The deposed pastor of the Community Chapel and Bible Training
Center is a "sick man who needs help from God and man,"
say the church leaders who expelled him for sexual misconduct.
But Donald Lee Barnett, the self-ordained founder of the Burien-based
sect, yesterday blasted the elders' Friday night action as illegal
and vowed to overturn the court order barring him from church
In defiance of the elders' dismissal and their warning to the
congregation not to associate with him, Barnett yesterday held
a meeting with about 300 church members in a rented hall above
a bowling alley near Federal Way.
Meeting afterward with reporters, Barnett claimed that the elders
may not have the legal authority to oust him.
"If they don't," he said, "I'll be back in service
hopefully this weekend. And if they do, we'll secure another
property and continue on as a church with those who will follow
"I am doing this because I believe that God has called me
to the ministry and I believe that He wants to leave Community
Chapel to the pastor and those that believe that will follow
In letters written to Barnett Friday and distributed or mailed
to all Chapel members, the elders admitted they have known for
more than two years that Barnett was involved in numerous adulterous
relationships with women in the church.
"For well over two years now, you have steadfastly rebuffed
and refused to cooperate with the many who have sought to work
with you to help solve your habitual sexual immorality problems.
Your continuing sinful attitude toward this whole issue is, in
fact, worse yet than your sexual sins," one letter stated.
The elders also claimed in another letter that Barnett, 57, has
a drug dependency.
In a telephone interview Saturday, Barnett denied the elders'
charges of habitual sexual immorality, saying he had repented
his sins. He acknowledged that he uses a variety of prescription
drugs, and pain medications for stress and other ailments, but
he said he uses no illegal drugs.
And he insisted the elders' actions represent a power play for
control of the church, accusing them of the "same sexual
sins they accuse me of - only they have not repented as I have."
Said Barnett, "Senior elders, you are in the same boat.
I am in a higher position
but hey, it is the same for all
of us. You're in the same jeopardy I am, but you have made no
attempt not to be alone with women as you have told me to do."
Furthermore, Barnett said he would continue to preach his controversial
teaching of "spiritual connections," an extramarital
dance ritual that many allege has figured in numerous incidents
of sexual involvement of adults and children.
About 1,500 people still belong to the independent, non-denominational
sect, which practices faith healing and speaking in tongues but
is not an orthodox Pentecostal or charismatic church.
Located on 36 acres, in a southern suburb of Seattle, the $10
million church once had 3,000 members. It has its own security
police; church ushers are armed. Members are expected to give
10 percent of their income plus an additional offering to the
For several years the congregation has been beset by difficulties,
including criminal convictions for child abuse, pending civil
lawsuits alleging sexual assault, the breakups of marriages, suicides
and the murder of a child by her mother.
Last fall, the church announced substantial budget cuts.
Than last Friday, elders of the sect announced during a church
service that they had unanimously voted to remove their pastor.
They said that they had obtained a court order to ban him from
church property, except for his residence.
In order to take that step, they said they had filed new incorporation
papers with the state and had amended bylaws that previously gave
Barnett a lifetime position, with veto power over the board of
About 100-150 of the 1,200 members present at the service walked
out in support of Barnett, but church spokesman Loren Krenelka
said he believed an "overwhelming majority" of the church
backed the elders and their statements.
Krenelka said church leaders felt they had no choice but to expel
Barnett after he refused to comply with their earlier attempt
to restrict his associations with women in Chapel, barring him
from being alone with any woman not his wife.
He said there was "no truth" to Barnett's accusations
that other church leaders have been guilty of sexual misconduct.
He could not explain why the Chapel elders had not revealed their
allegations of Barnett's sexual misconduct before now.
In three letters written to Barnett Friday and distributed to
all Chapel members, the church leaders spelled out the reasons
for their unanimous decision to put Barnett out of the congregation,
accusing him of, among other things:
The letter referring to Barnett's "habitual sexual immorality
problems" was signed by the Chapel's three senior elders,
Jack DuBois, Jack Hicks and E. Scott Hartley. Along with Barnett,
the three men have been Chapel's board of directors.
"By your own statements you have placed yourself above accountability
to anyone for anything," the senior elders wrote. "We
affirm that this is contrary to scripture and that it is an exceedingly
dangerous precept, both for you and our flock. Before God, we
cannot submit to such an unholy, self-serving and frightening
"You have consistently lied in the past and are currently
lying about your sexual misconduct to counselors, the entire eldership,
and the congregation
"You are currently lying about the number of women you have
been involved in immorality with the extent of it
"There have been many repeated and flagrant abuses of pastoral
authority. You have coerced women and even threatened to disfellowship
unless they lied about your sexual misconduct to counselors, elders
and the courts. For over a year you have used your pulpit to
blame and accuse your wife and others," they wrote.
In another letter, Barnett was admonished about what the church
leaders believe will happen to dismissal and seek treatment.
Among other things, they warned that unless checked, the pastor's
"problems of fear and unreality will grow worse" and
he "will lead a religious group characterized by heavy idolatrously
be followers, refuse to be accountable to anyone, and function
contrary to the Christian Church."
Wrote the leaders, "Don, this letter constitutes a warning
from God about the seriousness of your problems. You are a sick
man who needs help from God and man. We hope you will avail yourself
A chronology of the elders' attempts to counsel Barnett about
his "personal sexual sins" is revealed in the letter.
The synopsis indicates the elders have known since at least April
1986 that women in the church were trying to seek help because
of Barnett's sexual advances.
On one occasion in February 1987, the letter stated, elder Lanny
Peterson warned Barnett, his former father-in-law, that women
had come into the church counseling center for help after becoming
sexually involved with the pastor.
"That very evening in the Friday night service Don gave a
pastoral order forbidding people who had been wronged from going
to any counselor or elder about these matters
This was a
cover-up attempt to prevent his own sins from being exposed and
to stop those
hurt by his own excesses from obtaining the
help they needed," the statement read.
In yet another letter, the elders claimed that Barnett responded
to their Feb. 15 order to stay away from women in the church by
leaving Feb 16. With a woman for a vacation.
Barnett's estranged wife, Barbara Jean, moved out of the church
parsonage "because of Don's adulteries," the statement
The letter was signed by 16 men, all described as elders or "ministers."
Hartley and David Motherwell, who is described in the letters
as Barnett's personal "counselor" were two of the three
Chapel leaders convicted last year of failing to report child
abuse, a gross misdemeanor.
Ralph Alskog, another who signed the letter, is a defendant along
with Barnett in a civil lawsuit pending in King County Superior
The suit, on behalf of a former Chapel member, alleges that under
the guise of being her "spiritual connection" and providing
ministerial services and counseling, Alskog sexually assaulted
the plaintiff "by fondling her private parts, undressing
her, kissing her with his tongue, masturbating on her stomach
and embracing her against her will."
Alskog has denied the charges. In a tape recording of a Feb 28
Chapel meeting, Barnett insisted his sexual involvement with women
in the Chapel was not illegal. He was heard saying, "there's
no laws against people getting into sex
uh, that's taught
and bragged about by liberals you know, in coed dorms. Ms. Magazine,
they brag that all the time
.I mean they blatantly blaze
that and if that's illegal, hey, we're all in trouble.
"I'm not saying it isn't illegal before God. It is. It is
wrong. But it's not illegal
.There's no justified lawsuit
when there's no law against it."
Professing that they may reconsider Barnett's application for
membership at some later date, the elders said they still love
him and want him to return. They promised to "show fairness"
and "be benevolent" with regard to his continued use
of the church parsonage, his church-provided automobile and severance
At church services in Community Chapel yesterday, sources said
that by midday the sanctuary appeared to have returned to normal.
Elder Mark Yorkers preached a sermon that made only peripheral
reference to Barnett or the difficulties.
Although some people were teary-eyed and somber, the exuberant
dancing and embracing that has characterized Chapel services was
under way again.