Community Chapel was a Oneness Pentecostal church that existed south of Seattle from 1967 to 1988. Under the leadership of a man named Don Barnett it had grown out of the small home Bible studies he taught in the mid-60's into a church of over three thousand members by the mid-80's. I was a member there from 1978 to 1988. When I joined I thought it was one of the best churches in the world, but to my bewilderment it disintegrated in 1988 while embroiled in several terrible scandals. Though I remained a Pentecostal and a believer in the particular form of Oneness doctrine that the Chapel taught for more than ten years after that, I eventually came out of both Pentecostal and Oneness teaching and back into the Lutheran church, this time with a much greater appreciation of its teaching and worship. (I had been raised in the Lutheran church but never really understood it as I should have.)
So why do I have a website devoted to Community Chapel today, even though the Chapel hasn't existed for decades and I've been happy in the Lutheran church for more than fifteen years? There are two reasons.
The most important reason is that the Chapel's teaching is still believed by many former Chapel members who are trying to spread it, and it is still isolating them and those who believe it from God's truth as it is found in Jesus and in the Biblical, apostolic teaching concerning him. Both Pentecostal and Oneness teaching, including the Chapel's unique mix of the two, are deceptive in their use of the Bible and in their use of church history to support their claims, and they therefore undermine the genuine faith in Jesus and the genuine gospel of God's grace taught by the apostles of Jesus. Pentecostal and Oneness claims of greater knowledge, freedom, intimacy, and power with God are false. Far from living "Spirit-filled" lives of love, freedom, and power in God, people in these movements are instead living spiritually insecure lives in various stages of legalism, fanaticism, and emotionalism, not knowing true life in Christ brings peace and security because it is based on God's grace, not on human works, experiences, reasoning, or feelings. The truth needs to be told about Pentecostal and Oneness teaching so that their traps may be avoided and so that people already caught in them can find their way out of them into the real truth, faith, and freedom of Christ. I pray that this site can play a small part in that.
The second reason is to offer an explanation to my friends who remain in Pentecostal or Oneness beliefs, especially other ex-Chapel members, as to why I no longer share in those beliefs and practices. Many still think I was made bitter by the fall of the Chapel and, in reaction, retreated back into a comforting form of religion I had known in my youth, but that is not a true picture at all. For several years after the fall of the Chapel I looked back on it as a golden era in my spiritual life and was looking for a church as "good" as the Chapel had been in the beginning. I remained as convinced as ever that denominational churches, especially the ones with liturgical forms of worship, had only a dead and dry faith to offer, with no real power of God in them. It was only after several years of searching without success, and also after seeing the course other ex-Chapel members took in their efforts to continue to live out their Chapel beliefs in a post-Chapel world, that the light began to dawn for me. Only then did I begin to take a deeper look at what the Scriptures really say and at what church history really shows.
But this process, not to mention the position I came to at its end, is not one that can be summarized briefly in conversation, and efforts to do so with ex-Chapel friends and acquaintances are prone to end either in debate, which is never my intention but into which I am too easily led, or in an awkward exit from the subject. Therefore I want to provide an accurate record of my post-Chapel journey and of my present beliefs for my ex-Chapel friends, as well as for other Pentecostals and Oneness believers who may be interested.
Those are the reasons why I continue to maintain this Website, which presents the lessons I learned from my experiences at Community Chapel and the conclusions I came to as a result.
Caveat: All of these articles, except for this introductory one, are slightly edited versions of postings I made in the years 1999-2009 to several different online discussion boards for ex-members of the Chapel. In other words, they're pretty old and there are a few that may not accurately represent my present views, especially those articles written before about 2002 when I began to consider Lutheran worship and doctrine seriously again. For my present views on Pentecostal and Oneness issues, as well as on Christian life and doctrine in general, see my blog Present Thoughts.