It's not uncommon these days for worship leader Ross Parsley to introduce himself as "The pastor of New Life Church—yes, that church." One of America's most prominent megachurches, New Life made international news in November 2006 when Senior Pastor Ted Haggard, then president of the National Association of Evangelicals, confessed to sexual immorality and buying drugs, and subsequently left the pastorate. The news staggered New Life's congregation, but the church has found strength and comfort in the gospel to take assessment of their own lives and press forward. We recently had a roundtable discussion with Parsley and fellow worship leaders Glenn Packiam, Jon Egan, and Jared Anderson (from the church's Desperation Band) to talk about how their church has found healing and renewal in the aftermath of a scandal.
Let's start with the initial reaction from the church. What was the general mood?
Ross Parsley [On the Sunday it was announced], there was simply a depth of sadness because it involved someone we loved so deeply. When you realize something has been tormenting your friend that destroys their working relationship [to the church], you're just struck with this deep sadness. Not necessarily anger or judgment, but pronounced weeping in the congregation that day and the following few weeks.
At the same time, there was a tremendous resolve to embrace the gospel message—that Jesus died for sinners, not perfect people or preachers. Worship that day was huge because people were grabbing on to what was unmovable. This guy had failed and we're tremendously sad about that, but we are not the kind of people who build on [one pastor]. That resolve was pretty obvious after that first service.1