Ted Haggard

Ted Arthur Haggard (born June 27, 1956) is an American 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 to engage in sex with him 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 February 2011, Haggard came out as bisexual.

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 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.”

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.

Eventually, Haggard acknowledged almost all of the allegations against him, including using meth. 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.” 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.”  Haggard initially claimed he had never heard of his accuser and denied having ever done drugs and stated “I have not, I have never had a gay relationship with anybody.” Many evangelical leaders initially showed support for Haggard and were critical of media reports. Despite his protestations, Haggard resigned from all of his leadership positions in religious organizations and was fired from his position as Senior Pastor of the church he founded.

Haggard later resigned as president of the National Association of Evangelicals. He went on administrative leave from his position as senior pastor of New Life Church, 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 has admitted to some of the claims made by Jones. 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, Jerry 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.

James Dobson 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.” He 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.” Dobson initially offered to help counsel Haggard, but later announced a change of mind. “It is with great regret – and after much prayer and discussion with friends and family – that I have had to reconsider my involvement in the panel overseeing Ted’s restoration,” Dobson said in a statement. “Emotionally and spiritually, I wanted to be of help – but the reality is I don’t have the time to devote to such a critical responsibility.” On November 3, 2006, Haggard resigned his leadership of the National Association of Evangelicals. The National Association of Evangelicals posted a statement accepting his resignation. Leith Anderson was appointed as the new president on November 7, 2006. 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 prepared statement on the afternoon of November 4, 2006 that stated: “Our investigation and Pastor Haggard’s public statements have proven without a doubt that he has committed sexually immoral conduct.” His removal was permanent, Ross Parsley, the Associate Senior Pastor, would hold that position. Haggard was counseled 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 James Dobson’s place on the team.

Newsweek’s June 7, 2010 issue’s BACK STORY listed Haggard, among others, as prominent conservative activitist who has a record of supporting anti-gay legislation and is later caught in a gay sex scandal.

In 2006, Haggard and his church supported “Amendment 43” to the Colorado Constitution.  It provided, “Only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state.” Although Colorado law already defined marriage as being between a man and a woman, Haggard and other gay rights opponents sought to enshrine the prohibition in the state constitution. In the movie Jesus Camp, Haggard says, “we don’t have to debate about what we should think about homosexual activity. It’s written in the Bible.” Although Haggard opposes same-sex marriage, he has suggested that there should be civil unions for homosexual couples.

Under Haggard’s leadership, the NAE released “For the Health of the Nation: An Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility” in late 2004, “a document urging engagement in traditional culture war issues such as abortion and gay marriage but also poverty, education, taxes, welfare and immigration.” The NAE has stated that “homosexual activity, like adulterous relationships, is clearly condemned in the Scriptures.”

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