Fallen evangelical leader Ted Haggard to start a new church

Click to play

Ted Haggard will start a new church

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • Ted Haggard’s career as a pastor went south after a 2006 sex and drug scandal
  • Haggard admitted to the sex allegations, but said he dumped the drugs
  • He also resigned as pastor of the 14,000-member New Life Church.
  • First service to be Sunday at his home; “I don’t expect to have another mega-church,” he says

(CNN) — Ted Haggard, the former pastor of a megachurch and former head of the National Association of Evangelicals whose career was devastated by a gay prostitution and drug scandal in 2006, is considering starting a new church.

Standing in front of his barn, Haggard and his family announced Wednesday that they were opening a church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, called Saint James.

The church, which will not be affiliated with any denomination, will have its first gathering on Sunday at Haggard House.

“All are welcome. Whether you are Democrat, Republican, gay, straight, bi-[sexual], tall, short, drug addict, drug addict in recovery. … I believe the arms of Jesus are open to all,” he said.

In 2006, Haggard admitted receiving a massage from a Denver, Colorado man who said the prominent pastor paid him for sex for three years.

Haggard also admitted he bought meth, but said he threw it away.

These statements led the New Life Church board to fire Haggard as senior pastor. The church’s independent commission of inquiry found him guilty of “sexually immoral conduct”.

Video: Ted Haggard: I Am A Changed Man

After the allegations became public, Haggard resigned as president of the influential National Association of Evangelicals, an umbrella group representing more than 45,000 churches with 30 million members.

As part of his severance package with New Life Church, Haggard was banned from speaking publicly for a year. After that time, he made various media appearances, including an HBO documentary about his life.

The Sunday service will mark his first return to full-time ministry.

“It’s an emotional morning for me,” he told reporters. Flanked by his wife Gayle and their children and grandchildren, he said the family members prayed long and hard before deciding to start another church.

“Although many believe I am unqualified, and never will be because of what we have been through, I can be qualified to help others in need,” Haggard said. “I don’t expect to have another mega-church. I would be so happy if a handful of people joined us. Something is better than nothing, and helping one is better than helping none.”

In response to a question, Haggard said he had no plans to perform same-sex marriages in the new church; that the only marriages he will solemnize will be between a man and a woman.

“These are the weddings that we will do in our church,” he said. “As for society, that’s another story.”

His wife said she supported the decision. “I wasn’t ready to let the scandal be the last chapter of our lives,” Gayle Haggard told reporters.

In a statement, New Life Church said it will “be forever grateful for Ted and Gayle Haggard’s many years of dedicated leadership and we wish their family the best.”


Barry F. Howard