Publication:Colo Spgs Gazette; Date:Feb 7, 2007; Section:Section A; Page Number:1

Pastor: Haggard is heterosexual

Gay relationship was ‘acting out’


    Since being fired as pastor of New Life Church amid a gay-sex and drugs scandal, the Rev. Ted Haggard has discovered he’s “completely heterosexual.”

    The Rev. Tim Ralph, senior pastor for New Covenant Fellowship in Larkspur, told The Denver Post on Monday that Haggard’s homosexual activity appears to be limited to Denver male escort Mike Jones, who said he and Haggard had a threeyear sexual relationship.

    No one else has come forward since Haggard was fired from New Life Church, Ralph said, despite the case’s high visibility. Haggard was dismissed after admitting to “sexual immorality” and to buying methamphetamine.

    “He (Haggard) is completely heterosexual,” Ralph told the Post. “That is something he discovered. It was the acting-out situations where things took place. It wasn’t a constant thing.”

    Ralph was part of a fourman board of overseers who dismissed Haggard from New Life Church, the
14,000-member northern Colorado Springs church Haggard founded 22 years ago.

    He said Haggard discovered his heterosexuality during an intensive three-week spiritual restoration process in Phoenix.

    Haggard continues to receive Christian counseling twice a week, Ralph said.

    Haggard hasn’t spoken publicly since his dismissal, but he broke his silence with an e-mail to friends this weekend, saying he was moving to Iowa or Missouri, and that he and his wife, Gayle, were going to take online psychology courses.

    The overseers recommended Haggard move out of town, Ralph said, and also directed him to pursue a secular counseling career if he decides to study psychology.

    When The Gazette called Ralph for clarification, he declined comment through an assistant, saying all media inquiries are being funneled to New Life Church.

    Rob Brendle, associate pastor for New Life Church, said human sexuality is a “complicated issue,” and that the purpose of the restoration process was to return Haggard to a “life that conforms with the teachings of the Bible and the example of Jesus.

    “Beyond that, it’s fruitless to speculate,” Brendle said. “That (his sexual identity) is something that likely only Ted knows for sure.”

    Counselors agree that human sexuality can be tricky to pinpoint.

    “We have a predominant sexual interest with the same sex or the other sex,” said Kailash Jaitly, a Colorado Springs psychologist. “But to say that man is 100 percent pure heterosexual, that is impossible.”

    Larry Magnuson, director of the Christian ministry Son-Scape, believes sexuality is a matter of degrees rather than black-and-white. SonScape is an intense spiritual retreat center designed for struggling clergy.

    Though Magnuson said he’s not a human-sexuality expert, many pastors who come through his doors struggle with sexuality.

    Evangelical churches, he believes, may be approaching homosexuality too rigidly, rather than grappling with the shades of gray.

    “This is less about Ted’s sexuality as it is about the issue that he had to hide when he was wrestling with something,” Magnuson said. “The church has not become the safe place it should be.”

    Bill Maier, psychologist-inresidence at Focus on the Family, believes most people have a pretty clear sexual orientation.

    But he also cited a study conducted by the University of Chicago that found while only 2.4 percent of men identified themselves as gay, more than 7 percent reported having had a gay relationship.

    “It (the survey) tells us that sexual identity, desire and behavior are pretty complicated issues,” he said.

    Haggard’s behavior may be a window into that complexity. The pastor has been married since 1978, and he and Gayle have five children together.

    “After 28 years of marriage, five kids and he still has allegiance to his wife, he can’t be a full-blown homosexual,” said Tom Pedigo, who heads a pastoral restoration program through Winning Edge Ministries. “Hopefully this group intensive helped him to discover why he did it.”

    Brendle said the restoration process will likely take years, and is “not aimed at returning Ted to ministry, but rather to holiness and wholeness.”

    Jaitly said he was wary of Haggard going into psychology as his second career — at least too soon.

    “I would suggest he go into accounting or something and stay away from human services,” he said. “He’s going to be mixed up for a very, very, very long time.”

Nov. 1: Mike Jones publicly accuses the Rev. Ted Haggard of having gay sex and using methamphetamine. Nov. 2: Haggard resigns from the National Association of Evangelicals. Nov. 3: Haggard admits buying meth. Nov. 4: Haggard is fired as senior pastor of New Life Church. Nov. 5: Haggard’s letter of apology is read to New Life congregants; he enters “spiritual restoration.” Jan. 28: Haggard’s accuser Mike Jones visits New Life Church. Feb. 4: Haggard sends an e-mail to a handful of well-wishers, announcing he will move away. Feb. 5: One of Haggard’s overseers says the pastor discovered that he is “completely heterosexual” despite his three-year affair with a male escort.