Donald Lee Barnett

Donald Lee Barnett
Born 1930
Moscow, Idaho
USA United States
Occupation Pastor

Donald Lee Barnett is an American pastor who founded Community Chapel and Bible Training Center, a controversial church near Burien, Washington, and was its only pastor during its 21-year history, from 1967 to 1988. In 1988 he formed the Church of Agape located at 126 Logan Avenue South in Renton, Washington, where he continues to pastor to this day.



Don Barnett was born near Moscow, Idaho in 1930,[1] but moved with his family to Tacoma, Washington, as a young boy. His father was an accountant and part-time Pentecostal minister. His mother was a teacher.[2]

After high school, Barnett attended a Bible college in Boise, Idaho, where he met his future wife, Barbara, and was also greatly influenced by the Latter Rain Movement within Pentecostalism, which was at its peak at that time. When he married and was faced with the increasing expenses of family life, he left Bible college, without graduating or being ordained, to take a job at a sawmill in Tacoma, moving his young family there with him. Later they moved to Seattle when he took a job at Boeing as a draftsman.[1]

In Seattle, he taught Bible classes at home, at work, and at three Pentecostal churches. According to Tim Brown, director of the Colossian Fellowship (an evangelical Christian group concerned with biblical orthodoxy), Barnett was dismissed from these three churches for teaching "false doctrines."[3]

In the mid-1960s he began meeting with a group of families south of Seattle that became the nucleus of Community Chapel, which was formally established in 1967. It grew rapidly and by the early 1980s had over 3000 members at the main site near Burien, as well as several hundred more among 22 satellite churches across the nation.[4]

Indecent exposure charge

In 1975, Barnett pleaded guilty to exposing himself to maids in a hallway of the Circus Circus Las Vegas. According to police reports in Clark County, Nevada, dated November 23, 1975, Barnett masturbated in front of four maids in the hallway of the Circus Circus Hotel. The initial charge of indecent exposure, a misdemeanor, was plea bargained down to "open and gross lewdness," a charge Barnett pleaded guilty to, paying a fine of $100. The case was closed on April 30, 1976. The charge was revealed during a 1988 lawsuit when his claim that he had never pled guilty or been convicted of a crime under oath was investigated.[5]

"Spiritual connections" controversy

In 1985, Barnett began to advocate the practice of "spiritual connections" to the members of his church. The practice involved seeking intense emotional experiences of love with another person, usually not one's spouse, while dancing together in worship.[6] Following the introduction of this practice, turmoil increased in Barnett's church and many members began leaving. These troubles reached their culmination in 1988 with several lawsuits brought against Barnett and others in the church's leadership alleging sexual improprieties related to the practice of "connections." At that time, Barnett was ousted from his church by its remaining elders, leading to further protracted legal proceedings.[7]

Church of Agape

After being expelled from Community Chapel by the elders, Barnett left with two to three hundred of its members to establish a new church in Renton, Washington, named the Church of Agape, where he remains to this day, still teaching and practicing "spiritual connections."[8]


  1. ^ a b Barnett, Barbara (1996). The Truth Shall Set You Free. Wine Press Publishing. ISBN 1-883893-67-4. 
  2. ^ Marsha King (1988-03-18). "Barnett Troubles Obscure Success – Friends and Critics Blame his Woes on Ego, Eccentricities". The Seattle Times. 
  3. ^ John McCoy (1986-04-10). "The Pastor who sets them dancing". The Seattle Post-Intelligencer. 
  4. ^ Nathalie Overland (1988-05-08). "Chapel service reveals strengths, weaknesses of troubled church". Valley Daily News. 
  5. ^ Carol M. Ostrom (1988-10-11). "Embattled pastor didn't admit '75 guilty plea, records show". The Seattle Times. "The Rev. Donald Lee Barnett, who has claimed under oath in an ongoing lawsuit that he has never pleaded guilty or been convicted of a crime, pleaded guilty to exposing himself to maids in a hotel hallway 13 years ago in Las Vegas, according to police reports. ... But according to police reports in Clark County, Nev., Nov. 23, 1975, Barnett masturbated in front of four maids in the hallway of the Circus Circus Hotel. Police were called and Barnett gave then his name, address, and other identifying information, according to the files. The initial charge of indecent exposure, a gross misdemeanor, was downgraded to "open and gross lewdness," and Barnett pleaded guilty to the charge, paying a fine of $100, according to police records. The case was closed on April 30, 1976." 
  6. ^ 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 worshipping, 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." 
  7. ^ Jim Simon (1988-03-06). "'Embarrassment' Burien-Church Officials React to Pastor's Ouster". The Seattle Times. 
  8. ^ Sally Macdonald (1996-12-28). "Fallen, But on the Rise". The Seattle Times. 

Further reading

Books by Donald Lee Barnett

Related books

Newspaper articles

  • "The Pastor who sets them dancing" Seattle Post-Intelligencer, April 10, 1986.
  • "Barnett Troubles Obscure Success – Friends and Critics Blame his Woes on Ego, Eccentricities" Seattle Times, March 18, 1988.
  • "Chapel service reveals strengths, weaknesses of troubled church" Valley Daily News, May 8, 1988.
  • "'Embarrassment' Burien-Church Officials React to Pastor's Ouster" The Seattle Times, March 3, 1988.

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