(RNS) Former Colorado megachurch pastor Ted Haggard, who fell from grace in 2006 after a gay sex-and-drug scandal, has announced plans to start a new church with his wife Gayle.
The couple, who incorporated St. James Church in late April, said Wednesday (June 2) that they would hold a “launch party” for the new congregation in their barn on Sunday in Colorado Springs.
Haggard, 53, will serve as senior pastor and his wife, Gayle, also 53, will be co-pastor of the independent evangelical church.
“There was so much enthusiasm over the reports of our incorporation,” Ted Haggard said. “Gayle and I went for a walk and we thought, let’s just go ahead and get this done.”
The couple plans to refine plans the following Sunday and find a location in or near Colorado Springs for their first official service on June 20.
The decision comes almost four years after Haggard resigned from New Life Church in Colorado Springs and as president of the National Association of Evangelicals in the wake of a scandal involving a Denver male escort. Haggard later admitted he bought methamphetamine and paid the escort for massages. He went through a “spiritual restoration”
process, but ended it through a mutual agreement with advisers.
Haggard said he already has an answer for critics who will say it is inappropriate for him to start a new church. “For the people that believe I’m not qualified, I believe they’re probably right,” he said.
But people have been calling, thinking he had a church, and others have come to their door seeking help, he said.
His wife, who authored a book called “Why I Stayed” about her decision to stay married after the scandal, called the first gathering “kind of a resurrection celebration that we’re back and that we’re ready to go to work.”
She said they named their church after the verse in the New Testament book of James that proclaims “faith without works is dead.”
The Haggards also are considering being in a documentary, and filmmakers captured the footage of their church announcement. They previously were featured in a 2009 HBO documentary, “The Trials of Ted Haggard.”
Haggard had earlier denied the incorporation meant the couple was about to start a church, explaining it was created to handle their traveling and speaking expenses. “A corporation does not a church make,” he said in an interview on May 18.
On Tuesday, Ted Haggard said they had been unsettled about when to start the church and his wife said they now had the “courage” to reveal their plans.
“I went through the shame,” he said. “She has been a pillar of strength.”
Their former megachurch, which the Haggards also started in their home, issued a statement Wednesday saying: “New Life Church will always be grateful for the many years of dedicated leadership from Ted and Gayle Haggard and we wish their family only the best.”
Some of his counselors said Haggard promised them he would not start a new church in Colorado Springs. When the couple held prayer meetings in their home last fall, the Rev. H.B. London, who chaired Haggard’s restoration committee, expressed disappointment.
“When you think of the ethics of that, it, to me, just defies explanation,” said London, a vice president at Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs, at the time.
By ADELLE M. BANKS
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