Then this past Friday, details of Ted Haggard's resignation/removal from his church due to moral failing surfaced. The spin around this was flying, what with the American midterm election campaigning at full throttle, and I heard several pundits refer to Haggard merely as an "influential right-wing evangelical."
Coming from the secular media, I understand their label, because to them he's a political figure first, seeking to influence election outcomes. Still, I found it unnerving to see a man reduced to a political factor- there is so much more at stake in the outcome of this for Haggard and the church than how it affects a "rightist" turnout in the midterms.
As difficult as this news was for Christians and the Church, I feel that it offers us the opportunity to show the world how Christ mandated we should deal with the fallen and turn what could be a black mark into a testimony of grace at work and demonstrate that the church operates differently than the world does.
I found myself reflecting back to a time where my favourite worship leader, Kevin Prosch, told the world about moral failing that required him to step away from public ministry. Now Prosch never has exerted an influence as significant as Haggard's, but the reaction to the news fell divided.
One one hand, some believed that Prosch was totally done in ministry- that his failing (and the resulting failure of his marriage) disqualified him from ever holding any position in the church again.
This was really out of touch with how God asks us to deal with those who have fallen:
1 Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day's out. 2 Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ's law. 3 If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived. 4 Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don't be impressed with yourself. Don't compare yourself with others. (Galatians 6:1-4, The Message)Thankfully, some gathered around Prosch and prayed for his restoration and provided a place of safety in which to deal with his failing, re-establish credibility and allow healing and development of personal character to help ensure there was no repeat.
The first group was far, far louder than the second. Thankfully, the second group was far more persistent and effective.
In 2002, Kevin made a return to the world of worship with his CD Palanquin, and to a place of ministry in the church.
I was glad to see Kevin back. Whenever I hear scripture about how all believers make up one body, and that we all have a meaningful place of belonging and purpose, I think of how much I missed Kevin Prosch in worship. He is a uniquely gifted songsmith, and some of his songs have become life-anthems of sorts for me, so when he was restored to ministry it was like a part that was missing was found.
One thing I do note though, is that even with restoration, there will always be a need for people who love Kevin to surround him and love him enough to help him guard against the temptation to which he fell before. Being restored doesn't mean that no one remembers or is required to forget the fall altogether- it means that despite the fall, grace and mercy are applied and a place is made for the fallen to come back to the table, and that one must be ever vigilant, with the help of community, to walk in a way that seeks to cut off opportunity to fall again.
That's my prayer for Ted Haggard. He's a real guy with a real family- he's not just a factor in an election. I pray that he will find people ready to love him, pray and walk with him and restore him, and a place in the body where he can still fulfill the destiny that God intended for him. I'm in no position to throw stones at him, and I pray for the body of Christ that we will remember that Jesus saved us from sins no less grievous than his before we speak in anything but love.
Mercy, grace and love to you Ted. May you fall into the hands of Christ and the arms of loving brothers and sisters to rise again and find your place in the body.