Man who exposed evangelical leader greeted by Colorado mega-church

By staff writers
January 30, 2007

Members of a Colorado mega-church rocked by revelations that its high-profile pastor had a three-year relationship with a then male sex worker, met the accuser face-to-face when he visited their congregation on Sunday 28 January 2007.

In an interview with the Denver Post newspaper, one-time male prostitute Mike Jones said that members of New Life Church greeted him warmly.

Ted Haggard, founder and former pastor of the 14,000-member church, was also a national evangelical leader when Jones accused him of an involvement that included paid sex and the use of methamphetamine – despite his public anti-homosexual stance.

The ensuing storm forced Haggard's resignation in 2006 as president of the National Association of Evangelicals. He was later fired as pastor of the New Life Church as well.

During his apology to New Life's congregation in November, Haggard had asked church members to thank Jones for his role in exposing his faults.

Mr Haggard had supported the general anti-gay stance of his church and of the NAE until his own actions were revealed. He has since been undergoing counselling.

On Sunday, Mr Jones toured New Life's huge site with members a New York-based theatre troupe, The Civilians. The troupe is researching evangelical culture, and had advised church leaders beforehand that they planned to visit the congregation.

"I had read a lot about the church, but there's nothing like seeing it for yourself," Jones told the Denver Post. "It wasn't to rub anyone's face in it by any means. I was wanting to get some perspective, to see where they are coming from, what the magnet is."

Associate pastor Rob Brendle commented: "The church's response to him was overwhelmingly warm. One of the wonderful and enduring truths of Christianity is to love people the world sets up to be your enemies."

Christian groups who take an affirming stance towards lesbian and gay people in the church hope that the events surrounding Mr Haggard, and another evangelical pastor from Denver-based Grace chapel, who resigned after admitting his struggles with homosexuality, might lead to a theological re-evaluation of the sexuality and faith issue.

But New Life leaders are hoping that Mr Haggard can be “restored”, which would involve rejecting his homosexuality.

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