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Thread: Ted Haggard faces new allegations of illicit behavior

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    Ted Haggard faces new allegations of illicit behavior
    Powerhouse preacher Ted Haggard faces new allegations of illicit behavior
    Debbie Kelley
    18-22 minutes

    National evangelical Christian powerhouse Ted Haggard, who founded New Life Church in Colorado Springs in 1984, grew it to 14,000 worshippers and was excommunicated in 2006 amid accusations that he paid a male escort for sex and was using methamphetamine, is facing new allegations from another congregation he started in 2010, Saint James Church.

    Some former members allege that Haggard has continued his tendencies toward same-sex encounters and illicit drug use, and they say they have proof.

    Kirk Sethman

    The Rev. Kirk Sethman, who was ordained by Ted Haggard as a minister of Saint James Church in Colorado Springs in 2012, accuses Haggard of continuing using methamphetamine and behaving inappropriately with young men, and is among those calling for him to step down from the pulpit. (Debbie Kelley/The Gazette)

    "People are scared and worried and don’t want to be connected to him anymore,” said the Rev. Kirk “Seth” Sethman, who was ordained as a minister by Saint James Church in October 2012.

    Two young men, one of whom was a minor at the time the alleged incidents occurred in 2019, claim on a recorded tape — which Sethman shared with church elders and The Gazette — that Haggard made them feel uncomfortable in his mannerisms he displayed while around them.

    The minor said on the tape that his statement was unrehearsed and uncoerced, and he wanted people to know that Haggard touched him inappropriately on several occasions at the church.

    Saint James Church, Colorado Springs

    Saint James Church has sold its building that it has used for worship, meetings and office space and has moved to a home-based model under the name Storyhouse Church, which some former members say is concerning. (Debbie Kelley/The Gazette)

    “Sometimes when he touches me, it feels very predatorial and very strange,” the teen says. “He’ll touch me on my pecs or my back or hug me in a way that I’m sliding up his hip or the side of his thigh or his bum. You can kind of tell it’s weird.”

    And, he said, "There's a lot of highly suspicious things that he does, and you're like, 'that doesn't seem or feel normal.'"

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    The minor, who’s now a young adult, could not be reached for an interview.

    In the second statement, a young adult male backs up the minor’s statements about feelings of uneasiness in how Haggard behaved around the minor and around other youths from the church.

    Upon seeing the videos and hearing the recorded statements of the young males, as well as Sethman — who also was a volunteer in a children’s ministry program at New Life Church under Haggard — some elders called for Haggard to step down from the Saint James pulpit in April 2020.

    “What prompted me to write that letter was his abuse of authority and his denying it,” says one member who asked leaders to remove Haggard from his role. “We were looking for accountability.”

    Haggard retains his post as head pastor but has moved the church’s services and study sessions to his home, calling his new congregation the Storyhouse Church. Asked about these recent allegations of sexual misconduct, Haggard declined to comment.

    Many people are swayed by Haggard’s charismatic nature and persuasive preaching, said the church elder who asked not to be identified because she said she isn’t ready to be named publicly.

    “He’s such a powerful, influential, persuasive and manipulative source,” she said. “But silver-tongued. A snake in many ways, who makes excuses and lies."

    Saint James membership has dwindled in recent years, as the allegations have come to light within the flock and some congregants have dropped their affiliation because of their concerns, say several former members including Sethman.

    Haggard, though, points to the coronavirus pandemic and a new trend toward home-based churches as considerations in recently selling the building in which he has been operating Saint James at 4615 Northpark Drive in Colorado Springs.

    The church sold its Saint James Building on April 1 for $1.95 million, according to county assessor records.

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    Saint James has seen “a slow decline” over the past two years, Haggard said in a recent online sermon, and “we decided as a church we wanted to become a network of house churches,” he tells worshippers.

    He said he realized some people would find other churches they would rather attend, so he allowed a month to pass before moving services and Bible studies on May 1 to his Colorado Springs home.

    Haggard said 40 to 60 people have been attending his home services in recent weeks. The gatherings use his sermons as the basis, followed by discussion and fellowship.

    Sethman said he’s concerned that as Haggard establishes his home ministry — including providing a children’s and youth ministry room in the basement, as Haggard describes in his sermons — that the potential for Haggard to pursue inappropriate actions with youths is high.

    “My prayer is protecting the children and the young adults,” Sethman said.

    Haggard said during his Easter sermon in April that he’s been preparing his home for the new church model by expanding a concrete pad in the backyard for outdoor services, and opening the basement to kids, who can use a pool table, play games and participate in other kid-friendly diversions.

    “There is a micro-church movement called the home-church movement,” he said. “We felt it was right for our lives.”

    Haggard’s behavior indicates a pattern common to adult sexual misconduct with children, said Todd “Bones” Trimble, who started a Colorado Springs chapter of Bikers Against Child Abuse in 2009 and now lives in Texas.

    In their recorded statements, the two young males speak of Haggard taking teens and young men four-wheeling without shirts and their chests muddied, and of a propensity to come in contact with their bodies beyond a typical shoulder squeeze.

    Trimble says in his work as an advocate for children involved in sexual abuse court cases, he’s come across many people who displayed similar kinds of behavior as part of grooming children for sexual interaction.

    “For Ted to have access to the youth is very disturbing,” he said.

    "These types of people don’t stop what they’re doing — it’s the persuasion, the authoritative figure that convinces youth to believe in them and trust in them — but it’s for an alternative motive, abuse, and they're not told that's going to happen,” Trimble said. “There are so many ways they deceive youth.”

    Again, Haggard did not respond to a request for an interview.

    March sermon recounts 2006 scandal

    In a March 27 sermon announcing his new Storyhouse Church, Haggard spoke of his “personal scandal,” in November 2006, when his sexual relationship with male escort Mike Jones of Denver and his illegal drug use became public. Jones claimed in 2010 that 15% of his clients were clergy or somehow connected to a church.

    “I repented immediately, and so I wouldn’t be a burden to the church, I resigned,” Haggard said in the sermon.

    Haggard and some of his family left Colorado Springs in January 2007 for a spiritual restoration program in Phoenix, where he says he was healed of his same-sex tendencies.

    But in 2008, New Life Church issued a statement to members and the media saying, “New Life Church recognizes the process of restoring Ted Haggard is incomplete and maintains its original stance that he should not return to vocational ministry.“

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    Michael, a former New Life Church member who asked that his last name not be used for privacy reasons, said he is concerned that it appears Haggard has not ridden himself of his previous behavior and lifestyle but continues in ministry and working with youth.

    “After hearing the interview on the tape with the minor and the young adult, I’m concerned this behavior is continuing and not being dealt with,” Michael said.

    The way New Life handled the “highly inappropriate” situation in 2006 was “very disappointing,” he said, adding that it appears to be happening once again.

    In her book, “Why I Stayed?” Haggard’s wife, Gayle, talks about how her husband was sexually preyed upon at age 7, saying it led to a same-sex attraction into his college days and included a relationship with a male at a XXX store in Baton Rouge, La.

    The saga of the fallen megachurch leader, who often had preached on the evils of homosexuality, led to an HBO show, an appearance on "Oprah," participation in 2012 in the television show “Celebrity Wife Swap,” and other high-profile publicity.

    Three years after the initial story of Haggard's relationship with Jones surfaced, former New Life Church member Grant Haas identified himself as a victim, saying when he was in his early 20s, he had non-consensual sexual contact with Haggard.

    Haggard’s successor at New Life, Senior Pastor Brady Boyd, told a Colorado Springs television station in 2008 that Haas had been paid a six-figure compassion assistance, but reportedly the payments stopped when Haas violated a nondisclosure agreement by going public.

    Haggard also serves as director of church planting for The River Conference of the Free Methodist Church and founder and coordinator of The Network of Redemptive Churches.

    As part of his current ministry, Haggard focuses on the healing process for people with addictions or transgressions.

    “In building New Life Church, I was a highly well-respected evangelical leader, so I learned to minister that way,” Haggard said in his March 27 sermon. “Now, in the church we started (Saint James), I learned to minister as the chief of sinners.”

    A briefcase with meth and sex toys

    Sethman, who went completely blind in 2015 due to a medical condition, speaks of another alleged incident that he has firsthand knowledge of and also presented recordings and a polygraph test, which he says proves he's telling the truth.

    In the spring of 2012, Haggard allegedly asked a young male church member — for whom Haggard was providing drug counseling as part of the member's rehabilitation as a heroin addict — to buy methamphetamine for Haggard.

    The young male related the conversation to Sethman, who then asked another Saint James parishioner — a medical doctor — to come to Sethman’s house so the pair could confront Haggard.

    Haggard admitted to having the methamphetamine, according to Sethman, and told the men he was preparing to use the meth to celebrate his upcoming birthday.

    Haggard then asked Sethman and the doctor to go to his house with him to remove and dispose of the narcotic so he wouldn’t be tempted.

    “We agreed,” Sethman said.

    After arriving at Haggard’s residence, Sethman said Haggard pulled out a briefcase and gave it to Sethman to get rid of.

    “He asked us to conceal the matter and said he would be accountable to us in the future,” Sethman said. “Which never happened.”

    After Sethman left Haggard’s home with the briefcase, he said he decided to open it.

    Inside, Sethman said he found a bag of methamphetamine with very little of the nearly 1 gram of meth left from what the young man had bought for Haggard. It also contained a “well-used” glass meth pipe, multiple sex toys, a DVD with two young males on the cover and a credit card with Ted Haggard’s name on it, Sethman said.

    He said he didn’t go to the police or tell other church members.

    “I was protecting the young man, the church and Ted,” Sethman said. “My choice I made was wrong, but I thought I was doing right.”

    A reformed drug addict who had spent time in prison as a young adult for burglary, Sethman said he smoked the small amount of meth that was left and put the briefcase in his garage, where it sat for about a year until he threw it away.

    Sethman started drinking again and using pharmaceutical drugs, and encountered physical problems before reforming his life and rejoining Saint James Church in 2017. At that time, he said, a young man told him that 'it was really weird that Ted kept pushing him to go four-wheeling in the woods with him.'"

    Sethman said he hadn't heard about Haggard's incident in 2006, and when he did so in January 2019, he started to get concerned about what he had experienced and was hearing.

    Sethman shared with The Gazette the results of a lie-detector test he took on March 20, 2019, answering questions regarding the young man who bought the drugs for Haggard, the briefcase and its contents.

    Confrontation leads to conflicting police reports

    When Sethman and another Saint James Church member approached Haggard on Aug. 16, 2019, asking him to come clean regarding the 2012 drug episode, alleged sexual improprieties with the minor, and what the young male church member considered as behavior by Haggard in line with sexual grooming, Haggard called Colorado Springs police.

    In a tape of the 911 call to police released to The Gazette, Haggard described Sethman as a delusional madman who had Haggard cornered in his church office. He also told the other member who was in the office with Sethman that he would ruin his life.

    Three police officers arrived, and in a police report filed that day, Sethman said he and the other church member voiced their concerns to authorities about Haggard’s behavior.

    Police denied a Gazette request for a copy of the report. Colorado Springs Police Lt. Pamela Castro said the paperwork falls under the definition of a juvenile case involving abuse or neglect.

    The 2019 case is not an active investigation, she said, adding that she could not provide further information “due to the sensitive nature of this report.”

    Sethman said the boy’s parents, who are elders of Saint James Church, prevented the detectives on the case from speaking to their son.

    “They stonewalled the police and protected Ted,” Sethman said.

    Police currently have “no responsive reports listing Ted Haggard as the suspect,” Castro said.

    On April 27, 2020, Sethman submitted videotapes detailing the allegations of Haggard's continued drug use and physical inappropriateness to about 30 Saint James elders, who oversee the church.

    He showed The Gazette a copy of a letter he received the next day from the church's assistant senior pastor, Jack Woloshun, saying the medical doctor had the matter under control and it would be handled internally.

    Haggard told elders that the incidents with the minor male were a misunderstanding, according to the church elder who wishes to remain anonymous.

    “But that wasn’t true,” she said. “He said he was resurrected from the dead, and he has been. But he hasn’t been changed.”

    She believes Haggard should not be allowed to counsel one-on-one or two-on-two, should be required to submit to random drug testing and take a polygraph.

    Other elders said after hearing the audio recordings and video tapes that they wanted “extreme sensitivity” to be exercised because of the nature of the claims.

    Sethman also provided the 911 call recording and his polygraph results. He told elders he would make the information public if they didn’t take action against Haggard.

    Sethman said his goal is to protect children and stop churches from abuse of power.

    While the minor says on the tape that in no way was he claiming rape — and there was no proof of sexual assault — “there is concern,” several elders said, as they listened to what the teen identified as predatorial sexual behavior on Haggard’s part.

    Haggard's 12-year journey with new church

    Haggard started New Life Church in the basement of his Colorado Springs home in the mid-1980s, left the ministry for four years following the 2006 scandal, and 12 years ago started Saint James in an old barn at a rural residence he owned.

    When Saint James grew to several hundred people, he began renting facilities, including a middle school, before acquiring the nearly 60,000-square-foot building on Northpark Drive. He turned the building into church offices, meeting and prayer rooms, worship space and related subsidiaries including a financial group. There also were a few tenants.

    “Thirty to 40 pastors invited Gayle and I to start going to their churches, some people were gracious and other people were still angry about it,” he says in his March 27 sermon. “We thought if we went to someone else’s church, it would potentially split the church because just the mention of my name, it would stir the emotion in people just because of the way the news media and others made me sound like a devil.

    “I was competing with (former Iraqi President) Saddam Hussein at the time for the baddest man in the world, and by that I don’t mean good.”

    Haggard says in a sermon that Saint James Church “had absolutely no money,” when they bought the building, and bought it "100% on credit with nothing down" but guaranteed with equity in the couple’s home. County assessor records, however, show the church acquired the building in 2013 through a quit-claim deed, and no money was recorded as exchanging hands during the transaction.

    The sale in April generated enough to pay Haggard and Gayle, “for the times we’ve had to cover utilities and (paychecks for) church staff so it wouldn’t be a burden,” Haggard said in the sermon.

    “We’re working on paying all of our debts.”

    Haggard also says the church donated $300,000 of proceeds from the sale to missions working with Ukrainian people affected by the ongoing war with Russia, although he doesn’t specify which organizations received the money.

    “It’s gone, so if any of you get any ideas, it’s already gone,” Haggard said in his sermon.

    Sethman said he prays for Haggard to “tell the truth, confess, repent and be cleansed,” and for all churches to stop covering up potential abuse and address such situations.
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    Yeah yeah. Another snake oil salesman turns out to be crooked. Say it ain’t so.
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