- The Washington Times - Friday, November 3, 2006

2:49 p.m.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — A leading evangelist and outspoken opponent of homosexual marriage has resigned as president of the National Association of Evangelicals while the group’s leaders and a church panel investigate accusations that he paid a man for sex.

The Rev. Ted Haggard also gave up leadership of his New Life Church pending its investigation into whether he had monthly trysts with a homosexual prostitute over the past three years.

Mr. Haggard, a married father of five, denied the accusation, telling KUSA-TV: “I’ve never had a gay relationship with anybody. … I’m faithful to my wife.”

However, New Life Church’s acting pastor later said Mr. Haggard had acknowledged that some of the accusations were true. In an e-mail to congregants, Ross Parsley wrote that the church’s four-member Board of Overseers had met with Mr. Haggard.

“It is important for you to know that he confessed to the overseers that some of the accusations against him are true. He has willingly and humbly submitted to the authority of the Board of Overseers, and will remain on administrative leave during the course of the investigation,” the e-mail stated. A copy was obtained by KMGH-TV in Denver.

The National Association of Evangelicals Executive Committee planned to meet by telephone today and issue a statement later. The association claims 30 million members.

The accusation against Mr. Haggard surfaced as voters in Colorado and seven other states get ready to decide Tuesday on amendments banning homosexual marriage. Besides the proposed ban on the Colorado ballot, a separate measure would establish the legality of domestic partnerships providing same-sex couples with many of the rights of married couples.

Members of Mr. Haggard’s 14,000-member megachurch were stunned.

“It’s political, right before the elections,” said Brian Boals, a New Life member for 17 years.

Church member E.J. Cox, 25, called the claims “ridiculous.”

“People are always saying stuff about Pastor Ted,” she said. “You just sort of blow it off. He’s just like anyone else in the public eye.”

The accusations were made by Mike Jones, 49, of Denver, who said he decided to go public because of the political fight over the amendments.

“I just want people to step back and take a look and say, ‘Look, we’re all sinners, we all have faults, but if two people want to get married, just let them, and let them have a happy life,’” said Mr. Jones, who added that he isn’t working for any political group.

Mr. Jones, who said he is homosexual, said he also was upset when he discovered that Mr. Haggard and the New Life Church had publicly opposed same-sex marriage.

“It made me angry that here’s someone preaching about gay marriage and going behind the scenes having gay sex,” he said.

Mr. Jones claimed Mr. Haggard paid him to have sex nearly every month over three years. He said he advertised himself as an escort on the Internet and was contacted by a man who called himself Art, who snorted methamphetamine before their sexual encounters to heighten his experience.

Mr. Jones said he later saw the man on television identified as Mr. Haggard and that the two last had sex in August.

He said he has voice-mail messages from Mr. Haggard, as well as an envelope he said Mr. Haggard used to mail him cash. He declined to make the voice mails available to Associated Press, but KUSA-TV reported what it said were excerpts late yesterday that referred to methamphetamine.

“Hi Mike, this is Art,” one call began, according to the station. “Hey, I was just calling to see if we could get any more. Either $100 or $200 supply.”

A second message, left a few hours later, began: “Hi Mike, this is Art. I am here in Denver and sorry that I missed you. But as I said, if you want to go ahead and get the stuff, then that would be great. And I’ll get it sometime next week or the week after or whenever.”

Mr. Haggard, 50, was appointed president of the evangelicals association in March 2003. He has participated in conservative Christian leaders’ conference calls with White House staffers and lobbied members of Congress last year on U.S. Supreme Court appointees after Sandra Day O’Connor announced her retirement.

After Massachusetts legalized homosexual marriage in 2004, Mr. Haggard and others began organizing state-by-state opposition. Last year, Mr. Haggard and officials from the nearby Christian ministry Focus on the Family announced plans to push Colorado’s homosexual marriage ban for the 2006 ballot.

At the time, Mr. Haggard said that he believed marriage is a union between a man and woman rooted in centuries of tradition and that research shows it’s the best family unit for children.

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