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Church Culture

Ted Haggard Faces New Allegations, Launches New Church

Ted Haggard, the former president of the National Association of Evangelicals and founder of New Life Church in Colorado Springs who was brought low by a 2006 scandal involving drugs and sex with a gay escort, has disbanded his second church and founded a third congregation after refusing to address new claims of drug abuse, improprieties with young males, and lack of accountability, according to a July 24 story by Debbie Kelley for The Gazette.

Haggard now claims he “repented immediately” for his 2006 sins—though at the time he denied the claims until Mike Jones, the gay escort, went public with his story in media appearances and a book. 

In 2007 Haggard signed a $200,000 severance agreement that required him to leave Colorado Springs, cut off contact with New Life members, and undergo counseling. New Life also paid a six-figure settlement to one of Haggard’s victims, but the payments were stopped when the victim went public with his story.

Haggard returned to the Springs without completing his counseling regimen, complaining that the agreement was overly harsh, and claiming he was “healed” of same-sex desires.

The story was covered in a 2009 HBO documentary, “The Trials of Ted Haggard.”

He established Saint James Church in 2010 at his home—just a mile from New Life—and the new church quickly attracted hundreds of New Life members. He marketed his new church with ads and sermons that claimed his experiences had provided him insights into sin and grace that other pastors lacked.

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In 2012, Haggard was counseling a young man overcoming a heroin addiction. He allegedly asked the young church member to buy him some methamphetamine. Confronted by a St. James elder, Haggard acknowledged the purchase and reportedly handed over a briefcase containing methamphetamine, a “well-used” pipe, a sex toy, and gay porn.

By 2019, Haggard was again engaging in questionable touching with young males, according to videotaped claims from two St. James members. When Rev. Kirk Sethman, a St. James elder, confronted Haggard, he called the police claiming a “delusional man” had him “cornered in his office.” The Colorado Springs Police Department has declined to release a report on the call.

Sethman provided information about Haggard’s problems to church elders in 2020, threatening that he would go public if no action was taken. A group of elders asked Haggard to step down from the pulpit. He refused, setting up division in the church which led to a “slow decline,” according to a Haggard sermon.

On April 1, St. James sold its building for $1.95 million. Haggard said proceeds from the sale would help “paying all our debts” and would reimburse the couple “for the times we’ve had to cover” church expenses. 

Haggard also claimed $300,000 from the sale went to missions working with Ukraine, but he declined to say which organizations received the money or provide documentation.

“It’s gone, so if any of you get any ideas, it’s already gone,” he said in one recent sermon.

Haggard took April off starting his new congregation, Storyhouse Church, at his home on May 1. He said he wanted to adopt a “microchurch” or home church model. Some 40-60 people have been attending the services.

In his Easter sermon, Haggard said he was doing home renovations for the congregation so that he could offer youth ministry in a basement room where kids can play games and use the pool table.

Such a prospect worries Rev. Sethman. “My prayer is protecting the children and the young adults,” he told The Gazette.

Steve Rabey

Steve Rabey is a veteran author and journalist who has published more than 50 books and 2,000 articles about religion, spirituality, and culture. He was an instructor at Fuller and Denver seminaries and the U.S. Air Force Academy. He and his wife Lois live in Colorado.