After the fall, the evangelical leader starts from scratch: NPR

Former megachurch pastor Ted Haggard, who fell out of favor amid a sex scandal, talks about the new church he’s starting at a press conference in Colorado Springs, Colorado . With him is his wife, Gayle.

Ed Andrieski/AP


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Ed Andrieski/AP


Former megachurch pastor Ted Haggard, who fell out of favor amid a sex scandal, talks about the new church he’s starting at a press conference in Colorado Springs, Colorado . With him is his wife, Gayle.

Ed Andrieski/AP

Three and a half years ago, Ted Haggard was at the top of his game. He was senior pastor of a megachurch in Colorado Springs, Colorado, which he and his wife built from scratch. He had a position of national importance in the evangelical movement. Haggard even had the ear of President George W. Bush.

But his life imploded after a male prostitute said Haggard paid him for sex and drugs. Haggard denied the specific allegations, but he agreed that some of his behavior was inappropriate. This sparked a national scandal. He was kicked out of his church, his home, even Colorado.

Now Ted Haggard and his wife are back in Colorado Springs. They are rebuilding their lives. This week, Ted Haggard announced that he and his wife were starting a new church, and he spoke with Tell me more‘s Michel Martin on this subject.

resurrection day

Haggard called Wednesday, the day he announced his decision to start a new church, his “day of resurrection.”

“I feel so alive,” he told Martin. “Forgiveness is a wonderful thing. Redemption is a wonderful thing. The opportunity to have a second chance is a wonderful thing.”

And he pursues the redemption of both his God and those who had trusted him to be their spiritual leader.

“The hard part is hard on the people, on the society, because of course there’s a lot of hurt and betrayal and broken hearts,” he said. “And what I did disappointed people 3 and a half years ago. But I just was amazed at how kind and kind people were.”

A Reform of Love

Haggard says compassion will be central to his new church’s mission. After going through such a painful experience, he says he has a new understanding of the importance of it.

“I wanted people to react to my failure in a helpful way instead of in a punitive, hateful, and cruel way. So now I want to spend the rest of my life being kind and compassionate and helpful and constructive in my response. to people going through their darkest zone,” Haggard said.

His new congregation, says Haggard, will be open to all.

“I want to start love reform because I think there’s too much cruelty on the internet, on TV and on the radio and I think we need to start practicing more kindness and more love. Because life is hard enough for people. And we need to help each other more. That’s what I want to do.

St. James Church

Haggard says his new congregation will adopt new positions.

“I believe the Bible teaches that we should have heterosexual and monogamous relationships, and that can be instilled in the law and form families etc. Now it’s inside the church. he said. “I believe that in civil law there should be complete equality before the law. So if heterosexuals get certain benefits for heterosexual relationships, then gay people should get those same benefits in their committed same-sex relationships. am I going to teach our people.”

The new church will be called St. James, says Haggard, after the author of the book of James, who wrote “Faith without work is dead. In other words, make your faith.”

Its former congregation grew to 14,000 at its peak. But he says he has no numerical goals for the new church.

“I’m too old for that. I’m a bit tired and I’ve been beaten. I’ve been rejected for a lifetime,” he said. “And so I just want to meet those who want to meet and I’m going to be happy and satisfied with that. And if it means 80 people, that’s fine. If it means 8,000, that’s fine too. I’ll do the same things no matter how many people decide to come in. But I would definitely prefer more participation than less.

Barry F. Howard