There are many who feel disgraced megachurch pastor Ted Haggard reopened old wounds by returning to the public eye just two years after a drugs and sex scandal brought him down and forced him out of the church he founded.
"I wish I could feel more benevolent and compassionate toward Haggard and his struggles with his 'complex sexuality,'" commented Dave Welch, the founder and executive director of the U.S. Pastor Council and Houston Area Pastor Council, in a commentary that appeared last week on WorldNetDaily.
However, "Haggard seems to be determined to revel in and profit from his immorality, in spite of the extensive and gracious restoration efforts by the church leadership at the fellowship he once pastured," Welch added.
Since Jan. 9, Haggard has given dozens of media interviews in part to promote "The Trials of Ted Haggard," a 41-minute documentary that paints a sympathetic portrait of the ousted charismatic leader after the scandal in 2006. Directed by Alexandra Pelosi, the daughter of liberal House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, "The Trials of Ted Haggard" debuted on HBO this past Thursday and will be airing throughout the month.
"Rather than continuing in the process of personal restoration, rebuilding his marriage and quietly seeking how God could take the broken pieces of his ministry and use them, he (Haggard) has decided to 'make a living' by going the write-a-book, tell-your-story and appear-on-talking-heads route," Welch wrote last Tuesday.
"The fact is that his fall is far too recent … and ongoing for him to be doing the circuit if his motives were pure," the conservative leader added.
Though Pastor Brady Boyd, Haggard's successor at New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colo., warned Haggard of the potential consequences of the HBO documentary during a meeting in December, Haggard decided to move forward with his return to the public eye, explaining to Larry King last Thursday that contrary to what Boyd said last week, the wound was not reopened in recent weeks.
"I think the wound has not healed," he told King on "Larry King Live."
"And I don't think we're reopening it. I think what's happening is it's been festering," he added. "And we needed communication. And we needed to process it. And it can't process."
According to Haggard, "loads of New Lifers" have been writing to him on his website, TedHaggard.com, since his return to the public stage, some going as far as telling him they are being healed through his appearances.
"[T]hey saw me on 'Oprah' or have seen some of the shows where I'm saying I'm sorry. And they're writing about how healing it is to hear my voice and hear me say I am sorry for what happened," Haggard told King.
"I want people to heal," he insisted. "So I think in this process what we're doing is we're just kind of cleaning out some of the things and making it so it can heal."
Still, there are many, including former New Life volunteer Grant Haas, who wish Haggard would return to obscurity.
"He's reopening a lot of old wounds – not only me, but other families at New Life Church," Haas told CNN prior to Haggard's appearance on "Larry King Live."
Haas was a young volunteer at New Life Church when he met Haggard, who at the time was among of the most influential evangelicals in the United States. Haas would later be a victim of Haggard's undisclosed "sexual immorality," which included Haggard's highly publicized cash-for-sex relationship with a Denver male prostitute.
"I think he just needs to live life in quiet," concluded Haas, now 25, who recently came forward to confess that Haggard had once masturbated in front of him in a hotel room.
Haggard, however, insists that "[s]eparation and lack of communication never heals broken relationships."
"We (Haggard and his wife, Gayle) knew we had to answer the questions," Haggard told World Magazine, attempting to explain the reason for the new documentary. "For the sake of our kids going to school. For the sake of me trying to build a business. And just a message … our life message."
Although Haggard has stated his intention not to return to ministry, he said he is interested in making more public appearances.
"I think Gayle and I both want to tell our story to the degree that it's helpful to other people," he told CNN. "I don't know that that would mean a pulpit, but certainly I'd be interested in public speaking."
Haggard currently works as an insurance salesman and lives in Colorado Springs with his wife of 30 years and two of his five children. The Haggard's remaining three children are over the age of 18.