Friday, February 09, 2007

Will Ted be a wounded healer?

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Back when Pastor Ted Haggard was dismissed as the pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs for scandal and sexual immorality, I jokingly remarked to my wife that before long he'll find a new job as a marriage counselor or some other kind of therapist. But now, the joke may be on his potential clients.

According to the Denver Post, he recently emerged from intensive therapy for "sex addiction" as was mandated by his pastoral oversight board. What caught my attention was when the article noted: "The Rev. Tim Ralph of Larkspur also said the four-man oversight board strongly urged Haggard to go into secular work instead of Christian ministry if Haggard and his wife follow through on plans to earn master's degrees in psychology." Toward the end of the article, it was also reported:

What has been termed Haggard's "restoration" is being overseen by another panel: H.B. London, who runs a Focus on the Family ministry to pastors, and megachurch pastors Tommy Barnett and Jack Hayford. London said he was not surprised Haggard was considering the psychological field. "Many of us that go into the healing, helping professions do so out of some sort of dysfunction or traumatic event in our lives, and we want to do what we can to help other people avoid what we've gone through," he said. "He is certainly gifted and intelligent and has an intuitive side to him. And he has life experience. Those are good credentials."

I don't think so. It is right that Mr. Haggard should be steered away from a continued future as a minister, but he should be steered away from being a counselor as well. The reason I made the joke to my wife back then in the first place is because the phenomenon of pastors who resign because they get divorced or have some sort of scandal and then become "wounded healers" as marriage counselors or the like has become a cliché, and an unfortunate one.

I would not say that these former pastors have nothing to offer others who may be going through similar circumstances or that one can never be a wounded healer, but I would argue that someone should stay away from their point of weakness. For example; I don't think those who seriously doubt Christian doctrine should become clergy; I don't think deserters should become military commanders; I don't think child molesters should become teachers or baby-sitters; I don't think drug addicts should become pharmacists, and so on.

Recovery is not the problem. The problem is that you may benefit others by serving them from your strong qualities, but you may hurt others by trying to serve them from your weak qualities. The Wikipedia article on Carl Jung's concept of the "wounded healer" stated it well:

"Jung felt that this type of depth psychology can be potentially dangerous, because the analyst is vulnerable to being infected by his patient's wounds, or having his or her wounds reopened. Also, the analyst must have an ongoing relationship with the unconscious, otherwise he or she could identify with the 'healer archetype,' and create an inflated ego."


Anonymous said...

Father, I have to disagree with you on this. We are all "recovering sinners" and IMHO, all pastoral effectiveness must be rooted in a realization of this. When it comes to dealing with others who are experiencing ones' own "besetting sin", we need only look to Alcoholics (and Narcotics) Anonymous to see how powerfully effective such work can be. Further, speaking as one who is himself a recovering alcoholic, I can attest to the fact that such work is also extremely helpful in strengthening my own recovery.

Fr Timothy Matkin said...

Perhaps it is a subtle disagreement. I think Haggard could and should have an effective "ministry" as a participant or even facilitator of a sex-addict recovery group. But I don't think he should be the professional to whom people will go for treatment of sex addiction.

Thinking of it as a consumer, I would anticipate the former case (recovery group) as being money well spent, but the latter case (sessions with counselor Ted) as being a waste, especially if I have an alternative of counseling with someone with a strength in chastity.

Brother Marty said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree with you more, Timothy. Louie Crew tells the story of a woman who encouraged him to be healed of his homosexuality. He listened patiently, as is his way, offering that no one who was truly homosexual could be 'healed' of their God-given sexual orientation.

The woman persisted that, "all things are possible with God, even the healing of homosexuality."

Louie then asked her, "And, if I were to be healed, would you want me to marry your daughter?"

"Why no!" the woman exclaimed,"How could she ever trust you?" and then, flushed with embarrassment, realized what she had said.

The simple truth is this: Ted Haggard is no more "healed" of his homo or bi sexuality than I am.


Elizabeth +

(the Rev'd) Elizabeth Kaeton
The Episcopal Church of St. Paul