As several GetReligion readers have noted on the comment boards, the Rev. Ted Haggard has been fired. This is not a big surprise. What is surprising is that it has happened so quickly. Here is part of a Denver Post story by reporter Chuck Plunkett:
Ted Haggard, the beleaguered pastor of a Colorado Springs evangelical church who had denied having sex with a male prostitute, has been fired by an oversight board, which found him guilty of "sexually immoral conduct."
. . . The board that made the decision, called the "Overseer Board of New Life Church," said in a prepared statement Saturday afternoon: "Our investigation and Pastor Haggard's public statements have proven without a doubt that he has committed sexually immoral conduct.
If you stop and think about it, this is actually a pretty interesting statement. Based on what has been made public, Haggard has not openly confessed to any specific act of sexual morality. Yet the board cites his public statements. It also mentions its own investigation. The board's statement is available as a PDF.
Apparently the overseers have evidence -- or been told information by Haggard -- that reporters and, thus, the public do not know about.
It also appears that Haggard will not speak in the Sunday service at New Life Church. Instead, a statement -- of explanation and confession -- will be read along with a second statement of encouragement by his wife. Even with the family absent, I fear that this will be a major, national-media circus.
As you would expect, the longest story on the firing is in the Colorado Springs Gazette. This is a long story by reporter Paul Asay that I imagine would be at the heart of tomorrow's page-one package. There are many interesting details and poignant remarks by church members. It also seems that the Denver police are investigating whether crimes were committed. This is sobering news for the accuser, as well as Haggard.
Then there is this angle over at Focus on the Family, a serious line of research that I think is worth major coverage in the days or weeks ahead:
The attention may be intense, but scandal in the pulpit is not uncommon. Focus on the Family's pastoral care center receives 400 to 600 calls a month from pastors, many of whom struggle with addiction or sexual issues.
"When Ted Haggard is accused of something like this, I'm not surprised of the accusation because I deal with it so much," said the Rev. H.B. London, head of Focus on the Family's pastoral center. "I am surprised of the man."
London said it's possible for wayward pastors to return to the pulpit, but it takes time -- sometimes as much as five years: He said Haggard should be remorseful and confess his sins, though the congregation doesn't necessarily need to hear all details. "But coming back to the same congregation is many times difficult because people have drawn their own conclusions."
Finally, here is a link that several readers have sent in. It leads to a New Life recording of Haggard's sermon last week. It is, apparently, rather haunting.