Two years ago a male escort named Mike Jones appeared on a Denver radio talk show and dropped a bomb. He had this client, who, every month for three years, would come to his apartment, snort some meth and then they’d have sex. One day the light bulb snapped on: Jones’ client was also a very influential pastor from Colorado Springs, who regularly preached against homosexuality. His name was Ted Haggard.
And now, after falling fast and furious, Haggard, who preached over the weekend to a small congregation in Illinois, is back, claiming he was sexually abused when he was 7 years old.
In the sermon, which is posted at tedhaggard.com, the former pastor of Colorado’s largest megachurch and former head of the National Association of Evangelicals, says that after his sin was exposed and he was fired from the church he founded, he despaired to the point of becoming suicidal.
But now, he said, “I’m a stronger Christian than I’ve ever been in my life.” And, “I have a stronger marriage than I’ve had in my life.”
Haggard, who returned to Colorado Springs earlier this year after living in the Phoenix area, took a swipe at the Christian evangelical community, which he said missed an opportunity to help out a fellow Christian in need. Every couple of years, Haggard preached, God provides the opportunity to communicate through the secular media.
“And we blow it!” Haggard said. When a congressman gets himself in trouble, “that’s the time!” to help, he said. When a preacher gets himself in awful trouble, “that’s the time!” he said.
Haggard delivered his remarks to a small congregation at the Open Bible Fellowship in Morrison, Ill. During the sermon, he said that he was abused by one of his father’s workers when he was 7 years old. Or, as he put it, “one of those workers had a sexual experience with me.”
“I am so sorry I did that to my family,” Haggard said of his own scandal.
The sermon is the latest in the two-year-old public saga involving Haggard. A year ago, the Colorado Independent — which has been following the scandal since it broke — published a comprehensive summary of the events surrounding his downfall, including Haggard’s bizarre cash-for-heaven plea for donations.
Earlier this year, Haggard’s replacement, Pastor Brady Boyd, announced that Haggard was quitting a “restoration” team designed to strip away all vestiges of homosexuality.
“New Life Church recognizes the process of restoring Ted Haggard is incomplete and maintains its original stance that he should not return to vocational ministry,” according to a statement issued in February by Boyd. “However, we wish him and his family only success in the future.”