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Freedom of Mind-
Donald Lee Barnett
Founder Donald Lee Barnett (Wikipedia) Bulletin from Church of Agape - Pastor Donald Lee Barnett
The Pastor who sets them dancing
Over its 19-year history, no revelation has more confounded the Community Chapel and Bible Training Center than the one Donald Barnett received last spring.
Barnett, the chapel's founder, pastor and "anointed of God," decreed that a higher spiritual realization could be found by dancing at church services with someone else's spouse. Finding one’s "spiritual connection," he said, opened up the possibility of a holy, complete and wonderful spiritual love. Last summer, Barnett told his congregation that he was initially reluctant to replace solitary "dancing before the Lord" with spiritual couple dancing, "but a dancing angel came into me and I knew this was of the Lord." Arthritic knee As a result of the revelation, the pastor and his flock soon found themselves dancing for hours, night after night, with their "spiritual connections." "I began to cry uncontrollably while dancing," said Barnett, whose dancing continued despite an arthritic knee. Nonetheless, Barnett seems to be taking the exodus in stride. Those who are leaving, he has said are possessed by demons of legalism, jealousy and stubbornness. "To follow God, I'll pay any price," he told his congregation in a recent sermon. Donald Lee Barnett, the son of a Pentecostal minister, was born in Idaho and grew up in Tacoma, says his older brother the Rev. Robert Barnett. "We were raised three boys in a very godly home by very godly Parents," says the elder brother, now a fundamentalist pastor in Boise. After high school, Donald Barnett attended a Bible seminary in Boise, married and found a job with the Boeing Co. In the 1950s and early 1960s, he conducted Bible studies at fundamentalist churches in South Seattle, West Seattle and Des Moines. Barnett was dismissed from all three churches for teaching "false doctrines," according to a biography assembled by Tim Brown, director of the Colossian Fellowship, an evangelical Christian group concerned with biblical orthodoxy. Barnett claims a doctorate in divinity. In 1967, Donald Barnett started a Bible study group in his South End home. The group prospered, moved to larger homes and later incorporated. In 1969, some members of his congregation sold many of their possessions and put second mortgages on their homes to finance construction of an adult Bible school on five acres of rural land in Burien. What had begun as a spirit-filled, speaking-in-tongues, faith-healing Pentecostal fellowship, Barnett began describing as "the move of God in the final days. The bylaws were rewritten so that only a four-member board headed by Barnett could make decisions. Barnett demanded that members give a full tithe or be expelled. He also encouraged members to report the faults of other members to him or his elders, Brown says. In 1983, Barnett told his congregation that he was taken in spirit into heaven, where he sang with angels and experienced "oneness of being" with Christ. Shortly afterward, he instituted "dancing before the Lord," the free-form, individual dance that evolved last year into partner dancing with "spiritual connections." Others, in accord with Pastor Donald Barnett’s teaching, dance with their "connections," the man or woman with whom they have achieved a special, spiritual relationship. Infrequently is the connection a spouse. Barnett, his white hair brushed back in a pompadour, dances at center stage front. His white dress shirt is unbuttoned, partially exposing his bare chest. He and his partner move like flamenco dancers without the castanets. He wraps his around the woman and stares intensely into her eyes as they glide about floor. She returns his gaze. Finally, about 9:30 p.m., Barnett ascends the rostrum to deliver the sermon. Bowing his head in prayer, he thanks the Lord for "putting out the dross," those who have questioned his teaching. Inevitably, some will be snatched by Satan, he says. But those who stick with him, he promises, are marching to glory.
Community Chapel Reflections
As the spring winds of 1967 blew across Puget Sound, many of these hungry hearts were drawn together to a budding midweek Bible study group in the home of Donald Barnett, a trained Bible scholar.
When this handful of Lutherans, Baptists, and Catholics discovered God's presence and power and began to seek Him earnestly, the Lord graciously poured out the Holy Spirit upon them. As they returned to their regular churches, they discovered that their newfound joy was met with doubt and mistrust by some, but with wide-eyed interest by others. Through the summer of 1967, the scope of these Bible studies increased and it became apparent to the participants that they could not be satisfied remaining in their respective denominations. Fall approached and the Lord led them to step out and start their own assembly. They asked Donald Barnett to officially assume the role of pastor; God had already been dealing with him to shepherd this flock that they would not be scattered. I'll have to agree with you on this aspect of Don Barnett. In the last years of my attendance at Community Chapel, I came to see it for myself. However, I will still have to maintain, as part of the process of simple logic, that somebody's temperament by itself still does not make beliefs right or wrong. I came to disagree with some of Don Barnett's theology, and yes, some of it is intertwined with his "maverick temperament," but that is separate from the doctrines of his systematic theology, which he got mostly during his upbringing, and maybe 90 or 95 percent of which I still agree with and believe. As for his "animus against mainstream Christianity," you should be aware that that did not begin in his upbringing or in the beginnings of Community Chapel. I'm not sure whether it was the Pentecostal Assemblies of Jesus Christ or the Pentecostal Church, Inc., the two denominations that later merged to become the United Pentecostal Church, but for part of the time in his childhood and youth, his family was with one of them, then later they were with an independent church of the movement that at that time was called the "Latter-rain revival." Although the UPC today tends to have an aversion to the rest of Christianity and tends to consider them unsaved if they don't receive the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues, I remember Don explaining how it wasn't always that way. He said in the church he attended, they accepted the born-again experience of some of the mainstream churches, and that he grew up that way. There's one other point I want to mention: In the years since I've been away from Community Chapel, I have come to realize that Don Barnett wasn't really the person who founded Community Chapel. Most of its founding came through his wife Barbara, though he took credit for it. She was the one who had such a close communication with God---ever since her early childhood---and even though God told her, "I have called you to be the pastor's wife," it was, first, her prayer life that brought that powerful wave of the Spirit that we all knew there, second God spoke directly to her about starting the church, and she even asked God, "What shall we call it?" and he told her audibly, "I want you to call it Community Chapel," and third, even the instructions from God to begin the Bible college came to her---and Don told her not to mention to the congregation that she was the one through whom the idea came. All or nearly all of the systematic theology came from Don. You know, even if Don and Barbara had never met, had never married, and if Barbara had married some other young preacher at her church, or at the church in Boise or wherever, this movement would still have happened, and even though she was born and raised in Lava Hot Springs, Idaho, it would probably still have come to be in the Seattle area, since it appears that that was a special leading of God. It would still have been called "Community Chapel" (but probably not "-& Bible Training Center"), that same flowing of the Spirit would still have been present in the services, but the difference is that without Don it would have been a lot less theologically oriented. I remember him saying about Barbara's mother (in the incident over the false prophecy about her sons in Korea), "She was not a very theological woman." It appears to me that Barbara wasn't either---at first, that is, until she married him. You may wonder, without Don's systematic theology, wouldn't the Chapel have been vulnerable to destruction? Yes, but with Don it also ended up being destroyed, so what's the difference? It's God who decides when he's going to allow a movement of his to come to an end, not just circumstances in the natural. Our pastor, Don Barnett, had a track record with this congregation of teaching the truth regardless of consequence. I learned much of what I know of integrity from him. But in March 1988, the eldership of the church wrested the church from pastor Barnett during a Friday night service while he was in another state visiting a satellite church. The church that was once over 3000 strong locally with over 20 churches worldwide, had dwindled to 2 churches, one meeting in a rented bingo hall led by pastor Barnett and the original Chapel with about 100 members. The 15 million dollar property was sold off to the state and is now a training facility for law enforcement officers. My sympathies always remained with Donald Barnett and his church, but I stopped attending in 1988. Defenders of Don often point out that he at first tried to put the lid on this "move," and it was instead the "intercessors" around Barbara (his wife), eager young elders, and Bible college teachers that were pushing it. As I remember events, this view is accurate. Don was deeply ambivalent about connections in the first months. But soon he yielded, pushed by inner forces that were then unknown and unseen by the rest of us, and we were off to the races. The rest is history. It is a personal fantasy project of mine that I would one day write a book about Community Chapel that would answer questions such as yours, Tee. It would be called something like Community Chapel -- The Saga of an American Religion and would be a comprehensive study of the founding, rise, and fall of the Chapel, with a look at the histories and personalities of all the key players. But it would also include a look at the theology involved, and an explanation of the context of Chapel theology in relation to the Latter Rain movement of the 40's and 50's. (Don received his Bible college training during this time at a school that was founded by teachers influenced by the Latter Rain doctrine and revivals.) It would be based on long interviews with as many of the leaders who would let me talk to them, as well as on my own experiences there, which includes attending and graduating from the Bible college, over the last ten years of its existence. When I first began to realize serious problems were coming was when Don taught a fairly long series on the Pastor being the spiritual head of everyone in the church with the emphasis on the women. The husbands were relegated some minor position but only if they were fully submitted to and in agreement with the Pastor. This teaching series was done in late 83. Now I realize that Don always had this view but at this time he was really driving it home in great detail and force. I knew there was a purpose for this though not manifested at the moment. I didn't realize at that time exactly what trouble this teaching and practice would bring about but I did know trouble was coming. It didn't take long for the trouble to be manifested. As I was never at the Chapel without reservation about certain things, including Don, maybe I was more open to the possibility that trouble, serious trouble, was coming. I was never hostile towards Don in thought or actions. [Looking back I realize that what I interpreted as being reserved (with seemingly negative connotations) about Don is really only the correct or healthy attitude we should have for men in authority] I was so disturbed by this teaching (I was never an over lording husband and those who knew me would fully agree) that it caused me to leave the Chapel. Don had agreed in writing to allow these meetings to take place. 2. These allegations were corroborated by several women through oral testimony and written affidavits. Although some point out that many people at CC were involved in illicit relationships at this time, the fact is that DB was the undisputed league leader, so to speak. 3. The church, and some of the elders personally, were in legal jeopardy over DB's behavior - because of the corporate status of the church. 4. Don had publicly stated (in Balance magazine), that he was accountable to the elders, particularly the 3 senior elders. 5. All 16 men UNANIMOUSLY agreed to ask DB to accept these two mode
Clergy Sexual Abuse
The Center, besieged by civil suites by ex-members claiming abuse, including women charging sexual exploitation, recently deposed it founder Rev. Donald Lee Barnett on charges of promiscuous adultery.
Bulletin from Church of Agape - Pastor Donald Lee Barnett
Civil lawsuit by Maureen Jorgenson against Community Chapel and Donald Barnett Stipulation to Arbitration by Elders and Pastor Barnett January 23rd 1991 Declaration of Donald Barnett 12 90 Declaration of Donald Barnett 12 90 Declaration of Donald Barnett 9 26 1990 Agreement for Arbitration by Eldership and Pastor Barnett September 1990 Reply Brief of Pastor Barnett Declaration of Donald Barnett 11 29 1988 Declaration of Donald Barnett 11 9 88 Pastor Barnett -- State Should Keep out of Religious Activities Change of Venue Asked in Civil Suit Against Barnett Restraining Order Modified Barnett Troubles Obscure Success -- Friends and Critics Blame his Woes on Ego, Eccentricities Three Chapel Satellites Also Under Fire Suit Against Church and its Ex-Pastor is Settled Senior Elder Quits Posts with Church Temporary Restraining Order reinstating Pastor Barnett March 15th 1988 Rebuttal Declaration of Donald Barnett 3 11 88 Two page note from Catreena Bingamen to Don Barnett Pastor Donald Barnett (far left) with members of Community Chapel