At the very least, Ted Haggard has reacted correctly by removing himself from office and pulpit, and entering into a covenant agreement to be accountable to a group of leaders. If any of what has been said is true, I stand by my previous statement, that he should find some other form of work than the pastorate. I am aware of pastors successfully restored to pulpits following moral failure, but the success rate is rare.
I’d like to explain further some of the flags that I have cautioned people about concerning men whose sexual morality is deeply in sin.
- Frequently such pastors have a record of asking wealthy people in their congregations for private donations to “special” projects, meaning the pastor’s own bank account.
- There are also instances of abuses of discretionary accounts, such as giving expensive gifts to favored staff and members.
- The worst and rarest cases involve direct theft, embezzlement, and kick-backs from companies bidding for services.
- All the above may intensify as the guilty party faces legal expenses and lowered income.
- Rarely is a sexual fall a one-time thing. As time progresses, other stories come out. If the pastor is having an affair with someone in the congregation (NOT an accusation against the Rev. Haggard), be ready to hear of other affairs.
- The recidivism rate is high should the guilty pastor go to another church.
- Some of the people responding to my blog have correctly pointed out that the congregation is often the forgotten victim in such tragedies.
- Right or wrong, there is often a father/child relationship between pastor and congregation. Affairs within a congregation have an impact similar to acts of incest.
- People who were married by the pastor may wonder if their marriages are valid (they are).
- Some men, already lacking in moral fiber and commitment, may use the pastor’s act as an excuse to do similar things.
- Some people become so disillusioned with the hypocrisy that they leave the church altogether—forever.
- Guilty pastors who are truly disturbed (sociopathic) attack staff members and church leaders who question them.
- Often old friends are cultivated to help manipulate church leaders to be favorable to the guilty pastor. There can be a lot of pressure put on remaining leaders, ranging from constant harassment to lawsuits.
- The interim pastor may be accused of all kinds of things by the guilty one in an effort to diffuse the issue and confuse people to the point they don’t know what to believe.
- The guilty party is likely to demand forgiveness, even if repentance seems superficial. Their goal is to return to the status quo ante.
- Staff members are deeply hurt and may become deeply disillusioned. There are often real and supposed friendships built up between a senior pastor and staff. The pastor's sin is a betrayal to them.
- Living through such a time is akin to living through grief after the death of a loved one. There are stages of anger, denial, confusion, acceptance, and more—not necessarily in a predictable order. It takes time to heal. In what I personally experienced it took almost two years.
I will pray daily for New Life Church and especially its staff. I will pray daily for the Rev. Haggard. He seems to have taken appropriate steps to lead back to moral and spiritual health. I will pray daily for the NAE, which is a very important organization.
Keep praying—keep the faith,