infidelity with an other sex partner is viewed differently by many congregations of all kinds than that with a same sex partner -- in our mind, a sexual ethic applies to all persons without double standards based on sex, gender, or sexual orientation.

Anonymous said...

Being a homosexual doesn't excuse Pastor Barnes from cheating on his wife, but I would liken it to a Prince Charles/Princess Diana sort of situation. Charles didn't really get to choose Diana; he was bound by restrictions of his class and title. When he fell in love with Camilla Parker-Bowles, according to his station he could not marry her. He acquiesced to the rules of his life and married someone he didn't really love. Later, he was miserable and so was his wife. They ended their marriage and finally, years later, he is married to the woman he loved.

Was it right of him to cheat on his wife? No. He chose to be subject to the rules (unspoken and written) of the royal culture, and this caused a lot of needless suffering.

I view a Pastor Barnes situation in the same way.

Sparki said...

NO, NO, NO Sparki that is NOT what we teach.

Okay. I'm glad. It was an honest question -- I really didn't know and that's why I asked.

It is also a gross distortion to label our sexual ethics as "FREE LOVE."

I wasn't labeling your sexual ethics as "free love" -- I was referring to denominations that did that, but I didn't say that meant UU and I didn't know if UU did it or not. (Hence the question that followed.) The only think I knew firmly was that you, Rev. Haffner, insist that couples have premarital sex before you're willing to marry them and I don't even know if that's a UU policy or not (it didn't sound like it, more of a personal stance on your part). You also seem to be unwilling to define what these two evangelical pastors did as adultery (which is a sexual sin), but I'm foggy as to why that is.

...I think it's fair to say that there is not ANY denomination that doesn't have ministers who have had sexual relationships outside of marriage.

I must agree with you. Sad, sad, sad, but all too true.

...I'm still guessing that infidelity with an other sex partner is viewed differently by many congregations of all kinds than that with a same sex partner -- in our mind, a sexual ethic applies to all persons without double standards based on sex, gender, or sexual orientation.

I don't have any evidence one way or another. My experience was that adultery was horrible...homosexual affairs were not something that I saw.

Look at our Religious Declaration on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing for the very rigorous sexual ethic we espouse.

Thanks for the suggestion. I looked it up. I would have to say that what Pastor Barnes & Pastor Haggard did by having homosexual affair(s) while in heterosexual marriages qualifies as a sin according to this document. What they did was cause pain, brokenness, and loss of meaning in the marital bond they have/had with their wives. Having sex outside of marriage also violated the love, justice, mutuality, commitment and consent of the their marital relationships (and possibly also the pleasure, at least on her part -- it might be difficult for her to enjoy sex with him now that she knows he's been getting it elsewhere). And if she has been trusting him to be faithful -- as any woman married to a pastor probably would -- she's also more than likely allowed herself to be exposed to HIV without knowing it!

I really feel for these poor women who are not only saddled with their husband's infidelity, but also with the public scrutiny and the potential physical danger of contracting HIV. Why aren't the wives being offered all this love and support that the men are receiving? The wives are the ones who were sinned against by the husbands, after all.

Anonymous said...

I extend appreciation to whoever put the energey, time and money into this forum.

Is the question how the church deals with sin?

In Barnes case we've got adultry. Seems to me doesn't matter whether male or female.

In Beard's case (2nd minister at New Life Church where Haggard was) he was dismissed for fornication and it may have been 7 years ago or so and possibly before he came to the ministerial position at the church.

This seems confused.
A. Is there a higher standard for ministers?
B. How does the minister get
forgiven by the people? This assumes we know how he gets forgiven by God.
C. Do we assume it is ethical and biblical for the people to forgive him but NOT the church administration in that they won't let him be the minister any more?
D. Why is there a ranking of sins? Why is sexual sin bad enough to remove a minister but
gluttony not?

Anonymous said...

And did you see Lawrence Finer's study that came out this week that 99% of the people had sex by age 44 and 95% of them before marriage!
Are we to assume that the ministers were all in the 5% that didn't have sex before marriage? And all those fornicators are sitting on church boards removing ministers for fornication and adultry? Is this absurd?