Rehab After ‘Sexual Immorality’ Confession Could Take Years
(AP) There will be prayer, and perhaps the laying on of hands. There will be counseling and a confession. And there will be advice, confrontation and rebuke from “godly men” appointed to oversee the spiritual “restoration” of the Rev. Ted Haggard.
After tumbling from the pinnacle of the American evangelical movement amid allegations he snorted meth and cavorted with a male prostitute, Haggard has agreed to a rehabilitation process that could last three to five years.
“I see success approximately 50 percent of the time,” said H.B. London, vice president for church and clergy at Focus on the Family, the conservative Christian ministry in Colorado Springs. “Guys just wear out and they can no longer subject themselves to the process.”
Those who fail “end up selling cars or shoes or something, and being miserable and angry the rest of their lives,” London said.
Haggard was president of the National Association of Evangelicals and senior pastor of the 14,000-member New Life Church in Colorado Springs until last week, when a Denver man said Haggard paid him for sex nearly every month for three years and sometimes took methamphetamine during the encounters.
Haggard denied having sex with the man; he admitted buying meth but said he threw it away unused. He resigned from the NAE and days later was fired from his church after confessing to unspecified “sexual immorality.”
London, who is not involved in Haggard’s restoration, said the process will demand honesty from Haggard and determination from his overseers.
“It cannot be just a matter of friendship. It will have to become almost a confrontational relationship,” he said. “You’ve got to confess your sins and you’ve got to have a group of people around you who will not let you whitewash the issue.”
The process includes counseling, in groups and alone, and prayer. Each restoration is unique, with a program tailored for the needs of the participant.
“From the Christian perspective, we think in terms of prayer, we think in terms of what we call godly counsel, where godly men who are clean themselves insert themselves in the life of the one who is struggling,” London said.
The symbolic laying on of hands may also be a part of the recovery, London said.
“I’m sure there will be those who lay their hands on Pastor Haggard as an act of faith, calling on the act of God to restore and heal,” he said. “The prayer can be therapeutic, the laying on of hands can be ceremonial.”
One of the men who agreed to oversee the restoration, Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, has already withdrawn, citing a lack of time. The other two – Pastors Jack Hayford of The Church on the Way in Van Nuys, Calif., and Tommy Barnett of First Assembly of God in Phoenix – declined to comment on the specifics of Haggard’s program.
It isn’t clear whether Haggard will try to return to the ministry, at New Life or elsewhere. “He says that he has committed his life to God and that he is looking for direction as to where God can best use him,” said Leonard Chessler, Haggard’s lawyer and friend.
The Rev. Shawn Spear, a Brethren in Christ pastor in Hollidaysburg, Pa., knows at least part of what lies ahead for Haggard. After admitting he had an affair with a woman, Spear endured a painful yearlong separation from the ministry, went to counseling six times a month and worked to earn back the trust of his wife and his church.
It was brutal for his wife, Joy, as well. She said she suffered nightmares, had trouble sleeping and at times wanted to die.
“If God could have taken me at that point I would have been pleased, because you just didn’t feel like you could take another day,” she said.
Now they feel blessed: They say their marriage survived, even flourished, and their church accepted Shawn Spear back as minister.
“There’s hope,” he said. “There’s grace. There’s restoration.”