Magazine article The Christian Century

Off the Pedestal

Magazine article The Christian Century

Off the Pedestal

Article excerpt

TED HAGGARD built up a 14,000-member Pentecostal church on the basis of his charismatic gifts and organizational skills. As one of the country's most prominent pastors and as president of the National Association of Evangelicals, Haggard had access to the White House and was a consultant to presidential adviser Karl Rove. Heady stuff, indeed--until it came crashing down. He was forced to resign as pastor and NAE president after being accused by a gay male prostitute of engaging in monthly trysts enhanced by methamphetamine.

One of Haggard's friends and colleagues said that while Haggard had to repent of his sins, his congregation also needed to repent--repent of the tendency to put leaders on a pedestal.

Charles Chandler, who runs Ministering to Ministers, a support group for ousted ministers, told the Los Angeles Times (November 5) that one of the hazards for pastors at megachurches like Haggard's New Life Church is that they are treated almost like rock stars, with their photos and books on display everywhere. "People almost put you on a throne. You're vulnerable when that happens. You can take yourself too seriously."

Such pastors are under tremendous pressure to live as if they belong on that pedestal, and they may turn to sexual or chemical addictions to deal with the pressure, Chandler said--even as they preach all the more vehemently against such addictions.

The Haggard case underscores the importance of congregations being part of a structure that holds pastors accountable and that has a process of disciplining leaders and a means of ministering to wounded parishioners. …

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