Sex Scandals in Clergy Grieve Hearts of Many

By Shanna Sissom
Midland Reporter-Telegram [United States]
November 7, 2006

It was like a late 1980s flashback, only worse when Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals was accused of homosexual acts and drug use.

His first response was to deny the allegations brought by a gay prostitute, but later acknowledged guilt of "sexual immorality" and called himself a "deceiver and a liar" in a prepared statement read Sunday to his Colorado Springs, Colo. megachurch congregation.

What's for Dinner?

The whole mess reminded me of when the Rev. Jimmy Swaggart on CNN called rival televangelist Jim Bakker a "cancer in the body of Christ" during Bakker's sex scandal, not too long before Swaggart faced his own collapse after being caught with a hooker at a seedy motel.

Swaggart's exposure brought on an emotionally-charged service the following Sunday at his world headquarters in Baton Rouge, La., where he tearfully declared before God and TV cameras, "I have sinned!" Later, he would be caught again.

Haggard, a religious leader and political force, was recently named among Time magazine's top 25 influential evangelicals in America. The pastor is married with five children.

How on Earth could something like this happen? The answer to that question, of course, is we are all susceptible to sinful temptations, and all have fallen short.

But what bothers me is when religious leaders- regardless of the denomination- are exposed with habitual sins so dark that most people who don't even attend church would never consider engaging in them. The recent Catholic Church scandal also comes to mind, with decades of church cover-ups and sexual abuse of little boys acknowledged by the denomination only a few years ago, when damage done by pedophiles clothed as priests seemed an epidemic.

While the recent scandal with Haggard involved an apparently consenting adult, his ministry is destroyed, his life in shambles and his wife and children victimized by his sin. One can only imagine the pain they are suffering.

It is all so sad, grievous and sickening.

Among the list of four things requested of the congregation in a prepared statement termed an "apology and explanation," Haggard asked they forgive the man who exposed him.

"He is revealing the deception and sensuality that was in my life. Those sins, and others, need to be dealt with harshly," Haggard wrote. "So, forgive him and, actually, thank God for him. ...He didn't violate you; I did."

Haggard just the previous Sunday had prayed before thousands, asking God that lies and deceptions be exposed, according to a report in the Colorado Springs Gazette when allegations first surfaced.

It seems God has answered his prayer.

I close with an excerpt from what Haggard's wife Gayle wrote about her husband in a prepared statement to the church, posted on its Web site.

"He is now the visible and public evidence that every man (woman and child) needs a Savior."



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