Candace Chellew-Hodge, associate pastor at Garden of Grace United Church of Christ in Columbia, S.C., blistered the formerly homosexual Rev. Ted Haggard for hypocrisy after Haggard said that at his new church he would “‘encourage’ members to strive towards the ideal of biblical heterosexuality and monogamy.”
It’s disappointing when you realize the lesson [of his period of being widely shunned] has gone unheeded—that Haggard is so desperate to again be accepted by those who disowned him that he will bury his own truth and continue to shun, abuse, and belittle others all while hiding behind his pulpit and his Bible.
My partner and I never went to the Episcopal church that had so gladly “welcomed” us. I hope that no gay or lesbian person makes the mistake of believing that Haggard has changed and is really “welcoming” them to his new church.
Why incorporate now? He told the Colorado Springs Gazette that it’s about the money. That is:
. . . St. James was incorporated “to keep the accounting in order” of the paid talks they’ve given for about a year and a half at evangelical churches across the country. The Haggards incur out-of-pocket expenses while on the road, so St. James is a way to be reimbursed for those costs in an orderly manner, he said.
“Most of the primary characters of the Bible had horrible, horrible incidents in their lives. David misused his power to murder people. He was an adulterer. And he was still a man after God’s own heart,” Haggard said.
Haggard said he never turned away from God. He said America loves a scandal, but they love a comeback even more — and that’s what he’s hoping for.
From the right Haggard is sometimes seen as a victim of the homosexual agenda [definitions vary] because of his fall and subsequent calls for changes in conservative Christian thought about sexuality:
… the whole issue of what attracts a person to porn, or what attracts a person to this girl or that girl, or girls and boys, or boys, or why does somebody say, “This is a pretty hairstyle” and another one thinks it’s ugly? I think THAT research is going to go on over the next 25-50 years. And I think that research has the potential of embarrassing the church as much as the earth being round did. I think that brain research is going to make the church look bad unless we update our position on how to deal with sexuality.
Haggard’s change of heart apparently did precede public exposure. Before revelations about his relationship with a male prostitute, Haggard is reported by The Jewish Week to have told Traditional Values Coalition founder and chairman Louis Sheldon that homosexuality is “genetic” in origin.
Haggard’s expressed changes include embrace of civil, same-sex unions. He said:
But actually behind the scenes, and there are lots of people that can give evidence to this, I was working for protection of rights for homosexuals. So where I fell on that politically is, I believe that the definition of marriage is a man and a woman. I believe marriage means living as a man and a wife. But I do not believe that should translate into legal privileges for heterosexual couples that are denied homosexual couples.
Haggard isn’t the poster child for former-gay, either. He calls himself “hetrosexual but with issues.” Along with an obvious ability to command an audience and, currently, defy ideological characterization.
Ted Haggard, who started New Life Church in his Colorado Springs basement, plans to host a prayer meeting in his living room next week.
His expressed goals for this venture are humble to a fault:
“This is a Thursday night prayer meeting in our home,” Haggard said. “What we want to do is be able to tell our schedule and our story and know that we’re covered in prayer. And we want to hear their stories and give them the assurance that they’re covered in prayer as well.”
Reactions to his modestly stated goals for this project were generally skeptical, as they have been since he made his peremptory return to the ministry. Adrienne S. Gaines of Chrisma magazine wrote Thursday:
Ministers who have worked with Haggard say it is premature for him to launch into ministry.
Mark Barna of the Colorado Springs Gazette wrote:
Several people who have worked with Haggard said it’s premature for him to be leading a church. C. Peter Wagner, who co-founded New Life’s World Prayer Center with Haggard, said the former pastor should first seek approval from the overseers before leading people in prayer and worship. Haggard quit the five-year restoration program in February 2008.
The man who once led the National Association of Evangelicals and a church with a membership of 14,000 appears to have mapped his path carefully.
They want people to know that divorce is not the answer. Although this is not volunteer missionary work:
The couple will be paid an undisclosed amount for the interview, the latest in a series of public appearances that started in January when Ted Haggard began promoting an HBO documentary about his time in exile. He also has appeared on the “Oprah Winfrey Show” and “Larry King Live.”
We sense a comeback. For Gayle told the Denver Post she believes his struggles have deepened his Christian walk: “I think he is better equipped to minister to people than ever before.”
They’re like cockroaches explains Christa Brown of Stop Baptist Predators:
It is the very nature of such agreements that they hide in the dark. That’s the reason for them. By design and function, they keep troubling news quiet. Most of the time, they work. The people never talk, and you never hear about the hush money or the reason for it.
She discusses the New Life Church claims with regard to Ted Haggard:
After all, this is a church whose leaders not only paid a young man to keep quiet, but then they effectively denied doing it. Instead, they had the sickening gall to claim they were trying to help the young man. “Compassionate assistance,” said Brady Boyd, the senior pastor.
She proceeds to document how the Baptist General Convention of Texas has offered hush money to clergy sex abuse victims, and having purchased the victims’ silence, denied having done so.
It was about pastoral abuse and exploitation.
It was about a mega-church cover-up.
No one involved has any excuse for confusion about the real nature of the issues here. Decades of research and documentation of the psychiatric impact and ethical implications of the sexual exploitation of positions of power and trust, preceded everything that took place under fallen fundamentalist superstar Ted Haggard’s authority at New Life Church.
She’s simply being sraightforward when she writes:
The young man was in his early 20s. So he was of legal age. But here’s the thing. The young man was part of Haggard’s congregation.
Haggard was his “pastor.” That’s not just an empty word. A pastor occupies a position of high trust toward the members of his congregation.
That’s why what Haggard did was so abusive.
It wasn’t merely “inappropriate,” as the church describes it. Rather, Haggard’s conduct was abusive of another human being.
It is inherently manipulative for a minister to use a congregant — even an adult congregant — for his own sexual ends. In some states, such conduct might even be a felony, just as it would if a psychologist sexually exploited a client.
Truth came to the table in this case because the victim, Grant Haas, who had been paid to be quiet, stepped forward. Certainly knowing that he would be greeted with a blizzard of unfortunate implications.
DENVER — The New Life Church, a nationally known evangelical institution that fired its founding pastor, Ted Haggard, in 2006 over accusations that he had had sex with a male prostitute, made payments starting in 2007 to a young male church member who had a relationship with Mr. Haggard before the dismissal, the church’s pastor told worshipers on Sunday.
The payments — part of a confidential legal settlement in 2007 that included money for counseling and college expenses — came from insurance money, not donations from members, the senior pastor of New Life, Brady Boyd, said in his sermon at the church in Colorado Springs.
Mr. Boyd said in an interview on Monday that the payments, and what has now amounted to second body blow of scandal, were kept quiet for two years partly because of legal constraints, and partly because of ministerial confidentiality rules, since the man had sought out church authorities for counseling about the affair. Mr. Boyd declined to identify the young man, but said he is now in his 20s and was over 18 at the time of the relationship. Mr. Haggard is now 52.
Mr. Boyd said he had decided to break the silence because the young man called a few weeks ago and said he was thinking of going public himself.
Grant Haas, now 25, sees matters differently:
Silence and abuse do seem to have robbed the victim of his church family.
Thus far we have heard no evidence that the church provided the emotional support and reassurance a victim requires to fully recover.
Christa Brown of Stop Baptist Predators writes: “Haggard scandal isn’t about gay sex,” it’s about the abuse of pastoral power.
Abuse of power is the principal issue raised by fallen Christian fundamentalist star Ted Haggard’s relationship with a younger church member.
This week, New Life Church officials disclosed that in 2006 a young, male church volunteer reported having a sexual relationship with Haggard, who was pastor there at the time. And the church says there were others, thus far unnamed. All of this shortly after a Denver male prostitute claimed to have had a three-year cash-for-sex relationship with Haggard and so pushed Haggard out of that pulpit.
There is no confusion at all about the ethical, moral, psychological and spiritual violation which occurs when a pastor forms a covert, improper sexual relationship with a member of his congregation.
Nor is the abusive nature of such pastor/parishioner relationships late-breaking news. A 1998 report developed for the Christian Life Commission of the Baptist General Convention of Texas and published in the journal Christian Ethics Today, and thus made widely available, says:
Seminary professors Stanley Grenz and Roy Bell assert that sexual misconduct in the pastorate is a grave betrayal of trust that operates in two directions.
“It is a violation of a sacred sexual trust, marring the beautiful picture God has given of the relationship of Christ and the church. And it is a violation of a power trust, abusing the privilege of the pastoral position with which the ordained leader has been endowed by the church and its Lord.”
Sexual exploitation ordinarily occurs in an atmosphere of enforced silence. This silence is maintained not only by the participants but also by others who are unwilling to breach the dictated censorship.
The director of an organization for survivors of clergy abuse writes that the initial response of church officials is to hush the victim and cover-up the sexual abuse, which continues unchecked for years. [psychologist Peter] Rutter insists that this “code of silence” must be broken.
New Life Church in Colorado Springs maintained the code of silence. Brady Boyd, who succeeded Haggard as senior pastor of the 10,000-member New Life Church in Colorado Springs, told The Associated Press:
Boyd said the church reached a legal settlement to pay the man for counseling and college tuition, with one condition being that none of the parties involved discuss the matter publicly.
Boyd’s explanation of that agreement, honest to a fault though it may be, is as you can see a contradiction of the well-known ethics and psychiatric dynamics of such relationships:
It wasn’t at all a settlement to make him be quiet or not tell his story. Our desire was to help him. Here was a young man who wanted to get on with his life. We considered it more compassionate assistance — certainly not hush money. I know what’s what everyone will want to say because that’s the most salacious thing to say, but that’s not at all what it was.
Not hush money, but with an attached requirement of silence.
Silence reinforces the victim’s sense of helplessness and shame. Victims need therapy, emotional support and reassurance that life-sustaining church relationships will not be harmed. If the church is providing those things, good. We would like to hear and write about it. But not just financial payments with an attached requirement of silence. Taking away power from those victimized through the abuse of power is a repetition of the abuse.
It is when he turns to leadership that the Oklahoma Southern Baptist pastor is most eloquent:
We Christians should take an honest look at what it is we think qualifies a person to lead. I sometimes wonder if one of the problems of modern Christianity is that we have created such a false sense of super-spirituality that we succumb to a certain mode of pretending that we never struggle. Christians, especially we who lead, sometimes try to act as if we are perfect. We have pastors who bully those who question them, denominational leaders who call those who oppose their decisions “liberals” and other actions that lead me to believe we have a God-complex among some of our leaders. This false sense of moral invincibility has led to a climate where transparency, honesty, and personal integrity are no longer a part of our corporate faith. … .
Southern Baptist International Mission Board inflated, sometimes fabricated statistics of missionary accomplishment certainly raise those issues. Former IMB Trustee Burleson is expert on those matters. But his point is more general.
The SBC church, institution or agency that believes the “leader” is beyond simple accountablity will find that leader has the capability to ruin the organization. When and if that happens, the fault will reside not only with the leader, but those laymen who were unable to see that a lack of transparency is the first indication that something is wrong.
Will his call to Southern Baptist reform be answered?