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Haggard’s wife tells why she stayed
Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service
January 28, 2010
7 MIN READ TIME

Haggard’s wife tells why she stayed

Haggard’s wife tells why she stayed
Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service
January 28, 2010

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.

RNS photo courtesy Tyndale House Publishers

Gayle Haggard, wife of disgraced evangelical leader Ted Haggard, writes about sticking by her husband in her new book, Why I Stayed: The Choices I Made in My Darkest Hour.

“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.

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.”

Excerpts from Why I Stayed

  • “I believed Ted had been

    honest with me, and our physical relationship certainly didn’t indicate that

    homosexuality was even a possibility. 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.”

  • “And so that night I began

    my journey of choosing … choosing to love. I chose to press through my

    feelings of anger. I pressed through my feelings of revulsion and took the hand

    I had held so many times, the hand that brought me such comfort in the past.

    And in that moment, I realized how much I still loved my husband.”

  • “Ted confessed that as the

    external pressures had increased in recent years, he had sought a way to

    escape. He went for massages — and in my naivete, I had encouraged him to go. I

    had no idea that some of these massages culminated in sexual activity.”

  • “From the Denver masseur,

    Ted had also learned about certain drugs that purportedly would enhance his

    sexual experience. He gave in to this temptation and returned on several

    occasions to purchase drugs.”

  • “The thing I resented most

    was feeling like an object of pity. I don’t like pity; it embarrasses me. … I

    had to deal with hearing people say, ‘Oh, that poor woman,’ and I hated that.”

  • “In Ted’s case, I honestly

    believe the Lord himself provided the most effective discipline. Ted suffered

    privately for months, and then he was publicly exposed, embarrassed, mocked,

    and humiliated. Because he confessed and repented almost immediately, the

    church’s response should have been forgiveness and restoration of fellowship.

    Instead, Ted was held up as an example for exile.”