Ted Haggard is back in the pulpit.
Just three weeks after incorporating St. James Church for what he called accounting reasons, Haggard announced Wednesday he is turning St. James into an official church.
Haggard made the announcement at a news conference with his wife, Gayle, and three of his sons standing with him. Also there, to film the event, was a Los Angeles production crew making a documentary on the founding of St. James.
Haggard encouraged people to come Sunday to his home, 1865 Old Ranch Road, for a meeting to talk about church plans.
The first worship service is scheduled for June 20, with the likely site being the Haggards’ barn next to their home. He expects only a couple dozen to attend.
“Everyone is welcome: Democrat, Republican, gay, straight, bi, addicts, tall, short,” Haggard said. “Jesus’ arms are open to all of us.”
Interest in Haggard’s ministry plans has been high since he and his family returned to Colorado Springs in June 2008.
The Haggards had been living for months in other states due to an agreement he reached with board members at New Life Church at the time of Haggard’s sex scandal in November 2006.
Haggard agreed to resign as senior pastor of the church he founded 25 years ago, leave Colorado Springs, and not start a church in the Pikes Peak region. New Life gave him a severance package that included more than $300,000 in salary and benefits.
Brady Boyd, senior pastor of New Life since August 2007, lifted the bans against Haggard, allowing him to return to Colorado Springs and start a church if he chose.
Haggard hinted at his ministry plans in November 2009, when he held two prayer meetings at his home that he also referred to as church gatherings.
Because of the crush of people attending, more than 100 for each meeting, Haggard realized he would need to rent space to accommodate everyone. But he wasn’t ready to do that yet. So he suspended gatherings and focused again on his and Gayle’s weekly paid talks at various evangelical churches in America that the couple had been giving since early 2009.
In May, he incorporated the name St. James “to keep the accounting in order” for the paid talks, he said, but then decided to turn St. James into a bona fide church about two weeks ago.
Immediate plans for St. James are to hold one or two focus meetings and locate a worship site, Haggard said. As for the services, Haggard said there would be music and singing, and sermons would be informal.
“We’ll talk about how to love,” he said.
Haggard acknowledged that many people don’t think he’s qualified to start a new church. But he said his fall has taught him deep compassion for other people. “I may be qualified to help other people go through the most difficult times in our lives,” he said.
Haggard also announced that he’s being filmed by Long Pond Media for a documentary. The crew has been filming since his first prayer gathering. No broadcast operation has yet been lined up to air it.
Long Pond Media producer Jonathan Karsh said he’s interested in the project because he’s impressed by the Haggards’ “resilience” in the face of criticism since the scandal.
Overseeing publicity of the St. James launch is the Los Angeles-based Prenner Group, which has handled publicity for the reality shows “The Girls Next Door,” featuring Playboy models, and “Kendra,” about a former Playboy model.
Prenner Group president Amy Prenner said she views the St. James launch as a positive outcome for the Haggard story.
For more on the Haggards’ St. James launch, go to Barna’s blog, The Pulpit, at gazette.com/pulpitblog.
What: St. James Church launch party and vision meeting
Where: 1865 Old Ranch Road, the Haggard's home
When: 10 a.m. on Sunday