A Letter to Ted Haggard – Part 2

My open letter to Ted Haggard is in response to his public letter of apology and forgiveness shared with his church on Sunday, November 5, 2006. This is part two.

You talk in your letter about a part of your life “that is so repulsive and dark” that you have been “warring against it” all of your adult life. You go on to mention that at times you would “find victory” and yet occasionally you would find yourself “thinking thoughts and experiencing desires that were contrary” to the things you believe and teach.

I can only glean from this and your current situation that this “dark” part of your life is your struggle with your sexual orientation. You write that you have sought assistance through the years but found this to be ineffective. You talk about deceiving and hiding it from others so as not to hurt or disappoint them.

Then you write this, “The public person I was wasn’t a lie; it was just incomplete.”

In that statement alone, you have crystalized the feelings of many people within the gay, lesbian, and bisexual community as they dialogue about their sexual orientation. From what I have read and my own personal experiences of people working through their sexual orientation, it is an evolutionary struggle with many phases of discovery and it may take years to truly understand oneself in this very personal and intimate area of ones life.

Your wife Gayle has no doubt known about your desire for intimacy with men for years. That would be my guess. No one shares a life with someone for over 25 years and has these desires or passions go unnoticed. It is my belief that she most likely struggled alongside of you in this, encouraged you, tried to understand your struggle, wanted the best for you and hoped against hope that one day you would be “complete” with her. But as you have written, that is not possible.

Ted and Gayle: The marriage you share is over as you knew it. You will both be moving on to a new chapter in the process of Ted’s self-discovery. It is one that will be filled with pain at times, but if embraced rather than resisted it will lead to an unprecedented level of intimacy and deep bonding between the two of you as the life-long partners that you have pledged to be with one another. Your marriage does not have to be over, but it will forever be redefined. Yet, the new definition will hopefully be built on a level of honesty that other marriages can only envy.

In many ways I am sorry for you and your family that you must go through this in such a public way, but as you say, you are the one that created this entire situation. In fighting your “repulsive and dark” side, you chose to do what many pastors and people in power do – you made it a crusade to eradicate the darkness with the hopes of in doing so, you might be able to conquer your own demons. You are not alone. Many pastors “crusade” against the things they struggle with most. I am of the opinion if we want to know what our pastors wrestle with most in their private lives, take note on what they preach against most often.

I find the statement “The public person I was wasn’t a lie; it was just incomplete” very compelling and empowering. I can certainly relate to this as a person, and most importantly as a former pastor. As pastors, we often feel compelled to lead exemplary lives. We want the public self to be something that others can look at as the power of God transforming a life into holiness. We try to convince others that who they see on Sunday or any other day of the week is exactly the same person they would see if they were to follow us around for 24 hours a day. Somehow we think that this instills confidence and strength in those that look to us for guidance and leadership.

You thought that if people knew who you really were, if they knew of your struggle with your sexual orientation that they would reject you. You believed that those in your church could not handle you as their leader if you revealed to them how “incomplete” you really felt by not being totally honest with them at all times with all of your struggles, not just your sexual ones. So instead of being honest about who you were, you went into hiding. You concealed the parts you thought others would reject and this eventually drove you to commit acts that were unhealthy and irresponsible.

You felt that people cannot handle the ugliness and “darkness” of their pastor’s life. And sadly you were right. And that must change if the church is going to change and be truly revolutionary. We must begin to let our pastors know that they are off the hook. We should inform them that we do not expect our church leaders to be a “perfect” icon for us to emulate or the measuring stick for our “goodness”. In fact, what we should hope is that our pastors and their families are just like us. We should expect that they are incomplete.

End of Part Two

17 thoughts on “A Letter to Ted Haggard – Part 2”

  1. I, for one would love to know what the comments said. I mean if you’re attacking somebody personally, you yourself have declared for all to see that you have nothing useful to contribute to the discussion. Such people are easily ignored. Plus, who cares what somebody on the net thinks of you? He or she doesn’t know you aside from what you type. Most likely they are so far off the mark about you as a person, that the best thing to do is either ignore them or laugh your ass off at them. Nothing makes people madder then when you just laugh in their face at their outrage about something you’ve said. I used to mod a Christian forum, I’ve seen this tactic work, because I’ve used it.

  2. Yes I did delete some comments recently on the Ted Haggard – Part One post. But I put them back towards the bottom with comments. No we don’t take money.

  3. “I love what this site used to be.”I wasn’t aware this site had changed. I used to post alot here about a year ago, but when I became a mod at About.com I stopped posting here cuz I just didn’t have the time anymore. “It helped me change my entire view of my church-life.”In some ways, it did that for me too. But I never left the church officially, like many here have. “But I cringe at what this site has become… a moderated forum where anyone who speaks their mind usually gets censored.”This is the first time I’ve seen posts removed by Steve. How many times before have you seen this happen?“I encourage everyone to go back to the first year of posts here and you’ll agree that the fights were strong, the humor was irreverent, and the message was clear.”Ah, the good old days. But isn’t that attitude what eventually led Steve and Josh to shut down all comments on here for a while? You gotta admit after awhile that behavior does get old, and you find yourself saying “who gives a flying f*ck anymore! What’s the f*ckin’ point of it all?”“I don’t know what the hell this is.”It’s either an evolution of a comment section or a de-evolution of a comment section. Probably depends on your point of view.

  4. I think I came at a bad time, anyways… I love the fact that Haggard ,and most everyone in these types of situations, teach and preach a certain set of beliefs, yet ignore them in thier own lives. It reminds me of a few cops I know. Here’s my problem, if I say I believe something and I honestly believe it, then I will follow that belief. Does that mean I will never have difficulties or temptations, or even fall into something? NO, but to live a life contrary to what I say I believe, and do that for years while maintaning another image, is the epitomy of hypocrisy. I myself am a youth pastor, I am in no way perfect (I’m barely good), but I know what I believe, and I live what I believe. I don’t pretend to be what I am not. I think the best way to reach people is for them to see that you are a person just like them, the only difference is you are striving to live what you believe. The world wants church leaders to be perfect, guess what, there is only one God and I ain’t Him. I think it’s funny how the Bible talks about sexual immorality and it says “if your eye offend you pluck it out…” “if your hand offend you, cut it off…”I think God gives us a chance to make these decisions on our own, I have seen church members do just that. They fell into sexual immorality, and before they allowed it to defeat them, they came before the God and the church and confessed and asked for help, I respect those people. But, I also think there is a point in which God will step in and say enough is enough. I think this is one of those situations. I feel sorry for haggards family, but more than that, I feel sorry for all the people who will look at this situation as a reason for not seeking God. I hope I was not to preachy, I get that way sometimes….

  5. Now that I read the comments that were deleted, I dont see why everyone freaked out (me included). Though its awesome that you put them back. If people want to make fools of themselves here, I am glad to see they still can.Hey I am glad to hear you dont take money. I wasnt sure if the comment about the tithe was serious or not. Guess I got a lot to learn.God Bless all of You.and if you really want to get pissed, check out my blog http://truthfordummies.blogspot.com

  6. Hi Steve: I am one who lurks in the darkness mostly reading. But I like this space. And admire the compassion you showed Mr Haggard. But then we all have our places of pretending – therefore we can empathise. I hope he finds it possible to stay honest – and not be sucked back into the religious bullshit he so easilt espoused.

  7. Steve,I heard on a show that you guys NEVER delete comments. Did you or did you not delete one? I am not gonna bash you, but I am confused by the quagmire here. What is your policy on comments?Do you guys take money now? Has SCP sold out to the man? I hope not. You guys ROCK. At least, I think you do.later

  8. LOL.As a former pastor myself I am down with pretty much everything you have said thus far. I wish I could say that sort of transperency is possible from leadership with laity, but even Paul talks about the “weaker” brother and it is his weakness of faith that disables him in accepting the pastor or anyone in leadership as called, yet also a viable sinner. But there is hope. There are those who are mature and can not only handle transperency but also can at the same time beleive in the callings of other flawed men and women. For myelf, had I had two people mature enough to simply listen and pray with me (and not try to fix me immediately) I might well still be pastoring. I like your blog.

  9. Shieldsy: “For me the pressure is almost double … being in a position of working with kids … even more important to be seen to be lilly white.”I can totally relate to that. I was a youth volunteer in my former church and the one thing that was always foremost in my mind was “don’t do or say anything to anybody (a kid) that could be misconstrued and used as ammunition against you in a case of wrong doing.” This was always my goal, and in a way kept me from really connecting with any one kid in the program. I still talk with a couple of kids I became friends with on the http://www.teenmania.com website from my time as a youth volunteer and I wonder if it is okay to keep the internet friendship going. I’m not a youth worker anymore and I don’t attend that church anymore, but we all know of the Dateline stories where grown men talk to teenagers on the internet. I wonder from time to time, could I end up on Dateline simply because I talk to a couple of teens about their problems in all areas of life, including their growing sexual attraction to each other. You see I encouraged them to pursue the budding romance they had going with each other and they have just celebrated their six month anniversary. Could that get me into trouble? That’s why I said “ya know this week it’s Ted Haggard. Next week it could be me.”

  10. Thanks for these responses Steve. I guess I – like 1,000’s of others in professional “christian leadership” – must take a sharp intake of breath when we hear news like Mr Haggard’s, and we watch and wait to see how things pan out. Coz even the most sanctimonious of us has got a dirty little secret of some sort or other.For me the pressure is almost double … being in a position of working with kids … even more important to be seen to be lilly white.I like your comments – honest and insightful. Don’t know much about Mr Haggard but there was a very similar case played out in the UK a few years back – prominent evangelical preacher/leader, big on the conference scene. Always find reading some of the stuff on his website quite interesting http://www.royclements.co.uk

  11. <>“you’ve forgotten how fun and tongue-in-cheek this site used to be”<> – señor jefe When they’re telling you <>“It’s not like the old days any more”<>, you know you’ve made it as the Pastor of a ‘transitioning church’ Steve! Next they’ll be complaining that the typing is TOO LOUD, and how the new ones don’t show the old-timers the respect we deserve.Reminds me of the church business meeting we had September 11th 2001. Instead of refelecting and praying for the catastrophic events that were unfolding we spent 90mins arguing about the time of the services! Let’s not talk about Ted Haggard, let’s get upset coz “me & my brother don’t like the way things are any more”!Thanks for keeping an open community Steve, unlike those who run there blogs in the same manner as the churches they criticise … i.e. if your face or opinions don’t fit then you aint welcome here.

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