(AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)
Ted Haggard, the evangelical leader who fell from grace after a gay sex scandal in 2006, announced on Wednesday that he will start a new church in Colorado Springs.
With his wife, Gayle, and three of his sons by his side, Haggard told reporters that the St. James Church that he incorporated three weeks ago will soon be an active church.
Initially, Haggard said he incorporated St. James for accounting purposes to organize payments he and his wife receive from talks at churches. He explained that they pay for their own traveling expenses and St. James would help organize reimbursements.
But about two weeks ago Haggard decided to turn St. James into a real church.
“St. James is a church for sinners – for people who have hit rock bottom and people who want to help people who have hit rock bottom,” said Haggard, according to The Denver Post. “It is not a gathering for the righteous, except those who are righteous by faith.”
“Everybody is welcome: Democrats, Republican, Independents, gays, straights, tall, short, addicts and recovering addicts,” he said.
Prior to his public fall, Haggard was the founding pastor of the 14,000-member New Life Church in Colorado Springs and the president of the National Association of Evangelicals.
He was one of the most prominent conservative evangelical leaders in the nation when, in 2006, a male prostitute publicly accused him of paying for sex over a period of three years. Haggard was also accused of using illegal drugs during their secret meetings.
After the scandal broke out, Haggard resigned as senior pastor of New Life Church and as president of the NAE.
He moved to Arizona and lived in seclusion for several years during which time he underwent a restoration process.
In 2008, he spoke about the scandal in public for the first time at Open Bible Fellowship Church in Morrison, Ill.
And this year, Gayle Haggard released her book, Why I Stayed: The Choices I Made in My Darkest Hour. She and her husband appeared on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” among other television programs, to promote the book that discusses her conviction that Christians should practice love and forgiveness.
Since November, the Haggards have held several prayer meetings at their home that drew a crowd of more than 100 people.
St. James Church will hold its first service at the Haggards’ home on Sunday at 10 a.m.