A member of Ted Haggard’s now-defunct restoration team says he and the others wish the former megachurch pastor would have followed their counsel rather than doing what he is now.
H.B. London, vice president of Pastoral Ministries at Focus on the Family, had joined the team overseeing a counseling program for Haggard after a highly-publicized drugs and sex scandal three years ago led to the once influential leader’s resignation from the presidency of the National Association of Evangelicals and forced him out of church he founded, New Life Church in Colorado Springs.
Together with Jack Hayford of The Church on the Way in Van Nuys, Calif., and Tommy Barnett of First Assembly of God in Phoenix, Ariz., London had set out three years ago to guide Haggard through what the team expected to be a long process toward recovery.
After just 14 months, however, Haggard asked to end the team's oversight of his recovery program despite the overseers' belief that "the process of restoring ... is incomplete."
Nine months later, Haggard returned to the public eye, making appearances at churches and TV programs including Oprah and Larry King Live to promote the HBO documentary “The Trials of Ted Haggard,” which painted a sympathetic portrait of the disgraced charismatic leader.
Though some said Haggard was “reopening a lot of old wounds,” the former church pastor insisted that he was actually “cleaning out” wounds that have been “festering” so that they can heal.
According to Haggard, “loads of New Lifers” have been writing to him on his website, TedHaggard.com, since his return to the public stage, some going as far as telling him they are being healed through his appearances.
Most recently, Haggard has been conducting weekly prayer meetings at his home, drawing around 150 people.
"People love a good comeback story," Haggard told a handful of reporters after the first meeting.
Though Haggard claims that he has felt God's touch in his life more in the past three years than in the previous 30, his decision to not only return to Colorado Springs but to gather what could potentially be the “nucleus” of a new church just one mile away from New Life has been met with disapproval from some camps.
“The irony of all of this is that, from the very beginning, Mr. Haggard had been counseled to go to another city, complete his restoration program, experience healing in his family and with his addiction, and only then begin again. But, he has made a choice not to do that,” commented London just days after Haggard's first in-home prayer meeting.
“We, who were members of his restoration team and those who served New Life Church as overseers, wish he would not do this. We feel it to be insensitive to a church that provided generously for him and his family for over a year after his misadventure. But, more than that, he violates his own words that he would not begin a new church,” the Focus on the Family leader added in his person weblog.
Though Haggard initially said he had no intention to do what he had done with New Life Church, which started with about 25 people from his basement when he was 28 and grew to become one of the nation’s most prominent churches with over 10,000 members, the now 53-year-old father of five told the Denver Post: “We’ll see where it goes.”
"It's an exploratory meeting," Haggard said of the first gathering, held on Nov. 12.
And although Haggard stated earlier this year that his intention was not to return to ministry, he did say that he was interested in making more public appearances.
"I think Gayle and I both want to tell our story to the degree that it's helpful to other people,” he told CNN. “I don't know that that would mean a pulpit, but certainly I'd be interested in public speaking."
Haggard currently works as an insurance salesman and lives in Colorado Springs with his wife of 30 years, Gayle, and two of their five children.
His weekly prayer meetings are being held every Thursday evening and reportedly include music, an offering to New Life Church and a talk from Haggard.
Haggard told The Gazette that the gathering was a "prayer meeting" but said it would also be correct to call it a church.
In a short statement issued on the eve of Haggard’s first prayer gathering, New Life Church’s current pastor, Brady Boyd, said the church “will always be grateful for the many years of dedicated leadership from Ted Haggard and we wish him and his family only the best.”
The church said it would not comment further.