Haggard, in letter, expresses remorse for sexual immorality

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (BP)--After the board of overseers for New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colo., decided that dismissal of Ted Haggard from the pastorate was best for the church, Haggard wrote a letter to the church body expressing remorse for his actions.

“I am so sorry,” the letter began. “I am sorry for the disappointment, the betrayal, and the hurt. I am sorry for the horrible example I have set for you.”

Haggard acknowledged that inconsistent statements he had made to the media following accusations of homosexual behavior and drug use only served to confuse church members, and he wanted them to know he alone was responsible.

“The fact is, I am guilty of sexual immorality, and I take responsibility for the entire problem,” he wrote. “I am a deceiver and a liar. There is a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I’ve been warring against it all of my adult life.”

The letter was read in the 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. services at New Life Church Nov. 5 by Larry Stockstill, chairman of the overseer board and pastor of Bethany World Prayer Center in Louisiana, of which the 14,000-member New Life was a church plant.

“When I stopped communicating about my problems, the darkness increased and finally dominated me,” Haggard continued in the letter. “As a result, I did things that were contrary to everything I believe.”

Haggard did not elaborate on what those actions included, but he noted that the overseers are requiring him to submit to the oversight of Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, noted pastor and teacher Jack Hayford and evangelist Tommy Barnett. The three men will perform a “thorough analysis” of Haggard’s mental, spiritual, emotional and physical life and guide him through a program of healing and restoration.

Also in the letter, Haggard asked the church family to forgive his accuser, Mike Jones.

“He is revealing the deception and sensuality that was in my life. Those sins, and others, need to be dealt with harshly. So forgive him and, actually, thank God for him,” Haggard wrote. “I am trusting that his action will make me, my wife and family, and ultimately all of you, stronger. He didn’t violate you; I did.”

A letter from Haggard’s wife, Gayle, was read along with his letter. In it she said her hope “rests steadfastly in the Lord” and she remains committed to her husband “until death do us part.”

“If I were standing before you today, I would not change one iota of what I have been teaching the women of our church,” Gayle Haggard wrote. “For those of you who have been concerned that my marriage was so perfect I could not possibly relate to the women who are facing great difficulties, know that this will never again be the case. My test has begun; watch me. I will try to prove myself faithful.”

She added that her husband’s public disgrace is evidence that all people need a Savior.

The 30-million-member National Association of Evangelicals, which Haggard resigned as president Nov. 2, released a statement the following day, noting that Christ is able to forgive “all sorts of sin.”

“Knowing Rev. Haggard, we found the initial reports of misconduct to be shocking and difficult to believe,” NAE chairman Roy Taylor and vice chairman Jeff Farmer wrote. “As evangelicals we recognize, however, the stark reality of the power of sin in all our lives, and acknowledge that we are all capable of grievous moral failures.

“Moreover, we believe that the Bible holds Christian leaders to higher levels of accountability,” Taylor and Farmer added. “Therefore, it is especially serious when a pastor and prominent Christian leader deliberately violates God’s standards of conduct.”

Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International, a network of former homosexuals dedicated to sharing the transforming power of Jesus, said his organization was deeply saddened to learn of Haggard’s moral failures.

“While the consequences of such actions are justifiably grave, we reaffirm the bold love and forgiveness that Jesus Christ offers to each one of us as sinners in need of His grace,” Chambers wrote.

“This admission reminds us all of our own spiritual and human weaknesses as well as the continued need for personal transparency and the accountability and care of others,” he continued. “No individual is above temptation and moral failure. No individual is excluded from the love and mercy of Christ. No individual should struggle alone in silence.”

Haggard said in his letter to church members that he and his wife “need to be gone for a while” and they “will never return to a leadership role at New Life Church,” a congregation they started in their basement more than two decades ago.

As people packed the 6,000-seat auditorium at the church on Sunday morning, Ross Parsley, who assumed the role of acting pastor as the Haggard ordeal unfolded, tried to encourage the congregation.

“Our feet are not planted in any man, method or ministry,” Parsley said, according to the Gazette newspaper in Colorado Springs. “I don’t think this is the last chapter of New Life Church. In fact, I think there’s a whole book waiting to be written.”

At a news conference after the morning services, Stockstill said Haggard had “developed a pattern of deception” and was “out of touch with truth and reality.” Therefore, the overseers still weren’t sure the extent of his wrongdoing. He added that Haggard’s ministry had rocketed up “almost like a meteor,” and maybe the stress of leadership left him open to temptation, the Gazette reported.

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