COLORADO SPRINGS (AP)The Rev. Ted Haggard resigned as president of the 30 million-member National Association of Evangelicals on Thursday after being accused of paying a man for sex in monthly trysts over the past three years.
Haggardan outspoken opponent of the drive for gay marriagealso stepped down as senior pastor at his 14,000-member New Life Church pending an investigation by a church panel, saying he could "not continue to minister under the cloud created by the accusations."
"I am voluntarily stepping aside from leadership so that the overseer process can be allowed to proceed with integrity," Haggard said in a written statement. "I hope to be able to discuss this matter in more detail at a later date. In the interim, I will seek both spiritual advice and guidance."
Here is the story according to Christianity Today.
And here are my initial thoughts:
- If he really didn't do it, he should not have resigned. If the accusations against him were totally false, there was no reason whatsoever to resignin fact, that would be a totally wrongheaded and completely counterproductive thing to do.
- The scandal will hurt not only "the religious right," but virtually all evangelical ministries. Justifiably or not, Haggard was perceived as a key leader (representing "30 million evangelicals"!) in both political and spiritual venues. Voters will have second thoughts, and donors will be stunned by yet another scandal involving a high-profile Christian leader.
- Some might think such a voter/donor backlash is unwarranted and irrational. I don't. The back-story here includes just about everything wrong with 21st-century "evangelicalism." This was the top leader of the largest organization representing America's old-guard evangelical core. The movement (not everyone associated with it, of course, but the drift of the movement as a whole) long ago sold out eternal values for more pragmatic and temporal concerns: political power, contemporary fashions, public opinion, and a lopsided moral agenda.
- It's time for evangelicals to rethink their priorities, reexamine the evil fruits of pragmatic and market-driven "spirituality," and retool their own movement. Better yet, Christians with a concern for the glory of God and the authority of Scripture should renounce the latitudinarian-style movement contemporary "evangelicalism" has morphed into. It is a hopelessly mixed and muddled multitude. The fashionable brand of NAE/Christianity Today-style "evangelicalism" actually abandoned historic evangelical principles long ago, and hasn't taken a firm stand for biblical and evangelical doctrine for some time. The current scandal is only a symptom of that much deeper problem.
- Which is to say that evangelicalism right now is at least as much in need of Reformation as Medieval Roman Catholicism was before Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the castle church. We need to face that squarely, rather than reflexively defending our "movement" in the wake of a scandal like this.