In a scenario reminiscent of the Jim Bakker scandal decades ago, Ted Haggard, pastor of a 14,000 member Evangelical Church in Colorado Springs and one of the heads of the National Association of Evangelicals who has led the charge in the state by state organizing against gay marriage, has at least for now stepped aside from pastoring his church. Why? Because Mike Jones of Denver says that the 50 year old pastor, married with five children, has been having same sex sexual relations and doing metamphetamines with him for three years! The acting pastor, Ross Parsley told KKTV-TV that Haggard had confessed to him that some of the allegations were true. It remains to be seen which ones.
Here is the link to the story on MSNBC--http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15536263/.
Before we ask-- has the world gone mad, it might be good to reflect for a minute on the leadership climate in the rarified air of big time Evangelical mega-churches. of course it will vary from church to church, but there are a few things in common with most of these churches which needs to be rethought:
1) most of these large churches are not part of denominations which have a connectional enough system to hold the individual church leadership accountable through peer leaders in other churches. By this I mean there is little outside accountability. There are no covenant relationships with other church leaders, no covenant relationships with other churches, the leadership structure is entirely controlled INTERNALLY between influential lay persons and the ministers. There is normally an overseeing board of some sort. But how do they work? Are they rubber stamps? Do they contain professional counselors and ministers to whom a minister in crisis could turn? Usually not. And sometimes there is only a once a year "accountability moment". For example there is a large mega-church in California which does accountability this way--- the pastor gives the congregation in an open meeting the chance for an up or down vote on his ministry once a year. So far as I can tell this is not done by secret ballot, just by a public acclamation or vote. What's wrong with this picture? If something objectionable shows up in the ministry plans etc. during the year and the time for the accountability moment is not near, then there is no accountability. It is handled internally.
2) The culture of patriarchal Evangelical leadership involves a lot of power and isolation at the top. Too often it involves a cult of personality kind of scenario, with the "pastor-superstar" model, and the pastor put way up on a pedestal-- from which he is almost bound to fall. The isolation from normal accountability structures and peer correction leads to all sorts of abuses of power. It is quite simply too much power in too few hands. The minister begins to feel he is bullet-proof, can do no wrong. And if there is something not right in his personal relationships with his wife or family, then moral slippage tends to happen in various forms. One of the reasons, though not the only one, for this is that the patriarchal culture of male leadership isolates men from the critique of the opposite sex, and often it is the opposite sex which will first see the early warning signs of sexual trouble. Any sort of local church accountability or pastor-parish relations committee should involve both men and women, and not those hand picked by the pastor. Men watching over men when it comes to sexual matters is too often like the fox watching the hen house.
3) One of the unspoken realities that needs to be dealt with especially in high pressure large churches is male menopause. Yes, you heard me right, male meonpause. Men, beginning in their late 40s and continuing on into there mid to late 50s also go through a change of life. What happens besides the hormonal changes (usually accompanied by chest of drawers disease-- that's when your chest falls down in your drawers) is this. It is a time of life when all the bills come due. What I mean is, if there have been problems and flaws in one's life which have not been dealt with along the way, then they tend to reach a critical mass at this juncture in life when the man's emotional life is going through a change. The results can be catastrophic-- a total melt down of marriage, ministry, and other cherished parts of one's life. Of course it can be said, and is true, that this is not the normal behavior pattern of this person. But that's precisely the point-- who is watching to see subtle changes in behavior patterns, particularly more secretive behavior? Whose checking the minister's emails, voice mails and the like. In Haggard's case it is voice males which did him in. What do we do about this? All ministers should have some accountability, but during the period age 45-55 male ministers especially need those trained to notice the warning signs of changed behavior pattersn and call the person to account.
What happens internally to the menopausal male is that there is a biological clock ticking which sends the subtle message that time is running out on one's sexual life, and "its now or never" if one is going to have some sort of fling or walk on the wild side. This internal prompt leads to immoral behavior. Sometimes, the person is not even aware of what is happening to him until it is too late. Yes, its possible to be oblivious to the subtle and subconscious forces that are driving one's life. This is especially likely to happen to A type personalities who are very goal driven and not introspective, and indeed do not receive critiques or corrections at all well. In other words, it is likely to happen to those with narcissistic personalities which are very self-centered, which at the bottom reflects a very weak ego.
I do not know how much of this applies to Ted Haggard. What I do know is this-- I have seen many good ministries destroyed due to lack of proper accountability and lack of good marital relationships, and lack of spiritual formation of the leader himself. Its time to change the climate and culture of leadership in many parts of the Evangelical world. We could start with Ephesians 5.21-- "let all submit to one another out of reverence for Christ". We could add to this "confess your sins to one another and pray for each other so that you may be healed" (James. 5.16). Notice it does not say confess only to God, nor does it say confess only to the priest or your ministry partner. Open confession within a context of a church accountability group will be the beginning of healing.