In the early 80s, Jimmy Swaggart’s popularity as an evangelist was undeniable; he had millions of viewers and overflowing followers. But in 1988, a “prostitute” came forward saying Swaggart had “engaged in sexual intercourse with her once and asked that her 9-year-old daughter watch sex acts.”
As more details emerged, the lady said she and Swaggart had at least 20 encounters during one year, something Swaggart finally confessed during one of his television sermons.
“I have sinned against You, my Lord, and I would ask that your Precious Blood would wash and cleanse every stain until it is in the seas of God’s forgetfulness,” he told his congregation, and Tv viewers sobbing tears.
Three years later, he was pulled over by the police with another “prostitute.” This time, however, Swaggart’s response was dismissive and disrespectful. “The Lord told me it’s flat none of your business.
Dire-hard church members believed in their preachers but they grew tired of ministers who showed little respect for God, but rather choosing to follow the devil’s desires.
Christians wanted to bow their heads for prayer, guidance, purpose, and to heal rather than lowering their eyes in shame due to their ministers’ negative actions.
When Gayle and Ted Haggard appeared and carried out God’s mission from a place of authenticity there was a relief. The Haggards respected The Lord. Because of this, God had a vision for Ted in 1985 to start a church; Ted followed orders and located a rental space and called the church New Life; only ten people attended weekly but that number morphed into over 13,000 members.
“New Life grew by double-digit percentages every year for twenty-two years,” Gayle wrote. “Never once suffering any major traumas, splits, controversies, or scandals.”
Gayle enjoyed independent success outside of her husband; she became a full-time director of women’s ministries, a program she developed. The membership grew from ten women to 150.
Gayle and Ted wrote books about the power of God and his deliverance from life’s challenges.
Like other preachers, Ted spoke about every sinful behavior ranging from infidelity to denouncing homosexuality. His most famous sermon was “How Much Is Your Sin Going to Cost Me?” Undoubtedly, Ted must have forgotten his message that day.
“When Ted’s cell phone buzzed, he glanced at the message on the screen so I could read the text he’d received from a pastor friend,” Gayle wrote in her book Why I stayed The Choices I Made in My Darkest Hour. “A homosexual “escort” in Denver had leveled an accusation against a nationally known evangelical pastor from Colorado Springs.”
The man said he and Ted carried on a three-year love affair. “Because Ted had spoken against same-sex marriage from the pulpit, I assumed the accusation was designed to embarrass him,” Gayle wrote.
Ted denied the claim; however, over time his attitude changed. “I sat stunned in my chair as Ted looked at me with the saddest eyes I have ever seen on his face. “It’s true—Gayle-not all of it, but part of it, enough of it. The man exaggerated things, but some of it is true,’” Ted told Gaye.
Gayle’s book was well-written as she spoke about her pain, denial, codependency (although she denied that she was codependent on Ted), obsessions, and difficulties moving on from New Life.
She said Ted was a great pastor, committed family man, and that he turned his life around for the better after his gay lover’s claims; still, yet, Ted brought shame and suffering. But Gayle refused to give in.
“…I decided to rise to the challenge. I was going to demonstrate my love by fighting for the dignity and honor of everyone and everything I held dear,” she wrote.
According to Gayle, Ted left his gay lover a voicemail inquiring about drugs. “The moment I heard the voicemail, I recognized Ted’s voice and heard him ask where he could get “more stuff, meth).”
Gayle’s book was published in 2010 but based on a 2011 interview where Ted spoke with a journalist about details that either Gayle left out on purpose, or Ted continued to lie.
For example, she wrote that Ted admitted to buying drugs from his male lover. However, he told her it was one time and that he never smoked.
But in the 2011 interview with that journalist, he admitted to buying drugs, “five or six times.” He added, “Other times, I’d go someplace and masturbate and use it,” he told the journalist during the 2011 interview. “But it was for masturbation, And that’s one of the reasons why I haven’t been real clear. I don’t want to stand up publicly and say, ‘Hey, I’m a masturbation guy!”
He continued, “I bought the drugs to enhance masturbation. Because what crystal meth does–Mike [his gay lover’] taught me this–crystal meth makes it, so you don’t ejaculate soon. So you can watch porn and masturbate for a long time.”
In the book, Gayle mentioned a situation when another male member of New Life, who was 22, said Ted masturbated in front of him and offered him drugs on a church trip in 2006. New Life paid the man $179,000 to keep quiet. Ted denied he offered the 22-year-old drugs but acknowledged that he masturbated in the room the men shared. “I thought he was asleep.”
She said about Ted, “..did, however, have early sexual experiences that predisposed him to temptations in the area of same-sex attraction,” Gayle wrote. “…I had found out while we were in Florida that, after we were married, Ted had been tempted to pick up gay magazines.”
Gayle and Ted went through strenuous efforts to rid him of homosexual desires; one such intervention was when they left their home in Colorado Springs and traveled to Phoenix in order to get Ted a different type of therapy. The other intervention was prayer for days, fasting, and Ted’s ongoing repentance to God for his sins.
Although Gayle said, Ted was cured of homosexuality in the book. Yet, in Ted’s 2011 interview with the journalist, he said, “I think that probably if I were 21 in this society, I would identify myself as a bisexual.”
If he was 21? As if bisexuals had an age limit.
Ted continued in the interview saying, “After two years of counseling, I determined I just don’t fit into the boxes. My counselor said I am a heterosexual with complications, whatever that means?”
Rather than letting the issue die down, Ted could not curve his habit of appearing in front of cameras saying his male lover was lying. HBO aired a documentary entitled “The Trials Of Ted Haggard,” in which Gayle supported the project.
Ted resigned from his position at New Life and as president of the National Association of Evangelicals. For the rest of Gayle’s book, she writes about repeated phone calls to the church board of overseers, letters she and Ted wrote asking to come back, and doing whatever the overseers said, such as moving out of Denver and having no contact with New Life’s members.
“.. I honestly believe the Lord himself provided the most effective discipline,” she wrote. “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.”
She added, “He had served the needs of the church community for nearly twenty-two years, but when he became the person in need, no one in leadership stepped forward to help him shoulder the burden. No one defend him publicly, no one rejoiced that God had heard Ted’s prayers and provided a way out—albeit a painful one.”
For the most part, Gayle never received recognition from the media and the public as a woman who showed strength. Early on, she raised her kids, one disabled, by herself.
She played an instrumental part in developing the women’s ministry. Yet, because of her husband’s selfishness, Gayle’s career, the family’s name, and image were damaged. Gayle lost friends, and her positive influence over the congregation was nonexistent.
Although her logic made no sense why she refused to divorce Ted, she had her reasons.
“Not everyone loves us. Not everyone understands what we’re doing,” she wrote. “But in the light of such unexpected evidence of the Lord’s leading in our lives, the criticism is easier to bear. While some are saying, “Be silent and go away,” Ted and I remain willing to talk to a world that is eager to hear how sin can be forgiven, marriages healed, and families strengthened.”