I've been thinking a lot about Ted Haggard. My first thoughts were of profound sadness for him and even more so for his family. And then came his letter to his congregation and it has been stewing for me since then. I have to say that I pity the man. Let me make a few statements that I think are central to the questions raised by this event.
1. Ted Haggard is gay. Whether he was born that way or became that way is irrelevant. He would argue with that statement but it seems clear to me that it is who he is. Yes I know he is married and has children but this was not a simple sexual indiscretion. As one of my straight conservative Christian friends said, "If he was going to sin, he could have chosen one that is more fun." I think that is the crux of the issue. There wasn't one that was more fun for him. There wasn't a temptation to sleep with women. That was an obligation or even a mark of commitment to his wife... but men... were a different story, so much so that he risked his career, his family, and in his understanding, his relationship with God. The things he did may have been contrary to everything he believed, but not to who he is. His lie was and is his marriage.
2. When he speaks of something dirty within himself, he is telling the truth, but it isn't his homosexuality, it is his self-loathing.
3. The suffering that he has inflicted on his wife and family is a direct result of his not being able to accept who he is. It is unnecessary. Had he been honest with himself and with them, he would be involved in a lifelong commitment to another man and this pain would never have happened.
4. His sin was his breaking of a covenant with a woman who loved him, not the fact that he is gay.
5. No doubt, he will try to get "cured" of his homosexuality and his wife may even stay with him. Still, even if he never engages in homosexual activity again, his nature will not change and the self-loathing will be there every day for the rest of his life.
6. A gay man, actively involved in homosexual activities can do significant ministry.
So where do we go with this? I hope it serves as a wake-up call to conservatives to rethink their understanding of the issue. I believe that the scriptures do not preclude the possibility of homosexual love and sexual involvement with the same kinds of criteria that are there for heterosexual love and sexual involvement - fidelity, appropriateness to the depth of the relationship, the degree to which the activity humanizes the partners, ability to live with the possible consequences (these criteria roughly come from James Nelson's wonderful book Embodiment).
So my advice to Ted Haggard... look in the mirror and see who you are and then run to the nearest MCC Church and hear a gospel of the love of God and of welcome. Or run to an AWAB church or some other congregation that preaches the radical inclusive grace of God. Do some serious therapy and come to terms with who you are and give thanks to God for who you are. Then comes the really difficult work - deciding what to do with a promise that you made to your wife, based on a lie.