Haggard steps down amid gay affair inquiry
By Eric Gorski, Felisa Cardona and Manny Gonzales
Denver Post Staff Writers
Article Last Updated:11/02/2006 05:15:40 PM MST

Ted Haggard (Post file)Ted Haggard, one of the most prominent evangelical pastors in the nation, resigned today as president of the National Association of Evangelicals amid allegations that he carried on a three-year sexual relationship with a male prostitute.

Haggard, founder of the 14,000-member New Life Church, has denied the accusations but said in a statement released by the church today that he could “not continue to minister under the cloud created by accusations made on Denver talk radio this morning.”

He has placed himself on administrative leave pending investigation, spiritual counsel and a decision by the church’s board of overseers, the church’s legal counsel said. Haggard founded the church in 1985.

“I am voluntarialy stepping aside from leadership so that the overseer process can be allowed to proceed with integrity. I hope to be able to discuss this matter in more detail at a later date,” Haggard’s statement said.

The former prostitute, Mike Jones, 49, of Denver, went public with the accusations on Tuesday, saying he felt compelled to do so because he believes Haggard, a strong opponent of same-sex unions, has been hypocritical. Haggard is married with five children.

“I made myself cry and I made myself sick,” Jones said about his decision to come forward. “I felt I owed this to the community. What he is saying is we are not worthy, but he is.”

Jones says he was contacted three years ago by Haggard for sex – he thinks through a gay newspaper advertisement or an online ad he posted on rentboy.com.

Today, Jones showed the Denver Post an envelope addressed to him from “Art,” a name Jones says Haggard used – sent from an address in Colorado Springs. Jones said the envelope came to him with two $100 bills inside.

Jones also played a recording of a voicemail left for Jones from “Art.” Jones refused to reveal what the topic of the voicemail was about because there could be legal problems and he wants to consult with an attorney.

“They want to protect the sanctity of marriage and I am trying to figure out what that means because they are not doing a good job,” Jones said of anti-gay marriage proponents. “To have someone in such a high profile position preaching against them and doing opposite behind other people’s backs is hypocritical.”

Jones said he would take a lie detector test to validate his claims.

The church’s lawyer, Martin Nussbaum, said Haggard’s resignation is in no way an admission of guilt. He’s already denied Jones’ accusations, but feels that when an allegation like this is made, he needs to take this step, Nussbaum said.

Nussbaum, paraphrased: The bylaws state that when an allegation of immorality is made, this process is triggered, where he puts himself on leave. The outside board makes the final decision.

In the interim, the church’s associate senior pastor, the Rev. Ross Parsley, will serve as acting senior pastor of the church.

Staff writer Manny Gonzales can be reached at 303-954-1537 or mgonzales@denverpost.com

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