Some woeful news for us ministers:
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Americans’ rating of the honesty and ethics of the clergy has fallen to 47%, the first time this rating has dropped below 50% since Gallup first asked about the clergy in 1977. Clergy have historically ranked near the top among professions on this measure, hitting a high rating of 67% in 1985.
And here’s the graph (please go to "Honesty and Ethics Rating of Clergy Slides to New Low" to see it fully):
Around the same time I received this news, I saw an article titled "Disgraced Ex-Preacher Says There’s a Major Culture Problem in Evangelical Christianity." Near the top it says:
Focusing specifically on the scandals and charges of wrongdoing that have surrounded many famed preachers — himself included — Haggard said that evangelical Christians sometimes fail to properly apply the gospel when dealing with faith leaders who fall from grace.
Hmmm…what could be behind Haggard’s views? Let’s head back to February 7, 2008:
Ted Haggard’s journey of "spiritual restoration" came to a halt this week at the request of the ousted New Life Church pastor.
A year after Haggard agreed to enter counseling with four ministers after his sex scandal, he asked to end the team’s oversight of his recovery program. But New Life Church officials believe the termination of the relationship is premature, according to a statement on Tuesday.
Early last year, just months into his recovery program, the overseers had indicated that the restoration process could take years.
Later in the same article:
Since early in the recovery process, the overseers have strongly urged Haggard to seek secular employment.
Translation? Don’t be a minister anymore.
Now let’s fast forward to June 6, 2010:
More than three years after stepping down as pastor of the 14,000-member congregation he founded in Colorado Springs, Colo., Ted Haggard announced that he is starting a new church in the same city even though he once agreed not to start a church within 100 miles.
Moving on to February 15, 2011 in "Ted Haggard: Tiger Woods Got Restored, Why Can’t Christian Leaders?":
In his third featured interview this year, former megachurch pastor Ted Haggard asks why it is so hard for the Church to live out its teachings on forgiveness and restoration, noting that the secular world is doing a better job at this than Christians.
He expresses frustration over his observation that many celebrities – including Martha Stewart, Michael Vick, Tiger Woods, David Letterman – were restored by their secular organizations compared to Christian leaders, including himself, who do not receive restoration by the church.
And a bit later…
[Updated: Thursday, February 17, 2011]
Following the publication of this article, St. James Church executive pastor Phil Chamberlin contacted The Christian Post to dispute the restorative nature of the program..
"It wasn’t a restoration agreement. It was a ‘get out of town’ process," said Chamberlin, a former New Life Church member.
According to the "Restoration Agreement" obtained by The Christian Post on Wednesday, Haggard and his entire family were to "permanently relocate outside Colorado;" he was not to engage in ministry; and he was to sign documents in front of church leaders to request churches that ordained or licensed him to revoke his ordination, licensure or certification.
Haggard was also to submit plans for a new career, sell his house, and to not step foot into New Life until he was allowed to by the Restoration Team and Overseers, the contract stipulated.
Why is America’s trust in clergy going down? Perhaps because highly visible people like Ted Haggard fit the "hypocritical man of the cloth" stereotype so well…both when they sin in a position of trust (e.g. adulterous homosexual acts and meth purchasing) and after during their "restoration" (e.g. not displaying true repentance by rushing back into ministry while simultaneously breaking promises).
I agree with my friend Saiko Woods…sins like Haggard’s should permanently disqualify the errant minister from ever being a pastor again. I’ll admit that there might be some exceptions…but it would be many, many years (e.g. decade plus) down the road…and the "call" back into ministry would not be from himself or his fans/friends.