Evangelical Quits After Gay Sex Scandal

SIDE-BY-SIDE: Ted Haggard and Mike Jones, a gay escort
CBS/AP
The Rev. Ted Haggard agreed to resign as leader of the New Life Church after its independent investigative board recommended removal, saying he was guilty "of sexually immoral conduct."

"We, the Overseer Board of New Life Church, have concluded our deliberations concerning the moral failings of Pastor Ted Haggard," a statement from the church said. "Our investigation and Pastor Haggard's public statements have proven without a doubt that he has committed sexually immoral conduct."

The church's statement continued, "In consultation with leading evangelicals and experts familiar with the type of behavior Pastor Haggard has demonstrated, we have decided that the most positive and productive direction for our church is his dismissal and removal."

The scandal started when a man describing himself as an escort told news media this week that Haggard, who also has resigned as president of the influential National Asssociation of Evangelicals, had been paying him for sex for three years.

Haggard immediately denied the allegations, but later acknowledged having paid the man for a massage and to provide methamphetamine.

"I bought it for myself but never used it," he said on Friday. "I was tempted, but I never used it."

The church's statement said the investigation would continue to determine how extensive Haggard's misconduct was.

The Rev. Ross Parsley will lead the church until a permanent replacement for Haggard is chosen, something that should happen by the end of the year, the statement said. A letter explaining Haggard's removal and an apology from Haggard will be read at Sunday services.

James Groesbeck, a church elder, said he was glad the investigative board acted quickly.

"I'm saddened by what came out, but I think they've done their job," Groesbeck said by telephone. Church members are drawing strength from one another and are caught up in the activity, but that likely will change, he said.

"I think it's going to be really difficult in a week or two," Groesbeck said.

Read the New Life Church statement.
Haggard, 50, said Friday that he never had sex with Mike Jones, a 49-year-old male prostitute who sparked the scandals when he told a radio station his sexual relationship with the pastor.

Jones, who said he is gay, said he was also upset when he discovered 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.

Jones claimed 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.

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