Less than 24
hours after he was fired from the pulpit of the evangelical
megachurch he founded, the Rev. Ted Haggard confessed to his
followers Sunday that he was guilty of sexual
immorality. In a letter that was read to the
congregation of the New Life Church in Colorado Springs,
Colo., by another clergyman, Haggard apologized for his
acts and requested forgiveness.
''I am so sorry for the circumstances that have
caused shame and embarrassment for all of you,'' he
said, adding that he had confused the situation by
giving inconsistent remarks to reporters denying the scandal.
''The fact is I am guilty of sexual immorality.
And I take responsibility for the entire problem. I am
a deceiver and a liar. There's a part of my life that
is so repulsive and dark that I have been warring against it
for all of my adult life,'' he said.
Haggard resigned last week as president of the
National Association of Evangelicals, where he held
sway in Washington and condemned homosexuality, after
a man claimed to have had drug-fueled homosexual
trysts with him. Haggard also placed himself on
administrative leave from the New Life Church, which
has 14,000 members, but its independent Overseer Board
fired him on Saturday.
In his letter, Haggard said ''the accusations
made against me are not all true but enough of them
are that I was appropriately removed from his church
leadership position.'' He did not give details on which
accusations were true.
The letter was read to the church by the Rev.
Larry Stockstill, senior pastor of Bethany World
Prayer Center in Baker, La., and a member of the board
that fired Haggard. Before the letter was read, members of
the congregation sang and cheered during their Sunday,
singing refrain after refrain of ''I will bless the
lord at all times.''
Youngsters were sent out of the room before
elders began speaking about the church crisis.
''Worshippers are always challenged by crisis. And
when tragedy and crisis strikes it is at that moment that
you truly decide if you are a worshipper of the most
high god. And today as the worship pastor of this
church I am very proud of you,'' said the Rev. Ross
Parsley, who has replaced Haggard.
''I am so grateful for the government system in
place here at this church. ... The speed with which
things were dealt with this week has been a testimony
to the godliness, to the integrity and authority of the
overseers of the board of this church,'' he said.
Haggard, 50, had acknowledged on Friday that he
paid Mike Jones of Denver for a massage and for
methamphetamine, but said he did not have sex with him
and did not take the drug. The Overseer Board, made up
clergy from various churches, used stronger language.
''Our investigation and Pastor Haggard's public
statements have proven without a doubt that he has
committed sexually immoral conduct,'' the board said
in a statement. The NEA, representing 30 million
evangelicals, named the Rev. Leith Anderson, senior
pastor of Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie, Minn., as
its interim president.
Jones said news of Haggard's dismissal saddened
him. ''I feel really bad for his wife and family and
his congregation. I know it's a sad day for them,
too,'' Jones said. ''I just hope the family has peace and
can come to terms with things. I hope they can
continue with a happy life.''
Haggard's situation is a disappointment to
Christian conservatives, whom President Bush and other
Republicans are courting heavily in the run-up to
Tuesday's election. Many were already disheartened with the
president and the Republican-controlled Congress over
their failure to deliver big gains on social issues
even before the congressional page scandal involving
former Rep. Mark Foley.
Haggard, who had been president of the
evangelical association since 2003, has participated
in conference calls with White House staffers and
lobbied Congress last year on Supreme Court nominees.
Haggard founded New Life in the mid-1980s and held its
first services in the basement of his Colorado Springs home.
Jones, who said he is gay, said he was upset
when he discovered who Haggard was and found out that
New Life had publicly opposed same-sex marriage, a key
issue in Colorado, with a pair of issues on Tuesday's
ballot. (Colleen Slevin, AP)