Ted Haggard


Who was Ted Haggard?

Ted Haggard (born June 27, 1956) is an evangelical pastor. Known as Pastor Ted to the congregation he served, he was the founder and former pastor of the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado; a founder of the Association of Life-Giving Churches; and was leader of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) from 2003 until November 2006. In November 2006, escort and masseur Mike Jones alleged that Haggard had paid him for sex for three years and had also purchased and used crystal methamphetamine. A few days later Haggard resigned from all of his leadership positions.

After the scandal was publicized, Haggard entered three weeks of intensive counseling, overseen by four ministers. In February 2007, one of those ministers, Tim Ralph, said that Haggard "is completely heterosexual." Ralph later said he meant that therapy "gave Ted the tools to help to embrace his heterosexual side." On June 1, 2010 Haggard announced that he intended to start a new church in Colorado Springs. In the February 2011 issue of GQ, however, Haggard said "...probably, if I were 21 in this society, I would identify myself as a bisexual."

Early life and education

Haggard was born in Indiana. His father, J. M. Haggard, a practicing veterinarian in Yorktown, Indiana, founded an international charismatic ministry, which was featured in a PBS Middletown documentary series.

In 1972, at age sixteen, Haggard became a born-again Christian after hearing a sermon from evangelist Bill Bright in Dallas, Texas and becoming acquainted with the Christian apologetics of C.S. Lewis. As a co-editor of his high-school newspaper in 1974, he published remarkably frank articles which described services that were available to prevent and deal with increasingly prevalent pregnancies and STDs. These articles scandalized his small town and embroiled him in a free-press lawsuit.

Haggard describes feeling the call of God on his life after his first year in college, while he was in the kitchen at home. He had been a telecommunications major with a minor in journalism, but after this experience he believed he had been called to pastor. "I was totally surprised," Haggard wrote in The Life-Giving Church. "I . . . told the Lord I wanted to serve Him. But before I mentioned this to anyone, especially to my parents, I asked the Lord to assure me by using others to confirm His calling on my life. I felt as though He consented . . ."

Within forty-eight hours, Haggard felt that he received four unsolicited confirmations: from a Sunday school teacher, a pastor, a friend, and from his father. Haggard subsequently attended Oral Roberts University, a Christian university in Tulsa, Oklahoma, graduating in 1978.


According to Haggard, in November 1984, when he was an associate pastor of Bethany World Prayer Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, his confidant and mentor Danny Ost, a missionary to Mexico City, had a vision of Haggard founding his church in Colorado Springs. Accordingly, Haggard moved to Colorado shortly afterwards, and founded New Life Church. Initially, the 22 people who met in the basement of Haggard's house formed his church, which then grew to rented spaces in strip malls. Haggard was unconventional in his approach to ministering to people.

Through random acts of kindness, Haggard would sometimes skip the morning offering and surprise needy people, like returning military personnel and single parents, with financial blessings by asking the congregation to lay money at their feet as they stood in front of the congregation. After 22 years, New Life Church operated from a campus in northern Colorado Springs and had a congregation of 14,000.

In 1993, during what Haggard describes as his "first prayer journey," he traveled with a group to Israel. They stood on the Mount of Olives, where Haggard claimed to have felt the Holy Spirit speak to him. "From that time until now," Haggard writes in The Life-Giving Church, "apostolic power has blessed me. My only problems are with me — not with the enemy, not with circumstances, not with people."

Scandal and removal from job

In November 2006, escort and masseur Mike Jones alleged that Haggard had paid Jones to engage in sex with him for three years and had also purchased and used crystal methamphetamine. Jones said he had only recently learned of Haggard's true identity, and explained his reasons for coming forward by saying, "It made me angry that here’s someone preaching against gay marriage and going behind the scenes having gay sex." Jones made the allegations public in response to Haggard's political support for a Colorado Amendment 43 on the November 7, 2006 Colorado ballot that would ban same-sex marriage in that state.

Jones told ABC News, "I had to expose the hypocrisy. He is in the position of influence of millions of followers, and he's preaching against gay marriage. But behind everybody's back [he's] doing what he's preached against." Jones hoped that his statements would sway voters. Haggard's immediate response was denial. He told a Denver television station, "I did not have a homosexual relationship with a man in Denver . . . I am steady with my wife. I'm faithful to my wife." Haggard also said, "I have never done drugs--ever. Not even in high school. I didn't smoke pot. I didn't do anything like that. I'm not a drug man. We're not a drinking family. I don't smoke cigarettes. I don't socially drink. We don't socially drink. We don't have wine in our house. We don't do that kind of thing."

Many evangelical leaders initially showed support for Haggard and were critical of media reports, including James Dobson who issued a statement of support for Haggard, which stated: "It is unconscionable that the legitimate news media would report a rumor like this based on nothing but one man's accusation....Ted Haggard is a friend of mine, and it appears someone is trying to damage his reputation as a way of influencing the outcome of Tuesday's election -- especially the vote on Colorado's marriage-protection amendment, which Ted strongly supports."

Cornered by his voicemail to Mike Jones requesting meth, Haggard told the press, "I bought it for myself but never used it. I was tempted but I never used it." Haggard claimed he bought the meth but threw it away. Haggard claimed he had never met his accuser. Jones volunteered to take a polygraph test on a KHOW radio show hosted by Peter Boyles, where Jones first made the allegations.

However, Jones's responses during the section of the polygraph test about whether he had engaged in sex with Haggard indicated deception. The test administrator, John Kresnik, discounted the test results because of Jones's stress and lack of eating or sleeping. Regardless, Haggard responded by saying, "We're so grateful that he failed a polygraph test this morning, my accuser did." Jones was not asked questions about drug use. Jones expressed doubt that he would retake the test, saying "I've made my point. He's the one who has discredited himself. He should admit it and move on."

Eventually, Haggard acknowledged almost all of the allegations against him, including using meth and resigned from all of his leadership positions in religious organizations including the National Association of Evangelicals. Due to the scandal, Haggard went on administrative leave from New Life saying "I am voluntarily stepping aside from leadership so that the overseer process can be allowed to proceed with integrity. I hope to be able to discuss this matter in more detail at a later date. In the interim, I will seek both spiritual advice and guidance."

On November 2, 2006, senior church officials told Colorado Springs television station KKTV that Haggard had admitted to some of the claims made by Jones.[20] In an e-mail to New Life Church parishioners sent on the evening of November 2, Acting Senior Pastor Ross Parsley wrote, "It is important for you to know that he [Haggard] confessed to the overseers that some of the accusations against him are true."

Haggard admitted that he had purchased methamphetamine and received a massage from Jones, but he denied using the drugs or having sex with Jones. "I called him to buy some meth, but I threw it away. I bought it for myself but never used it", Haggard claimed in a television interview, and added, "I was tempted, but I never used it". As it became apparent that some of the claims were true, some evangelical leaders such as Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell sought to distance themselves and downplay Haggard's influence on religious conservatives and downplay the importance of the NAE.

On his television show, The 700 Club, Robertson said, "We're sad to see any evangelical leader fall" and also said the claim that the NAE represents thirty million people "just isn't true.... We can't get their financial data. I think it's because they have very little money and very little influence". During a CNN interview, Falwell went on record saying, "[Haggard] doesn't really lead the movement. He's president of an association that's very loose-knit... and no one has looked to them for leadership."

White House spokesman Tony Fratto sought to downplay Haggard's influence on the White House by saying that Haggard was only occasionally part of the weekly calls between evangelical leaders and the White House and had visited there only "a couple" of times. Dobson also issued another public statement saying he was "heartsick" of learning about Haggard's admissions and that "the possibility that an illicit relationship has occurred is alarming to us and to millions of others."

James Dobson also stated that "[Haggard] will continue to be my friend, even if the worst allegations prove accurate" but "nevertheless, sexual sin, whether homosexual or heterosexual, has serious consequences." On November 3, 2006, Haggard resigned his leadership of the National Association of Evangelicals which was accepted. On November 7, Leith Anderson was appointed as the new president. Later, the board cited the bylaws of the megachurch and said his conduct compelled them to remove him from his job.

The "Overseer Board of New Life Church" released a statement on November 4 that Haggard had been fired as Senior Pastor of New Life: "Our investigation and Pastor Haggard's public statements have proven without a doubt that he has committed sexually immoral conduct." Ross Parsley, the Associate Senior Pastor, was then named Haggard's successor. Haggard then entered counseling by a team including Jack Hayford and Tommy Barnett who stated their intention to "perform a thorough analysis of Haggard’s mental, spiritual, emotional and physical life,” including the use of polygraph tests. The team was to include James Dobson, who later stepped aside, citing time constraints. H.B. London, Focus on the Family’s vice president of church and clergy, took Dobson’s place on the team.

Since leaving the church

In April 2007, the Haggard family moved to Phoenix, Arizona to start the "restoration" process. They attended Phoenix First Assembly of God, whose pastor, Tommy Barnett, was on his counseling team. Haggard reached an agreement with New Life Church on a severance package that would pay him through 2007; one of the conditions was that he had to leave the Colorado Springs area.

His last reported income was $138,000, not including benefits. Since the scandal broke, attendance at New Life Church has been down about 20 percent with financial support falling 10 percent. As a consequence, the church has laid off 44 employees, representing about 12 percent of its workforce. On February 6, 2008, the new pastor at New Life Church issued a press release announcing that Haggard had requested to leave the team created to "restore" him and that as Haggard's restoration is "incomplete," he is not welcome to return to vocational ministry at New Life.

In August 2007, Haggard released a statement asking for monetary donations to help support his family while he and his wife attend classes at the University of Phoenix. Haggard is pursuing a degree in counseling while his wife Gayle is studying psychology. He also announced that his family was moving into the Dream Center, a Phoenix-based halfway house that ministers to recovering convicts, drug addicts, and prostitutes.

After Haggard's request for donations, a member of Haggard's restoration team said he should have consulted with them before releasing a statement. News media pointed out several questions concerning the need for his fund raising including his previous six-figure salary, his $138,000 severance package, an $85,000 anniversary bonus which was paid shortly before the scandal broke, the Haggard's Colorado Springs home which was valued at more than $600,000, and royalties from Haggard's many books.

Questions also surfaced about the tax-exempt group (Families With a Mission) Haggard asked that donations be sent to on his behalf. According to Haggard, the group would use 10% of donations for administrative costs and forward 90% to Haggard. But the group was dissolved in February 2007, according to the Colorado Secretary of State. A few days after Haggard's initial email statement, his restoration team stepped in to say his statement was "inappropriate" and that "Haggard was a little ahead of himself." They indicated that Haggard would not be working at the Dream Center or in ministry of any kind and that they advised Haggard to seek secular employment to support himself and his family.

In June 2008, the severance deal with the New Life Church at an end, Haggard was "free to live where he wanted" and returned to his Colorado Springs home. Also in June, an email surfaced in which Haggard admitted masturbating with Jones and taking drugs, as alleged in 2006. Kurt Serpe, who provided the email, said Haggard "craved sex, he was a sexaholic."

In November 2008, Haggard said in guest sermons at an Illinois church that his actions had roots in sexual abuse by an adult when he was seven years old. He also agreed to appear in Alexandra Pelosi's HBO documentary about his sex scandal titled The Trials of Ted Haggard, that premiered on HBO in January 2009. According to the documentary, Haggard has begun a new career selling insurance. In January 2009, after the release of The Trials of Ted Haggard, Haggard and wife Gayle appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show", "Larry King Live", "Good Morning America, and other national media programs to offer a public apology and confession for the issues that spurred his resignation. The couple also appeared on the syndicated television show Divorce Court in April 2009.

On the program, Ted says he wanted his wife to divorce him after the scandal, saying that he thought he had become so "toxic" that divorce was best for Gayle and their children. On March 11, 2009, Haggard attended a performance in New York of This Beautiful City, a play about him and the Colorado Springs evangelical community.

In August 2009, Haggard told Charisma magazine: "I do not believe my childhood experience is an excuse. I fell into sin and failed to extract myself. I am responsible, and I have repented." He also extols the benefits of qualified counselors: "I highly recommend qualified Christian counseling... for anyone losing their fight with any kind of compulsive thoughts or behaviors. ... I believe our generation of believers is going to have to accept that it's not always lack of faith if we need counseling for assistance with integrity. If I had gone to counseling, I probably could have completely avoided my crisis."

Since the "repentance broadcasts," Haggard and his wife have travelled to churches and appeared on radio and television broadcasts. They have also begun to have former church members and friends come to their home for "healing meetings," in which Haggard apologizes, answers any questions, and discusses "how the Gospel can inform our responses to others who violate biblical standards."

The couple has been writing, traveling, and speaking about the events of the past several years. In November 2009, Haggard began holding prayer meetings in his Colorado Springs basement. One hundred ten people attended the first prayer meeting. By the next meeting, the large number of attendees forced him to move the prayer meeting to his barn. Haggard also says he has been named an overseer at a church, someone who counsels and advises church leaders on moral, ethical and religious issues.

In May 2010, Haggard announced he was incorporating a new church for accounting purposes, And by June 2010, Haggard said he would operate a full-blown church. On April 11, 2010, Haggard and his wife conducted an interview at Lifepoint Church in Fredericksburg, VA. There was much controversy as to whether or not the church should pay for this interview.

Other allegations surface On January 23, 2009, less than one week before The Trials of Ted Haggard was released on HBO, officials from Haggard's former church announced that a young male church member had come forward in 2006 and that there was an "overwhelming pool of evidence [of an] inappropriate, consensual sexual relationship [that] went on for a long period of time [with Haggard] ... it wasn't a one-time act." Haggard's successor, Brady Boyd, said the church reached a six figure settlement with the man, who was in his early 20s at the time. According to the man, the contact was "not consensual".

Later reports indicated that the relationship did not involve physical contact, but that on one occasion Haggard masturbated in front of the young man, who was 22 years old at the time. The man, Grant Haas, added that New Life Church paid him $179,000 to cover his counseling to help recover from the situation, and pay college tuition.

Haggard openly admitted to the second, albeit nonsexual relationship with Haas on CNN and other media, and when asked if he had had additional gay relationships that have been unreported, Haggard did not provide a direct answer. In the aftermath of both the allegations of New Life paying financial penalties to Haas and the documentary on Haggard's struggles being released, attendance and giving dropped substantially at New Life Church leading to a second round of layoffs in February 2009.

Return to the pulpit in Colorado Springs

In October 2009, the Colorado Springs Independent published the first extensive interview with Haggard to appear in the secular press since the 2006 scandal. Over the course of a 2½ hour interview, the former Pastor talked about the scandal, his agreement never to return to New Life or the state of Colorado, suicidal ideas and the prospect of starting a new church in Colorado Springs.

"Back in the old days," said Haggard, "when somebody would get in trouble, they'd just need to move 40 or 50 miles, or a hundred miles, and they could start again. Not anymore. Which is one of the reasons why we needed to come home. Because I needed to finish this story from here."

On November 4, Haggard posted a message on his Twitter account announcing his intent to begin public prayer meetings in his Colorado Springs home. Following one such meeting, Haggard referred to his "resurrection" subsequent to his death and burial. On December 7, he started holding the prayer meetings in his barn.

On June 6, 2010 the first meeting of the St. James Church, with Haggard as pastor, was held at the Haggard home. Newsweek's June 7, 2010, issue's BACK STORY listed Haggard among prominent conservative activists who have a record of supporting anti-gay legislation and are later caught in a gay sex scandal.

In a July 2010 interview he gave to CNN, Haggard claimed that his feelings of sexual attraction to other men had miraculously disappeared. Haggard portrayed his encounter with the male prostitute as a massage that went awry.

Source - "Ted Haggard." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (with minor edits), under GFDL.

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