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The National Association of Evangelicals,
homosexuality, and reparative therapy

Ted Haggard admits same-sex
activity &
resigns from NAE

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About Ted Haggard and the National Association of Evangelicals (NEA):

Ted Arthur Haggard ("Pastor Ted;" 1956-) had been the president of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) since 2003. He was also senior pastor of the 14,000 member New Life Church -- a mega church in Colorado City, CO. Time Magazine named him as one of the 25 most influential Evangelicals in the U.S. He is married with five children and an outspoken critic homosexuality and of same-sex marriage.  By late 2006, a sex scandal erupted that cost him the presidency of the NAE. He was replaced by Leith Anderson.

The National Association of Evangelicals is an umbrella group linking together fundamentalist and other evangelical Christians. It was organized in 1942 at a meeting of 147 people in St. Louis, MO.

It has grown considerably over the past almost 7 decades and now counts sixty denominations, about 45 thousand congregations, and a multitude of para-church groups, commissions, affiliates, schools, and individuals as affiliates and members. They are the main representative of the conservative wing of Protestantism and are frequently contacted by the media when reporters want to learn the authoritative evangelical Christian position on a particular topic.

Internal NAE conflicts over sexual orientation surfaced in 2006 and 2008. The former resulted in the resignation of their president at the time: Ted Haggard; the second resulted in the resignation of their vice-president of governmental affairs, Richard Cizik.

Ted Haggard's downfall:

  • On 2006-NOV-1, Mike Jones, 49 allegedly a gay man and a Denver area male escort, claimed on a Colorado Springs, CO radio station that he had had an ongoing sexual relationship with Ted Haggard.
    That evening, Haggard denied the claims. He prepared for an investigation by officials in his church saying:

    "I did not have a homosexual relationship with a man in Denver. I am steady with my wife. I'm faithful to my wife. I don't know if this is election year politics or if this has to do with the [federal] marriage amendment or what it is, but I'm not even the guy who will investigate it or question it. I don't know what the dynamics are, but this independent group will come in and do that." 1,2

  • By the next day, Ted Haggard had stepped down as president of the NAE and as head of the New Life Church. The Associated Press reported that:

    "Jones said he has voice mail messages from Haggard, as well as an envelope he said Haggard used to mail him cash, though he declined to make any of it available to the AP. 'There's some stuff on there (the voice mails) that's pretty damning,' he said." 3

  • On NOV-02, Ted Haggard allegedly admitted that some allegations of same-sex behavior are true. KTTV reported:

    "After Pastor Ted Haggard went public Wednesday night denying allegations of a homosexual affair, senior church officials told KKTV 11 News Thursday evening, Pastor Ted Haggard has admitted to some of the claims made by a former male escort. The church's Acting Senior Pastor, Ross Parsley, tells KKTV 11 News that Pastor Haggard has admitted to some of the indiscretions claimed by Mike Jones, but not all of them. Thursday morning, Jones went on a Denver radio talk show and said Pastor Haggard paid him for sex over the past 3 years. Jones also claims Haggard used drugs with him. 4

  • Ted Haggard wrote a letter to the parishioners of the New Life Church which was read by another pastor during services on Sunday, NOV-05. He stated that:

    "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. ..."

    "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. Our church's overseers have required me to submit to the oversight of Dr. James Dobson, Pastor Jack Hayford, and Pastor Tommy Barnett. Those men will perform a thorough analysis of my mental, spiritual, emotional, and physical life. They will guide me through a program with the goal of healing and restoration for my life, my marriage, and my family." 5

    James Dobson, head of Focus on the Family, later withdrew his offer to help, citing excessive workload.

The program to help Haggard was apparently some form of reparative therapy or transformational ministry geared to changing Haggard's sexual behavior and/or orientation.

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Review of reparative therapy:

In the field of sexual orientation there are two "solitudes" who very rarely attempt meaningful dialogue:

  • Religious conservatives, whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or other, generally believe that homosexuality is a behavior that is chosen at or after puberty. It is changeable, abnormal, unnatural, and hated by God. It is typically caused during childhood by inadequate parenting, although some religious conservatives also blame childhood sexual abuse as an alternate cause. Most view homosexuality as a mental illness, a spiritually sinful state, and/or an addiction. A small but growing percentage of religious conservatives now accept that a homosexual orientation is discovered, not chosen, is difficult or impossible to change, and has at least a partly biological cause.
  • Religious liberals, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, therapists, human sexuality researchers, and others generally believe that homosexuality is an orientation that is often discovered at or after puberty. It is fixed, and is normal and natural for a minority of people. It has been proven by studies of identical twins -- who were separated at birth and raised independently -- to be caused by some factor prior to birth -- probably genetic -- in combination with some unknown factor in the environment. It produces symptoms that can be detected by child psychologists when the child is at a pre-school age. Over three and a half decades ago the American Psychological Association determined that homosexual orientation is not a mental illness. Other professional associations subsequently followed suit.

Reparative therapy is promoted almost entirely by religious conservatives. It is typically a lengthy process. It takes on the order of 3 years and costs in excess of $10,000. During therapy, the client attempts to form a close, intimate but non-sexual relationship with a member of the same sex. This overcomes the client's alleged lack of bonding with their same-sex parent during childhood. Reparative therapists believe that sexual feelings towards members of the opposite sex will naturally emerge during this treatment.

There is little data available on the efficacy and safety of reparative therapy. But what little information that is available seems to show that this therapy has a failure rate in excess of 99.5%. Anecdotal data indicates that a large percentage of extremely depressed and suicidal clients emerge from conversion therapy. On the other hand, there are also stories of clients who have tried to change their sexual orientation via reparative therapy as a last resort, have been unsuccessful, have realized that their sexual orientation is unchangeable, have fully accepted themselves as homosexuals or bisexuals, and have finally found peace.

Our opinion:

It is our policy to avoid interjecting our opinions into the essays on this website. However, sometimes the matter is of such extreme importance that we feel a moral obligation to express our view.

As explained above, most religious conservatives hold views that are very different from the beliefs of religious liberals, sexual minorities, human sexuality researchers, therapists, and researchers.

Personal conflicts over sexual orientation -- whether they are caused by homosexuality itself (as many religious conservatives believe) or by the high level of homophobia in society (as many others do) is leading to massive depression, and extremely high levels of suicide in the homosexual community. This is not the time for the two sides to withdraw from each other and sling accusations at each other. This is the time for discussion, dialogue, joint studies into the reality of sexual orientation, and revision of peoples' ideas to make them correspond to reality.

The anecdotal evidence appears to indicate that this form of therapy is ineffective and potentially dangerous. Unfortunately, the quality of the studies is extremely poor. The culture desperately needs well designed studies that will produce results that both religious conservatives and others will be able to accept. To do less than this is profoundly immoral, and will result in millions of people in real pain -- some with suicidal ideation.

This topic continues in a separate essay

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "BREAKING ALLEGATIONS: Head of National Association of Evangelicals, Ted Haggard, Is Gay!," Evangelical Right, 2006-NOV-02, at:
  2. Wolf Blitzer, Situation Room program, CNN, 2006-NOV-02.
  3. Catherine Tsai, "Key Evangelical quits amid gay sex claim," Associated Press, 2006-NOV-02, at:
  4. "Church leader says Haggard admits to some indiscretions," KKTV, 2006-NOV-03, at:
  5. "Ted Haggard's lettter to New Life Church," The Gazette, Colorado Springs, CO, 2006-NOV-05, at:

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Copyright © 2006 & 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
Originally written: 2006-NOV-17
Last update and review: 2008-DEC-19

Author: B.A. Robinson
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