Advice to Disgraced Clergy: Get a Job

I once worked with an ex-priest. The Catholic church lost one of their best when this man left the priesthood for the secular life. I think he brings the gift of ministry to his work in social services. When he first left the priesthood he did a variety of jobs, including construction. Hey, even St. Paul was a tentmaker.

My church is pretty tough on ministers. One of them resigned and has a practice as a counselor. Another works in prevention of cruelty to animals. A lot of people come out of divinity school and don’t get a gig right away, or don’t click with their church and resign or even get fired. They might do other work for some time, or maybe minister in some other way. Being clergy doesn’t exempt you from having to pay your bills.

But I’m being of a worldly mind. In the Church of the Prosperity Gospel the ordained of the Lord won’t ever be found doing drudge work. Ted Haggard, who lost his megachurch ministry when he was outed by a male prostitute he hired, has a message for you– “send me money now.�

The former New Life Church pastor plans to seek a master’s degree in counseling at the University of Phoenix while his wife studies psychology, he said in an e-mail sent this week to KRDO-TV in Colorado Springs.

The couple and two of their sons planned to move Oct. 1 to the Phoenix Dream Center, a faith-based halfway house in Phoenix, where Haggard and his wife would provide counseling, the e-mail said.

“It looks as though it will take two years for us to have adequate earning power again, so we are looking for people who will help us monthly for two years,” the e-mail said. “During that time we will continue as full-time students, and then, when I graduate, we won’t need outside support any longer.”

You will notice the article says, ‘provide counseling’. Having a total disaster of a marriage gives the Haggards a special authority as counselors, but apparently Megachurch Divinity never gave Ted Haggard a real degree. You wouldn’t want him to have to sell his house or take out a student loan, would you? That’s for peasants.

And if you donate to Ted’s support fund, ‘Families with a Mission’, ten percent of the donation will go to a convicted sex offender who is administering the charity, according to Seattle’s newspaper, The Stranger. Haggard probably has a lot of friends who are forgiven. God forgave them, why can’t you?

I used to think that you had to kill a dog to lose your reputation, but even Michael Vick has his defenders, so I suppose someone will send money to Ted Haggard. We’re so used to preachers getting really good at soliciting money and building bigger and bigger churches that it seems normal. When one of them falls from grace, they keep doing the only thing they know how to do, selling salvation and begging for bucks.

I don’t know why so many people fall for the con that God needs their money. God is omnipotent. He gets everything for free. People need money. It’s okay to tell some of those people to get a job.

I don’t get this forgiveness thing, either. Forgiveness is a blessing, but it’s not the same as forgetting. If the guy really screwed up as a minister he probably needs to be doing something else. You can forgive an embezzler, but don’t give them a job in a bank. Ted Haggard is only one of a long procession of charismatic, flawed people who shouldn’t be a minister, or counselor, or anything else where they have power over people. These people should get a regular job and show every one they can lead an honest life. Maybe there’s a career opportunity in carpentry.


2 thoughts on “Advice to Disgraced Clergy: Get a Job

  1. Nice piece, Nancy. Well articulated, as always. I’m with you that those who fall from grace should not be readily permitted to resume a place of grace without first demonstrating their worthiness for such. Before folks hand Haggard a fistful of sawbucks, they should insist he pick up a saw and do an honest day’s (or year’s) work.

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