(Photo: The Oprah Show)
The wife of former megachurch pastor Ted Haggard believes, as her husband says, that he is no longer a heterosexual with homosexual issues.
And Gayle Haggard says her relationship with her husband is better now that it’s ever been – even compared to the peak it had reached right before Ted Haggard’s confession in November 2006 to the drug and gay sex scandal that nearly cost them everything they had built over their nearly three-decade-long marriage.
“Going over this mountain together has given me the marriage that I’ve always longed for,” Gayle told NBC Today host Meredith Vieira on Wednesday.
Since her husband’s confession more than three years ago, Gayle says she has been on a journey to understand her husband, having chosen to stand by him even as everything else seemed to move away.
The highly-publicized drugs and sex scandal led to Ted Haggard's resignation from the presidency of the National Association of Evangelicals and forced him out of the church he had started from his basement at the age of 28 - New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colo., which grew to become one of the most prominent megachurches in the nation.
The scandal also forced the Haggards into seclusion, which they did not come out from until only about a year ago, in the weeks leading to the debut of the documentary “The Trials of Ted Haggard” on HBO last January.
Prior to their return, the Haggards went through therapy, individually and as a couple, and Ted Haggard had gone through at least three different crisis response groups, one of which believed his process of restoration was “incomplete” and that his recent activities – media appearances and the start of a prayer group near his former church – were “insensitive” to New Life Church.
“The irony of all of this is that, from the very beginning, Mr. Haggard had been counseled to go to another city, complete his restoration program, experience healing in his family and with his addiction, and only then begin again,” commented H.B. London, vice president of Pastoral Ministries at Focus on the Family, who had joined the team overseeing Haggard’s first counseling program.
"But, he has made a choice not to do that," he added this past November, when the Haggards started holding weekly prayer meetings at their home.
Haggard, however, says he has not had one impulsive thought or behavior since going into therapy.
“No," Haggard told talk show host Oprah Winfrey Tuesday when asked if he felt he was a heterosexual with homosexual issues. "Not at all.”
After watching a clip of their appearance on The Oprah Show, Gayle told Today’s Vieira that she believes what her husband claimed on the show and that she has come to understand the complications of sexuality.
“I think with all of this, our sexuality is conditioned,” she explained. “And we can be conditioned in any number of ways – in our heterosexuality, homosexuality.”
So while experiences that he had as a child affected him as they replayed themselves in his mind, Ted has come to rid himself of the unwanted compulsions that he once had after he was able to identify them in therapy and was given the tools to deal with them, Gayle reported.
“But that’s not true for everybody. That's his story,” she clarified.
In acknowledging that every person’s case is different, Gayle expressed her belief that, “as human being, we all need the support of others to choose what we want our lives to be.”
And she said that while trying to be something that we’re not may – by definition – be hypocritical, but it’s also the human condition.
“[A]ll of us have ideals that we strive for in our lives,” she stated. “So I think all of us are to one degree or another a hypocrite. Ted just had to play his out on a very public stage.”
Gayle Haggard’s recent media appearances coincided with the release of her new book, Why I Stayed, in which she recalls the November 2006 scandal and her “journey of choosing to love” rather than deciding to separate from her husband.
The book was released Tuesday through Tyndale House Publishers.