Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Taking Responsibility in Colorado Springs

Had some fun yesterday with the current Oprah sized, American style take on accountability.

I’d love to hear a public figure in the US admit once in a while that they made a mistake without all the explanations and denials and delving into their psyches in order to get sympathy. Non-denial denials and non-confession confessions have evolved into a fine art form. And we've even got a whole segment of the TV industry set up to help people practice that fine art.

Sorry to see the Ted Haggard scandal blow up down in Colorado Springs. For those of you who aren’t following the news he was the founder and pastor of a mega-church in Colorado Springs who was also the head of the National Association of Evangelicals. He was dismissed from his pastorate and the leadership of the nation’s largest and most respected evangelical organization because of “sexual immorality.”

I don’t want to get into a discussion of homosexuality right now though I understand why some of you would probably like to get into it given the nature of the scandal. I’ll delete any comments along those lines so don’t even think about it :^)

Thanks. Time to get back to the post.

I was pretty impressed with the way his congregation, New Life Church, responded to the whole thing.

I know some folks in that church. Seems like most of them understood the church wasn’t a personality cult. They were willing to accept that Haggard lied to them and acted under false pretenses for years as their pastor. They also showed a deep and obvious affection for him and were willing to forgive him. But they also wanted to make sure he was held accountable. Different.

Haggard himself set up an accountability system that gave respected Christian leaders outside of his own church the power to decide his fate if his fitness to lead was ever questioned. That system worked quickly and well. They dismissed him.

Members of his congregation and the outside pastoral panel believe Haggard is still unwilling to be honest about himself. They’ve been willing to speak publicly and on the record about that.

I’ve been in and around churches and Christian communities for many years and I can’t remember a church responding more honestly and publicly to the dishonesty of a Christian leader before. Or more forgivingly. Even more impressive, they haven't tried to demonize the guy who brought the whole situation to light.

Whatever you think of homosexuality or the way conservative Christians respond to it, everybody understands that leaders in any community have gotta be honest. And if they aren’t, they’ve gotta be held accountable.

Haggard himself started out with the kinds of transparently silly denials that people make when they fear losing everything. But since then he’s been willing to admit—at least on some level--his pattern of dishonesty. And when you look at the way his congregation responded and the kinds of effective accountability systems he set up, it makes you doubly sad to see him forced out of ministry.

Our political leaders seem genuinely afraid of being honest about their failures. Why that's true is the subject for another post.

But you’ve gotta be impressed with the way the folks in Colorado Springs handled the whole situation. Honesty combined with forgiveness and accountability. That’ll get it done. Might even be a good model for the political realm.


Blogger 3wishes said...

What other alternative is there? The congregation cannot ask for a refund of their time. I'm seeing this drug cross into so many different walks of life today. It is mind boggling.

2:17 AM  
Blogger Wordcat said...

Oh, if you've been around Christian communities there are plenty of alternatives. Cover up, denial, scapegoating and hammering the deceptive leader, demonizing the guy who brought the situation to light, etc, etc. I think they handled it exceptionally well. Pretty impressive spirit about the whole thing.

The whole issue of meth is the big question mark. Given how incredibly destructive meth is, that part bothered me as much as the rest of it. Americans--and particularly evangelicals--can get pretty fixated on sexual issues, so maybe that's part of what's happening here. Hope the drug thing--if it's actually significant--doesn't get swept under the rug. The Denver police are investigating the whole thing and it looks like the drug aspect is the center of that investigation.

11:01 AM  
Blogger 3wishes said...

Just guessing here, but being confused about sexuality will not land you in jail, but they can throw away the key on those drug charges (?)Could be wrong but Im thinking the gay thing is a cover, the guy that outed him probably was owed money, those guys get a little testy. " I can out you or hurt your family" " Your choice" Just a guess.

5:26 AM  
Anonymous Eddy E said...

It's tragic to see any leader (christian or not) fall. I pray and hope the best of healing for Haggard. You always have to wonder when the truth comes out in such 'inconvenient' ways. He didn't come out, he just got caught

11:13 PM  

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