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Churches that Abuse #2

It is out there STRONG as ever!!

    
                          CHURCHES THAT ABUSE #2

                             RONALD M. ENROTH

                               Written 1992



FRINGE AND
FANATICISM 

Abusive Churches Can Go Over the Edge


     On March 20, 1986 Janet Cole drove from Seattle Portland and
drowned her five-year-old daughter, Brittany, in a motel bathtub.
The attractive thirty-seven-year old mother, described by friends
as the ideal Christian woman, was convinced that she was demon
possessed and that a similar fate would probably befall her
daughter. She wanted the little girl to go to heaven a
so committed an act of love by killing her.
     Janet Cole was also a member of a large Pentecw church,
Community Chapel, in south Seattle that ex- members and other
critics claim was preoccupied with demons and "deliverance
ministry." The tragic dro ing resulted in the first of a series
of media reports dun brought unwanted publicity to the church and
its former pastor, Donald Lee Barnett. In addition to the
emphasis on exorcism, a swirl of controversy emerged as a rest of
Barnett's teaching on "intimate dancing" and "spirit- ual
connections" with members of the opposite sex.
     Barnett claims that this "move of God" had origin in a
series of mystical experiences he had, including an encounter
with a "dancing angel." His "revelation teaching" was derived in
part from heavenly vision in which God told him that he would
give him truth that he had not given to any man before. "God let
me know that no man had entered that highest realm that I saw. He
allowed me to experience things that no man has ever seen. I was
connected with God; I had revelation, I was one with Jesus
Christ." 
     Robin and Matt were two people who were swept away by Pastor
Barnett's "revelational teaching." Their lives have never been
quite the same since. They are among dozens of people I have
interviewed at length about the almost unbelievable events that
transformed Community Chapel from an unknown church on the fringe
of fundamentalism into a fanatical, spiritually abusive
organization. You will find it difficult to believe that what
happened to Robin and Matt is quite typical of the upheaval
experienced by hundreds of other people in this "move of God."
"I'd call Jen [a friend in the church], screaming, crying,
because I knew what I was experiencing was spiritual; I knew
there was deception somewhere. But I didn't know where or how I
was being deceived. The church was pulling me one way, Matt was
pulling me one way, my own heart was saying something else, my
husband was in love with one of my best friends and she was now
living upstairs with him. I had had some surgery, and I was
distraught. So I ended up living in the basement going out of my
mind, while they played mom and dad upstairs and took care of the
kids. I was like Cinderella in the cellar, losing my bananas.
Matt would, sometimes in the middle of the day, come home and
come to my house to take care of me. He ended up staying with me
every night because I couldn't sleep. I was skin and bones. I
couldn't eat; I couldn't sleep; my skin got bad; my hair started
falling out. I was tormented, and I was planning and plotting how
I could murder my children and take my own life to get out of the
insanity, because I was in love and totally dependent
for my sanity upon a married man who had two children."
     This was the culmination of Robin and Matt's story of their
many years of involvement with Donald Lee Barnett's Community
Chapel. Barnett, 62, began Commmunity C hapelin 1966 as small,
basement bible study. By mid 1980s, attendance at Sunday services
was over two thousand, not including the network of twelve 
satellite churches that were at one time associated with
Community Chapel. Today, the Chapel is only a shadow of what it
was in the 1970s and 1980s. Membership dwindled to about two
hundred, legal battles have divided the congregation, the pastor
is gone, and part of the church property has been sold to pay
bills. What described here is the Chapel at its zenith, just
before collapse. It's the incredible story of what can happen
when a church becomes abusive and slides toward spiritual and
moral chaos, when a church already on the margins of conventional
evangelicalismsm goes beyond the fringe. 

     The organization had a ten-million-dollar complex where
members, including Robin and Matt, not only learned about God and
the Bible, but spent hours in protracted "intimate dancing" with
their "spiritual connections." As a result of this church and its
pastor, Robin and Matt are now divorced from their spouses,
separated from their children, and married to one another.
Members of Community Chapel were instructed by Barnett about
every aspect of life, spiritual and temporal. Church bulletins
frequently included "pastoral admonitions" that were unusual. For
example, one Sunday bulletin warned men against using unisex
styling salons. "Our church stands opposed to any hair style on
men which tends toward the mod, rebellious, or effeminate! As
pastor I am very much against a fad that is growing for men to
get permanents at unisex styling salons. Please do not identify
with the effeminate, unisex, homosexual fashion trends. Mothers:
even though it may be convenient, it is unwise to take young boys
to the beauty shop (or unisex styling salon) for their haircuts.
While there, they will see the 'big boys' getting their fancy,
poofy, effeminate hairstyling. Years of such practice could cause
them to be ensnared, too. These places are not without homosexual
demons just waiting to influence the gullible." 
     Seminars offered by the church leadership covered topics
like, "How to Keep Your Yard," "Masturbation," "Child Rearing,"
"Dress Standards," "How to Be a Good Wife," "How to Be a Good
Employee," "How to Be a Minister's Wife," "How to Choose
Make-up."
     If there is just one word to describe Don Barnett and his
church, it would "control" -- autocratic control over the lives
of the individual members.
     Barnett's pastoral "concerns" went so far us to dictate how
close together people should sit in the pews of the church, He
also expressed concern in a church bulletin over the fact that he
had received "reports of a number of people experiencing insomnia
night after night for no apparent reason." Among other things, he
recommended that his parishioners take a hot bath immediately
before bedtime, along with some warm milk. "Ask the Lord, in
faith, for a good night's sleep; taking authority over physical,
emotional, and possible demonic influences. Then let your body go
limp." The advice was signed, "Your pastor who cares for you."
That "care" also extended to divorced persons and the question of
dating. "Because the potential for sin, abuse, and demonic attack
in this area is immense, we must maintain a strong position in
order to uphold godliness, and insure as far as is reasonable
none among us is overly hurt." Therefore, members of Community
Chapel were asked to comply with the following two rules "in
order to be in this church": "(1) A divorced person may not date
or begin building a relationship with a member of the opposite
sex without first obtaining permission to date from the pastor.
Address your request for such permission to his wife, to whom he
has delegated oversight in this area; (2) Nobody who is in the
process of separating or divorcing may date or begin to build a
new relationship with a person of the opposite sex. No
exceptions."
     Most members experienced a totalitarian system of control in
which all free time, outside of employment, was given to the
"assembly," or church. The epitome of being spiritual, in fact,  
to have a job at Community Chapel. Most evenings were given to   
church activities. It was not at all unusual to spend five or    
six nights a week in church.  When asked what members did for
fun, Robin respended, "That is what we did for fun, we went to
church."

     Community Chapel had not always been so controversial and
controlling, although its pastor had promoted various unorthodox
concepts from the beginning. As a youngster, Barnett and his
family belonged to the United Pentecostal Church, a small
denomination isolated from the Christian mainstream because of
its rejection of the traditional concept of the Trinity. Barnett
still preaches a non-trinitarian message.
     Although never ordained a minister, he did attend
unaccredited Bible seminary in Idaho and began his ministry as a
Sunday school and Bible study teacher in a series of Assemblies
of God churches in Washington. Barnett left each of these
churches because of doctrinal disagreements. Meanwhile, he worked
as a draftsman. By 1967, Barnett and his wife Barbara began a
home Bible study that attracted newly born-again Christians 
eager for fellowship. The group quickly grew; the Friday-night
"Singspirations" and Barnett's approach and teachings were
attractive to new converts. As one former member says, "The
teaching didn't seem bad at first. He was preaching the Gospel
and the church was growing. But everyone who came in was a new
Christian and they didn't know the Word of God. Everything they
knew came through Barnett's teaching, and they had to totally
submit to him."
     The Friday-night Bible study grew into a church with a Bible
school, funded largely by the sacrificial offerings of its
members. Early services at the chapel were fairly typical of
Pentecostal services, including speaking in tongues, and "words
of knowledge" from God. As the church grew and the number of
employees increased, Barnett's sense of power and need for
control grew accordingly, say former members.
     Barnett imstituted "Operation Rescue" in which members were
instructed to report each other's faults to pastor. A dress code
for both men and women was begun as well as a dietary code
restricting pork, shellfish, alcohol, all based on Barnett's
interpretation of the Old Testament laws. Oreo cookies were
outlawed because they contained lard. Interracial dating
was proscribed. Certain Christian books and bookstores were to be
avoided because they promoted "false" creeds. However, Barnett   
approved of and quoted from a weekly publication by it" neo-Nazi
group.
     Celebrating Christmas and Easter was discouraged because 
Barnett considered them secular holidays. Engagements could not
be announced until Barbara, the pastor's wife, was informed.
Every indication of a negative or "rebellious" attitude or
unapproved opinion was attributed to demons.
     By the time Robin and Matt became involved in 1972, Barnett
was beginning to promote the first in a series of "corporate
moves of God." The first was the "white room experience,"

......

To be continued

Note:

Like all false Christian religions or denominations, there is
truth, but mixed with much error. Even the Roman Catholic church
has truth, but the errors are many and large.

Keith Hunt               
 

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