Friday, November 03, 2006

Ted Haggard

Ted Haggard, who just spoke at the Mission America meeting in St. Louis, and has been pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs and president of the National Association of Evangelicals since 2003, has been accused by a gay man in Denver, Mike Jones, 49, of paid trysts over a three year period.

Until confirming information comes forward, I view this accusation with a great deal of suspicion, though Haggard reportedly admits that some accusations are true.
The media went to press with a story that was not confirmed by any other than the accuser, so it amounts to a rumor right now in the press. What makes me most skeptical is that Haggard is being accused by a gay man less than a week before Colorado votes on Amendment 43 defining marriage as between one man and one woman, an issue to which Haggard has given outspoken support. Jones even admits the issue was the reason he came forward. ABC7 Denver is reporting that the accuser has failed a polygraph.

If true, however, this would be the largest shock to the evangelical community since the Bakker-Swaggert scandals in the 1980's. According to the Colorado Springs Gazette, "
Greg Montoya, editor of a gay, lesbian and transgender community newspaper in Denver, Out Front Colorado, said rumors about Haggard had circulated for years through Denver’s gay community."

Pastor Haggard has admitted to "some allegations" to his elder panel. He has resigned the NAE and taken administrative leave until this is resolved. ABC TV7 News in Denver has links to their news story, the phone messages from someone named 'Art,' and New Life Church's statement. Ted's middle name is Arthur.
Supposedly, according to a Univ. Colorado-Denver analysis, nine of twelve words in the messages match Ted's. I, like so many, know Ted Haggard personally. He has a distinct voice. I tried repeatedly to listen to the message over a dial-up connection here, but was frustrated in it. As far as I could tell, some of the message sounds like it could belong to Ted, but the message is scratchy to start with. If you know Ted's voice, please listen yourself and tell me what you think by clicking comments below.

I remember having lunch with Ted Haggard and several other friends in June 1996 in the California Pizza Kitchen in Pasadena, CA, across the street from Fuller Seminary. He was trying to get all of us to move to Colorado Springs and go to work with the World Prayer Center.

Earlier that year (April) I had volunteered at a prayer conference at his church in the now smaller building seating only a few thousand. In July 1996, Ted had me on the platform with him at that church to tell them about the prayer walk I was leading along Sherman's path, and he taught me a good leadership lesson. When I got on the platform, I immediately said that I wasn't expecting to be called up front and didn't have anything impressive to say. In front of the congregation, he gave me an encouraging reproval and said, "If you want people to listen to you, don't ever say something like that when you get up to speak. Now all their ears are turned off. They think you have nothing to say."

I rebounded and talked to the congregation with Ted standing beside interviewing me, and had a lot of interest afterwards from the congregation. Later that year, in September, in Fort Mill, SC, Ted Haggard asked me for several hundred prayer guides to give out to the small groups in his church to have the church pray for us during our 47-day prayer walk through Georgia and the Carolinas.

Another time, I think it was in 1995 or 1996 while I was living in Pasadena, CA, a Presbyterian College alumnus friend contacted me from Denver to ask me to help him overcome his homosexuality. I sent him some reading material and contacted Ted's church office
in Colorado Springs which was near enough drive for my friend. They immediately helped me by contacting the alum and setting up an appointment with an associate pastor. My alum friend reported that the prayer and counseling helped him immensely.

Ted Haggard has always been good and generous to me.

Bryant Adams, state Republican Party communications director: “Some gay prostitute goes on the radio and says he’s had some type of relationship with Ted Haggard,” Adams said. “I think you call into question where the source is coming from."

Focus on the Family is next door to New Life Church. Here's Jim Dobson's statement: : "It is unconscionable that the legitimate news media would report a rumor like this based on nothing but one man's accusation. Ted Haggard is a friend of mine, and it appears someone is trying to damage his reputation as a way of influencing the outcome of Tuesday's election -- especially the vote on Colorado's marriage-protection amendment -- which Ted strongly supports. He has shown a great deal of grace under these unfortunate circumstances, quickly turning this matter over to his church for an independent investigation. That is a testament to the character I have seen him exhibit over and over again through the years."

Once in the mid-90's I was in a meeting in Pasadena, with Ted Haggard. I remember him saying, "The evangelical world is tight, very connected. With email, personal relationships in the Body of Christ, and everything technological, you better stay on your toes. If you're doing anything wrong, the whole world will know about it in thirty minutes."

Let's hope this statement does not apply in this case.