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June is Gay and Lesbian Pride Month, so it would have been a convenient bit of headline synergy if disgraced megachurch pastor Ted Haggard’s big announcement this morning were that he and his loyal wife Gayle would no longer be fighting his “homosexual urges.“
Instead, we just got official confirmation of last month’s scoop: the Haggards are starting a new ministry, called St. James Church.
During his press conference at his Colorado Springs home, surrounded by his family, Haggard said his new church’s theme would be to “help other people go through the difficult times in their lives.” Everyone will be welcome: Democrat, Republican, gay, straight, addicts, tall, short, etc.
This career move comes three and a half years after Haggard, once the head of the National Association of Evangelicals and a spiritual advisor to President George W. Bush, was outed by a male prostitute for allegedly soliciting gay sex and buying crystal meth. The pastor credits counseling, prayer and the support of his family for helping him become heterosexual again, though “with issues.” (For more on these struggles, check out HBO’s The Trials of Ted Haggard, or Gayle Haggard’s book, Why I Stayed.)
“Because of what we’ve been through, I may be able to help other people in need,” he explained, during the press conference.
Haggard said that he doesn’t expect St. James to become another megachurch, but “helping one is better than helping none.” The church’s name comes from the Bible’s book of James, which emphasizes good works along with faith; Haggard said it stems from the “tangible form” of love and help that his family received after his fall from grace.
The Haggards will have a launch party this Sunday at their home, and the first official service in three weeks.
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