Haggard heartache

All over the news cycle (1,792 articles at the time of this writing) and blogosphere (5,886 results on Technorati + 2nd most popular blog search) is the recent allegations against Ted Haggard, founding pastor of New Life Church in Colorado and now-resigned President of National Association of Evangelicals. Tallskinnykiwi cites willzhead’s sober encouragement to pray and not judge, and emergesque adds caution that all should wait until facts surface and avoid oversimplification. Good counsel. Tragic nevertheless. Ted must be hurting terribly. It would have played out just a tad bit better if Ted came clean right from the start, but it’s very hard to think clearly under the pressures of allegations and media spotlights.

ChristianityToday.com’s version of this news item: Haggard Says He Bought Meth But Didn’t Use It + Haggard Resigns as NAE President + NAE Board Chairman Shocked by Haggard Resignation. ChristianityToday.com apparently had a recent redesign; I’d love to hear the back story and strategies on that. [update 11/5/06: Ted Haggard has now been removed, aka fired, as pastor after independent investigation, whose quick decision should take this item out of the media spotlight. Full apology letter to his former church (PDF), transcript of letter to church from Gayle Haggard)] [update 11/6/06] GetReligion has some great interpreting and deconstructing how the media is covering this incident, e.g. My spiritual gift is crystal meth, Of Meth and Men, Covering a story driven by electronic media, Ted Haggard, the symbolic centrist, and ‘My test has begun; watch me’.

3 of my adjacent thoughts:

“Great people have great flaws.” During my week in Oregon for training as a strategic planning facilitator [cf. Patterson Process for Ministry brochure in PDF format], Tom Paterson wisely noted that people who have done a lot of good often have great flaws too. While most of us desire and expect our leaders to be more perfect as they’re more accomplished, it is part of our human condition to be flawed, to have strengths and to have gaps (Tom didn’t like the word ‘weaknesses’). A person in leadership position, especially religious and spiritual leadership, has to take exhaustingly extra measure to maintain his trustworthiness. Exhausting and paranoid as that is, occasionally the best of efforts for accountability in walking the straight and narrow fails. When it does, it is terribly disillusioning and painful for many, let alone the person who failed. Does any system, society, or community have a way to restore someone that has such moral failures? Perhaps to a different role or position, but still a way to be fully restored and healed, to be a productive member of society again?

“Leadership gets lonely at the top.” I still think that leaders have to build friendships with a few trusted others, where they can be totally transparent and vulnerable, especially religious leaders like pastors. This is easy for me to say, since I’m not that kind of a gifted leader who has the driving ambition to lead a larger organization of any kind. I’m told that it’s more and more lonely the higher up a leader goes. And it’s too bad there are many at the “top” who are lone rangers, or wind up being that way. All the more, spiritual leaders are under more spiritual attack too. Prayer and intercession is not enough; intentional friendships is what it takes, and that takes time and energy to build.

And, where can a pastor get a trustworthy professional massage? This isn’t the first pastor I’ve heard of getting into hot water for may have began as a professional massage. I’m all for getting a massage, and I think everyone should be entitled to getting massages, whether they’re in a secular or religious profession. But people being people, a few of masseurs may have had a checked past, and massage therapy could be a legitimate profession to get back to a normal life.

On another note, trial version of tithing is now available at LifeChurch.tv:

We commit to you that if you tithe for three months and God doesn’t hold true to His promises of blessings, we will refund 100% of your tithe. No questions asked.

I’m not sure if it’s a money-back guarantee only for their live campus attenders, or if it goes for internet campus visitors too. With average rate of donations, even by Christians, hovering around 3% or less, it’d be great to see generous giving grow.

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  1. John Lee says:

    I can’t help but wonder if you are being a little easy on the guy. We all have our own personal demons; but what Haggard did was beyond simply surrendering to sinful desires – it was brazen hypocrisy. His sin was habitual and pre-meditated, not just a moment of weakness. A person who practices such deceit is reprehensible in my eyes. We should not expect perfection in our leaders, but this kind of deceit is completely unacceptable. He should have stepped down a long time ago.

  2. betsy says:

    A pastor (or anyone else concerned about the appearance of impropriety) can get a theraputic massage at a sports medicine practice, or at a day spa, salon, or massage school. During business hours. Accompanied by her or his spouse.

    Like you, I’m all for massages, but one cannot go around calling ‘outcall massueses’ that are ‘recommended by a hotel’ and then be shocked when people jump to conclusions.

    Oh – and buying drugs. Buying street drugs from your outcall masseuse can also make people jump to conclusions. One probably should think twice before doing that.

    I don’t know…the ‘buying meth from someone untrustworthy’ part sounds kind of like a rookie mistake to me. These do not sound like the actions of a hardened habitual drug user.

    A pastor friend of mine has a theory that high-profile religious leaders seem to sabotage themselves – unconciously or sometimes not – as they approach their stress- and I-feel-like-an-imposter limits. This story has that feel, to me.