By Alan Cooperman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 4, 2006
The Rev. Ted Haggard, the Colorado minister who resigned Thursday as president of the National Association of Evangelicals, admitted yesterday that he bought methamphetamine and received a massage from a male prostitute.
But Haggard told reporters outside his home in Colorado Springs that the massage was arranged by a Denver hotel and was not sexual. He also said he threw the drugs away. "I never kept it very long, because it's -- it was wrong. I was tempted. I bought it, but I never used it," he said.
The 11-member executive committee of the NAE said late last night that it had accepted his resignation. Given "the seriousness of Rev. Haggard's misconduct while in the leadership roles he held, we anticipate an extended period of recovery will be appropriate," the board said.
Haggard's admissions came as the White House and some conservative Christians sought to play down his political influence in Washington and predicted that the scandal would have no impact on the midterm elections.
White House spokesman Tony Fratto denied that Haggard was a regular participant in weekly conference calls between White House officials and evangelical leaders that began when President Bush took office in 2001 and have continued since.
"He had been on a couple of calls, but was not a weekly participant in those calls. I believe he's been to the White House one or two times. . . . But there have been a lot of people who come to the White House," Fratto said.
As head of the NAE since 2003, Haggard has been a leading moderate voice among evangelicals. He sparred, publicly and privately, with some big-name evangelists as he and other NAE officials embraced a growing list of moral issues, including global warming, and urged evangelicals not to speak harshly about Islam.
Some fellow conservative Christian leaders got in their digs yesterday. "We're sad to see any evangelical leader fall," the Rev. Pat Robertson said on his television show, "The 700 Club." But, he added, it "just isn't true" that the NAE represents 30 million churchgoers, as the association claims.
"We can't get their financial data. I think it's because they have very little money and very little influence," Robertson said.
James Dobson, chairman and founder of Focus on the Family, which is headquartered near Haggard's megachurch, called Haggard a "close friend." "Nevertheless, sexual sin, whether homosexual or heterosexual, has serious consequences, and we are extremely concerned for Ted, his family and his church," Dobson said.
The Rev. Jerry Falwell, speaking Thursday night on CNN, said Haggard "doesn't really lead the movement. He's president of an association that's very loose-knit . . . and no one has looked to them for leadership."
Haggard, 50, who is married and has five children, stepped down this week from leadership both of the NAE and of New Life Church, the 14,000-member congregation he started in his basement 22 years ago. His resignation followed accusations by Mike Jones, 49, a male escort who said Haggard paid for sex about once a month for three years.
The veracity of Jones's claims remained in doubt yesterday. After he voluntarily submitted to a polygraph test, the examiner announced on a Denver radio talk show that he showed "deception" when asked about the sexual allegations.
On the other hand, Jones made public two voice-mail recordings, and Colorado TV station KUSA said an expert analysis confirmed that the voice was Haggard's. According to Jones, Haggard always called himself "Art," his middle name, when arranging for sex and drugs.
"Hi, Mike, this is Art," one of the voice mails begins. "Hey, I was just calling to see if we could get any more. Either $100 or $200 supply. . . . And I could pick it up really anytime. . . . I also wanted to get your address so I could send you some money for inventory."
New Life Church's acting pastor, the Rev. Ross Parsley, sent an e-mail to its members late Thursday night saying that Haggard stepped aside to allow a board of four outside ministers to investigate.
"Since that time, the board of overseers has met with Pastor Ted. It is important for you to know that he confessed to the overseers that some of the accusations against him are true," Parsley wrote.
At New Life Church, whose 8,000-seat sanctuary is usually full of joyful worship, there was pervasive sadness as well as many expressions of support for Haggard and his family.
"God, please pray peace on the Haggard family," Randy Flanery said, while another prayer leader quoted the 34th Psalm that says God is close to the broken heart.
"The key is, confess and repent and be willing to accept the consequences," Flanery said after the prayer service. Whatever sins Haggard may have committed, "you have to weigh it out with the other things the pastor has done," he added.
According to the Rocky Mountain News, Haggard's wife, Gayle, fixed him with a silent stare when he told reporters he bought drugs and received a massage from Jones. Earlier this year, the Haggards published a book together about marriage, titled "From This Day Forward."
"Our souls are intertwined," the book says. "Because we are connected in body, soul, and spirit, we have never really left our honeymoon."
Parishioner Adrienne Simmonds, 20, said she was "shocked and slightly angered" by the scandal, but "we do love Pastor Ted and we know God will see him through this."
Special correspondent Judith Crosson in Colorado Springs and staff researcher Madonna Lebling in Washington contributed to this report.