As the world seized on what initially appeared to be flimsy claims by a gay prostitute asserting he had a “sexual business” relationship with Ted Haggard — whom he had also watched do meth — the outlook quickly deteriorated on Thursday for one of the most powerful charismatic leaders in the country.A big clue that things weren’t going so well for Haggard was the stream of “official statements” – which usually signals the absolute need to stay on message. Focus on the Family founder James Dobson jumped, apparently way too early, out of the gate with this angry missive:
COLORADO SPRINGS. Nov. 2 /U.S. Newswire/ — Focus on the Family founder and Chairman James C. Dobson, Ph.D., issued the following statement today addressing an allegation by a male prostitute in Denver that Ted Haggard was one of his clients:
“It is unconscionable that the legitimate news media would report a rumor like this based on nothing but one man’s accusation. Ted Haggard is a friend of mine and it appears someone is trying to damage his reputation as a way of influencing the outcome of Tuesday’s election — especially the vote on Colorado’s marriage-protection amendment — which Ted strongly supports.
“He has shown a great deal of grace under these unfortunate circumstances, quickly turning this matter over to his church for an independent investigation. That is a testament to the character I have seen him exhibit over and over again through the years.”
Shortly before 10 a.m. , Jim Banks, a Colorado Springs consultant and former Focus on the Family employee, announced an upcoming rally:
Community Leaders to Hold Press Conference in Support of Pastor Ted Haggard Today
Colorado Springs Community leaders will hold a press conference today at 3PM at the Gazebo at the downtown Pioneer?s Museum (215 South Tejon Street, Colorado Springs, CO 80903). Pastors and community leaders will join together to show support for Pastor Ted in light of politically motivated allegations made yesterday.
Three hours later the rally was cancelled
Press Conference to Defend Pastor Ted Postponed
Colorado Springs — A press conference by community leaders to defend Pastor Ted Haggard today has been postponed until further notice. New Life Church has requested that no press conference take place at this time.
Later in the afternoon New Life Church finally weighed in, though the church’s official statement didn’t include any of the vehement denials to the accusations that Haggard had made to 9NEWS the night before. Here’s a portion of what was released:
Rev. Ted Haggard, Senior Pastor of New Life Church, stated today that he could “not continue to minister under the cloud created by the accusations made to on Denver talk radio this morning.” He, therefore, placed himself on administrative leave, pending investigation, spiritual counsel and a decision by the church’s board of overseers.
Pastor Haggard said, “I am voluntarily stepping aside from leadership so the overseer process can be allowed to proceed with integrity. I hope to be able to discuss this mater in more detail at a later date. In the interim I will seek both spiritual advice and guidance.”
Rev. Ross Parsley associate senior pastor will serve as acting senior pastor. Rev. Parsley requested the community’s compassion and prayers for the person who came forward with accusations, for the Haggard family and for the New Life Church community. He also said, “New Life Church long ago adopted an overseer model of governance for situations just like this. People need to be patient and allow this process to unfold as it was designed to do.”
Finally, at 10:59 p.m., Pastor Ross sent the following “update” to the congregation’s e-mail list:
Dear New Lifers and friends of New Life Church,
Many of you have expressed concern about today’s news regarding our pastor. Thank you all for your prayers and support, and for your concern for our church family.
As you’ve likely heard by now, Pastor Ted has voluntarily placed himself on administrative leave as New Life’s senior pastor to allow our external board of overseers to work effectively. Below is the statement that we released to the media on Thursday afternoon.
Since that time, the board of overseers has met with Pastor Ted. It is important for you to know that he confessed to the overseers that some of the accusations against him are true. He has willingly and humbly submitted to the authority of the board of overseers, and will remain on administrative leave during the course of the investigation.
I am serving as the acting senior pastor of New Life Church. I met with the pastoral staff and elders Thursday night, and I assure you that the leadership team is strong and united. We remain resolute in our commitment to serving New Life Church and the people of our community.
Please continue to keep Ted and Gayle and their family in your prayers.
I love serving God with you all,