Faithful Politics

Being faithful with our politics, not political with our faith.

The Failure of Excommunication

This past week HBO aired Alexandra Pelosi’s latest documentary, The Trials of Ted Haggard. As this saga is once again brought to the public eye, Believers are forced to find a way to reconcile the actions of Haggard and his church with the principles that we espouse. No where, that I have seen, has someone been able to articulate as well thought out response as Mark Galli has done in his article Holy Laughter for Christianity Today (I highly recommend this piece; not only because it is thought-provoking and well-reasoned, but because he accurately describes what it is about this story that we all should recognize: the fact that we are all fallen creatures).

The tragedy of Ted Haggard does not revolve around his inability to practice what he preached, nor does it center on his sexual sin. Rather, the deepest heartbreak in this incident is the fact that his own church was not able to demonstrate the Gospel to a world that was looking on. Rather than embracing Haggard and showing him the grace that we all have found in Christ, he and his family were shipped out of town and told never to return.

His church’s response is absurd, yet, at the same time it is to be expected. We should not be shocked that they would want to sweep their “problem” under the rug and forget about it as soon as possible, because that is precisely the reaction that we all have with our own sin. Life is messy, and when one’s biggest failures are made known its messiness is all the more evident. We need to learn to embrace the work that Christ does through our mess, and in so doing, give the world a clearer glimpse of God’s attributes amidst our fallenness. We should all pray for Ted Haggard and his family, but let us also pray for the Body as a whole. That through this incident we will all learn how to better address the sin in us as individuals, and as a corporate body.

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  1. I missed this interview but caught a blurb about a future documentary on Haggard on CNN. Have you heard anything on that?

  2. I have not heard about that, I know he was supposed to do an interview with Larry King Live, but that is all I know of. What is your take on the whole situation?

  3. Kolburt, I’m on the same page as you. I think his church should have shown him grace. I don’t condone what he did. It was a sin and a no-no in ministry. I think any church of any denomination would have asked him to step down, at least for a temporary period of time, and perhaps give him a time to reflect and repent before reinstating him after a number of years. But they also should have demonstrated the gospel in a more merciful way than what they did. The way they handled it was as if they completely disowned him. It must have been heart-breaking for the congregation as well as for Haggard himself. I really feel for him.

  4. Great blog.

    So, i don’t know Haggard apart from this controversy, so I’ve only gotten the sound bites of his preaching after the fact.

    But, wouldn’t this kind of excommunication be inline with the kind of attitude he had toward homosexuals? It seems he, amongst other conservative evangelicals was pretty outspoken on issues like homosexuality. Am I reading him wrong?

    Was the church just practicing what he preached?

    I’m not saying it should have been done that way, I think your right on Kolburt about what a Christ-like grace could and should look like. I just wonder if the church seems to be so terrible at showing that sort of grace to those outside it’s doors why would it be any more grace-like to those within?

  5. Ariah,
    It can be hard to get an accurate portrayal of Haggard’s preaching, especially now that it has become so politicized. In actuality, however, he would preach against homosexuality as a sin (as all Bible believing pastors should), but he did not do so in a condemnatory manner. In general he did a pretty good job of balancing grace and truth, his church’s failure to maintain the same balance is a reflection of deeper issues within the church, not necessarily a result of his teaching on the subject.

  6. Kolburt, thanks for the thoughts on Haggard. I’ll take your word for it. It is sad to see the church be such a poor example of Christ-like love when in the public eye.

    I couldn’t let this sneak past…
    you said “as all Bible believing pastors should” regarding preaching against homosexuality. Is your opinion that those who do not preach against homosexuality as sin are not Bible Believing?
    Do you think it’s possible to have a biblical interpretation of homosexuality that doesn’t see it as sin?

  7. Ariah,
    In short: no. There are many theologians and pastors who attempt to tap dance around the homosexuality issue and come up with alternatives to describe it besides the nasty “s” word, but if we are going to be faithful to the biblical text, we have no other option than to consider it a sin. Therefore, if a pastor chooses to ignore this issue, or worse yet, find a way to say it is acceptable, he can no longer claim to have Scripture as his authority, any more so than if he were to ignore poverty or another issue the Bible is clear on. If we believe the Bible to be the inspired Word of God, we must teach all of its counsel, even the parts we don’t like.

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