We thought we were finished with the saga of Rev Ted Haggard. But no, new twists pop up and we wish to comment. We originally wanted to comment on the letter of the ‘The Overseers of New Life Church’, dated
First of all, astonishingly, the letter does a volte-face—and without even admitting it. In the space of ten days the official line changes from a ‘completely heterosexual’ Ted Haggard who has an unfortunate tendency to ‘act out’, but only with one person, there being no evidence that anyone else at all is involved—to a man with, as the Overseers’ letter states, a
lifelong battle with a “dark side” which he said in his confession letter has been a struggle for years. We have verified the reality of that struggle through numerous individuals who reported to us firsthand knowledge of everything from sordid conversation to overt suggestions to improper activities to improper relationships. These findings established a pattern of behavior that culminated in the final relationship in which Ted was, as a matter of grace, caught.
Just a minute. Did all this information come to your attention in the ten days after Ted finished his three-week intensive? In the ten days after your representative claimed that he was completely heterosexual and that no one else was involved?
Given that Rev Haggard has signed an agreement not to make public comments on the scandal, the public narrative is under the control of the Overseers.
They continue in their letter: ‘We learned most of those circumstances through confidential pastoral communications that, because of their pastoral character, cannot be disclosed.’ Quite true that up to a point pastoral communications cannot be disclosed. Still, we now have two diametrically opposed accounts issued by officials of New Life Church in less than two weeks about ‘what’s going on with Rev Ted’ without any attempt on the part of the Overseers to explain—or even explain away!—the discrepancies.
We might be forgiven if we have a certain scepticism as to whether even this new narrative is the whole truth.
We do not know why the Overseers had Rev Haggard sign an agreement not to make public comments, but the result is certainly that he has left the Overseers in control of public explanations of the affair. And while it is quite true that the Overseers cannot disclose any communications of a purely pastoral nature, still, without some sort of documentation, who is going to take them seriously? Moreover, does the privileged nature of confessions cover the whole gamut of the administrative investigation that the Overseers have conducted and are conducting?
The Overseers then proceed to explain why Ted had to leave the
The letter then seems to want to prove the
We are not impressed. Certainly, the Church as a tax-exempt 501(c)3 non-profit organization cannot do whatever it feels like. Still, we are reminded of rich parents who throw a little money at their children instead of love. The children later kill them.
Finally, we were struck by this phrasing in the letter:
While our investigation is not complete, I can report that we have found a few staff members struggling with unrelated sin issues. Each such person has been confronted and has submitted to discipline. Based upon what we presently know, we believe that the general culture of this church today is Christ-centered and holy. This process has taken huge amounts of our time to interview, gather facts, and track down rumors. It is not finished. To our relief, we are finding no culture of immorality among the staff here as we might have initially expected. [Emphasis added.]
Scary place to be.
While we were rooting about the Internet before writing this post, we came across this article in Harper’s Magazine about the
The whole phenomenon of the
We hope we are done with this sordid matter.
Here is the Overseers’ letter:
Dear New Life family and friends,
Concerning Ted and his family, we have done extensive fact-finding into his lifelong battle with a “dark side” which he said in his confession letter has been a struggle for years. We have verified the reality of that struggle through numerous individuals who reported to us firsthand knowledge of everything from sordid conversation to overt suggestions to improper activities to improper relationships. These findings established a pattern of behavior that culminated in the final relationship in which Ted was, as a matter of grace, caught. We learned most of those circumstances through confidential pastoral communications that, because of their pastoral character, cannot be disclosed. However, it was the opinion of the Overseer Board and Restorer Board that our initial action of removing Ted from leadership was not only warranted, but also merciful to him and to the church.
Some of you have wondered why Ted had to leave this church. You know that Ted had an enormous personality. As hard as this action appears, it is the considered and unanimous judgment of the Restorers and Overseers that Ted's presence is so large and his wrongful conduct so tangled that this church and its leadership would become distracted by his continuing presence. For the sake of Ted's restoration, it is best for him to move out of
Ted and Gayle have agreed to this counsel and are cooperating fully. After much prayer and consultation, and after seeking input from the Restorers and Overseers, the church’s Board of Trustees has fairly and compassionately decided to support the Haggard family throughout 2007. This act of Christian love will provide professional care, counseling, and the financial support they immediately need to continue in their journey of recovery. Ted and Gayle will soon relocate and find a local church to attend and other professional support in their new location. The Overseers and Restorers will continue to provide guidance and direction for Ted and his family. Also, the Trustees graciously provided the funds for Ted and Gayle to participate in 21 days of analysis and counseling that offered new insights consistent with our initial findings. That time of counseling was quite helpful to Ted and Gayle, and is simply the launching point by which years of counsel and fruits of true repentance may be demonstrated. There should be no confusion that deliverance from habitual, life-controlling problems is a “journey” and not an “event.” Ted will need years of accountability to demonstrate his victory over both actions and tendencies.
Concerning New Life and the church family, we have been most pleased with the quality of leadership we have witnessed in the elders, the trustees, and the senior staff. In addition, the entire staff of New Life is cooperative and amazing. This church has the potential of fulfilling its dream of “passion for God and compassion for people.”
While our investigation is not complete, I can report that we have found a few staff members struggling with unrelated sin issues. Each such person has been confronted and has submitted to discipline. Based upon what we presently know, we believe that the general culture of this church today is Christ-centered and holy. This process has taken huge amounts of our time to interview, gather facts, and track down rumors. It is not finished. To our relief, we are finding no culture of immorality among the staff here as we might have initially expected.
We, the Overseers, have committed ourselves to serve this church for the rest of the year of 2007. In that time, we will serve in an expanded role appointed by the Trustees as a spiritual “presbytery,” or a spiritual covering, to give the final word on all spiritual decisions and provide other guidance until a new pastor is confirmed by you as the congregation. On that day, our work will be through. In the meantime, we will work very closely with the executive pastoral team. They have all displayed outstanding character, responsibility and faithfulness. The Interim Pastor will consult with us on the day to day operations, which he will continue to oversee.
The purpose of this continuing role for the Overseers is to provide additional outside stability. The senior pastoral staff has welcomed this development. It will allow adequate time, without pressure, for the Pastoral Selection Committee to consider potential candidates, both inside and outside the church, for the role of Senior Pastor.
We have also recommended Pastor Chris Hodges to be the fifth member of the Board of Overseers.
Joshua said, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord…” (Josh. 24: 15). As we prepare ourselves for the Easter season, we all have a choice today: Will we live as captives of the past, the grave and sin, or will we shake ourselves, cleanse ourselves, and rise up to be a powerful new Body? The world, the nation, this community, and your families are watching how you respond to crisis: with courage and faithfulness or with cynicism and retreat. To this point, we have seen amazing evidence of the grace of God upon the wonderful family called “
Pray fervently for the staff, as change, restructuring, and reorganization are inevitable. Like any army that suffers a setback, they re-focus, retool, and rebound. The Overseers will continue their work with the staff to do long-term master planning, speak in chapels to minister to and pastor the staff, and conduct final interviews to discover any sin that may be present. The Pastoral Selection committee will carefully work through all candidates both within and outside the Body of New Life until the Holy Spirit gives everyone the witness that the new leader has been found.
When God judged the world in the time of Noah, Noah’s family entered the
Join us in making 2007 a “Year of Faithfulness.” We will make it to the other side and Jesus will be exalted at
The Overseers of New