Ted Haggard, the American evangelical preacher who resigned over allegations he had used male prostitutes, has set up a new church.
He unveiled St James Church with his wife Gayle in Colorado Springs last Wednesday, calling it “my resurrection day”.
Haggard became a celebrity preacher after setting up Colorado’s New Life Church in 1985.
He became a friend to President George W Bush and the president of the National Association of Evangelicals.
But in 2006, he experienced a spectacular fall from grace when it was claimed he had slept with male prostitutes and taken drugs with them.
Prostitute Mike Jones revealed he had had an three-year sexual relationship with the vocal gay marriage opponent. Following the scandal, Haggard moved to Arizona and began selling insurance.
He has returned from Arizona to found the church in Colorado Springs.
During the announcement, Haggard urged gays and lesbians to join his services.
He told a press conference: “St James church is for anyone, and I do mean anyone… If you are straight, gay or bisexual, I want to walk through the scriptures with you.”
Although his return has not been welcomed by everyone in Colorado’s evangelical community, Haggard said: “I feel we have moved past the scandal.”
He plans to hold his first few ministries in his garden and would not estimate how large the church would grow.
“I have no future plans for that,” he said. “I am going to accept every blessing and see how it goes. We have got 200 chairs for our first service and maybe in a few weeks we will need 2,000. Or maybe we won’t.”
Haggard had controversial ‘gay cure’ therapy after the scandal. He now claims to be straight and says his behaviour was caused by being molested as a child.
In January last year, he told chatshow host Oprah Winfrey he wanted to kill himself after the revelations surfaced.
He said: “I was dying. I had settled in my mind exactly how I was going to commit suicide. I was preparing, and in my life, Jesus came to me and he said, ‘Now, now I can save you.’ “