Congregants of the megachurch Grace Chapel are broken yet standing firm after their lead pastor confessed to homosexual struggles. Much like evangelical pastor Ted Haggard, the Rev. Paul Barnes will be led through counseling, which had failed him in earlier attempts.
In a videotape, Barnes had made his confession to the church in a tear-stained message on Sunday, saying he had been struggling with homosexuality since he was 5, according to The Denver Post. The megachurch pastor resigned and plans to stay in Denver.
As the 2,100-member nondenominational church discusses succession and a severance package, Barnes and his wife, Char, will get professional counseling from a secular practice and a Christian counseling ministry, reported the local Post.
Coming out just one month after prominent evangelical leader Ted Haggard resigned as head of the National Association of Evangelicals amid allegations that he had paid a former male prostitute for sex, Barnes has sparked discussions over the Church's attitude toward homosexuals.
"We (evangelicals) may have talked about the evils of homosexuality in attempts to justify our position and not been as evenhanded or fair in representing the homosexual community as we should have been," Craig Willford, president of Denver Seminary, told the Post. "At times, we have probably over-generalized the lifestyle and made villains out of people who live in homosexuality."
The Rev. Leith Anderson, interim president of the National Association of Evangelicals and pastor of Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie, Minn., was more moderate in his reaction.
"I honestly don’t think there is significant rethinking on evangelical positions on homosexuality, but I think there may be greater compassion," he said, according to The New York Times.
After Barnes' video message was played, reaction from the congregation was said to largely be of concern for the pastor and his wife, Char.
In a sermon just days after news spread about Haggard's drugs and gay sex scandal early November, Barnes had brought attention to the plight of homosexuality. He indicated that some people view it as a grave sin but "gloss over" the sins of adultery or idolatry.
"Those who don’t have homosexual inclinations can be judgmental towards those that do," Anderson added. "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, members of your church and community, and the compassion level rises. It should."
Evangelicals still hold steadfast to their belief that Scripture condemns homosexuality. Still, Barnes had urged grace and mercy for all sinners during his Nov. 5 sermon.
"Sometimes, we wear masks because we want to be appear more perfect than we are," said Barnes. "But the reality of it is, all of us are so very imperfect."
In the wake of the recent homosexual scandals, more masks may come off. Willford predicted confessions by additional pastors could be made.
"When one person gets caught or confesses, it's almost like others get a new courage to face this dark side of their private lives."
Barnes, 54, started Grace Chapel 28 years ago in his basement as he carried homosexual feelings, which he described as "my thorn in the flesh." He was in counseling three times before he made his public confession.