Friday, January 6, 2012

Ted Haggard refuses to stay out of the limelight

Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money...
...He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.
I Timothy 3:2-3, 7 (NIV)

It speaks volumes about the state of American evangelicalism that not many years ago the National Association of Evangelicals chose infamous Colorado Springs megachurch goatherd Ted FHaggard to be their leader. Now, appropriately, he's back as a star on a television program called Celebrity Wife Swap. As reported by Jeff Schapiro of the Christian Post, January 1, 2012:

Ted Haggard, the former head of the National Association of Evangelicals who resigned five years ago following a gay sex scandal, will be featured in Tuesday's ABC premier of “Celebrity Wife Swap.” Haggard told The Christian Post that he hopes the show will “communicate hope” and show the world that his family has “resurrected” from its dark past.

“I don't think there's anybody that I know of that more reflects the resurrection of Christ than I do right now,” Haggard said. “After what we've been through, the way Christ has healed us and restored us and built our family and blessed us, it's a wonderful story of resurrection and encouragement and God's faithfulness and the faithfulness of the Scriptures and the church."

In addition to the NAE, Haggard resigned from his position at New Life Church in Colorado Springs, a megachurch he and his wife, Gayle, founded, after a male prostitute accused Haggard of paying him for sex over a three year period. Haggard was also accused of using illegal drugs during his meetings with the prostitute.

Since the scandal, Haggard has been open to the public about his fall from grace and says he has come out of it a changed and better man. His relationship with his wife of more than 30 years is also now stronger than ever, he has said.

“Celebrity Wife Swap” paired up Haggard for one week with Steffanie Sampson, the fiancee of Academy Award-nominated actor Gary Busey, while Gayle spent the week with Busey.

The two couples make an interesting religious combination. The Haggards are evangelical Christians who currently lead Saint James Church and the Buseys follow New Age philosophies, including reincarnation. Busey and Sampson believe they are married in spirit and are currently in their 32nd lifetime together.

For the first half of the week, the swapped wives had to assume each other’s homes, and lifestyles, but in the second half they took charge of the house rules.

In spite of their very different belief systems, Haggard says Sampson fit in quite well at his home and church in Colorado.

In the first half of the week she assumed Gayle's duties, which included teaching a Bible study Gayle had prepared in advance, reading daily devotions every morning and helping to host a “thank you” barbecue for the 40 small group leaders from Haggard's new congregation.

When it was time for Sampson to take over the house, though, Haggard says she was encouraging and was “absolutely determined not to violate our faith.” He says she came into the show with the attitude that “the Haggards have suffered too much,” that they are constantly reminded of their guilt, and she decided not to bring up their past at all.

She also told Haggard that he was forgiven, and “kept emphasizing that none of us should be defined by our weakest moment.”

"So actually, you would think she was a Spirit-filled Christian because of the way she tried to be encouraging ... but she was coming from a New Age philosophy,” he said. "Very sadly, she gave me many messages that the church should have been giving me over the last five years."

He says some Christians have been supportive of him over the last few years in spite of his moral failure, though many have been critical. He thinks the show will be “insightful for judgmental Christians...”

...Haggard's church has grown to approximately 350 people since it was started in 2010, he said. St. James Church meets at Timberview Middle School in Colorado Springs.

"I think all of us need to trust God's sovereignty. And God has given the Haggard family an opportunity to minister life on ABC, and I think He set it up perfectly with the producers we had and with the Busey family. We feel very blessed and honored,” Haggard said.

Contrary to what the article states, Mr. Haggard has not been "open to the public about his fall from grace." Like Jim Bakker before him, Mr. Haggard has never admitted the specific things he was accused of (I found the homosexual prostitute's accusations far more credible than Mr. Haggard's denials). Mr. Haggard refused to complete counselling after his exposure, and bolted to start a new "church." The only time he's told the truth in recent years was, ironically, when he admitted to being a liar. I've never believed that Ted Haggard was a man of God who fell; rather, he's continued to provide evidence that he's a man of fraud who was exposed. Typical of an unrepentant sinner, he uses the word "judgmental" to criticize those who want to uphold Biblical standards of holiness for Christian leaders.

For more evidence of Mr. Haggard's lack of repentance, see Elena Garcia's interview with him in the Christian Post on February 15, 2011. The reader will note that the other fallen people of note who have been "restored" that Mr. Haggard compares himself with are secular entertainment and sports celebrities, whose positions don't require Biblical standards of holiness. One of those mentioned by Mr. Haggard, Michael Vick, has shown more evidence of repentance for his sins than has Mr. Haggard. The fact that Mr. Haggard doesn't seem to understand the difference between a popular culture celebrity and a leader in the church of Jesus Christ says enough about him and his qualifications for Christian leadership.

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