Friday, November 03, 2006

The Bigger They Are...















I am well aware that as I write, this entire affair is less than 24 hours old, continuing to unfold and no where near all the facts are out. But I felt the need to get some thoughts out on (cyber)paper nevertheless.

For those of you who are not already aware, Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals and the pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, one of the largest and most influential mega-churches in the country has been accused of having a homosexual and drug-ladan affair with a Denver man. This man has come forward with certain proofs which seem to corroborate his story and New Life Church, from which Ted has resigned just this morning, sent an e-mail confirming that at least part of the allegations are true though they did not specify which ones. Haggard has already resigned his post from the NAE.

As a longtime resident of Colorado Springs before my move to New York, and the husband of a wife who grew up at New Life, attending since it was only a handful of people (the church is now anywhere from 11,000 to 14,000 people), I am shocked and bewildered.That I have met Ted, been to the church, know so many people who attend there and grew up with New Life as a cultural icon in the city, makes this all the more of a blow.

For those who say this is just a political stunt, I would agree. So would Ted's accuser. He's said as much. When he learned of Ted's identity and what he stood for in his public life and how he lived in his private life, he said he wanted it exposed. Repugnant? Perhaps. But not wholly unreasonable. After all, you may despise the message or even the way the message is delivered, but if it is the truth, all opposition, all political hand-wringing, all partisan attacks, in my opinion, must cease.

When I revealed this information to someone (a Christian) very close to me this morning, he laughed out loud, saying, "Well, only someone on drugs could think a church that looked like that would make God happy. I'm not happy at his problems, I'm just happy that the cracks in the evangelical mind set and system are starting to show up faster than people can plaster them over."

I have to admit, a part of me that wants to laugh out loud too, wag an accusatory finger and say, "Ha, see, I told you so. Hypocrites. I knew your time would come. Gotcha!"

This is a part of myself that I really don't like. A part of myself that I am embarrassed by. A part of myself that I know full well is sin.

Those who've read between the lines of many of my posts on this site probably realize that I don't think all that much of New Life Church or Ted Haggard. They both practice a Christianity I find both frightening and theologically troublesome.

And yet I never wanted this. This is terrible. It's a lose/lose situation for everyone and will bring nothing but confusion and disillusionment and anger in its wake. How does a community--both the local congregation and evangelicalism as a whole--even begin to process something like this?

I have to say that I feel horrible for Ted as well. Yes, it appears there is massive hypocrisy here and I'm not saying that the definition of hypocrisy is something lost on me, and yet, in my experience, those things we most rail against are those things with which we battle the most ourselves. It is as if in decrying it, we are desperately trying to preach not so much to others, but ourselves. I cannot imagine what Ted and his family are going through. Even if it turns out that he is guilty of every charge (which inexplicably would not surprise me) I still feel agony for him and those closest to him--just because he is complicate doesn't make the outing any less painful.

This is a perfect example of our shared, fallen, sinful humanity and while Ted and many in the charismatic, evangelical fold might like to stand up and preach on Sunday mornings that a true, spirit-filled Christian would never ever be a part of something like this, Ted, like other great men before him (King David anyone?) proves our lives are never as simple, never as black and white as modern Christianity likes to make them out to be.

I really hope the church wakes up and learns from this experience, to acknowledge that it has made homosexuality its pet sin, and that no growth can be made either outside or inside the church so long as it places abnormal and vitriolic emphasis on this sin above most all others.

If this accusation is true, where does Ted go...what does he do? I don't mean vocationally, I mean in terms of repentance, forgiveness, restitution. (Aside from God, of course.) With the evangelical church breathing judgmental fire on this issue (including Ted himself) will he feel comfortable enough to return to its fold and will they have him back? I hope so. If they truly believe the words of Christ, they must.

I said earlier that nothing good can come of this. But as I wrap up my thoughts, I'm not sure that is entirely true. The church has a fantastic opportunity here to be Christ, to live Christ, and to realign its misguided focus from the political sphere to the spiritual sphere. It can start--assuming all this is true--by immediately embracing Ted Haggard in love and forgiveness and then do the same to the homosexual community it has thus far done such a competent job of alienating and despising.

20 Comments:

Anonymous Andy said...

Brandon, a very good piece. I am reminded of Ezekial, when calling Jerusalem Sodom, lists the sins of Sodom. And homosexuality was one of the, if not the, last sin God mentioned. As I recall, at the top of the list was overfed and unconcerned. I hope that we, no, I hope that I can be more like Christ.
I also hope that we do reach out to all communities, the homosexual one as well. I would only state this, that in this reaching out there should be both love and truth. Love for people made in God's image, and the truth that the homosexual lifestyle is a sinful one. Of course, so is my sometimes proud, overfed and lacking in concern one too.

1:02 PM  
Anonymous Calvin said...

Brandon, as always, I appreciate your bold sensitivity. I walk among the various traditions of people who follow Jesus and the stream that Pastor Ted follows is just one of many.

I have called together an ongoing felowship of pastors to pray for Pastor Ted and New Life Church at our regular meeting next Wednesday morning here in Colorado Springs. We will also pray for Mike Jones.

Whatever Pastor Ted did or didn't do, he is a brother in Christ. I seek the truth as I would with any brother or siter. I would do the same even for someone who is not a professing Christian.

This situation is a reminder to me that I must remain humble in all things and above all to love all as the Father loves. This is where we find grace.

Thank you for this posting.

2:57 PM  
Anonymous Beth said...

Brandon,
Great thoughts. I admit that before I knew the full details of this man of God caught I laughed, knowing that this was coming at some point. But when I heard the severity of the accusations my heart became sick for Ted, Gayle, and the kids. God had me up praying for this man at 2 am and today I am consumed with prayer for him. God has me focused on praying specifically for Ted while another friend, who lives in Ohio, feels God is burdening her to pray for the congregation of New Life Church. The bigger they are...
Oh let us pray for repentance, not just Ted Haggard's but our own.

3:57 PM  
Blogger Brandon Fibbs said...

Haggard has now admitted to buying the meth, though said he threw it away having never used it. Could be true. Could also be the equivalent of "didn't inhale."

He also said that he never had sex with his accuser but did go over to his house for massages...

4:42 PM  
Anonymous Eric D. said...

We rail. We judge. We castigate. It is what we do best as a church these days. We spend all our time pointing out other peoples sin, while forgetting to point people to Christ then the sin will take care of itself. But like the Apostle Paul, there will always be a thorn in our side. It is what makes a flawed creation.

Many in the church today have forgotten that, and would rather sit and pass judgment on other flawed creatures. I find it ironic, as do you, that one of the main issues in christianity today is an unhealthy obsession with an almost frightening hatred of homosexuals. I'm not even talking about those idiot "God Hates Fags" folks. I'm talking about the every day church goer who deep down thinks GAYS are going to hell because after all their sin above all else is an abomination.

Funny how Galations 5:19&20 lists those vices that we must not live by before Paul lists the virtures in v22,23. The first vices are sexual immorality, impurity, and debauchery which we can lump homosexuality in, but we also know the church today is plagued with divorce, adultry, etc. Idolatry is next. How many believers placed Ted Haggard on pedistal?

How much of the following which is discussed in Galatians goes on in the church today while we judge homosexuals and other sinners in the world? Hatred, discord, jealousy, anger, selfish ambition, dissension, arrogance, envy, drunkenness, wild living, etc.

Yet here we are with all of that, we have reached a silly little paradox with Ted Haggard. I asked a nice little charismatic lady (my mother) last night on the phone IF it's all true -- is Ted Haggard still a Christian? Is he going to hell? Her answer after a brief silence was of course he's a Christian; of course he's not going to hell. She had to really think about that because she's been taught differently. Then, mother, what about the other gays who believe in their heart that Christ is Lord -- yet continue to live in sin or what if a homosexual accepts Christ yet still battles those desires and gives in on occasion? Silence.

My mother is a sweet, wonderful woman. But this posed a delima for her, one that I think will also begin to confuse the church: ONE OF US.

Brandon makes a brilliant point: a great "good" can come from this. This horrible controversy can be used by all believers in the church who battle with their own private sins to use this oppurtunity to finally begin pointing the way to Christ and let the Holy Spirit be concerned with other peoples sins.


"You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your own brother? For we will all stand before God's judgment seat. It is written: 'As surely as I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.' So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another." - Romans 14:10-12

5:17 PM  
Anonymous Deborah said...

Brandon,

Thanks for putting into words some of the things I haven't been able to put to words myself. I agree wholeheartedly with Calvin's comments about our response, both outwardly and inwardly. I will say it is a painful day here...I am praying for Pastor Ted and for New Life as a whole. God help us all!

5:33 PM  
Anonymous Andy said...

To Eric,
I am a bit unsure of what you are saying here.

"Then, mother, what about the other gays who believe in their heart that Christ is Lord -- yet continue to live in sin or what if a homosexual accepts Christ yet still battles those desires and gives in on occasion? Silence."

Are these 2 examples of the same thing, or 2 different examples? The 2nd example we all have and do experience in whatever sins we are easily lured to. But the 1st example seems to be a different thing, depending on the heart of the one involved. I mean, if someone is living in a sinful lifestyle, but still "believes in the Lord", I think that they are in a precarious position indeed. Or are you implying that this is an acceptable christian way to live?

5:48 PM  
Anonymous Vic said...

I say, pure and simple HIPOCRISY!!
They all need to hear what they preach. Maybe spend more time wondering what is going on in your own house and stop condemming other's. Let God judge them when their the time comes. I believe he is guilty, but SO WHAT!!! Just come out and tell us you are sorry an say you are human. Ask for forgiveness, Isn't that what christian's do? Then SHUT UP... I know for a fact that a lot of the New Life Church goer's are practicing gay men who hide behind the church. Just look at most of the men who attend this HUGE ugly building in the out skirts of Colorado Springs. They all look gay and act gay. I have seen a lot of these men in coffee shops praying holding hands in the city, you can only tell they are gay, and hiding behind the New Life name. They give religion a bad name. It is a sign of the times

9:28 PM  
Blogger Brandon Fibbs said...

The Rev. Ted Haggard is pastor no more. The board overseeing New Life Church forced him out late Saturday, citing beyond a shadow of a doubt, "sexually immoral conduct."

7:30 PM  
Anonymous Daria said...

Brandon, this is an admirable post.
Andy, I really appreciate your opening comment....our country is reeking with "overfed and unconcerned." : (
This horrifying tragedy has reminded me that I do not pray enough for the pastors I know.
: ( : (

There is something terribly sick in the Church, to have something like this--such a deep, repugnant disconnect between the public and the private person--arise. I feel we must ask ourselves "why" and "how" this kind of thing happened to try to find a way into health. How are congregants and pastors interacting with and viewing each other? to whom does the pastor go for support? does the pastor's spouse have good support? to whom can they go to be held accountable, to be challenged, to be prayed for? what is the pastor's understanding of "sin"? the congregants'? what kind of training did the pastor have? what kind of unresolved issues does the pastor wrestle with--and what is s/he doing about those issues/what is their view on getting help? and, why are they in the ministry of pastorship? what does that role mean to them? etc....

5:54 AM  
Blogger Brandon Fibbs said...

The following letter from Ted Haggard, former senior pastor of New Life Church, was read to the congregation this morning at the 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. services:

To my New Life Church family:

I am so sorry. I am sorry for the disappointment, the betrayal, and the hurt. I am sorry for the horrible example I have set for you.

I have an overwhelming, all-consuming sadness in my heart for the pain that you and I and my family have experienced over the past few days. I am so sorry for the circumstances that have caused shame and embarrassment to all of you.

I asked that this note be read to you this morning so I could clarify my heart's condition to you. The last four days have been so difficult for me, my family and all of you, and I have further confused the situation with some of the things I've said during interviews with reporters who would catch me coming or going from my home. But I alone am responsible for the confusion caused by my inconsistent statements. The fact is, I am guilty of sexual immorality, and I take responsibility for the entire problem.

I am a deceiver and a liar. There is a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I've been warring against it all of my adult life.

For extended periods of time, I would enjoy victory and rejoice in freedom. Then, from time to time, the dirt that I thought was gone would resurface, and I would find myself thinking thoughts and experiencing desires that were contrary to everything I believe and teach.

Through the years, I've sought assistance in a variety of ways, with none of them proving to be effective in me. Then, because of pride, I began deceiving those I love the most because I didn't want to hurt or disappoint them.

The public person I was wasn't a lie; it was just incomplete. When I stopped communicating about my problems, the darkness increased and finally dominated me. As a result, I did things that were contrary to everything I believe.

The accusations that have been leveled against me are not all true, but enough of them are true that I have been appropriately and lovingly removed from ministry. Our church's overseers have required me to submit to the oversight of Dr. James Dobson, Pastor Jack Hayford, and Pastor Tommy Barnett. Those men will perform a thorough analysis of my mental, spiritual, emotional, and physical life. They will guide me through a program with the goal of healing and restoration for my life, my marriage, and my family.

I created this entire situation. The things that I did opened the door for additional allegations . But I am responsible; I alone need to be disciplined and corrected. An example must be set.

It is important that you know how much I love and appreciate my wife, Gayle. What I did should never reflect in a negative way on her relationship with me. She has been and continues to be incredible. The problem is not with her, my children or any of you. It was created 100 percent by me.

I have been permanently removed from the office of Senior Pastor of New Life Church. Until a new senior pastor is chosen, our Associate Senior Pastor Ross Parsley will assume all of the the responsibilities of the office. On the day he accepted this new role, he and his wife, Aimee, had a new baby boy. A new life in the midst of this circumstance - I consider the confluence of events to be prophetic. Please commit to join with Pastor Ross and the others in church leadership to make their service to you easy and without burden. They are fine leaders. You are blessed.

I appreciate your loving and forgiving nature, and I humbly ask you to do a few things.

1.) Please stay faithful to God through service and giving.

2.) Please forgive me. I am so embarrassed and ashamed. I caused this and I have no excuse. I am a sinner. I have fallen. I desperately need to be forgiven and healed.

3.) Please forgive my accuser. He is revealing the deception and sensuality that was in my life. Those sins, and others, need to be dealt with harshly. So, forgive him and, actually, thank God for him. I am trusting that his action will make me, my wife and family, and ultimately all of you, stronger. He didn't violate you; I did.

4.) Please stay faithful to each other. Perform your functions well. Encourage each other and rejoice in God's faithfulness. Our church body is a beautiful body, and like every family, our strength is tested and proven in the midst of adversity. Because of the negative publicity I've created with my foolishness, we can now demonstrate to the world how our sick and wounded can be healed, and how even disappointed and betrayed church bodies can prosper and rejoice.

Gayle and I need to be gone for a while. We will never return to a leadership role at New Life Church. In our hearts, we will always be members of this body. We love you as our family. I know this situation will put you to the test. I'm sorry I've created the test, but please rise to this challenge and demonstate the incredible grace that is available to all of us.

Ted Haggard

3:57 PM  
Anonymous Jason said...

I've known Ted Haggard for 20 years. I went on a mission trip with him. Heck, I borrowed his car my junior year of High School for prom.

I was disappointed in this news. Depression, concern, compassion, betrayal -- all emotions I experienced.

While I have quite a different world view than New Life Church and Ted Haggard, I still respect what they have done. I also recall one of the many great messages that Ted delivered on a consistent basis. One that has been embedded in my life from my early years came from a trip to Mexico with Ted. He told me that there is no such thing as a secret. Your sins will ALWAYS be exposed. This message rings very true to me today.

While I think I've probably gotten away with a few (I am so glad that God's grace is sufficient) I am reminded to examine my life and make sure that I haven't left anything uncovered.

I will pray for Ted, his family, and New Life Church. I have spoken with many friends from local churches and have been very pleased (and surprised) that the overwhelming reaction has been to pray for them, examine our own lives, and to be very wary about secrets in our lives.

12:00 AM  
Anonymous Beth said...

In response to Daria's questions. Part of the problem - although not the excuse for Ted's sin or any pastors sin (lest we be mistaken and believe that our very own pastors do not struggle with sin issues themselves)- IS that all to often a pastor and his wife are not held accountable, they are unable to form accountable relationships. Either people want to be friends with them for "status" or for "the dirt." These people then tend to breed within our pastors a distrust of people. Take a good look at your own pastor, who are his good friends? Does he have any? Take a good look at your pastor's wife - yes she may be surrounded by women but are any of them ones with whom she can be real? Perhaps if there was a willingness on their part to take a risk and be real with some people and perhaps if there was a willingness on our part to not place them on pedestals then we could all begin to be a little more real together.
There is this idea in the American church today that pastors are so much more spiritual than the average congregation member - FALSE. God does not look at one over another - he just simply calls us to different things.
If anything this should present us with the realization that we all need to be praying for our pastors a little more. They hold a great responsibilty in the calling that God placed over them.

2:46 PM  
Blogger Robin said...

Now for a different point of view.

This is the sort of situation which makes me LOATHE the New Life Church and all those within it that think that should have ANY say on how any of the rest of us should live our lives.

The Marriage Amendment to the Colorado Constitution passed yesterday. Sadly. Does Haggard and his ilk (and I do believe they are legion) need to lead the fight against anyone "different" because he is so afraid of "slipping" into that difference? That's HIS battle. He has NO RIGHT to make it anyone else's battle.

I think this goes so far beyond hypocrisy that it's incredible. It would be mere hypocrisy if Haggard were just a Pastor of any church telling his congregants how to lead their lives. But this man with his close association with George Bush, the Colorado Springs City Council, and unknown other political movers and shakers, has made his PERSONAL FEAR of his homosexuality, a club with which to scare the entire population of this country, and to limit the right and discriminate against a possible 10% of the population.

And, even if you agree with him (and you are WRONG if you do!) then think on this:

This year, the gays have been boxed in; told they are less than equal; less than "human;" that they cannot ever be "one of 'us'" (whomever "us" happens to be this decade.)

Who will be next? The retarded? The physically disabled? The Jews? Sound familiar anyone?

Ted Haggard is so far from getting what he "deserves." I do pity his wife. She has been deceived and betrayed more than anyone. She needs and deserves your prayers. Ted deserves to be hung out to dry, just like all his followers have attempted to (and too far succeeded) in hanging out to dry those who are "different."

6:07 PM  
Anonymous Eric D. said...

So ironic....

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d4e42GDb2Zw

10:02 PM  
Blogger Jon Fibbs said...

A charismatic and beloved leader of many disgraced when his personal demons are exposed to the light of public scrutiny. He attempts to obfuscate the situation through semantic games and out-right lies. I am of course refering to Bill Clinton.

I'm not here to defend 'ol Slick Willy mind you, just point out the irony of the situation. How many evangelical pastors counseled their parishioners to pray for our beligured former president when the class five hurrican that was Monica his the White House I wonder? How many Christians gave him the benifit of the doubt until all the facts were in?

I mean, come on! Willy was (and still very much is) a politician for cryin' out loud! We expect them to lie to us! He wouldn't be a politician if he didn't! It's in their job description (not to mention DNA)!

I'm not trying to beat a dead horse or even pass judgement, quite the opposite really. I'm just wish to pose a little satirical quandry to people in the hopes that they might actually sit down and think and reflect on thier own lives just a little bit.

Stones anyone? Anybody want to toss one? I know I don't.

Signed,

Someone (a Christian), very close to Brandon (I do appreciate the gesture though Brandon)

3:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I only feel for TED FAGGARD's wife.

11:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

http://www.bonzermedia.com/misc/newestLife.jpg

5:40 PM  
Anonymous Nate said...

That church looks fabulous.

1:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

LOL..........

2:30 PM  

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