TACOMA - A former member of a Tacoma church told a jury that during
a 1985 counseling session, her pastor made sexual advances to
her and then said he felt like he was having a religious experience.
Carol Edwards, in Pierce County Superior Court testimony yesterday,
described the Community Chapel and Bible Training Center of Tacoma
as a church where doctrinal edicts became licentious and parishioners
accepted the edicts as tickets to heaven.
Edwards and her ex-husband, Ira Gabrielson, are suing the church,
former pastor Jack McDonald and the Rev. Donald Barnett of a sister
church in Burien.
The lawsuit alleges that McDonald abused his pastoral power to
sway Edwards into a sexual relationship with him and that the
church's evolutionary doctrines, reportedly handed down by Barnett,
fostered a sexually permissive atmosphere.
Edwards said a childhood friend introduced her to Barnett's church,
the Community Chapel and Bible Training Center in Burien, in 1984.
"The people seemed devoted, like they really loved the Lord.
And there was a lot of prayer, which I liked," she testified.
When she heard a sister church had opened in Tacoma, Edwards began
to attend services there.
Edwards, 38, told the jury she first sought McDonald's counsel
in 1985 for solutions to her husband's sexual dysfunction and
her own lost interest in sexual intimacy.
She testified that McDonald told her to pray about it because
he hadn't received a problem-solving spiritual revelation for
her, as he sometimes received for others.
Edwards said the church became preoccupied with demon possession
and demon deliverance, or exorcism.
Between 50 and 100 tape recordings that described church teachings
came to the Tacoma church from Barnett, Edwards said.
Churchgoers began to "sing in the spirit" or singing
in unknown tongues believed to be from God, "dance before
the Lord," and make "spiritual connections" by
gazing intimately into the eyes of another parishioner for hours,
The dancing at first was done singly, then in pairs. When Edwards
balked at the new theology, church leaders told her she had the
Demon of Fear.
Edwards said her marriage worsened when her husband objected to
her dancing with other men. McDonald then counseled Edwards that
her husband was demon-possessed and she should make McDonald her
spiritual leader, she said.