My partner and I moved from Atlanta to South Carolina not too long after the Episcopal Church ordained Gene Robinson as its first openly gay bishop. Since we were embarking upon a new life in a new place, we decided to check out the Episcopal churches in the area. I sent an email to the rector of the church in the town we would be moving to and asked him if his church was welcoming to gays and lesbians.
His response was one that Ted Haggard would love. The rector told us that yes, in fact, his church was very welcoming of gays and lesbians—as long as we followed the biblical mandate for sexuality and renounced our sexual orientation and sought to marry nice Episcopal men. Well, he didn’t say it in those exact words—but that was his message. Yes, you’re welcome as lesbians to be in our church, but we expect that we’ll convict you that you’re wrong and will want to change.
That’s the message of Haggard’s brand new church in Colorado Springs, which he announced this afternoon.
Asked if his new church would take a position on homosexuality, Haggard said “we will take positions.”
“I’m going to teach the Bible, chapter by chapter, verse by verse… but I don’t want to be a political activist.” Haggard explained that the church wouldn’t advocate a specific public policy, but would instead “encourage” members to strive towards the ideal of biblical heterosexuality and monogamy.
That’s kind of rich coming from Haggard (the former head of the National Association of Evangelicals) who got caught in a sex and drugs scandal with a male prostitute in 2006. Since then, Haggard has been trying to rehab his image—claiming he’s a heterosexual with “homosexual attachments”—whatever that means. Now he calls sexuality “complex and confusing,” and swears his new church won’t be performing any gay marriages:
We are a church and I believe that God’s ideal plan for marriage is the union of a man and a woman in a heterosexual monogamous relationship, so those are the types of marriages we will do in our church. Now, as for society, working with that question, that is a totally different subject. But within the church, that’s where we at St. James will be.
One always hopes that when someone is caught doing the very thing that they preach so strongly against that the person might actually learn a lesson from it and come through the experience a different or transformed person in the end. Sadly this is not the case with Haggard.
I had hoped that Haggard, upon feeling the overwhelming shunning wrath of his Christian brothers and sisters after his revelation, would come to an intimate understanding of how the gay and lesbian community feels about the church—how those who claim to follow Christ will turn their backs on you when you need them the most. In that shunning, I had hoped that Haggard might arrive at a new place—where he would realize how painful that is for the person shunned and vow to never, ever do that to anyone if he were ever back in the position to lead a church.
It’s disappointing when you realize the lesson has gone unheeded—that Haggard is so desperate to again be accepted by those who disowned him that he will bury his own truth and continue to shun, abuse, and belittle others all while hiding behind his pulpit and his Bible.
My partner and I never went to the Episcopal church that had so gladly “welcomed” us. I hope that no gay or lesbian person makes the mistake of believing that Haggard has changed and is really “welcoming” them to his new church.
Meet the new charlatan, just the same as the old charlatan.