Former megachurch pastor Ted Haggard said Wednesday that he will launch a new church from his Colorado Springs home, 3 1/2 years after he resigned from his ministry amid an embarrassing and devastating sex scandal.
"This is my resurrection day," he declared.
Haggard said his new venture would not be a megachurch like New Life Church, the congregation he founded in 1985 and then left in 2006 after a male prostitute said Haggard paid him for sex.
Haggard said he doesn't know how many people will attend his new church, but he said the ordeal he and his wife, Gayle, went through has prepared them to help others.
"I have an incredible heart for broken people," he said. "I think we're qualified to hold people's hands" in times of trouble.
Haggard made his announcement outside his home, a two-story, brick-fronted structure with a large barn, a swimming pool and white-fenced corrals on Colorado Springs' north side, not far from New Life Church. Wearing an open-neck shirt and jeans, Haggard sounded both optimistic and chastened, calling himself a repentant sinner and a broken man who believes he can still help others.
"When the crash came in my personal life, it was so incredibly embarrassing and heartbreaking," he said. "It broke me. And I'm still broken, some."
Haggard said a television documentary on the birth of his new church was a possibility but nothing was certain.
At his new church, Haggard said he will teach that God intended marriage to be a monogamous union of a man and a woman. But he said heterosexual marriage was just one ideal in a long list of things God wants people to do, including pray, be healthy and stay monogamous.
He also said the biblical ideals are sometimes hard to live up to.
"Earth is not heaven. And here on Earth, sexuality is very complex and very confusing," he said.
"There is a complex process people have to go through between their personal beliefs and their own ideals that they themselves fail at, and I am a glaring example of that," he said.
In an interview with The Associated Press after his announcement, Haggard said he was in counseling from the time of his 2006 downfall until recently, dealing with both his sexual identity and the feelings of shame and embarrassment that followed the scandal.
Without offering any specifics on the allegations against him, Haggard said his counselors told him he is heterosexual but that his behavior was influenced by a childhood incident when he molested by an adult male.
Haggard said he takes responsibility for his actions as an adult and does not mean to use the molestation as an excuse. He also said he did not want to imply that homosexuality was caused by childhood trauma.
"I don't know what goes on with the homosexual and what makes a homosexual a homosexual. I don't know dynamics there and I don't judge it," he said.
He said counseling helped him reduce the emotional impact of the childhood encounter.
"I remember all of that. I just don't have compulsive thoughts or actions because of it," he said.
Haggard told the AP that after his downfall, he doesn't feel qualified or entitled to return to the ministry, but that he feels compelled to do so by love for others. He cited conversations he had this week with a woman fighting drugs and with an unmarried couple expecting their second child.
"I'm certainly not going to say no to people (who need help) because of my personal shame. I've got to overcome my personal shame and be willing to help somebody that knocks on our door," he said.
Haggard said St. James won't compete with other churches in Colorado Springs, noting that many people in the city of 375,000 don't attend any church.
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