I haven’t really talked about Ted Haggard, who lost his position as pastor because of a series of homosexual encounters that he had. There’s a reason for that: By and large, I don’t really harp on pastors in the news because of their personal peccadilloes, sexual or otherwise. When they have personal failings in their lives, that isn’t on my radar that much. Reading up on their exploits and travails doesn’t sit well with me and doesn’t interest me, just as the latest celebrity sex scandal really doesn’t light my fire either.
Personally, the time for me to rag on a pastor who’s in the spotlight (or even not in the spotlight) is when I see him leading his flock astray with wrongheaded attitudes or unsound doctrine or skewed spirituality or somesuch.
So, why am I mentioning Haggard now?
No reason, except that I don’t have a better topic in mind, I don’t think most of my readers want another installment of my novel posted again so soon, and because Chez over at Deus Ex Malcontent posted about Haggard recently, so he’s on my mind a little.
People have said a lot about Haggard, and I’m not going to go into a detailed recounting here. You have links above you can click on, so if you don’t already know, find out from folks who’ve followed this more closely.
What I want to address is the notion that he was done wrong by his former congregation. It’s not a simple “yes” or “no,” though, because it depends on what you’re asking.
Was it wrong that he was pretty much forced to leave the position of pastor because of the scandal? No.
On that count, I totally agree that he should have stepped down or been removed had he refused to. In fact, I would say that he should have stepped down long before his same-sex activities came to light publicly. I don’t say that because I have anything against homosexuals. Some of my best friends are, or have been, gay. Or lesbian. The point is that that sexual lifestyle is at odds with the doctrine of that church. If he is going to regularly have gay sex, and he wants to be a pastor, he needs to be the pastor of a church where gay sex is accepted. Someplace where the doctrine says that loving homosexual relationships aren’t really what the Bible decries, and that God meant something else in the Bible.
I mean, if the man was an active alcoholic, that should also disqualify him from pastoring, as the Bible is clear that a pastor shouldn’t be prone to abusing drink. An adulterous pastor also has no business at the pulpit. Most Christian churches hold to certain doctrine, and if the congregation is operating from a standpoint that certain core things are very wrong, a pastor who does those things as a matter of course should be getting gone.
He’s welcome to start his own congregation somewhere else, as long as he’s open about who he is and the congregation is cool with that.
Now, I’m not saying that you kick a pastor out because he slips up and has one brief affair or one-night stand. Or even if he is found to have once or twice gotten a blowjob from a transsexual hooker or something. A fleeting or short-term sinful failing is something that a congregation should be willing to help the pastor work with and overcome.
A long-term or lifelong tendency to do that act that is counter to the church’s doctrine over and over again is something else entirely.
Now, as to the shunning he apparently got by his friends and former congregants. How do I feel about that? It was totally shitty. And wrong.
If there is someone in the church, whether pastor or not, whom we claimed to have loved as a fellow Christian, and we drop them like a hot pan in our bare hands because they do something wrong, we are not being Christ-like. We are not doing right by that person. We should still love that person, and try to understand and help that person, in whatever way we can most effectively do so.
That may simply be support. It may be patience. It may be acceptance.
The bottom line is that we shouldn’t hang our people out to dry because they’ve done wrong or made a spectacle of themselves. By all accounts I’ve heard, Ted Haggard got treated wrong on a personal basis.
He should have been removed from the pulpit, but he should have been embraced by his chruch thereafter.
End of story.