Three Chapel Satellites Also Under Fire

Seattle Times/March 17, 1988
By Marsha King

The shadow of scandal - which has darkened the Community Chapel and Bible Training Center in Burien - now has fallen over a satellite church in Tacoma and two in British Columbia.

Last week, Victoria police recommended charges of sexual assault and failure to disclose sexual assault be filed against members of the church there, according to Wayne Coleman, a Victoria police detective.

The recommendation came after a four-month investigation that began last October. The Crown Council, comparable to a district attorney in the United States, will decide in about six weeks whether to pursue the charges.

The victim in the alleged incident was a child, the suspect a minor and the one who supposedly failed to report the assault an adult, said Coleman. The incident took place away from the church, police said.

No other details were released.

The pastor of the Victoria church could not be reached for comment.

Controversy has surrounded the Burien-based Community Chapel and Bible Training Center for years. Allegations of sexual misconduct have been leveled against its pastor, Donald Lee Barnett. The church's teachings on "spiritual connections'' with partners other than spouses have been blamed for breaking up families. Two of the Burien members have been convicted of child abuse and three others of failing to report child abuse.

Coleman said he went undercover to several of the Victoria Community Chapel's services.

"It has no similarity to any church I've attended in the past. In fact, I wouldn't classify it as a church,'' he said.

The detective said he witnessed spiritual connections at the Victoria satellite. Connecting is a form of worship in which members dance with and embrace partners other than their spouses.

"I wouldn't view it as particularly healthy for my children to view my wife with another man engaged in a connection or a holy kiss. . .,'' Coleman said in an interview.

The detective also noted the amount of time the church expected from its members.

"They want you to spend seven nights a week within the realms of the church. In other words, there's activity for every night. There's no night you're free.'' He called it "a mind-control situation.''

Coleman said he heard tape recordings "from a Mr. Don Barnett'' that are available to church members in Victoria.

Several former members of the Burien church have filed civil suits against Barnett alleging that he sexually assaulted them under the guise of counseling.

Church elders in Burien also tried to oust Barnett from his pastorship March 4 after accusing him of sexual misconduct. Barnett won a temporary restraining order last week that will keep him in the pulpit until the legality of his attempted removal is determined in King County Superior Court.

Coleman said when he was at Community Chapel services in Victoria, there were people attending from the churches in Burien and Surrey, B.C.

The Victoria church has dwindled since January from about 100 people to a small group meeting in a private home, according to Coleman.

In another case last December, a British Columbia Supreme Court judge ordered a mother in Surrey not to take her five children with her to Community Chapel services in Surrey or Burien.

The judge expressed concern about the teachings of the Community Chapel and the mother's involvement with the church.

Testimony presented at a court hearing described church practices of speaking in tongues, casting out demons and spiritual dancing. Testimony also revealed that the dancing sometimes involved physical contact not only between adults but also between adults and children.

"The evidence has left me with serious doubts as to (the mother's) judgment as it relates to the children,'' the judge said.

The judge's ruling is in effect until a hearing on the mother's appeal over the custody case.

The children lived with their mother when she and their father separated a year ago. After a long court battle, the father received custody late last year and the mother was given visiting rights.

In Tacoma, Barnett is a co-defendant in a civil suit, which alleges that his teachings about spiritual connections in essence condoned a former Tacoma Community Chapel pastor's alleged sexual assault of a former church member.

One of Barnett's attorneys, Tim Donaldson, refused to elaborate on the case.

Barnett also would not comment yesterday except to say he is not in a position to make "those kind of judgments'' about a settlement until he talks to his attorney.

The suit, brought by Carol Gabrielson, alleges sexual assault and ministerial misconduct against Jack McDonald, the former pastor of the church's Tacoma satellite. The trial is set for April 18.

Barnett gave a pretrial deposition in the case, which the court agreed to seal.

The plaintiff's attorneys are expected to maintain in a hearing in Pierce County Superior Court tomorrow that the court should make the testimony public because recent publicity surrounding Barnett has made secrecy unnecessary.

"There's no reason to treat him any differently than any other citizen. He's involved in a lawsuit and this testimony is relevant. Why treat him differently than anybody else?'' said Dan Hannula, attorney for Gabrielson.

Gabrielson claims that McDonald manipulated her into having sex with him. She said she realized the relationship was wrong and asked McDonald to confess their sins to Barnett and repent for what they'd done, according to court papers.

When she persisted, McDonald allegedly "disfellowshipped'' her. Gabrielson claims she went to appeal to Barnett and tried to attend a service at the main church. But she says security guards asked her to leave the service, and after an altercation she was handcuffed until police arrived.

Court documents reveal McDonald denies Gabrielson's various allegations, but neither he nor his attorney were willing to elaborate.

Community Chapel, which once had 22 satellites, now has 12, according to Tim Brown of the Colossian Fellowship, a Christian counter-cult ministry.

The satellites are in Oregon, California, Illinois, Kansas, Montana, Wisconsin and Canada. Its Washington churches are in Arlington, Kirkland, Tacoma, Spokane and Yakima, according to Brown.

Total membership for all the outlets is about 2,300, including about 1,500 members at the main church in Burien.

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