Humbled Haggard Climbs Back in Pulpit

By STEPHANIE SIMON

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.— The Rev. Ted Haggard stood at a pulpit made from stacked buckets one recent Sunday and announced his resurrection. Mr. Haggard was forced to resign nearly four years ago as president of the politically powerful National Association of Evangelicals and to step down from the megachurch he founded, after admitting that he had bought methamphetamine from, and had a sexual encounter with, a gay prostitute.

Once one of the most prominent church leaders in the U.S., Mr. Haggard confessed in a tortured letter, calling himself “a deceiver and a liar” who had long wrestled with desires he described as “repulsive and dark.” He signed a contract promising to follow a path laid out by fellow clergy: to find a new career in a new state and to stay away from pastoral work.

Then, his wife at his side, Mr. Haggard left town.

He is back now. In a move that thrilled some of his former flock—and alarmed some of his fellow evangelical Christians—Mr. Haggard and his wife Gayle recently launched a new church in their backyard barn, a few miles from the enormous campus of his old congregation.

( Photo Chris Schneider for The Wall Street Journal- The Rev. Ted Haggard preaching recently at his new St. James Church in his barn in Colorado. On Sunday, the congregation of nearly 200 will be moving to a rented community center. )

In two months of preaching with sacks of fence-post concrete at his feet, Mr. Haggard, who is 54 years old, has built a congregation of nearly 200 people. His church, St. James, has outgrown the barn and this Sunday moves to a rented community center.

Ebullient as ever, bouncing with energy, Mr. Haggard said he is back doing what he was born to do.

“Tiger Woods needs to golf. Michael Vick needs to be playing football,” Mr. Haggard said as his new congregation joined him and Gayle in their backyard for a post-worship picnic. Little kids, shrieking with joy, splashed in the pool. Men grilled burgers. Women set out chicken salad.

“Ted Haggard,” Mr. Haggard said, “needs to be leading a church.” Read more at The Wall Street Journal

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