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Haggard Draws 160 People to New Church

Haggard Draws 160 People to New Church

Nearly four years after being fired from his previous church, Ted Haggard returned to the pulpit on Sunday as a "changed" man and with a new church.

Some 160 people gathered in a barn next to Haggard's home in Colorado Springs, for the first service of St. James Church, according to The Gazette.

Haggard called it his "Easter morning" as he resurrected into a pastoral role.

Since 2006 when a former male prostitute claimed the well-known pastor had paid him for sex and had also taken methamphetamines, Haggard has been rebuilding his life with his wife, Gayle, and his family.

He told Joy Behar on CNN last week that he has experienced embarrassment, shame, and suffering as well as love, compassion and understanding.

And he has come out of it "a better man, a changed man," he said.

"I see people differently," the St. James pastor said. "When I see people going through a struggle now, I'm not judgmental, I'm not critical. I want to be helpful and encouraging and so that's the way I see it now."

Prior to the scandal, Haggard was the president of the National Association of Evangelicals and pastor of New Life Church, a prominent megachurch he founded at age 28. When he resigned from both positions, he agreed to leave Colorado Springs and not talk about the scandal publicly until 2008.

Over the past two years, Haggard has been stepping back into the limelight, starting with his promotion of "The Trials of Ted Haggard," a documentary produced by Alexandra Pelosi that debuted on HBO, and dropping hints of a new church.

He began holding prayer meetings in his home last year. He stressed at the time that the regular meeting was not a church plant. Yet there was skepticism over his intentions as the meeting drew over 100 people.

Last month, Haggard incorporated St. James Church and explained to The Gazette that the non-profit was a way for him and his wife to be reimbursed for the traveling expenses they incur as they visit churches across the country to give paid talks.

It wasn't until last Wednesday that he announced that he would be launching a new church.

He has stressed that St. James is a church for sinners and that everyone is welcome to attend.

He does not justify his authority as a pastor or spiritual leader, he has said. But he believes he is qualified to help people.

When pressed by CNN's Behar on whether he feels homosexuality is a sin, he responded, "Sexuality, no matter which grouping, is complex. It's confusing and some people have healthy sexuality, other people have unhealthy sexuality. They're on their own journeys with God. They've got to work that out. And what we're going to do at St. James Church is encourage them in their process to get that settled in their life."

During St. James' first service on Sunday, a number of people gave testimonies expressing their support for Haggard and the new church.


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