Thursday, November 09, 2006

Remembering Haggard

I am late in adding my cyber comments about the disgrace of Ted Haggard. Several RevGals have weighed in on the subject as well as a plethora of others. I'm late because I just couldn't bring myself to think about it for long. I read, however. I've read comments that imply this man is an idiot, a ranting fundamentalist preacher, a hatemonger, a total sham and phoney and fake. In short, a charlatan of the first order. For me, this is heart breaking.

Perhaps that is all true. I don't understand my own heart sometimes, much less someone else's. This post is not a defense of Ted Haggard. His actions are unfathomable to me. What kind of disconnect happened in this man? Some say that he is simply a repressed homosexual and needs to face facts. I don't know if that is true or not. And I know that there are divergent views in the Church of Jesus Christ about homosexuals. I am not writing about that in this post either.

I cannot add much to what has been said, except for my own experience of Ted Haggard and his congregation.

When I heard the news, after my initial shock, I cried. It hurt. I have met and talked with Ted Haggard. I do not agree with his views on every subject, but I think I need to say some things. Perhaps it is only for my own sake, but please indulge me.

Two years ago Ted Haggard came to our district to speak at our Minister's Winter Renewal. He is not from my denomination. His church is independent. However, he has been involved with us in some co-ventures. That particular minister's gathering was...I can't deny it...wonderful. I have c.d.s of much of it.

Am I confused? Yes, I am.

Here is what I saw:

A handsome man with a beautiful smile, dressed casually, speaking to us without apparent arrogance or pride--and I have a pretty darn good radar for phoneys. Yeah, he's got nice hair, but he did not seem flashy or "coiffed" if you know what I mean. We spent focused time in prayer each session. During these times he was often on his knees quietly in a corner. He was down-to-earth, , direct, practical, articulate, focused and helpful. His messages to us were not harangues or rants a la Jimmy Swaggert. Not at all.

Among other subjects, he has written books about the changing face of the evangelical church and how critical it is that we rethink our methods in order to more effectively reach a postmodern generation. One of those, Dog Training, Fly Fishing and Sharing Christ in the 21st Century is on my office bookshelf and has powerfully influenced my thinking.

These meetings were times of blessing for the ministers present. Among other things, I talked with him about women in ministry, and he seemed to be an advocate for female clergy and leadership. His exegesis of scripture was not at all superficial. It was insightful, and I took notes madly, surprised at the depth of his understanding. He is not stupid. He is obviously intelligent and well-read.

Because of his recent political stances (a mistake for clergy, I usually think) some might be surprised to learn that he is quite ecumenical and has long been a strong influence in bringing the various churches and pastors of Colorado Springs together to work cooperatively on issues where they could agree. His church folk aren't out carrying "God Hates Fags" signs like Fred Phelps and his ilk. New Life Church reaches out in very specific ways. They established a prayer center that is connected to all points of the globe. I'd love to visit there and spend time in one of the private prayer rooms. You can log on to the center at any time and see current needs from around the world. It is amazing. I've used that service often.

Speaking of New Life, I personally know a few people who attend there. One is a long-time close friend of my mother's. I wept for her and her family as I pondered the implications of Ted's behavior. She is one of the most gracious, yet powerful women of faith I have ever met. She is a woman of prayer, compassion, strength, and intellect. She has a very effective ministry at New Life with sexually abused women. What will happen to that?

I suspect some of my more "liberal" colleagues (I hate that word) will say that he deserved what has happened. Some of what I read spoke a great deal about "fundamentalists." I think this is stereotypical and, frankly, disrespectful of a large segment of the church. (No, I do not consider myself a "fundy" but that is beside the point.)

As for me, I grieve. I grieve for the enormous damage that will result because of his presidency of the National Association of Evangelicals, an organization to which my denomination belongs. I grieve for his wife, who is a delightful woman, and his children. I grieve for his congregation--14,000 hurting Christians. I grieve for charismatics and Pentecostals, who once again, have an enormous black eye. How is it that so many of our clergy can be so--flat out fools? I grieve for all of us, the believers who will suffer the consequences of Haggard's deceit, duplicity and disgraceful hypocrisy. All of us will suffer. That grieves me, but it also makes me exceedingly angry. Hard-working, honest, decent ministers will be painted with a brush they do not deserve. I'm among them.

Most of all, I grieve for the world around us. I grieve for searching, hurting, precious people who need to know that God is good and faithful and can be trusted. I grieve for those who will leave church, perhaps forever, and worse will leave the faith, or never consider the claims of Jesus Christ in the first place.

I grieve for Ted Haggard too. I hope that he will be humbled and broken so that he can be healed and restored. God's grace is greater, more amazing than I can fathom. I can't point fingers, much as I'd like to, and hurt and angry as I feel. I can't because I realize the depth of my own denial and self-deception. I'm not a Calvinist, but things like this push me that way.

Finally, for what it is worth, here are the things I am pondering in the aftermath of this...things I am coming more and more to believe.

Fame is not good for ministry. It brings pressures no one should carry.

Mega Churches can offer ministries that small churches like mine cannot. But there MUST be a better way to be the Church in action.

Accountability is CRITICAL! If we become so foolish as to think we can live out the life of Christ alone, well, someone needs to sit us down and give us a straight talking to.

Truth is imperative. When I read that 70% of pastors have accessed internet porn, I get the heebie jeebies. God's Holy Spirit wants "truth in our inmost parts." Ted was, among whatever else was happening, lying to others, but most of all lying to himself to believe that his hypocrisy would not be his downfall. I find it so ironic that his prayer from the pulpit the Sunday before all this became news included a plea for God to uncover lies. God answered his prayer, it seems. What else did he expect?

I hate to mention this, but so many of the highly publicized ministers who have "fallen" are from my own camp, the Charismatic-Pentecostals that I think we of this part of the Church MUST take a good long look about why this should be the case. Are we more prone, for whatever reasons, to arrogance, pride, self-deception? I can't answer those questions, but they need to be honestly faced.

Meanwhile, I grieve and I pray and I am angry and I am confused.

God is not confused, however. For that I give thanks.


Rachel Nguyen said...

Singing Owl,

I am right there with you, my friend.

And no, I don't think the Charismatics and Pentecostals are uniquely susceptible to this kind of thing. (The Roman Catholic church has dealt with it, as I am sure have all the others, if not so publicly.)

At the end of the day, I hope all this pain will be a gateway to redemption for all involved.

Jesus, hear our prayer.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for such a thoughtful and grace-filled post. I recently learned that a friend and former parishioner is now a member at New Life. I wish her well and hope she and all her fellow members can find their way to healing and grace in the midst of this debacle.

see-through faith said...

I hear you singing owl. I grieve with you. TACF (website) has some good things to say - and encourages us to pray.

Any one of us can fall -and yeah black eyes are horrible -but God always works for good and Rev Ted will meet God on his knees.

It amazes me that God doesn't lift the anointing earlier - when we sin - but I think it's simply because - at some level at least - we all sin and cover it up. He works with broken vessels always.

I'm glad for Ted that God heard his prayer about not covering up the lies any longer.

and I stand humbly watching God at work in my own life. It's painful - but it's also good. We need accountablity but it isn't easy - because our hearts and mind deceive us so often.

This happens in every denomination so. I think that what is good about this is that it's been quickly exposed and Ted is for now out of the picture. I'm more disillusioned with Dobson to be very very honest. It feels like he crossed the road rather than helping his brother who had fallen.

That's not Christ's way.

zorra said...

Singing Owl, this is the best post I have read on this subject. Thank you for your thoughtfulness and compassion.

LoieJ said...

Maybe this segment of Christianity isn't more prone to these problems, but they preach more publically, so any problems are more public.

Questing Parson said...

Through this post we see with a Christian's view.

Grace and peace to you.

Jody Harrington said...

Thanks for this superb and insightful post. I ditto Zorra in saying it is the best thing I have read on the subject.

Gannet Girl said...

This is a wonderful post and I agree, it's the best thing I've seen on the subject.

My only prior inkling of whom Ted Haggard is came from his brief appearance in the Jesus camp movie, in which he does not come off well. It's good to read that that brief portrayal is perhaps nothing more than that -- a reflection of a moment that did not reflect his pastoral best.

Dorcas (aka SingingOwl) said...

Or perhaps it did? :-( I dunno.

Anonymous said...

Shock, confusion, hurt, grief, anger... the emotional depths alone that this stirs are frightening. Let's not let this fact cause us to sweep all those excellent and necessary questions under the rug.

I'm amazed at the mercy & the holiness of our God... I'm reminded of Samson... also Ananias & Sapphira.

Dorcas (aka SingingOwl) said...

Me too. (((((Heartberry)))))))))

Jules said...

Singing Owl,

When I first heard about this, I had a moment of schadenfruede, for which I repented and got over.

Of course Ted Haggard does not deserve to be hated or pitied, neither do his poor wife or children, God bless them.

Ted deserves what all of us deserve--to live honestly and authentically in the lives which God gave us. You and I might disagree about the details of those authentic lives, but I still think we all deserve it. I hope Ted can find a way to do that that honors his Creator.

I pray for him, his family, and his church.

Thank you for a thoughtful and Christ-like post.

Anonymous said...

Another reminder that anyone, no matter how strong they appear, can lose their way from time to time. No one is perfect, and no willing person is beyond redemption, we all fit somewhere in between. Perhaps with enough soul searching and enough prayer from others, he will begin to find his way back. It will not be as it was, but perhaps it will be as it could be instead. No less of a journey, just a different one.

Anonymous said...

I suspect some of my more "liberal" colleagues (I hate that word)

Why do you hate the word colleagues?


Theresa Coleman said...

You are a good woman -- and I agree about "liberal" and "fundemental." I hate those words. We are all children of God. And fame has ruined many a good person.

much2ponder said...

Wow, Pastor...this is so sad. It is the human condition I was speaking about in my e-mail the other day; the part of the human psyche that refuses to be submissive to the Lord. We all have it and it shows up in our lives in many different ways. For Ted is a sexual issue, which is ugly to look at, but sin is sin and we are all guilty of one form or another. The enemy of our souls may believe he has won this one, but we know that with Jesus there is mercy and redemption.