I honestly have no idea how to even organize this blog. I usually don't have that problem, but I have so much to say and some of it may sound like it contradicts each other. Maybe because I'm still trying to process it all. So let's go step by step. And I want you to comment on this and tell me what YOU think!
Alright, Aaron and I went in very aware that Ted Haggard (I'm not doing any introductions, if you don't know who he is, google his name) and his wife Gayle were going to be at our National Youth Worker's Convention this year. Sunday morning they did a 'big room', which is corporate worship times for us youth workers, and Monday morning they each did their own seminars.
I must first start with my assumptions. Ted's seminar on Monday was titled, "Lessons Learned the Hard Way." I'll be honest, it intrigued me. I had visions of him talking about safety nets to put in place and safe guards, having accountability partners and reaching out for help, about not being deceptive and over-all being apologetic.
Fast-forward to Sunday morning, which I was very much looking forward to hearing what he was going to say. To our surprise they waited until the very end of 'big room' (each big room session was about 2 hours long, so it's rare that they wait until the very very end for a speaker), but I quickly understood why when about 1/3 of the 3500 youth workers that were there packed up their things and left when they saw them sitting on the stage.
I'll be honest, at this point I'm like, "Wow, give them a chance. We have something to learn from everyone. You don't have to accept all they have to say, but give them the opportunity to speak and show them a little bit of grace. (This number of youth workers didn't walk out for any of the other acts the entire weekend. And there were several.)
It's fair to say that I was there eager to hear what was to be said. The speaking was Q & A style, with Gayle receiving the first question in which she basically answered why she stayed. In a nutshell, he's the same man, she made a commitment to him, and she wanted to offer him grace at a point in time where no one else was. What she talked about the most, though, was how at the time of the scandal he was shown no love by anyone, especially the church. In her defense, true statement. He was not shown love. Agreed. (Unless of course you look at church discipline as love, which I do, but the point was made later on that the 'discipline' was enforced not from love as a motive, but as judgment. I must agree with this statement as well. The church / elders weren't looking for healing and showing 'tough love' when they kicked him out of their body completely and banished them from the state of Colorado. They were casting judgment and protecting themselves. Agree.)
But for the entire 30 minutes they spoke all I heard was a couple still with their defenses in place, talking basically about how they had been screwed by the church and proverbially spat upon by church people. After talking about the importance of showing grace and love, at an effort to break the tension (very evident in the room), at the sound of a very loud plane coming in, Ted quipped that he hoped the plane wasn't headed towards our building (I admit, I was thinking the same thing). He then, however, made a smart remark about 'another mad muslim' and about how 'he'd be mad too if he had to wake up every morning at 5:00 a.m. to pray." Ouch, there went love and not casting judgment out the window.
After that statement I stayed just long enough to hear a youth pastor (one of the 2000 or so left) yell from the stadium "God's judgment" in response to the plane sounding overhead.
And I'd had it. I'd had it with judgmental people, and I'd had it with the Haggards too. So, I excused my pregnant self to go to the restroom and told Aaron I'd meet him outside whenever he was ready.
I won't lie, the entire experience left an awful taste in my mouth. I was wanting to hear this incredible message of hope and restoration and grace and 'look where God has brought me from', and what I heard was that the church had completely let him down and that they weren't treated well. Ugh, dude, you did screw things up pretty bad.
So let's leave it there for a moment and fast forward to Monday morning. I had planned to go to a seminar entitled "Fulfilling the First Commission: Helping Parents Effectively minister to their Kids". Well, being my pregnant butt doesn't move very fast and they gave this speaker way too small of a room, I decided I wasn't going to be one of many in the 'standing room only' section for 1 1/2 hours. So, right across the room was Ted's virtually empty room (about 20 people at that moment, I made the third female) and I made the decision that I was going to give this effort one more shot.
As he spoke this time he seemed slightly less guarded, especially at first. In general here's basically what he had the opportunity to talk about: He had struggled with this sin in his life for sometime. He had reached out to others for Biblical help and support and was basically instructed to pray it out, fast, read his Bible, etc. These things did not help him, and he did them faithfully. It took the crisis in his life for him to finally find resolution through two years of therapy from a certified, licensed therapist, who was a Christian. He talked about how important a licensed, certified therapist was to his healing and how often we try to do all of the 'church things' when God is trying to heal us, but through another means. I agreed with this as well.
Conversation sprang up quickly, which I welcomed, because I felt that maybe some of us getting to ask the questions may get me some answers myself. What I heard was a youth pastor who had run a stop sign (still sin) and hit a man and killed him and how he was proverbially stoned by his church and church family. I heard another female youth worker who has a daughter who just came out that she's a lesbian, and she (the youth worker) is afraid to tell her church, and then I heard several others who basically told Ted they were disgusted with him and that he should have been held to a higher standard as a pastor. (Which I agree with, yet, well, let me get down to this at the end.) He battled with two of these youth pastors the entire time. Another youth pastor spoke up, not in defense of Ted, but to state that he believed we all had sin in our life (true) and wanted to know how we could better love people. Ted later said he would have much rather been in this man's youth group than the other man's because he knew how to offer forgiveness. Ouch, but very true. I'd want my kids in his youth group, I'm not going to lie.
The man who had said he was disgusted with him said at the beginning of his rant that he really had expected Ted to apologize to us the day before and to tell us 'don't be like me.' Ted's response put me in a whole new realm of thinking. He said something to the effect of, "If you believe I still need to apologize I can do so, but I did that three years ago on CNN, NBC, ABC, with my church family, to my family, on HBO, I mean, do I really need to spend the rest of my life apologizing for something I've been forgiven for by God. I also thought that I was here to talk to leaders, not to be evangelistic. My assumption was that you would know not to be like me. I'm here to talk to ministers about how to better to do ministry. That's what they've asked me to do, and it is my belief that we can more effectively do ministry by loving others... even in our church discipline."
So here's kind of how it highlights out... let me know how you feel about these things:
Things I agreed with and what I got from listening to him:
- We do kind of suck at loving people, especially in the midst of stuff.
- We are all sinners, even in our salvation we are still working things out, called sanctification.
- God is using his experience to effectively minister to those in similar situations as him.
- Sometimes things are not always as they seem. He told a story about being on Larry King with Jennifer Knapp and a pastor who reamed her in a blog for coming out that she was a lesbian. I had heard about this but had not seen it. He said he got more hate mail from that one interview than any others ever, and then explained why he said what he said. If you care enough to ask me about that one, I'll be happy to answer, but it's lengthy :)
- Many times we issue 'church discipline' as a method of judgment and not a method of restoration. Many, many times.
- God uses other means to 'heal' us. Doctors are one of those.
Things I didn't agree with:
- He seems to still be pretty bitter towards the church. Love and grace should be extended both ways.
- He's still getting an awful lot of publicity for all of this. He has an article coming out in GQ in February, and made sure we knew it several times. He complains a little bit about the publicity, but doesn't stay out of it.
- He believes he should be restored to the same position in the church. I'll be honest, the more I think about this one the more I struggle, but I have to say I still disagree. I will be the first to admit that if truly repentant and healed God could give this man an amazing ministry among ministers and with people in hidden sin, but I'm not sure that he is what the Bible describes as a proper leader for an entire church body.
So there it is: I'm sure I've forgotten 100 things I wanted to say, but I figured this would spark some conversation. I'm interested to see what you all have to say.
By the way, during his seminar he did apologize for the muslim comment made the day before. He admitted it was a weak moment and he wished he could take it back.
Alright, let's see what you all think!