Ted Haggard resigns as NAE president amid accusations

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (BP)--Ted Haggard, pastor of a prominent Colorado church and president of the National Association of Evangelicals, has resigned his duties amid allegations of a homosexual affair, although his accuser failed a lie detector test.

Haggard, though, has admitted he bought methamphetamine from the man, Mike Jones, but Haggard said he didn't use it. The allegations come just days before Colorado voters consider a constitutional amendment that would protect the natural definition of marriage.

According to a news release on his church website, Haggard said Nov. 2 that he could “not continue to minister under the cloud created by the accusations made on Denver talk radio this morning.”

“I am voluntarily stepping aside from leadership so that the overseer process can be allowed to proceed with integrity,” Haggard, pastor of the 14,000-member New Life Church in Colorado Springs, said. “I hope to be able to discuss this matter in more detail at a later date. In the interim, I will seek both spiritual advice and guidance.”

The accusations involve comments from Jones, a homosexual man who claims Haggard paid him for sex about once a month for three years and that Haggard used methamphetamine during some of the encounters. Jones, though, failed a lie detector test when asked about the sexual charges, The Denver Post reported. The test was administered on a radio program on Denver's KHOW, and an expert said stress could have been the cause of the test failure.

Ross Parsley, New Life Church’s associate senior pastor who is now serving as interim pastor, sent an e-mail to church members late Thursday night.

“It is important for you to know that he confessed to the overseers that some of the accusations against him are true,” Parsley said in the e-mail, according to Denver’s ABC affiliate, KMGH-TV.

The previous night, Haggard told a Denver television station that he had never used drugs or had sex with a man, and he said he has been faithful to his wife.

But Haggard admitted Nov. 3 that he had purchased meth from Jones but did not use the drug.

“I bought it for myself but never used it,” Haggard told reporters gathered outside his home. “I was tempted, but I never used it.”

He told a reporter for Denver’s KUSA-TV that he received a massage from Jones, a male prostitute, after getting a referral from a Denver hotel.

James Dobson of Focus on the Family said everyone at his organization is “heartsick over the allegation” that Haggard “had a private life with a homosexual for several years.”

“We will await the outcome of this story, but the possibility that an illicit relationship has occurred is alarming to us and to millions of others,” Dobson said in a statement issued Nov. 3 before the meth admission.

“Ted has been my close friend and colleague for many years. He has been used mightily to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Colorado Springs and around the world,” Dobson said. “He will continue to be my friend, even if the worst allegations prove accurate. Nevertheless, sexual sin, whether homosexual or heterosexual, has serious consequences and we are extremely concerned for Ted, his family and his church.”

Conservatives in Colorado said the timing of the story was suspicious given that it was released just days before votes are cast regarding Amendment 43, which would protect the traditional definition of marriage in the state.

Bryant Adams, a spokesman for Colorado’s Republican Party, hinted that Jones might have been politically motivated.

“It’s amazing that this guy would wait until six days before an election, when there’s a marriage amendment on the ballot. Surprise, surprise,” Adams said.

In a statement released to Baptist Press, an official for Coloradans for Marriage, the main group supporting Amendment 43, said they will press on despite the disruption.

“This is a difficult situation for Pastor Haggard and his family,” the group said. “However, we will not let this distract us with our efforts to pass the Colorado Marriage Amendment to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman.”

Jones, the 49-year-old Denver resident who brought the claims against Haggard, told the Associated Press he is not working for any political group.

“I just want people to step back and take a look and say, ‘Look, we're all sinners, we all have faults, but if two people want to get married, just let them, and let them have a happy life,’” Jones said.

In a Colorado Springs Gazette story circulated by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services, Jones said he realized Haggard’s nationwide importance as an evangelical leader about two years ago when he saw a History Channel program featuring an interview of Haggard. Jones later decided to expose what he called Haggard’s hypocrisy, the report said.

“After sitting back and contemplating this issue, the biggest reason is, being a gay man all my life, I have experienced with my friends some sadness,” Jones said. “I had two friends that were together 50 years, when one of them would get in a hospital for an accident or something, their partner could not get in to see them. I saw a lot of sadness. I felt it was my responsibility to my fellow brothers and sisters that I had to take a stand.”

As evidence to support his claims of encounters with Haggard, Jones has released two voice mail messages and a letter from Haggard to KUSA. The television station hired Richard Sanders, a voice identification expert from the University of Colorado at Denver, to compare the voice mail messages with samples of Haggard’s voice, The Gazette said. KUSA reported that nine of 12 words were “perfect matches.”

The governing structure of New Life Church gives a board of overseers authority to conduct an inquiry, discipline the senior pastor, remove him from his position or restore him to ministry, according to a statement by the church. The board consists of four senior pastors of other congregations. Parsley said they have already started meeting with Haggard.

In addition to voluntarily putting himself on administrative leave at New Life Church, Haggard resigned as president of the 30 million-member National Association of Evangelicals. The Southern Baptist Convention is not affiliated with the NAE.

As president of the NAE, Haggard in the past has participated in Christian leaders’ conference calls with White House staff members and was vocal in the appointment process of a new Supreme Court justice last year.

Compiled by Erin Roach with reporting by Art Toalston & Michael Foust.

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