Former megachurch pastor Ted Haggard informed his supporters this week that the prayer meetings he’s been holding at his house are not the gatherings of a new church.
“The prayer meeting is not a church plant,” he wrote on his Facebook page Tuesday in one of two “sanity points.”
“We had two prayer meetings on our property and will probably have more after the holidays,” Haggard added.
Two hours earlier, Haggard said he had read comments made by “some religious leaders” regarding the prayer meetings he’s been holding each Thursday since Nov. 12.
“Does our modern system reward hypocricy (sic) and punish repentance?” he asked.
Since news spread of Haggard’s prayer meetings, many have expressed skepticism over Haggard’s intentions, noting that he had started New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colo., from the basement of his house at the age of 28 and grew it to become one of the most prominent megachurches in the nation.
Many of Haggard’s critics have also been wary of his recovery process, believing that his return to the spotlight is too much too soon.
It has only been three years since a highly-publicized drugs and sex scandal led to Haggard's resignation from the presidency of the National Association of Evangelicals and forced him out of New Life Church.
After a former male prostitute claimed Haggard had paid him for sex over the course of three years and had also taken methamphetamines, Haggard admitted to his church that he was "a deceiver and a liar" and described his long struggle as a "repulsive and dark" part of his life.
"I desperately need to be forgiven and healed," he stated in a letter to New Life members.
Since then, Haggard and his family have mostly been in seclusion, coming back out only this past year to promote “The Trials of Ted Haggard,” which debuted on HBO late January and aired throughout the month of February.
Prior to his return, Haggard had gone through at least three different crisis response groups, one of which believed Haggard’s process of restoring was “incomplete” and that his current activities are “insensitive” to New Life Church.
“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 H.B. London, vice president of Pastoral Ministries at Focus on the Family, who had joined the team overseeing Haggard’s first counseling program.
Haggard had asked to be released from the four-man team's oversight 14 months after he started, saying that the restoration team was “corporate” whereas his current accountability team is “personal and relational.”
Furthermore, Haggard said the teams’ approach toward his discipline and restoration was “unnecessarily adversarial and was more like a divorce than a restoration.”
“My relationships with some of the Overseers, Restorers, and a few in New Life Church leadership have not been as positive as any of us would have liked. This was primarily because I complained about the use of legal contracts as a substitute for a more relationally-based approach and their demands that my family move away from our home and community where we had supportive relationships,” Haggard wrote in a letter that he sends to churches that invite him to speak. “On these two issues Gayle and I fundamentally disagreed with some in our oversight groups.”
Currently, an accountability team of five pastors – all personally selected – is helping guide Haggard’s spiritual walk. Haggard has also received counseling and advice from a number of other Christian leaders including Gary Holcombe, a former missionary turned Christian businessman, and Pastor Jack Taylor, a Christian author and speaker.
Haggard claims that he has felt God's touch in his life more in the past three years than in the previous 30.
"I believe Jesus came for the sinner. God loves people like me," he said, according to the Denver Post.
The 53-year-old father of five also says “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.
"I think Gayle and I both want to tell our story to the degree that it's helpful to other people,” he told CNN earlier this year. “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, held just one mile away from New Life Church, have been drawing around 150 people.
Haggard had originally expected 10 to 20 people to show up.