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Ted Haggard: A Wake Up Call

Are churches taking steps to ensure that the "Ted Haggards" among us feel safe enough to be real about their struggles? New Direction Ministries offers three questions for us to address.


The story of Ted Haggard holds some important lessons for the Christian community that I hope will not be missed as the media buzz dies down. Daina Doucet, editor for Christianity.ca, reported the results of their online poll: "83% of respondents overwhelmingly believe that Ted Haggard's moral failure will negatively affect the opinion Canadians have of Evangelicals." In the weeks after Haggard's fall, I have heard many stories of how Christians were enraged by the public revelation that this powerful pastor, a follower of Jesus with great influence and public profile, had broken his marriage vows by sexual involvement with a male prostitute.

Hearing this devastating story caused John to decide to allow God to use his story … publicly.

Pastor Ted's story is heartbreaking. But Pastor Ted is not alone.

Within the safety of strict confidentiality, a non-judgmental atmosphere, and genuine, heart-felt compassion, New Direction Ministries has ministered to many people in significant places of leadership within the Church who were struggling with same-gender attraction. Of those who were married, some had stayed faithful to their spouse. Others had not. Each story is unique. Each life precious. Each person in great need of the redemptive grace of God.

John Howard, now a counselor with New Direction, was a pastor for 30 years. John's story of God's healing power and grace through his struggle with same-gender attraction has been a very public one for more than 20 years. He has given his testimony literally hundreds of times. John shares about the day he was standing in the shower listening to the radio and heard a story of a group of men who been rounded up in a gay bathhouse and arrested. One of those men was a prominent elder in his church. Released on bail, the man went home, kissed his wife and children, and went out and killed himself. Hearing this devastating story caused John to decide to allow God to use his story of struggle with same-gender attraction publicly. In the years since that decision God has used John to radiate safety and hope to many.

Ted Haggard speaks of "warring against [same-gender attraction] all of my adult life. For extended periods of time, I would enjoy victory and rejoice in freedom. Then, from time to time, the dirt that I thought was gone would resurface, and I would find myself thinking thoughts and experiencing desires that were contrary to everything I believe and teach. Through the years, I've sought assistance in a variety of ways, with none of them proving to be effective in me. Then, because of pride, I began deceiving those I love the most because I didn't want to hurt or disappoint them. The public person I was wasn't a lie; it was just incomplete. When I stopped communicating about my problems, the darkness increased and finally dominated me. As a result, I did things that were contrary to everything I believe." And while some would say that he should just go and be true to himself and live a gay life, Ted Haggard goes on to say that he will be engaging in a "program with the goal of healing and restoration for my life, my marriage, and my family." He concludes his letter to his congregation with the hope that they will "rise to this challenge and demonstrate the incredible grace that is available to us all."

Even in the great anguish of exposure, Ted Haggard shares some important insight. I pray that we will have the ears to hear.

Same-gender attraction is a complex reality in people's lives. For those strongly oriented toward the same-gender, these attractions can have a tenacious hold despite deep commitment to Christ, prayer and living within God's guidelines for sexuality. People who experience same-gender attraction need a safe place where they can be real and honest about their ongoing thoughts, desires and struggles without stigma or shame—especially when desired healing does not eradicate ongoing temptation. Without this safe place, people feel the pressure to hide. And pride and hiddenness are a recipe for disaster.

In the average congregation of 250, five to six individuals are struggling with, or actively involved in same-gender sexual activity. In that same church, five to ten youth are confused and questioning or experimenting sexually with someone of their own gender.

People of God, the question is, Are we taking intentional steps to ensure that the"Ted Haggards" in our congregation feel safe enough to be real about their struggles?

Are you personally struggling with same-gender attraction, desiring to live within God's guidelines for sexuality, and thinking you can do it on your own? Wake up. You need to bring this struggle into the light. You need the accountability, support, encouragement and help of brothers and sisters in Christ.

Are you, Christian brother or sister, a safe person for someone to honestly share their same-gender attraction struggles with? Wake up. You need to be ready. God may be wanting to use you to be a support and help in someone's life.

Are you, Church, a safe place where transparency and vulnerability are welcomed? Wake up. We all need to rise to the challenge to demonstrate the incredible grace that is available to us all.

New Direction Ministries exists to serve the Church by equipping, training and resourcing followers of Jesus to be and to build a safe place for same-gender attracted men, women and youth to journey towards wholeness in Christ. We also offer confidential one-on-one counseling and group support.

Haggard's fall may cause Canadians to view Evangelicals negatively. But let us do all we can to be known as gracious, compassionate people who humbly and lovingly serve those among us that struggle.

For more information, contact New Direction Ministries:

Wendy Gritter is the executive director for New Direction Ministries. She can be reached at wendy@newdirection.ca.

 

 
 
 
 

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