Leaders Concerned Over Ted Haggard’s Church Visit

Ministers involved in restoring the former megachurch pastor question whether his recent appearance at an Illinois church was premature.
 
Leaders Concerned Over Ted Haggard’s Church Visit
[11.21.08] Prominent leaders expressed concern over former megachurch pastor Ted Haggard’s recent appearance at an Illinois church, where he apologized for a two-year-old scandal that led to his dismissal from New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colo.
 
The ministers were the ones who were initially involved in restoring Haggard after the church he founded dismissed him in November 2006 amid accusations that he solicited a male prostitute and purchased meth.
 
The leaders said Haggard has distanced himself from them in recent months, and they questioned whether his Nov. 2 visit to Open Bible Fellowship in Morrison, Ill., was premature.
 
“Having joined with the many leaders who earnestly and patiently sought to graciously serve Ted amid the crisis born of his own admitted struggle and failure, it is both incredible and regrettable to hear … of his choice for such a self-distancing pathway,” said Jack Hayford, president of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel and a member of Haggard’s original restoration team.
 
Another leader close to the situation said he thinks that before Haggard returns to any pulpit he must demonstrate “a submissive heart,” and be restored and affirmed by a recognized leadership board.
 
“Ted has said he’s sorry, but sorry is something someone says when they’re caught,” said the leader, who asked to remain anonymous due to the sensitive nature of the situation. “We haven’t really seen repentance as far as submission to leadership.”
 
He added that Haggard’s return to the public eye “could be interpreted as a PR stunt.”
 
“Our hope is that Ted will seek out recognized leadership and submit to that authority in order to be released to a leadership-affirmed ministry,” the minister said.
 
Haggard, the former president of the 30 million-member National Association of Evangelicals, agreed to leave the Colorado Springs area after the scandal broke in 2006. He then entered a restoration process facilitated by New Life Church, which agreed to pay his $138,000 salary through December 2007.
 
He moved his family to Phoenix in May 2007 to attend Phoenix First Assembly of God, whose pastor, Tommy Barnett, was reportedly a part of Haggard’s restoration team.
 
Earlier this year Haggard severed his ties with New Life’s leadership, who in turn released a statement saying the “process of restoring Ted Haggard is incomplete” and the church “maintains its original stance that he should not return to vocational ministry.”
 
New Life’s leaders also said an “accountability relationship” would continue between Haggard and the Phoenix-based Barnett. Haggard has since moved back to Colorado Springs. 
 
Haggard did not respond to Charisma’s requests for comment.
 
During his two sermons on Nov. 2, Haggard never described a restorative process or accountability structure he might be undergoing, but instead spoke of a Christian’s need for “internal transformation.”
 
He repeatedly apologized to members of New Life Church, the NAE and “the body of Christ at large,” and also expressed regret over the harm he caused his family. “All my shame and sin was placed on [my wife],” he lamented. “People treated her as if she had fallen.”
 
Haggard, who visited Open Bible Church with his wife, Gayle, said his temptation to engage in homosexual activity might have resulted from a sexual experience he had as a 7-year-old with a male worker employed by his father.
 
“I tell you that simply as an explanation, and certainly not as an excuse,” he said. “In some strange way, when I [turned] 50 years old, I don’t know what it was … but for some reason, what happened to me as a child started to produce fruit.”
 
Although he tried to live a good Christian life, Haggard said “some of the things that were buried in the depths of the sea from when I was in the second grade started to rage in my mind and in my heart.”
 
Haggard said he was at one time suicidal. Then two months before his sinful behaviors were made public he said he remembers slipping out of bed, driving to an auditorium at New Life Church and pleading with God in the middle of the night. “God do whatever it takes to deliver me,” he recalled saying. “I’ll lay anything on the altar. I hate this thing, but there [are] times when I love it. But I hate this thing.
 
“This war, this incredible war, was going on inside of me,” he said. “When the scandal happened it was bittersweet for me because I knew this was Jesus completing His work inside of me. I knew that this was the door to healing for my life … that this was God’s hand.”
 
Haggard said he was getting back on his feet financially by selling life insurance.
 
New Life leaders expressed gratitude for Haggard’s “many years of dedicated leadership” and wished him well in his business endeavors. Although it was not clear whether his appearance at Open Bible Church marked the beginning of Haggard’s return to vocational ministry, the leaders said they could not, at this time, endorse such a move. 
Paul Steven Ghiringhelli


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