Stop Homophobia


Editorial 34 - November 2006 - Lessons from Ted Haggard

Ted Haggard was the pastor of the Colorado Springs, Colorado mega church, New Life Church. The New Life Church has 14,000 members. Ted Haggard was dismissed as pastor, because he was involved in “sexually immoral conduct.” According to news reports, Ted Haggard was accused of having visited a male prostitute for for several years. There are also accusations that Ted Haggard was using drugs. The male prostitute evidently was frustrated with Haggard's public opposition to same-sex marriage.

Ted Haggard resigned from his position as the President of the National Association of Evangelicals and was in Haggard's own words was "appropriate and lovingly removed from ministry" by the New Life Church. Church discipline has been known to have all of the politeness and gentleness of a police interrogation for a serious crime. Given the fact that Haggard initially denied knowing the male prostitute, the words "lovingly removed" do not sound correct. In fact, they sound to me to be as factual as his initial denials. I suspect Haggard's removal from the pulpit was very confrontational and unpleasant.

Ted Haggard's letter to the church can be found on the New Life Church web site. "Our church's overseers have required me to submit to the oversight of Dr. James Dobson, Pastor Jack Hayford, and Pastor Tony 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."

Haggard's opposition to same-sex marriage, followed by the revelation that he was seeing a male prostitute, may be proof positive for many gay people that those who protest against homosexuality very much are gay. Many gay and straight supporters of gay rights and gay marriage are rejoicing that an opponent is no longer in a position of influence.

So the political and religious podiums of the land have one fewer homophobes denouncing gay human rights and same-gender marriages. That fact alone is enough reason for many people to celebrate. People find it difficult to forgive Haggard when it is likely a gay person in Haggard's congregation would not have found love or acceptance.

Ted Haggard's life can teach Christians a lot. Some of the things his life can teach Christians are as follows:

  • The pastor in your pulpit could be gay or bisexual.

  • Gay and bisexual people can serve God just as effectively as the very best straight pastors. New Life Church had a pastor who is probably gay or bisexual for years. And he was a very good pastor. By almost every way you can measure pastoral success, Ted Haggard was one of the most successful pastors in American history. He was able to build a mega church. People were obviously blessed by his ministry or his church would not have grown into a large mega church. Haggard is proof that gay people can serve God. Not only can gay people serve God, they can serve God at very high levels.

  • We can forgive our enemies. The people at Soulforce, a gay Christian activist group, are demonstrating what Christian forgiveness is. They are collecting prayers and letters of support that will be sent to Ted Haggard. This needs to be put in context. The people at Soulforce are trying to extend support and compassion to a man who lead a campaign against basic gay rights, the right to be married. Soulforce is showing true forgiveness. And here is an irony. Those who claim to be good Christians, the evangelicals and fundamentalists, seem to have problems forgiving liberals and gay people for imaged sins, but gay Christians can forgive a powerful enemy.