Friday, November 03, 2006

More on the Scandal

The ensuing news regarding the Rev. Ted Haggard indicates that there is more to the accusations than I had thought. At the same time, the actual sins involved are not yet clear. The person making the accusations flunked a lie-detector test, and the Rev. Haggard’s story seems to be changing.

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.

Financial:
  • 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.

Sexual:
  • 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.

The Congregation:
  • 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.
As I write this, I’m surprised at how calm I feel. When I experienced a similar situation from my former boss I was all over the map emotionally. I even, sad to say, felt hate toward him. The only reason I can write dispassionately today is that the Rev. Haggard did nothing to me personally, but that's not the case with his congregation and to the National Association of Evangelicals.

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,
Tom

9 comments:

Richard Wilson said...

Tom,

Respecfully I ask for an explanation of why you chose not to publish my last post.

Richard

Dave Moody said...

Tom,
Thanks for sharing your wisdom. Very helpful to this young(ish) pastor.

In watching some of the video feed over the internet, I can't help but feel for the Jones guy as well, Haggard's accuser. He seemed like such a lost soul, indeed he needs our prayers and compassion also. May God have mercy on us all- I've never fallen sexually, but I am so capable. But by God's grace, there go I.

Keeping the faith-
your brother,
dm

TomGray said...

Richard
We didn’t post your last note because it asserted an untrue, perhaps libelous statement about former staff members of the Kirk. The digs at me were incidental. You could not be more wrong in what you said.

Knowing the rules for posting, I’m amazed that you’re surprised or upset that we didn’t publish your letter.
Tom

Eric said...

looks as if you were right tom. More has come out about this pastor... http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-haggard4nov04,0,6888588.story?coll=la-home-headlines pray for his church...

Pamela Cook said...

On www.foxnews.com there is a banner stating that the pastor has agreed to resign the pastorate of New Life Church after the investigation found "sexually immoral conduct".

He probably got too busy working for the Lord that imtimacy with the Lord ceased. That can happen to any of us. It seems like when I hear of a man that gets into sexual sin the common thread in their stories is that they had quit praying. May he get closer to the Lord through all of this. How sad.

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,227568,00.html

Anonymous said...

Tom,

While there are major differences in our opinions and beliefs, I share with you great sadness concerning this situation. I also agree with you that there is heterosexual sin as well as homosexual sin. In this situation, the acccuser has most definitely committed sin in his acknowledged activities. Still, I am confident it was best that he come forward in that Rev. Haggard can now begin to find the help that he needs and hopefully find healing in the process. My greatest concern now is for those who have been visibly hurt and those whose hurt may only become apparent later. It is the latter that I feel needs consideration now.

For much of my life, I have believed as you believe. A metaphor that comes to mind is that I have been on the same side of a fence as you, I have tried to resist being pulled toward the fence but over time that has occurred until I found myself struggling to hold onto the fence even as I found myself being pulled to the top of the fence. Not too long ago, I found myself falling to the opposite side.

I have come to believe that God is speaking to us in a way that will cause more and more of us to believe that homosexual sex is not sinful in an appropriate relationship just as we believe in regard to heterosexual sex. I believe that God intended for us to be heterosexual beings but things have happened in nature that God did not intend just as we can all cite things that have happened that are different than God intended. Some may consider it heresy for anyone to think of God as changing in regard to human sexuality but the evidence we find in the Bible regarding God changing His mind about His creation should cause us to at least consider the possibility that this could be so in regard to human sexuality.

What could cause me to feel sympathy for Rev. Haggard and others who have found themselves in his situation? I believe that they may be struggling with their own sexuality trying mightily to change something that they are powerless to change. If my view is correct, then homosexual sex is a sin only when it occurs outside an appropriate relationship in the same manner that heterosexual sex could also be a sin.

Further, if I am correct we should give consideration to the harm that maybe is being done to these people through the preaching and teaching that they are sinful in all circumstances of being sexually attracted to someone of the same sex.

This is why I would like to see churches even such as The Kirk sponsoring a forum of some kind to allow people with differing beliefs to come together in a peaceful and open manner to talk to and listen to one another in the hope that we might find common ground on which to stand and work for God.

I fervently pray and seek for God's will to be revealed to us all and that we will together be equipped and empowered to do His Will!

Richard

Pamela Cook said...

The pastor and his wife submitted written statements that were read this morning I guess by the newly appointed pastor of New Life Church. There are links on the home page for both statements. One statement that said it all was when he asked people to forgive and thank God for the accuser. He stated that the accuser did not violate them but that Ted himself did. He has expressed himself in this situation in a way consistent with how he has approached other areas, with brutal honesty.

http://www.newlifechurch.org.

unsophist said...

Richard,

I truly appreaciate that you have presented your experience peacefully and thoughtfully. You are much more likely to receive positive and benefiicial responses in turn.

For my own study, would you clarify for me the "evidence we find in the Bible regarding God changing His mind about His creation", or where God had intended something that did not come to be? Please list references. Thank you.

Richard Wilson said...

Tom,

In keeping with my desire to respond to a specific inquiry, I will make this comment but I hope that the next comment will be the last that I feel compelled to offer.


To unsophist said, I consider myself to be nonsophist but I recognize differing opinions and beliefs and offer the following as mine:
I don't consider the Word of God as a once and for all time thing--beginning in Genesis, I see the Word of God evolving and being communicated to us even to this day! From Gen.1:31, Gen.2:7, Gen. 2:18, Gen. 18:20-32, Ex. 32:14, Ezek. 4:12-15, Jon. 3:10 and Jon. 4:2 to Matt. 15:22-28 (also Mark 7: 25-30), I find what I believe to be evidence of God changing His mind. I know that many believe otherwise--especially those who rigidly adhere to belief in scripture being inerrant. I always feel the need to ask--what specifically do you mean in stating that belief? For me, I especially feel comfort from Jesus' response to the faith of the Canaanite woman!

Richard