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Ex-seminary staffer is pastor of spinoff homosexual church

DALLAS (BP)–A pastor and former Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary staffer who left the pastorate of a Dallas congregation after doubts about his story of amnesia has been hired at a new church formed by his supporters.

James Simmons, who was recognized in December as Wesley Barrett “Barre” Cox who had disappeared from Abilene, Texas, without a trace nearly 17 years ago, recently became pastor of Faith Community Church in Garland, Texas.

Simmons was Golden Gate’s campus housing director at the time of his resignation in December. After arriving at the Mill Valley, Calif., seminary in 1991, he was elected body president in 1993 and 1994 and earned two master’s degrees.

Simmons, whose wife, daughter and other relatives had presumed him dead, declined to comment to the Dallas Morning News about his new position.

Simmons resigned in February as senior pastor of White Rock Community Church in Dallas after requesting a vote of support from the congregation. Simmons received a majority of votes but not the two-thirds support he had requested.

Simmons has said he does not remember anything of his life before the experience he recounts of having been found beaten and nearly comatose in a car trunk near Memphis, Tenn., in 1984. His story of amnesia caused division within the Dallas church and attracted unwanted media attention to the predominately homosexual and lesbian congregation, church members said.

Some worshipers were skeptical of Simmons’ story and questioned his ability to lead the congregation. Others said they believed the pastor and called his experiences a miracle.

Simmons’ supporters recently opened Faith Community Church in a small Garland shopping center that includes an Army recruiting office, beauty college and video store. The church program states: “Founded in Faith, United in Faith, Strengthened by Faith.”

A White Rock Community Church deacon told the Dallas Morning News he was happy for the 40 to 50 members who formed the spinoff congregation.

“We’re an evangelical church, and we’re supposed to spread the Word and grow,” Tom Scott told the newspaper. “They thought the world of James Simmons and wanted him, and now they have him.”

Scott said the White Rock congregation continues to search for a new senior pastor.

Simmons’ story has generated international attention since he was identified as Cox after his sermon in view of a call at White Rock Community Church.

He told parishioners after the service about his amnesia, and that’s when one of them recognized him as the man who disappeared from Abilene.

Police and hospitals in the Memphis area said they had no record of a case involving a man fitting Simmons’ description. Simmons has said he got his first name from the Bible and his last name from a hardware store sign. But the name, along with his birth date and Social Security number, match those of a West Texas rancher. He said he used the number for a couple of years because he was desperate and needed a job.

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