THE RESIGNATION OF
PASTOR TED HAGGARD
Transgressor has met fate prescribed by his faith
The Evangelical Christian world has been buzzing since Pastor Ted Haggard made the news last week. He was accused of patronizing a male prostitute and buying sex-enhancing drugs. Haggard immediately resigned from the presidency of the National Association of Evangelicals, a post he had held since 2003. A day or so later, he resigned from all positions at the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colo., which he had founded and led to the point where 14,000 people attended weekend services.
His church actually demanded his resignation after its hastily organized investigative committee did a little research. Haggard confessed to many of the sins that were laid at his feet, and admitted that he was not competent to continue in leadership. He wrote a letter read to his congregation that told about his long struggle with a dark side that was infected with illicit same-gender sex, and asked for forgiveness.
The NAE has existed since 1942. Originally formed to offer a balance to the then-formidable fundamentalist American Council of Christian Churches, it has matured to represent 50 denominations that represent 30 million American churchgoers. Haggard spoke on their behalf often, and he was a leading spokesman for them to the political leadership of our land. He was well known and widely respected.
Some wonder why Haggard was so quickly dispatched. How could someone who did so much be discarded with so little care? Evangelical Christians make much about forgiveness; how come there was seemingly no forgiveness for Haggard? Some have asked if the reaction was more hypocritical than his offenses.
One of the key elements of the Evangelical Christian faith is that we reap what we sow. We are urged to live sensibly with full knowledge that our future depends on what we do or what we sow today.
A second key tenet of our faith is that the things we do in secret, the things that are inconsistent with our profession of faith that we keep hidden, will be revealed. Indeed, they will be shouted from the housetops. Haggard will vouch for the veracity of that scripture.
God does not go around looking to embarrass those of us who put our trust in him. God will work with each of us to help us overcome sins that we recognize and want to put away from us.
The crash comes when one of us grows old enough to know better but still persists at the pursuit of sin's lure. That is what Haggard did. In spite of what he knew, he continued to preach righteousness and to secretly live un-righteously. His position and his public proclamations made him a candidate for the very thing that happened to him.
Our denomination, like most others, has trained counselors who are available to our pastors and their families and will work with them when the pressures of ministry begin to tell upon us. Sometimes that means stepping down for a season, and other times it might not entail any change in your role in the church. But if it does, finding another profession is not the end of life. You are better off with the monkey off your back.
Haggard evidently indulged in homosexual activity. Such sin is not tolerated in our leadership, and we will remove a person if we become aware that they have this problem. Our churches are open wide to homosexual attendees. We believe that God can deliver anyone who wants to be delivered.
Haggard kept his problem with this sin hidden. I can understand why, since he would have been removed as soon as he revealed his proclivity. That might seem unfair at first glance. The Apostle Paul wrote of the consequences of a reprobate mind, one which no longer can tell what is right and what is wrong. Better to be removed.
Haggard pastored an independent church. There was no denominational umbrella for him to seek cover. He was all alone, and it is not good for a man to be alone. That is a tough place to be. Even so, his church has a board of overseers who have offered to work with Haggard through an accountability process that will eventually lead to a life that can be transparent and worth living.
Can Haggard ever return to ministry? My experience is that he can, though the road back will be long and difficult. He will ever face the doubters and those who will not let him forget this unfortunate time of life. Some people actually enjoy the hurt of others.
God will forgive Ted Haggard; indeed, God already has. God is in the forgiving business. He sent his son into the world to face the cross so that sin can be forgiven and put away from us as far as the east is from the west. Haggard's main trial will come from those who do not share his faith and do not know the love of God.
The Rev. Murray Hohns is an associate pastor of New Hope Christian Fellowship.