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Faced With Scandal, Haggard’s Wife Tells Why She Stayed

posted by mconsoli

(RNS) Under similar circumstances, many women would have kicked their husbands to the couch. Or the curb.
But for Gayle Haggard, the gay sex-and-drug scandal that toppled her husband’s ministry was simply ” the mountain we had to go over.”
And now, on the other side of that mountain, she’s preaching a message that many might find hard to understand, much less practice: forgiveness.
In “Why I Stayed: The Choices I Made in my Darkest Hour,” Haggard, 52, describes in candid detail the bumpy road she walked alongside her husband, former evangelical icon Ted Haggard, after the 2006 scandal left them literally wandering in the desert, both physically and emotionally.
“The reason I chose to stay with Ted was because I knew that there was more to the story than just the scandal in our lives,” she said Tuesday (Jan. 26) as the book was released, “that my husband was truly a great man on many levels and I wasn’t willing to deny all the good that we’d built in our marriage, in our family and in our church.”
She said her husband, who resigned the pulpit of New Life Church, the Colorado Springs megachurch they started more than 20 years earlier in their basement, didn’t ask her to change any of the candid details she included.
Reading the manuscript brought her husband to tears, she said, as he saw the scandal through her eyes for the first time. “He said that I was kind of a combination of Margaret Thatcher and Mother Teresa.”
Gayle’s initial reaction to reports of her husband’s dalliances with a gay escort was denial, though she writes that early in her marriage her husband, now 53, confessed his “struggles” with sexual attraction to men.
“Our sexual relationship had always been strong and satisfying, and I didn’t believe for one instant that Ted had been regularly visiting a gay escort,” she writes.
When Ted finally did admit his transgressions to her, she was devastated and “could hardly breathe,” she recalled. She second-guessed her decision to naively encourage Ted to get stress-reducing massages, never knowing they led to sex with a male escort.
In the scandal’s wake, she had to abandon her church post directing women’s ministries and Ted resigned as president of the National Association of Evangelicals. She was most bothered by the pity that came her way. “I hated that,” she said.
Despite the jumble of emotional reactions — anger, revulsion despair, anguish — Gayle said she “set my trajectory on forgiveness” and never banished her husband to the couch. She also never looked back.
“I really felt, as I could see how desperate my husband was and how despondent he was, that I needed to draw near to him,” she explained, conceding that every woman wouldn’t make the same choice. “It seemed as though everyone was pulling away from him and he was suffering enough, and I wanted to draw near to him and love him and show him forgiveness.”
Ted tells her that her forgiveness “provided a way for him to heal,” and the crisis led to a more intense emotional intimacy that the couple hadn’t yet experienced in their marriage.
“The scandal was the mountain we had to go over to the place that we’re at now,” she said.
Gayle writes that she agrees with her husband’s self-description as “a heterosexual with issues,” but admits that “I hope my heart is never put to the test” by her husband falling “into his sin again.”
While Gayle said she is “happier now than I’ve ever been,” she is less charitable about the church leaders and the “restoration committee”
that decided it would be best if the couple parted ways with New Life and found a new life out of state.
The couple was exiled to Phoenix, where they moved from borrowed house to borrowed house, her husband unable to land a steady job. “Those were very dark days for us,” she said.
It was not, she said, a very biblical way to aid a fallen fellow believer.
“When you have a repentant brother, which Ted was from the onset, I think that the church needs to embrace those people and encourage them through their process of healing,” she said.
Gayle said she’s found a kindred spirit of sorts in the lead character of the CBS drama “The Good Wife,” a working mother who lives through a sex and corruption scandal that lands her politician husband in jail.
“I have watched it and I love the show,” Gayle said. “I think the writers are so insightful to her process. In fact, I’ve been amazed at how insightful they’ve been.”
After pleading with New Life leaders to revoke the separation agreements, the Haggards returned to Colorado in the summer of 2008.
Just before Thanksgiving last year, the couple held two prayer meetings at their home but weren’t “prepared to handle” the idea of forming a new congregation.
“We just didn’t feel that we were ready to do that, although we desperately wanted to connect with people in the body of Christ,” she said. “We just put it on pause. We’re not sure at this point what the future holds.”
For now, the family is intact and the couple has found a group of supportive churches that have invited them to speak. Content to look ahead and not back, she said she sees brighter days ahead.
“Just the other day I looked at my husband and said, `Life is good,” she said. “And I realized that that was the first time I’d said that in three years.”
By ADELLE M. BANKS
Copyright 2010 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.



  • Grumpy Old Person

    Haggard’s “self-description as “a heterosexual with issues” is self-delusional at best. This is merely yet another euphemism for having (to use the language of the RRR) “struggled with my sexuality all my life”.
    If he is heterosexual (and I believe he is bisexual, at best), then he has, has always had, and always will have homosexual attractions. He will, therefore, also always have these “issues”.
    I find his (and his wife’s) statements to be both naive and hypocritical. He has not been “healed” (again, using his own verbage) [he wasn’t “sick” to begin with]. The “desperation” and the “despondence” come from living a LIE, not from same-sex attraction.
    If he thinks being homosexually attracted is a sickness that needs curing, he should look to the many proud, dignified, HONEST, self-respecting out gay or lesbian leaders in the US and elsewhere. Perhaps he could start with the daughter of the former Vice President. Or Lieutenant Dan Choi. Or Colonel Greta Cammermeyer. Or Sgt. Leonard Matlovich. Or Rev. Eugene V. Robinson. Or. Dr. Troy Perry.
    God does not create garbage. Shame on these deceivers of themselves and the false witness they continue to proclaim against God’s gay and lesbian children.

  • pagansister

    She is much more “understanding” than I would ever bee. If I wasn’t enough for my husband and he had to find satisfaction with another woman (or man), he’d be SOOOO gone. And believe me, it has nothing to do with religion. But since we’ve been married 45 years…I think all is well.

  • Fel

    Sadly so many woman of faith and old school values are extremely dependent on a man to give them the life they have, and what would a 50ish year-old woman find in the world if she were to leave her husband, yeah she might get half, but she would likely end up living with a few cats in a big house with half, meaning there ain’t to many men out there on the hunt for 50 year old woman, and if they are they are looking past her to something else, money, possessions, young daughter.

  • cknuck

    “she’s preaching a message that many might find hard to understand, much less practice: forgiveness.”
    I’d love to meet her what a wonderful woman. I don’t see how someone could call her words about her story “both naive and hypocritical” or accuse the couple of being liars. In the face of increasing sexual deviancy in this world and it touching every family’s lives I think this is refreshing to hear.

  • roseanne

    Go read the bible everyone. Those are the direct words of God to His children– US. I’m proud of her for standing by his side. We all sin. He sinned and she did not leave him because she’s ‘dependent on him because he’s a man’. she stayed because she Loves him and took her vows seriously. God hates divorce because of what it does to the children, family, and couple. She forgave him. That took so much strength, courage, faith. They are an example of a marriage that truly loves God and has God as their foundation.
    HOmosexuality is sin and to continue living in it is a sin. What he did was confess it and repent. We tend to put our Pastors on pedestals and make them to be ‘super’ Christians when we are all sinners and will continue to sin.
    I’m saddened by how the church treated him. Exiling him to a different state is upsetting. Yes, he is a pastor and knows more and is held more accountable for his actions, but he still needs love, encouragement from the church (brothers and sisters).
    Go read the bible. It is a book from beginning to end of God’s love for us.
    God doesn’t want us to sin, not because he will be soooo hurt and can’t handle it. God is bigger than that. He doesn’t want us to sin because he knows of what sin does to us. It hurts us. It draws us away from him…..
    God loves us and it’s time that everyone would start reading the bible.
    THe truth is clear. Jesus is the ONLY way to heaven. Don’t be fooled by false teaching. If what you say and think doesn’t line up with the Bible, then check yourself. Do you have the Holy Spirit? The Spirit will lead us to interpret the bible the same way.
    I’m praying for you.

  • pagansister

    Does anyone think he is “cured” of his homosexuality? He is just another man who cheated on his wife. If he messes up again…I wonder if she will stay with him. Trust is a big part of marriage…he, IMO, totally screwed that up. Love is one thing…being a sucker is another. Of course, some women don’t mind being used.
    Lots of sin apparently in Christianity…homosexuality AND getting a divorce are considered sinful as well as a bunch of other things I’m sure. :o( Guess all those divorced people in the world are in BIG trouble with some magical being or another.

  • pagansister

    Oh, roseanne, your suggestion to read the Bible? Been there, done that….enough to know that it doesn’t do it for me. 17 years was sufficient to figure that out. It works for some folks, like you, but not for others.

  • cknuck

    pagan Gayle is awesome woman so just admit she has done something that you are incapable of doing and have no understanding of, oh it’s called forgiving. So you’re just not there yet, huh?

  • pagansister

    Forgiveness is one thing….but totally cheating on a spouse is another. I took my vows seriously…the part about “forsaking all others is particularly appropriate (and not because I was married in a Christian church..to please my folks)and I don’t consider cheating more than once forgivable. I wouldn’t care if it was with a male or female. I don’t remember saying “forgiving cheating on me” in my vows. :o)
    You’re right, cknuck. One example of a woman doing the right thing is Mrs. Edwards finally leaving John. He totally blew it, tried to get someone else to claim he fathered Johns kid etc….and she finally had enough. She has to deal with dying…no time to bother with his lies anymore. I can forgive a lot…and have…but not a cheating spouse. Divorse is around for a reason.

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    The idiot salesman shows up again…where are you Beliefnet Tiger?

  • jestrfyl

    I hope Mrs H has not set herself up for more heartache and embarrassment. Mr H will surely return to his inclinations – it is not learned, it is part of who he is. I applaud her willingness to forgive, but I hope she does not forget – that benefits no one. His hypocrisy should not be the source of her discomfort or shame. May the rest of the world (including my dear friend ck) learn something from this situation.

  • Grumpy Old Person

    “Does anyone think he is “cured” of his homosexuality?”
    ps, he was asked this very question on Larry King the other night. And you know what he had the nerve to say in response??? Get ready …
    ‘Oh, that wasn’t the case with me. I’m a heterosexual, VERY heterosexual man. I just had some issues I needed to deal with.’
    So having homosexual sex doesn’t make him a homosexual, you see. He’s str8. STRAIGHT, I tell you (well, he tells us – just like Larry Craig assured us all that ‘I am not a homosexual. I have never been homosexual.’).
    Do you get that IT DOESN’T APPLY TO HIM. HE’S EXEMPT FROM ALL CHARGES. That wasn’t the case, indeed ;{O)
    And the saddest part of it all is that America buys this crap. They lap it up. The Haggard’s are given a national platform from which to lauch her Book of Lies – and America (most of it, unfortunately) believes it.

  • pagansister

    “And the saddest part of it all is that America buys this crap.” Grumpy Old Person
    I most certainly agree.

  • cknuck

    What’s really sad is that you pagan talk about Christians that divorce and Christians that don’t. Just as much as the grump can declare his homosexuality this guy has the right to reject his. No one has homosexuality figured out not scientists not homosexuals it in my opinion is a spiritual thing and no one can disprove that by producing a homosexual gene, DNA, hormone or any chemical distinctions. As a matter of fact the only distinction is that the subject has a attraction to the same sex, sex is the only distinction.

  • Your Name

    ck, he isn’t “rejecting” it, he’s denying it even exists/existed.
    I.E. he’s lying.

  • pagansister

    “What’s really sad is that you pagan talk about Christians that divorce and Christians that don’t.” cknuck
    And your point is?

  • cknuck

    fairly easy to identify the common denominator pagan; “you talk about Christians” and generally not in a good way.

  • pagansister

    What the hell has the statement you made have to do with me talking about Christians in a good or bad way? I really don’t see the connection, but whatever. Besides this has to do with Haggard’s wife who seems to not mind being cheated on.

  • pagansister

    above in response to cknuck….as is probably obvious.

  • cknuck

    The only way you can say she didn’t mind being cheated on is that you did not read the article. She was hurt she said she could not breathe, but she forgave. She is neither stupid or a villian to be put down.

  • pagansister

    cknuck, saw Mrs. Haggard on TV pushing her book. Her loving husband has used all excuses (and believe me, he had some good ones) to get back in her good graces…and she fell for them. She also said he was “hers”. It sounded like she owned him and wasn’t ready to stop that ownership! When asked why she wrote the book, she wanted to “clear up the situation” or words to that affect. IMO, she wrote the book because they need money. Whatever, I personally think the guy is gay and just doesn’t want to admit it.
    Sure she was hurt, and after the hurt…out he’d go to either his male or female lover. Really is simple.

  • cknuck

    Well I’m sure she will seek your permission and approval before she does something else. you are so resentful pagan when things don’t go the way you think they should just admit she is doing something you could not give her credit and move on.

  • pagansister

    cknuck…when you’re right you’re right. I’m sure she won’t ask me about anything. Genius statement. As to being “resentful” when things don’t go my way???? Ah, no. Life is too short for silly stuff like that. And yes, she is doing something I wouldn’t do…get walked on. If that deserves credit…so be it…but not from me.

  • pagansister

    Correction cknuck: I’m sure she WILL ask me for help about what to do. (Misread you first statement). And if she did, I’d advise her to leave his sorry A**. He spent his career telling folks that divorce, and adultery were “sinful”, and I can just imagine what he said about homosexuality! Whoa…SOOO BAD! Anyhow after preaching to folks, he did just what he preached against. Maybe his divine being will forgive him…that’s his/her job. But believe me…it wouldn’t be mine. I have and can forgive many, many things, but cheating (with male or female) isn’t in my scope. She wants to play the “loving wife” and Pray that he has his homosexual leanings out of his system, great. She will probably make a bit of money selling her story…she isn’t stupid…make some money on a situation she is sure folks will want to read about. Sex sells.

  • cknuck

    I am glad you can admit it pagan,

  • pagansister

    “…admit it”? What “it”?

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