The Rev. Donald Lee Barnett, pastor of the divided Community Chapel and Bible Training Center, did not carry through on reported threats to fire employees of his Burien church yesterday morning, but he held out the possibility of future dismissals.
After a meeting with a few church and training-center employees, Barnett said he never threatened to fire anyone. He did say, however, that he called the staff together "to find out where the staff people's allegiance was.''
Of 99 staff members, only 10 showed up for the meeting yesterday, said Barnett, who was removed from his post by church elders but reinstated, at least temporarily, by court order last week.
James Leach, an attorney for the church elders, said he understands that 79 of the employees invited to the meeting signed a letter to Barnett saying they wouldn't work for him.
Barnett, however, blamed the low turnout on the elders. He believes they are telling employees that he is no longer president despite the judge's ruling.
"David Motherwell told me this morning the elders have taken a stand that the word of God takes precedence over what the judge said,'' Barnett said. Motherwell, a member of the church, has been acting as Barnett's personal counselor for the past few months.
Elders of the controversial church unanimously ousted their pastor amid allegations of sexual misconduct, but he was restored to power when King County Superior Court Judge Jim Bates granted him a temporary injunction because his removal may have violated church bylaws.
Sunday, church spokesman Chuck Kerr said Barnett planned to fire church elders unless they pledged allegiance to him.
Yesterday, Barnett said he was waiting for results from a Superior Court hearing today and will confer with his attorney before making any final decisions on the church's future. He did say he might be forced to fire staff members if they didn't follow his orders or cooperate.