Community Chapel and Bible Training Center

Community Chapel and Bible Training Center
Community Chapel and Bible Training Center
Formation 1967
Extinction 1988
Type Independent Pentecostal Christian
Location Burien, Washington
Official languages English
Pastor Donald Lee Barnett

Community Chapel and Bible Training Center was a controversial independent church created in 1967 and pastored by Donald Lee Barnett in which he taught his version of Oneness Pentecostalism. The church eventually grew to an attendance of over 3,000 before splitting and losing significant numbers in 1988 because of numerous lawsuits brought against Barnett and others in the church leadership for sexual improprieties. Community Chapel became famous for a practice its leaders advocated known as "spiritual connections." This practice involved seeking intense emotional experiences of love with another person, usually not one's spouse, while dancing together in worship. It was taught at the Chapel that through this experience, Jesus, specially known to the participants as "the glorified Son of Man" because of the teaching of Barnett, was connecting the members of his church together in love as he had always meant them to be.[1][2][3][4][5][6]



Early history

The original grounds, or "east campus," of Community Chapel and Bible Training Center.

Community Chapel originated in a home Bible study led by Barnett. According to her book The Truth Shall Set You Free, Barnett’s wife Barbara worked as a representative of Burien Welcome Wagon, a committee for welcoming new members to the community, in the 1960s. In the course of this work, she met Keith and Joanne Gunn, recent arrivals from Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, and, though they were Lutheran, Mrs. Barnett invited them to a Pentecostal meeting at the church she and her husband attended. Keith Gunn became interested in the Pentecostal experience of being "filled with the Holy Spirit," and invited Mr. Barnett, who had two years of education at a Pentecostal Bible college in Boise, Idaho, to start a Bible study in the Gunn's home for others similarly interested. This Bible study grew and was soon incorporated as the church of Community Chapel.[2]

In 1969, some members of this group sold many of their possessions, and some put second mortgages on their homes, to finance construction of a Bible school on 5 acres (20,000 m2) of rural land which Barbara had found in Burien, Washington. As membership grew the group purchased 36 acres (150,000 m2) more of nearby land. The Chapel then constructed elementary and secondary schools on its newly acquired land, erected a large sanctuary, a printing press, a recording studio, employed a security force to monitor the property, and began holding church services.

Early services at the chapel were fairly typical of Pentecostal services, including "speaking in tongues," spontaneous prophecies and "words of knowledge" from God. The meetings were also characterized by persons spontaneously leading out in singing the usually simple chorus-like melodies of praise, a style of ministering music typical of a very few churches that were involved in a Pentecostal movement of the late 40s and early 50s (most of the rest having died out since), which would often erupt in massive expressions of praise and worship, usually overwhelming the feelings and emotions of those present in ways to which most adherents of traditional Christianity were not accustomed. The group continued to grow, soon listing roughly 150 outreach ministries in its publications, including hospital and prison ministries.[1][6]

On September 14, 1979 the Church Articles of Incorporation were rewritten so that only a four-member board headed by Barnett could make decisions [5]. According to Tim Brown, director of the Colossian Fellowship (an evangelical Christian group concerned with biblical orthodoxy), it was at this point the group "took an authoritarian turn."[1] As the group's rules began to change, Barnett instituted "Operation Rescue," in which members were encouraged to report on each other's faults to the pastor. A dress code was implemented, as well as a dietary code restricting pork and shellfish, all based on Barnett's interpretation of Old Testament Judaic Laws. Specific Christian books and bookstores were also to be avoided, because they contained "false creeds." The celebration of Christmas and Easter was also discouraged because Barnett considered them "secular" holidays. Engagements were also forbidden, unless Barnett's wife Barbara was informed beforehand. Indications of a negative or "rebellious" attitude were frequently attributed to demon possession.[6] Tim Brown's former ministry, apparently called "Colossian Fellowship" is no longer in existence. At the present time it is unknown precisely where Mr. Brown obtained his information regarding Community Chapel.

The "new sanctuary," or "west campus," of Community Chapel, built in 1979.

Throughout the 1970s, according to researcher Ronald Enroth, a series of "spiritual fads" began to sweep through the church, "exciting many of the faithful but confusing many others." The first of these was the "white room experience," introduced by Barbara Barnett as a result of a vision she claimed to have received. The "white room" was a mystical place that enabled one to become especially intimate with the Lord, but could only be reached through a progression of varying degrees of spiritual maturity. Another "fad" was known as the "pillar of holiness," a spiritual event that could only be experienced by those who had "gotten into the white room." Another "fad" was referred to as "singing in the Spirit," in which the entire congregation would sing in tongues together. A "fad" known as "spiritual surgery" also occurred, in which individuals were encouraged to "completely yield to God," so that "inner healing" could result.[6]

In 1979, Barnett invited area ministers to a series of meetings known as the "Puget Sound Charismatic Ministers Discussion on the Doctrine of the Bible." According to Dr. Daniel Pekota, a professor at Northwest College (now Northwest University) in Kirkland, WA, Barnett monopolized the meetings with preaching about the "Oneness" doctrine, a doctrine that, because it denies the Trinity, is widely recognized as contrary to historical Christian doctrine. Religious leaders, including Pekota, soon stopped attending the meetings.[7]

The dancing revelation

In 1983, Barnett told his congregation that he was taken "in Spirit" to heaven, where he sang with angels and experienced "oneness of being" with Christ. Following this, he instituted "dancing before the Lord," which was a free-form, individual dance with spiritual implications. In 1985, however, this evolved into a highly controversial, intimate two-person dancing practice known as "spiritual connections."

During church services, members were instructed to find a dance partner, known as a "connection." By staring into each others eyes, a process known as connecting, partners were told they would in actuality be seeing Jesus in each other's eyes, and were encouraged to look with love into their spiritual connection's eyes in order to express their love to Jesus. Throughout the week, both in and out of church, members were encouraged to spend time with their spiritual connections in a kind of "quasi-dating relationship." Physical intimacy often accompanied these "spiritual" connections, and connection love was taught to be more intense, and more desirable, than marital love. [1][6] A former member has stated that the connecting experience was so intense that she and other women would experience orgasms without ever having any physical contact with their connections.[6]

It was taught that God was using the "spiritual connections" to break down the barriers and inhibitions within the congregation, and promote greater "unity" within the church. Spouses that felt jealousy watching were taught to "release their mates unto the Lord," and Pastor Barnett taught from the pulpit that members were not to view the connections "carnally." According to Barnett, what the people were doing (which included hugging, holding, fondling, kissing) was not to be viewed with the eyes of the "flesh." As he explained, "What's happening is they're having spiritual union ... It just looks the same on the outside, but what's really occurring is spiritual, so don't judge them or their motives."[6] In the book Churches That Abuse, a former member described what it was like at church services that included such sessions of dancing:

Picture your typical forty-year-old wife who's out of shape and has six children. There she is watching her husband dancing with this little twenty, year-old perfect beauty-long blonde hair, big bust, little waist-in his arms, gazing at her for hours. And meanwhile the wife is going insane.[6]

The practice often led to marital friction. The members were told that intimate spiritual experiences with their "spiritual connection" (typically a member of the opposite sex to whom one was not married) could help defeat the "demons of jealousy" and open up the person to a deepened experience of the love of Christ.[6] Critics have attributed spiritual connections to "scores of divorces and separations as well as suicides and the murder of a young girl by her mother." The practice of spiritual dancing has been highly criticized in newspapers and books, and by former members and researchers. The Rev. David Wilkerson, author of "The Cross and the Switchblade," referred to the practices as "the most grievous thing I've ever heard in my 30 years of ministry" and "the worst error that's ever come into the charismatic movement."[6] [8][9][10]

CRI labels group a "cult"

In 1986, the Christian Research Institute issued a statement about the group, in which they stated that, "Based on our research, there is more than sufficient evidence to show that CCBTC is, in the theological sense of the term, a cult. That is, a religious organization which professes to be Christian but which teaches heretical doctrine on the fundamentals of the Christian faith." According to the CRI, the group's beliefs about Christian demon possession and "Oneness" constituted heresy. The practice of "spiritual connections" was also criticized as "unbiblical and socially deviant." In conclusion, the CRI wrote, "Christians should not seek to have fellowship with those involved."[11]

Signs of church turmoil

Early allegations of sexual improprieties involving Barnett and female congregants

Allegations of Barnett's improprieties with parishioner Sandi L. Brown

During a deposition in the Butler v. Barnett matter, Barnett produced a handwritten letter authored by Barnett dated September 4, 1979, addressed to senior elders Jack Hicks, Scott Hartley and George Alberts.[6][7] The letter addressed allegations that Barnett initiated or attempted to initiate improper physical and/or sexual contact with parishioner Sandi L. Brown in the early to mid-1970s. Barnett described the matter as a "long drawn out 'watergate' affair", and claimed the accusations subjected Barnett and his wife to "terrible pressures" with "physical symptoms and suffering".[12] Barnett denied all allegations of misconduct, claiming that Ms. Brown was bringing false allegations against her pastor due to influences from demonic spirits and other dissident church members, that Ms. Brown was not a credible witness and that the elders should dismiss the allegations as facially insufficient because neither Ms. Brown nor the elders could produce any witnesses to corroborate the allegations as required by Biblical evidentiary standards. Barnett stated that:

The facts are that the scriptures demand that accusations against an elder be not w/o witnesses. There are no witnesses. I deny Sandi's charges made to Chris. Therefore, I am not on trial. I do not have to clear myself. This is not the issue. Further, past errors on my part are under the blood of Christ. No one has a right to involve themselves or others or the parties involved with past matters. I am in right conscience before the lord. Some are receiving that accusation—they therefore are in violation of scripture. This seriously impacts my relationship with them and puts me under terrible pressure for I can have no confidence in their confidence toward me. The issue is what the pastor is alleging of a false accuser. This cannot be allowed to stand.[13]

Barnett further requested that Ms. Brown submit to a lie detector test to assist in determining Ms. Brown's veracity, explaining that:

Sandi has agreed to a lie detector test. This is the next step. I direct George to request this of her. I suspect that she may back down because even with lying spirits involved (my guess), because she consciously knows she is lying. Sandi has refused to follow my pastoral lead and instead has turned to Frank to guide her. If Sandi agrees to a lie detector test, I will write the questions and direct the matter through George.[14]

Barnett was apparently planning to meet with Ms. Brown while wearing a hidden tape recorder to discuss Ms. Brown's allegations in further detail. Barnett was quite certain he would obtain incriminating statements from Ms. Brown which would contradict her earlier statements, thus providing concrete evidence that Ms. Brown was not being truthful. Ms. Brown was apparently warned in advance of Barnett's intentions to conduct an independent investigation, and did not agree to meet with Barnett. Barnett expressed frustration that other parishioners hindered Barnett's efforts to meet with Ms. Brown, thereby preventing Barnett from obtaining the "smoking gun" evidence needed to clear his name.[15]

Allegations of Barnett's improprieties with parishioner Kathy Butler

After the infamous "split" in early 1988, numerous individuals began publicly alleging that Barnett was involved in sexual improprieties with women of the church for many years before the split. Kathy Butler, a member of Community Chapel during its "early years", was one of the numerous women who Barnett allegedly took advantage of. After leaving the church, Butler authored a letter dated April 22, 1986, describing in detail the various alleged sexual misdeeds involving Barnett and Butler beginning in 1972. [8]

Elders Receive "Zwack letter", convene secret eldership hearings

On December 24, 1987, Jerry Zwack, a Community Chapel member and "close friend" ("spiritual connection" in Chapel vernacular) of Pastor Barnett's wife, Barbara, hand delivered a letter to each of the Elders of Community Chapel [9] demanding they take action regarding Pastor Barnett's alleged sexual misconduct. Shortly after receiving a copy of the letter on the Morning of December 24, 1987, Elder Russell MacKenzie received a phone call from Barnett asking him if he had received the letter. Barnett reportedly ordered MacKenzie not to read the letter, and to immediately return the letter to Barnett unopened.[16] MacKenzie discussed the matter at length with Jack Hicks and other church elders, to determine the appropriate response to Zwack's letter. All 16 elders agreed to hold "preliminary meetings" between January 21, 1988 and January 24, 1988 to discuss the possibility of holding official hearings to directly address Zwacks grievances against Barnett. Barnett was given no notice of the preliminary hearings [17] The Elders agreed to hold secret "eldership hearings" to allow Zwack to share his grievances against Barnett, and to further investigate other improprieties and allegations of misconduct made by other parishioners against Barnett. It was decided the eldership hearings were to be held on Weekday afternoons between 1–6 P.M. in the Recording Studio of the Main Burien Campus, because of the thick soundproof walls. Russel MacKenzie, a popular Bible College teacher was voted to be the moderator. Don Barnett was given many hours to give his side of the story.[18]

The "eldership hearings" officially commenced on January 25, 1988, and continued until March 8, 1988.[19]

Elders put Barnett on "Special Status"

The eldership became concerned after hearing numerous allegations of Barnett's sexual misconduct at the Special eldership hearings. On February 10, 1988, the three senior elders convened a secret senior elders meeting without Barnett present. The minutes of the meeting reflect the following action was taken:

Because of the testimony given before the entire eldership (including all of the senior elders) regarding Don Barnett's extra marital sexual activities, the three senior elders authorize a letter to Don Barnett putting him on special status to specifically restrict his personal and pastoral activities with women of this church which may otherwise subject this church to civil lawsuits. Letter to be delivered by February 15th, 1988 to the Pastor with all restrictions to be enforced immediately.[20]

Shortly thereafter, a letter was sent to Barnett notifying him of the "special status". [10] The special status restricted Barnett from counseling women alone, or traveling with women alone. On Friday, February 26, 1988 the Eldership conducted a special service [11][12], providing details to the congregation regarding Barnett's alleged sexual misconduct. At the time Barnett was away in Montana dealing with matters pertaining to another Satellite church. When Barnett returned the next day, he learned of what the eldership had done and convened his own special service on February 28, 1988 [13][14], refuting the allegations made by eldership and denouncing the eldership for their alleged attempts to undermine his authority and violate the church bylaws.[15] According to Barnett,

the special status included restrictions such as my going on vacation even with a group of individuals which would include any woman. As such, the senior elders had decided that I would not be able to minister to half the congregation, namely the half that would have represented women as compared to men in the church.[21]

Barnett later testified that:

They wanted to restrict me from something that nobody else in the church was restricted on; namely, I could not be in the presence of any other women alone, nor could I be, and I'm not sure if the second thing now is on paper or not, but I asked the question, I remember, are you saying that if I'm on vacation and there's other women involved, we're in a group, I still can't be on vacation, and they said, yes, that's right. So there were two restrictions, as I remember.[22]

Senior Elders amend church bylaws, disfellowship Pastor Barnett

Prior to March 4, 1988 the church bylaws provided that Barnett, as the original founding pastor of Community Chapel, could not be removed from Community Chapel without his concurrence.[16] As such, Senior Elders Scott Hartley and Jack Dubois met with Attorney Jim Leach on March 2, 1988, to discuss the possibility of amending the Church Articles and Bylaws to remove the so-called "concurrence requirement", and thus allow the Senior elders to remove Barnett by a 2/3 majority vote without his concurrence.[23] At the meeting, Mr. Leach prepared the documents that would be necessary to amend the articles of incorporation in the event the elders chose to take this action. [24]

On March 3, 1988 the general eldership signed a recommendation to the Senior elders, requesting the Senior elders disfellowship Barnett.[25] On the Morning of March 4, 1988 at approximately 11:20 a.m., Senior Elders Jack Hicks, John Dubois and Scott Hartley went to Barnett's house and attempted to convene an impromptu senior elders meeting. What actually occurred at the meeting is highly disputed. The elders claim they presented Barnett with a copy of a resolution amending certain provisions church articles of incorporation for Barnett to sign, but that Barnett refused the discuss the matter and ordered them to leave his house.[26]

Barnett claims that he had previously scheduled separate meetings with each of the Senior Elders for March 4, 1988 to discuss other matters with each elder privately, including their loyalty to Barnett and the Church. Barnett claims that Mr. Hicks placed the Articles of Amendment on the table in front of him, but he did not look at the documents because they were unrelated to the issues Barnett intended to discuss. Barnett claims it was only after the elders left his residence that he reviewed the proposed Amendments to the Articles of Incorporation, and that the elders never made any reference to amending the articles and bylaws while they were in his residence.[27] Regardless, it is clear from the available records that the Senior Elders did not give Barnett advance notice of the meeting at Barnett's house on the Morning of March 4, 1988 [28]

After the senior elders left Barnett's house, Scott Hartley drove to the Secretary of State's office in Olympia and filed the Amendments to the Articles of Incorporation at Approximately 1:10 P.M. on March 4, 1988.[17] [18] That afternoon at 3:15 P.M., Jack Hicks, Jack Dubois and Scott Hartley continued the Senior Elder's meeting from earlier that morning, and passed a resolution amending the church bylaws, removing Barnett from the Church and authorizing a letter to Barnett advising him he was Disfellowshiped from Community Chapel.[19] [20] On March 4, 1988 all 16 elders of Community Chapel signed a letter notifying Barnett he would be excommunicated from Community Chapel effective immediately. [21] The three senior elders sent Barnett another letter to that effect the same day [22]. The letters listed numerous allegations of sexual misconduct as the basis for the excommunication. On March 6, 1988, Pastor Barnett gave another rebuttal sermon in response to the elders attempts to difellowship him. [23], [24][25]

Legal Proceedings involving community chapel

Civil complaints filed for alleged sexual misconduct

On April 30, 1986, Carol Gabrielson filed a Complaint for Damages against Donald Barnett, Pastor Jack Mcdonald, the Tacoma satellite branch of Community Chapel and Bible Training Center led by Mcdonald and the main Burien campus of Community Chapel.[26] The complaint alleged various claims arising out of the alleged sexual misconduct of Pastor Jack McDonald and the "spiritual connections" doctrine taught by the Community Chapel.[29] Gabrielson provided details of the misconduct in a deposition given October 22, 1987. [27] On October 24, 1988 she was awarded $130,000 by a Pierce County Jury.[28] The award to Gabrielson was originally $200,000, but was reduced by 35 percent due to her contributory negligence in the situation.[30]

Numerous other individuals filed civil lawsuits in King County Superior Court against Barnett and Community Chapel in 1986 including Kathy Butler, Sandi Brown, Michael & Sandy Ehrlich, and many others. Their claims included assault and battery, outrage, "ministerial malpractice", negligent counseling, "wrongful disfellowship", counselor malpractice, infliction of emotion distress, loss of consortium, loss of parental consortium and defamation, among others. Many of these lawsuits were eventually consolidated for trial purposes under King County Superior Court Cause No. 86-2-18176-8, although all of the cases settled before trial. The court files pertaining these cases can be found here: [29]

Pastor Barnett's lawsuit for judicial reinstatement to his pastorate

After Barnett learned of the elderships' attempts to disfellowship him on the morning of March 4, 1988, Barnett found an attorney in the Phone book named Rodney Pierce. Barnett rushed down to his office with the church bylaws and requested Mr. Pierce seek immediate legal relief. Mr. Pierce convened a phone conference with Jim Leach, the attorney for the Elders'. That same day Mr. Pierce drafted and filed a Petition for Declaratory Judgment in King County Superior Court, requesting that Barnett's excommunication be declared invalid and that Barnett be reinstated as the rightful Pastor of Community Chapel.[30] On the afternoon of March 4, Barnett and Mr. Pierce went to the ex-parte department of the King County Superior Court and requested the court issue a temporary restraining order reinstating Barnett to his pastorate effective immediately.[31] After hearing argument from Mr. Pierce that afternoon, a commissioner from the ex-parte department issued the following order:

The plaintiff's request for a temporary restraining order to issue immediately is denied, provided that the defendant's Jack A. Hicks, E. Scott Hartley and Jack H. Dubois be and they are hereby ordered to appear on Friday, March 11th, 1988 before the civil motion calendar judge to then and there show cause, if any they have, as to why the defendants should not be restrained from any action which would interfere with the rights and duties of the plaintiff as they existed on the morning of 3/3/88, and any evidentiary hearing shall be set for that date to determine whether a temp. restraining order should issue and/or a permanent injunction should issue pending the final termination of this litigation.[32]

At the hearing on March 11, Judge Charles Johnson signed a restraining order temporarily reinstating Barnett to the Pastorate until March 15, 1988, when Judge Bates would be available to consider the matter further. [31] After hearing extensive arguments from both sides, Judge Bates ruled that Barnett was not given proper notice of the March 3rd board meetings convened by the Senior Elders to amend the articles and bylaws and therefore was not properly excommunicated from the church. As such, Judge Bates entered a restraining order on March 15, 1988 reinstating Barnett to his pastoral position pending a final resolution of the litigation.[32]

At the request of the Senior Elders, Judge Bates issued yet another restraining order on March 17, 1988, requiring both sides to maintain the "status quo" as it existed on March 3 before the Pastor was disfellowshipped and the articles and bylaws were amended. [33]

After months of voluminous discovery and cross-motions for summary judgment, on November 30, 1988 Judge Norman Quinn granted the Elders first motion for partial summary judgment [34]. Judge Quinn found that certain provisions of Community Chapel's Bylaws were in conflict with the Washington State Non-Profit Corporation Act (codified at RCW 24.03), namely those provisions requiring Barnett to concur in virtually all decisions made by the Board of Directors. The Bylaws further provided that if Barnett was away and the elders made a decision Barnett did not like, upon Barnett's return he could overturn the decision at his discretion. Judge Quinn also found that the director meetings amend the articles and Bylaws on March 4, 1988 were valid meetings of the board of directors. Judge Quinn ruled that when Barnett asked the directors to leave his house on the morning of March 4, 1988: "This request reflected Barnett's clear choice not to participate in that meeting, either at that time or at any continuation of that meeting later that day."[33]

On December 16, 1988 Judge Quinn granted the elders a second motion for partial summary judgment, dissolved all prior restraining orders and ordered Barnett to vacate the premises and return all church files, books, records and keys back to the Elders of Community Chapel. [35] [36]

Barnett's first appeal to the Washington Supreme Court

Barnett promptly appealed Judge Quinn's decision upholding his disfellowship to the Washington State Court of Appeals,[34] which later transferred the case to the Washington Supreme Court[35] The Court heard oral arguments on October 19, 1989. [37] On June 14, 1990, the Court issued a 7–2 opinion reversing Judge Quinn's decision.[36] The court found that the disputed provisions in the Articles and Bylaws did not conflict with the Washington Non-Profit Corporation Act, and that the amendments to the Bylaws were not legally executed.[37] The high court reversed the rulings of Judge Quinn granting Summary Judgment in favor of the Elders, and remanded the matter back to the trial court. The Supreme Court concluded by noting that:

While we reverse the trial court and remand for further proceedings, we point out that this does not necessarily defeat the effort by the board to oust the plaintiff. The issue of breach of fiduciary duty still remains to be considered by the trial court.[37]

Arbitration Trial convened to determine if Barnett breached his fiduciary duties to Community Chapel

On January 22, 1991 an evidentiary trial on remand began before the Hon. Walter Deierlein of the King County Superior Court to determine whether Barnett had breached his fiduciary duties to Community Chapel. The court heard ten days of live witness testimony and extensive oral arguments from counsel.[38]

Barnett objected to the proceedings because Judge Deierlein did not allow Barnett to present evidence of the Elders alleged sexual misconduct, even though the elders could present extensive evidence as to Barnett's improprieties. Barnett's Attorney framed the issues as follows:

There are a couple of things about this. No. 1, the claim that the elders are making in this case, the Defendants are making in this case. The bylaws say adultery is bad and that you can be put out of the church for adultery, so, of course, ipso facto were going to put out Pastor Barnett if we have any reason to believe he committed adultery. Now, wait a minute, that doesn't follow if the people who are doing the putting out themselves have been involved in identical conduct. Then they can no longer argue, golly gee, the bylaws say you're out for adultery, he's out automatically. There is just not any issue about it...No. 3 if these people are involved in the very conduct for which they are sanctimoniously saying that they're putting out Pastor Barnett, that impeached their testimony. Their whole claim is this was reasonable. This was in good faith. I say it's in bad faith. It's not in good faith for them to be standing up here saying we put him out for acts of sexual conduct when they themselves were doing the same thing. It's bad faith. And if you tie our hands and prevent us from putting in that evidence, these people may well admit these things themselves, but if you tie our hands, we can't meet one of their main claims. You know they're arguing, they're arguing, Judge, you don't have to find that there was any sexual misconduct, you just have to find based on the evidence presented to us that we acted in reasonably and in good faith. If they themselves are involved in that, that's not in good faith.[39]

The trial concluded with closing arguments on February 4, 1991.[38] Judge Deierlein gave his oral decision on February 6, 1991.[39] After hearing three days of oral arguments from counsel [40] [41] [42], Judge Deierlein issued written findings of fact and conclusions of law on April 12, 1991. [43] Judge Deierlein's ruling upheld the Elders decision to remove Barnett from the church for breach of his fiduciary duties. Judge Deierlein found that "The Eldership and the three senior elders reasonably concluded, based on the information adduced at their hearings, that Pastor Barnett had materially breached the terms of his employment contract with community chapel".[40]

Barnett files second appeal with the Washington Supreme Court

After Judge Deierlien ruled that Barnett was properly disfellowshipped, Barnett promptly filed a second appeal with the Washington State Supreme Court via a direct appeal.[41] Barnett presented numerous arguments urging reversal.[44] Barnett argued that no court could impose a "fiduciary duty" upon a pastor for conduct arising from the pastoral-congregational relationship. Barnett also argued that Judge Deierlien's ruling amounted to impermissible judicial interference with the sincerely held religious beliefs of Barnett and his congregation, and that no secular court has jurisdiction to decide issues pertaining to church doctrine and policy. Barnett argued that any such attempt by a secular court would violate the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, and that matters pertaining to Barnett's conduct should be resolved by internal church procedures and not a secular judiciary. The Washington Supreme Court heard oral arguments on February 25, 1992 [45] and reviewed the voluminous transcripts from the 14 days of proceedings before Judge Deierlien. In a move that may have surprised all parties involved, on May 21, 1992 the Washington Supreme Court issued a unanimous opinion dismissing Barnett's appeal on the court's own motion.[42] The court found that

We do not reach the merits, but rather dismiss the appeal on our own motion. By submitting the matter to arbitration the parties severely limited the scope of appellate review.[43]

The problem was that Barnett and the Elders entered into a private arbitration agreement [46] to assure all parties involved a higher level of secrecy than would otherwise be available through a conventional public trial in the King County Superior Court building. The Supreme Court noted that parties who use this method of Arbitration severely limit the scope of appellate review, and that the decision of the Arbitrator is essentially "binding". The attorneys for both sides apparently attempted to have the best of both worlds, because they signed an agreement allowing for full appellate review of the arbitrator's decision, but also providing for confidentiality of the proceedings. The Supreme Court did not approve of this, noting that

If the parties in fact intended to consent to a trial before a referee, they could not cloak that proceeding with secrecy by closing the trial and sealing the record. Litigants cannot have the best of both worlds to suit their private interests.[44]

Barnett did not file a Petition for Certiorari to the United States Supreme Court, and the litigation had finally concluded. Due to the uncertain status of the declaratory judgment action filed by Barnett contesting his removal, Community Chapel did not technically know who their legal pastor was until May 21, 1992 when the Washington Supreme Court dismissed Barnett's final appeal from Judge Deierlein's earlier ruling on April 12, 1991.

Elders request judicial dissolution of Community Chapel

By 1988, most of Community Chapel's congregation had left the church, many church elders had left, and strong divisions were evident between the remaining elders and Pastor Barnett.[45][46] In March, 1988, elders of Community Chapel sought to dissolve the church due to the ongoing conflicts between them and Pastor Barnett.[47] A petition for dissolution was filed by the elders on March 21, 1988 under King County Superior Court Cause No. 88-2-05272-7.[47] Barnett opposed the petition and took numerous depositions of Community Chapel Elders and staff, including the deposition of Mark Yokers [48], Drake Pesce [49], John H. Dubois [50], Scott Hartley [51], Loren Krenelka [52], David Motherwell [53] and Wyman Smalley [54]. Barnett also requested the elders be held in contempt of court, as the mere filing of a separate petition to dissolve the corporation before another judge was a per se violation of the restraining orders then in effect in the declaratory judgment action. On June 6, 1988, Judge Wartnick found elders in contempt of court for violating the earlier restraining orders. [55] The dissolution proceedings were later dismissed by Judge Charles Burdell. [56]

Criminal Proceedings

Death of child linked to group

On March 20, 1986, a parishioner of Community Chapel drove to a Motel in Portland, Oregon and drowned her 5-year-old daughter in a bathtub, allegedly to save her from demons.[10] A short time later the parishioner entered a plea of "not guilty for reasons of insanity" to the crime. On April 16, 1986 Judge R. William Riggs found that the member was affected by mental disease or defect at the time of engaging in the criminal conduct, and ordered the member be committed to Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Psychiatric Hospital in Towson, Maryland.[48] On July 26, 1991, the parishioner was discharged from the hospital when it was believed they no longer continued to present a substantial danger to others.[49]


  1. ^ a b c d John McCoy (1986-04-10). "The Pastor who sets them dancing". Seattle Post-intelligence. "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." 
  2. ^ a b Barnett, Barbara (1996). The Truth Shall Set You Free. Wine Press Publishing. ISBN 1-883893-67-4. "(page 305:) I don't know how the term 'connection' got started, but it certainly describes what began happening. After many of the congregation opened their eyes while worshiping, and, in a very real sense, perceived one another as members of Christ's body, Jesus – assisted by angels – began connecting our spirits to one another in love.
        (page 319, describing her first experience of a 'connection:') I knew that Jesus, the glorified Son of Man, had – in union with another human being's spirit – manifested Himself to me, and by doing so, our spirits melded into one. I was certain the Father had answered Jesus' prayer of John 17:21: 'That they may be one as we are.'
        I thought, Surely this is the mystery the Apostle Paul refers to in Ephesians 5:31–32: '...the two shall be one flesh; this is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.'"
  3. ^ Carol M. Ostrom (1986-04-11). "Minister's Teachings Wrack Church – 'Move of God' Linked to Divorces, Suicides, Alleged Murder of Child". Seattle Times. "In the past year, Barnett has encouraged his followers to make spiritual connections with each other – through dancing, hugging and kissing. Such connections, Barnett has said, are necessary to open members of the congregation to pure, spiritual love and the possibility of complete unity with God. Barnett's teaching, also referred to as "the move of God," began as simple joy-filled solo dancing in the church. Gradually, former church members say, the dancers became couples, married people often pairing with others' spouses." 
  4. ^ Carol M. Ostrom (1986-05-03). "Burien Pastor's Doctrine is Deplored – 'Most Grievous Thing,' Says Charismatic". Seattle Times. "Those leaving the church, including some high-level Bible-school teachers and church counselors, have claimed that the pastor, Donald Lee Barnett, encourages church members to find "spiritual connections" through one-to-one dancing, a practice they say has led to a number of divorces. They also claim the practice played a part in the recent suicides of two church members and the murder of a young girl by her mother, also a church member, who told investigators she was trying to save the girl from demons. ... "That's the way it started with Barnett's church. The next step is to move into spiritual connections," he said. "I'm not against spontaneous dancing out of a sense of exuberance and joy, but the dancing with others' mates, the longing looks into each others' eyes . . . the giving up of your mate to any other . . . I've heard a lot in 30 years, but I'll tell you, this is the No. 1 delusion I've heard." In church services, Barnett has defended the practice of spiritual connections, saying such connections were a "move of God" bringing church members closer to a pure, spiritual love and to complete unity with God. And in letters to church members, he has condemned adultery, saying such relationships should remain purely spiritual." 
  5. ^ Marsha King (1988-03-01). "Pastor Rebuked for 'Sexual Sin'". Seattle Times. "Other former members have bitterly criticized Barnett's teaching that members can find holiness by making "spiritual connections," often through dancing that sometimes involves intimate contact with each other. Critics say the teaching has led church members to scores of divorces and separations as well as suicides and the murder of a young girl by her mother." 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Enroth, Ronald (1992). Churches That Abuse. Zondervan Publishing House. ISBN 0-310-53290-6. ""Connections" and "intimate dancing" nearly caused Robin to have a mental breakdown. Instituted- between 1983 and 1985, the "dancing before the Lord" evolved into a teaching with specific rules that encouraged members to find a "connection," or dance partner. Soon partners were instructed to stare into one another's eyes, eventually known as "connecting." Partners were told they would see Jesus in each other's eyes, and that they were to love their spiritual connection in order to express the love of Jesus. During the week, both in church and outside the church, members were encouraged to spend time with their spiritual connections in a kind of quasi-dating relationship. As might naturally be expected, physical intimacy often accompanied these "spiritual" connections." 
  7. ^ Nathalie Overland (1988-05-08). "Chapel service reveals strengths, weaknesses of troubled church". Valley Daily News. 
  8. ^ Marsha King (1988-03-01). "Pastor Rebuked for 'Sexual Sin'". Seattle Times. 
  9. ^ Carol M. Ostrom (1986-05-03). "Burien Pastor's Doctrine is Deplored – 'Most Grievous Thing,' Says Charismatic". Seattle Times. 
  10. ^ a b Carol M. Ostrom (1986-04-11). "Minister's Teachings Wrack Church – 'Move of God' Linked to Divorces, Suicides, Alleged Murder of Child". Seattle Times. 
  11. ^ "Christian Research Institute (Statement DC685): COMMUNITY CHAPEL AND BIBLE TRAINING CENTER". Christian Research Institute. 1986. "For several years now we have received requests to comment on the teachings and practices of Community Chapel and Bible Training Center in Seattle (hereafter CCBTC), pastored by Donald Lee Barnett. Based on our research, there is more than sufficient evidence to show that CCBTC is, in the theological sense of the term, a cult. That is, it is a religious organization which professes to be Christian but which teaches heretical doctrine on the fundamentals of the Christian faith" 
  12. ^ See 9/4/1979 letter, P. 1, paragraph 2
  13. ^ See 9/4/1979 letter, pp. 2–3
  14. ^ See 9/4/1979 letter, pp. 4
  15. ^ See 9/4/1979 letter, pp. 6–7
  16. ^ See Trial testimony of Russel Mackenzie at pp. 457–458, dated 01/24/88 in the matter of Barnett v. Hicks, King County Superior Court Cause No. 88-2-04148-2
  17. ^ See Trial testimony of Russel Mackenzie at pp. 462–463, dated 01/24/88 in the matter of Barnett v. Hicks, King County Superior Court Cause No. 88-2-04148-2
  18. ^ See Trial testimony of Russel Mackenzie at pp. 464, Ln. 20-p. 465, ln. 5, dated 01/24/88 in the matter of Barnett v. Hicks, King County Superior Court Cause No. 88-2-04148-2
  19. ^ Senior Elder Scott Hartley gave the following testimony about the duration of the hearings: Q: Excuse me. When did these hearings stop?
    A: When did they stop?
    Q: Yes. It says, "...not to stop the meetings once they began." When did they begin?
    A: On the date there.
    Q: January 25th, 1988?
    A: Yes
    Q: When did they end?
    A: Effectively yesterday
    Q: Effectively yesterday?
    A: yes
    See Deposition of E. Scott Hartley dated 3/9/88,at p. 48, Lns.12–18, in the matter of Barnett v. Hicks, King County Superior Court Cause No. 88-2-04148-2
  20. ^
  21. ^ See declaration of Donald Barnett, p. 4, dated 3/11/88, filed under King County Superior Court Cause No. 88-2-04148-2.
  22. ^ see trial testimony of Donald Barnett, at p. 253, 01/23/91, filed under King County Superior Court Cause No. 88-2-04148-2
  23. ^ See Deposition of E. Scott Hartley dated 3/9/88, at p. 73, Lns. 20–25, in the matter of Barnett v. Hicks, King County Superior Court Cause No. 88-2-04148-2
  24. ^ See Deposition of Jack Hicks dated 3/9/88, p. 29, Ln. 15-p. 31, Ln. 6., Donald Barnett v. Jack Hicks, et al., King County Superior Court Cause No. 88-2-04148-2
    Q: Now, as of March 2nd, 1988, the three of you had decided to execute the articles of amendment as of that date. Is that--
    A: No. No, that is not true.
    Q: When did the three of you try to amend the articles of incorporation and to sign the ones which are exhibit 15?
    A: Let me explain.
    Q: I realize that this is a simple question. Hopefully, I'm just asking you for a date, if you can tell me.
    A: The decision to do that, I think, was the evening of July 3rd.
    Mr. Leach: March
    The Witness: Excuse me. March 3rd. It's a long day. What we had done was we realized that taking this action and those steps was one of the very probable options, and we began to prepare the—the amendments to the bylaws, to determine what they were, and the articles of incorporation on the probability that we would at the last minute finally decide that they may be the course that we would choose, and it would be too late at that time to go through all those preparatory steps. So I took the preparatory steps necessary to preserve the option to act.
    Q: (by Mr. Pierce) Go on
    A: And so a number of the papers were started prior to the actual decision.
    Q: Uh-huh.
    A: And I think that it was as late as about the-- March 3rd. And that was when the eldership finally—well, David Motherwell, Don's counselor, finally came out and flatly stated that he was recommending disfellowship of Don. And the eldership themselves took a vote which recommended, an advisory vote to the senior elders recommending disfellowship. And that was—I think our decision was basically as of that time that we would go ahead with the action to amend the bylaws. We had kept a lot of all the pieces in the planning of it to the that time.
  25. ^ See Minutes of Confidential Eldership meeting from 3/3/88 at 6:30 P.M., available here: [1]
  26. ^ See Deposition of E. Scott Hartley dated 3/9/88, p. 78, Ln. 14–23, Donald Barnett v. Jack Hicks, et al., King County Superior Court Cause No. 88-2-04148-2
  27. ^ See Declaration of Donald Barnett, pp. 6–8, filed March 11th, 1988 under King County Superior Court Cause No. 88-2-04148-2
  28. ^ See Deposition of Jack Hicks dated 3/9/88, p.22,Ln. 1–26, Donald Barnett v. Jack Hicks, et al., King County Superior Court Cause No. 88-2-04148-2
    (Q: So when you went to the parsonage, you knew that you were going to be taking down there articles of amendment; is that correct?
    A: Yes.
    Q: You knew you were going to want to have the signature of Don Barnett on those; is that correct?
    A: If he would.
    Q: Did you tell Bonnie that, to set up any type of meeting, whether on March 3 or 4 or March 2, to have a meeting with Don Barnett with regard to the Articles of Amendment?
    A: No.
    Q: Was there a reason?
    A: I was trying to keep the matters confidential to the Board of Senior Elders at the time. Q: What was being kept confidential at the time?
    A: That we were going to attempt to amend the articles of incorporation.
    Q: So you weren't going to provide him with any advance notice of what you intended to do at the time you got together on March 4?
    A: That's true.
  29. ^ The complete court file in the Gabrielson case can be found here
  30. ^ Carol M. Ostrom (1988-10-24). "Parishioner is awarded $130,000". The Seattle Times. 
  31. ^ See trial testimony of Donald Barnett at p. 270-271, 1/23/91, King County Superior Court Cause No. 88-2-04148-2
  32. ^
  33. ^ See 11/30/88 Order granting Elders' first motion for partial Summary Judgment, at 4:23–5:1 [2]
  34. ^ See docket No. 23393-9-I, Washington State Court of Appeals, Division II
  35. ^ See Washington State Supreme Court docket No. 56204-1 [3].
  36. ^ Barnett v. Hicks I, 114 Wn.2d 879, 792 P.2d 150 (1990)
  37. ^ a b Barnett v. Hicks I, 114 Wn.2d at 885
  38. ^ The transcripts of the proceedings can found here
  39. ^ See 1/22/91 Transcript, pp. 22–24, Barnett v. Hicks Trial
  40. ^ See Finding of Fact No. 99, Id.
  41. ^ See Washington State Supreme Court docket No. 58170-3.
  42. ^ SeeBarnett v. Hicks II, reported at 119 Wn.2d 151, 829 P.2d 1087(1992). [4]
  43. ^ Barnett v. Hicks II, 119 Wn.2d 153
  44. ^ Barnett v. Hicks II, 119 Wn.2d at 160
  45. ^ Nathalie Overland (1988-05-09). "Disconnecting from a Church – Battered Christians search for life after Barnett". Valley Daily News. 
  46. ^ Marsha King (1988-03-16). "Senior Elder Quits Posts with Church". Seattle Times. 
  47. ^ "Community Chapel Elders Seek to Dissolve Church". Seattle Times. 1988-03-23. 
  48. ^ See trial order, judgment of guilty except for insanity, and order placing defendant under jurisdiction of psychiatric security review board filed April 16th, 1986 under Multnomah County Circuit Court Cause Cause No. C 86-3-31216.
  49. ^ See Order of Discharge filed July 26th, 1991 under Oregon Psychiatric Security Review Board file No. 86-831

Further reading

Newspaper articles

  • "The Pastor who sets them dancing" Seattle Post-Intelligencer, April 10, 1986.
  • "Minister's Teachings Wrack Church – 'Move of God' Linked to Divorces, Suicides, Alleged Murder of Child" Seattle Times, April 11, 1986.
  • "Burien Pastor's Doctrine is Deplored – 'Most Grievous Thing,' Says Charismatic". Seattle Times, May 3, 1986.
  • Lindsey, Robert, "Isolated, Strongly Led Sects Growing in US", The New York Times, June 22, 1986.
  • "Pastor Rebuked for 'Sexual Sin'" Seattle Times, March 1, 1988
  • "'Embarrassment' Burien-Church Officials React to Pastor's Ouster" Seattle Times, March 6, 1988
  • "A servant of God or a 'sick man'?' Seattle Post-Intelligencer, March 7, 1988.
  • "Pastor Plans Court Challenge of Ouster – If that Fails, Barnett says He'll Start a New Church" Seattle Times, March 7, 1988.
  • "Pastor Reinstated for now at Chapel" Seattle Times, March 11, 1988.
  • "Pastor Plans to Fire Staff, says Chapel Spokesman". Seattle Times, March 14, 1988.
  • "Church Heading Back to Court – No Firings Yet in Divided Community Chapel". Seattle Times, March 14, 1988.
  • "Burien Pastor Object of Civil Suit as well – Former Church Cites Stress, Unusual Loan". Seattle Times, March 15, 1988.
  • "Senior Elder Quits Posts with Church" Seattle Times, March 16, 1988.
  • "Three Chapel Satellites Also Under Fire" Seattle Times, March 17, 1988.
  • "Restraining Order Modified". Seattle Times, March 18, 1988.
  • "Barnett Troubles Obscure Success – Friends and Critics Blame his Woes on Ego, Eccentricities" Seattle Times, March 18, 1988.
  • "Community Chapel Elders Seek to Dissolve Church". Seattle Times, March 23, 1988
  • "Barnett Loses Bid to Escape Lawsuit-Chapel Elders to Detail Their Sex Lives". Seattle Times, April 19, 1988.
  • "Elder Quits Chapel Post in 'Connections' Dispute" Seattle Times, April 27, 1988.
  • "Community Chapel (faltering on religious fringe)" Valley Daily News, May 8, 1988.
  • "Chapel service reveals strengths, weaknesses of troubled church" Valley Daily News, May 8, 1988
  • "Disconnecting from a Church – Battered Christians search for life after Barnett". Valley Daily News, May 9, 1988.
  • "Embattled pastor didn't admit '75 guilty plea, records show" Seattle Times, August 11, 1988.


  • Anderson, Sandra (1998) Angels can Fall. Mukilteo, WA: Winepress Publishing.
  • Barnett, B.J (1996). The Truth Shall Set You Free, Confessions of a Pastors Wife. Mukilteo, WA: Winepress Publishing.
  • Enroth, Ronald M. (1992) Churches That Abuse. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House
  • Summers, J. (2005) ocCULT, They didn't think it could happen in their church. Las Vegas, NV: Global Strategic Resources.

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