Friday, November 03, 2006

Allegations in Colorado

Yesterday’s news about the accusation against the National Assoociation of Evangelicals president Ted Haggard has spawned a flurry of newsprint. Here is one of Time magazines’s 25 most influential evangelicals in the USA caught in a sexual scandal, so says one radio station in Colorado. All the news that has followed comes from this one source.

Mike Jones, 49, of Denver, made his allegations on the Peter Boyles show on KHOW 630 AM, saying he was compelled to come forward because he believes Haggard, an opponent of same-sex unions, is being hypocritical.

"After sitting back and contemplating this issue, the biggest reason is being a gay man all my life, I have experience with my friends, some great sadness of people that were in a relationship through the years," and were not able to enjoy the same rights and privileges as a married man and woman, Jones told Boyles on air.

"I felt it was my responsibility to my fellow brothers and sisters, that I had to take a stand, and I cannot sit back anymore and hear (what) to me is an anti-gay message." (Rocky Mountain News, November 2, 2006)

Any person in the public eye can be accused in such a fashion. When this happens there is little the accused can do to overcome the doubt such reports cast. The accuser, Mike Jones, is a male prostitute who says that he recognized Haggard from seeing him on TV and says that he knew Haggard by another name. All that Haggard can do is say that this isn't true, while those who wish to see him twist in the wind celebrate.

I have never met the Rev. Haggard but, at this stage, I doubt the veracity of the accusation against him. There are several reasons for my doubt.
  • The first is the nature of the accusation. It is vague and unsupported by any real evidence.

  • Second is the context of the accusation. It comes just days before an important vote in Colorado regarding gay rights issues.

  • Third is the response of the Rev. Haggard and his church. Haggard immediately submitted to the system that his congregation has set up for such an accusation and the church is pressing forward with an investigation.

I have, sadly, had experience regarding pastors and moral failure. The pastor immediately before me at the Kirk (my boss at the time) was caught in such a thing. I have, since then, done significant study of the issue and have even served as a consultant to congregations whose leaders have fallen morally. I have learned the following in such situations:
  • If a pastor has fallen morally there will be evidence of more than one incident. A number of credible people come forward almost immediately.

  • Such a guilty pastor immediately issues denials usually couched in blaming other people or claiming the incident to be a misconstrual of his "ministry."

  • There is often corollary evidence of financial misdeeds.

  • The guilty pastor has previously displayed narcissistic, even sociopathic behavior.

  • No matter what the truth is, groups of people will side with the pastor or against him, even after overwhelming evidence convicting or clearing him.

I chose to write about this because I have received several gleeful emails from people who have formerly posted comments on this blog. I guess they think that, as goes one evangelical, so go all. There is nothing to rejoice about here. Haggard's church, regardless of the basis of the charge, is damaged and devastated. The National Association of Evangelicals has similar damage. The Church universal is hurt.

If Ted Haggard is guilty of the accusation he needs to be removed from his pastorate and surrounded by clear-minded, Godly people who will hold him accountable as he is restored to faith. My personal opinion is that, if he is guilty, he should find future employment outside the pastorate.

However, I don’t believe that there is enough evidence at this point to indicate that he is guilty. The nature of the accusation is singular, vague, unsupported, and politically expedient. I wish I could say that Haggard, if proven innocent, could just move on with his life. That, sadly, could never happen. He’ll be hounded and haunted by this from now on.

Keep praying—keep the faith,
Tom

5 comments:

Chris said...

Tom,

Here is a quote from the AP:

The acting senior pastor at New Life, Ross Parsley, told KKTV-TV of Colorado Springs that Haggard admitted that some of the accusations were true.

"I just know that there has been some admission of indiscretion, not admission to all of the material that has been discussed but there is an admission of some guilt," Parsley told the station.

I agree with you that there should be no glee over this. It is sad for all involved.

Chris

Pamela Cook said...

This is dreadful news. The closest thing I can relate to in my own life is seeing how my former pastor Carlton Pearson slowly strayed away from the fundamentals of the Christian faith.

I also have friends that lived in CA that were attending a church where the pastor was having a homosexual relationship with his youth leader. It was revealed almost five years ago. It can take many years to get past a situation like that.

This type of situation devastates all involved. The leader is completely humiliated because of the impact they have in the body. The members/attenders are many times shaken to the core because they tend to lose trust and may not want to go through that again with another leader.

From my experience and others that I know that have had pastors run amuck it appears to me that the first attention is to the leader and restoration. Those members/attenders in many cases are left to fend for themselves or they scatter and not bother to return.

I'm just grateful that he came clean immediately, assuming the AP piece is accurate, and chose not to increase the circus atmosphere that no doubt will continue for months to come. Immediately after the announcement many have said that this incident would keep evangelicals from going to the polls next week.

He will need nerves of steel to withstand what is coming in the press. I hope that he will be restored and people will forgive him. Hopefully his wife may somehow find it in herself to forgive and work through this.

Lord help us. I say that sincerely. We need to walk as close to the Lord as possible.

Stephen said...

Here is one news account:
http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/story?id=2626067&page=1

And here is a press release from the church:
http://abcnews.go.com/images/US/NewLife.pdf

We should withhold judgment until the facts are in. We should pray for Rev. Haggard, for his wife and family, for his congregation, and for the NAE.

And, like Rev. Parsley requests, we should pray for Mr. Jones, the former prostitute who made the accusation. Let us remember that Rahab, a prostitute of Jericho, proved to be faithful to God (Joshua 2:1-21), and "did not perish with those who were disobedient" (Hebrews 11:31; cf. Joshua 6:17, 22-25).

Despite what Tom suggests, this news does not help the LGBT cause. Prejudice and a desire for vengeance may well drive some in Colorado to take out their frustration on election day.

No, there is no glee. There is great sadness for everyone concerned.

Keeping the faith,
Stephen

TomGray said...

Stephen,
I agree with you that this does not help the GLBT cause. I only mentioned that point because there seems to be a sense of political expediency involved, primarily because of the timing.
Tom

Stephen said...

Tom,

Time.com also reports on this:
http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1554388,00.html

The report states, "The pastor has intimated that the allegations may be an electioneering ploy."

In your own words you said, "Such a guilty pastor immediately issues denials usually couched in blaming other people or claiming the incident to be a misconstrual of his "ministry.""

It sounds to me like Haggard is generating the political expediency, if Time is to be believed.

This is all deeply disturbing, no matter what the truth turns out to be. I'm with Pamela Cook: "Lord help us!"

Keeping the faith,
Stephen