The Rev. Ted Haggard story is now unfolding in a manner that is both dramatic and, for journalists, frustrating. The drama this morning at New Life Church was very human, yet there really wasn't much in the way of news for reporters to write about. It was a day for tissues, not newsprint. Here is a sample of the coverage in the Colorado Springs Gazette:
The mood was a mixture of sadness and determination that the church will go on. The service was rife with tears, hugging, anger and calls for forgiveness. The congregation stood and applauded for acting senior pastor Ross Parsley, for the overseers, and for a letter written by Gayle Haggard, but not for the confession submitted by beleaguered pastor Ted Haggard.
Haggard will seek intensive mental and spiritual counseling from nationally-prominent pastors Jack Hayford and Tommy Barnett and Focus on the Family Chairman James Dobson.
The Rev. Larry Stockstill, head of the oversight board, said: "Today you're seeing both the goodness and the justice of God. We can be mad at God, say that it's not fair, the timing is terrible, or we can say 'blessed be the name of the Lord.'"
The oversight committee that fired Haggard is still not talking about the details of his sexual sins.
Haggard elected not to confess them, either, in the letter read to his flock.
And that's that. The most dramatic story of the day was written by the fallen pastor, and it was a story about sin, faith and partial repentance, not bold details. There wasn't much that reporters could do to improve on it, although that might happen in the days ahead.
Click here for the full text. Here is a sample of what Haggard had to say:
... I alone am responsible for the confusion caused by my inconsistent statements. The fact is, I am guilty of sexual immorality, and I take responsibility for the entire problem. I am a deceiver and a liar. There is a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I've been warring against it all of my adult life.
For extended periods of time, I would enjoy victory and rejoice in freedom. Then, from time to time, the dirt that I thought was gone would resurface, and I would find myself thinking thoughts and experiencing desires that were contrary to everything I believe and teach. Through the years, I've sought assistance in a variety of ways, with none of them proving to be effective in me. Then, because of pride, I began deceiving those I love the most because I didn't want to hurt or disappoint them.
The public person I was wasn't a lie; it was just incomplete. When I stopped communicating about my problems, the darkness increased and finally dominated me. As a result, I did things that were contrary to everything I believe. The accusations that have been leveled against me are not all true, but enough of them are true that I have been appropriately and lovingly removed from ministry.
The key now is the phrase "from time to time."
It is likely that Colorado newsrooms will do everything they can to document the past. But the church's leaders -- leaders of a church all but created in Haggard's image -- have acted firmly and quickly. It will be interesting to see how the flock responds.
What will happen next? It sounds like the Haggard family will press forward -- at least that is what Gayle Haggard's letter said. I wonder if any journalists will debate whether to write stories about when marriages are saved, and when they are lost, under these circumstances. I wonder what editors would say if a reporter proposed writing that story.
After all, Gayle Haggard said this:
What I want you to know is that I love my husband, Ted Haggard, with all my heart. I am committed to him until death "do us part". We started this journey together and with the grace of God, we will finish together.
If I were standing before you today, I would not change one iota of what I have been teaching the women of our church. For those of you who have been concerned that my marriage was so perfect I could not possibly relate to the women who are facing great difficulties, know that this will never again be the case. My test has begun; watch me. I will try to prove myself faithful.
UPDATE: The omnipresent Ted Olsen at Christianity Today says there is a bit more news between the lines -- including hints of a comeback. Click here for Ted's parsing of the letter and services today.