So it’s official — Haggard is out.
(Denver Post) Haggard fired for “sexually immoral conduct”
Ted Haggard, the beleaguered pastor of a Colorado Springs evangelical church who had denied having sex with a male prostitute, has been fired by an oversight board, which found him guilty of “sexually immoral conduct.”
The findings stand in stark contrast to the immensely popular public image of the New Life Church’s founding pastor. A rising star, Haggard, 50, was at times a consultant to the White House, the author of several books, and until he stepped down this week, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, which represents more than 30 million worshippers.
The board that made the decision, called the “Overseer Board of New Life Church,” said in a prepared statement Saturday afternoon: “Our investigation and Pastor Haggard’s public statements have proven without a doubt that he has committed sexually immoral conduct.”
It’s a microscopically small issue in the greater scheme of things I suppose, but I find myself wondering how well Haggard’s megachurch will survive without him. Whether we agree with their theology (and politics) or not (and I certainly don’t), there’s no question that most parishioners of churches like this, from the leadership all the way down to the lonely old woman in pew 6,793, sincerely hold to the tenets of their faith.
And it is this dedication by others — however misplaced it may seem to some of us — that makes Haggard’s fall a little sad, his personal, religious and political hypocrisy notwithstanding. Building a monstrosity of a church like this, one bigger than many fair sized towns, wasn’t the work of just one man. Within the congregation there must have been hundreds of people who dedicated their hearts, souls, money and most importantly their labor to the church. They believed in it. They believed in Rev. Haggard. And you can take it to the bank that many of them, the woman in pew 6,793 included, built their whole lives around it.
And then they turned on the evening news.
So what comes now for Haggard’s New Life Church? It will be a tough go. It’s hard for any organization built around a single charismatic leader to carry on without him; the stench of scandal here will obviously make it that much harder.
Here’s my best guess: The church will hold its own for six months until Rev. Haggard, having emerged from his spiritual counseling and self-study as virulently homophobic in his words as ever, will begin holding services in an auditorium in another part of town. Half the congregation, perhaps more, will then abandon the New Life Church to walk in the steps of their fallen angel.
And the woman in pew 6,793 will be right there with them.