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When the reverend Ted Haggard was outed four years ago, it was in a ball of biblical hellfire—crystal meth! Now Pastor Ted returns with his wife by his side, a new church, and a more open theology. "What happened four years ago was a violation," Glenn Packiam, a New Life ecutive pastor, said when we spoke on the phone last fall.
Ted is a goofily handsome man with sandy-colored hair that he parts on the side like a 1950s school principal.He's "less broken now," he says, more whole, spiritually and psychologically. But "less broken" doesn't necessarily equal "redeemed." And what he's working to repair may not be the sort of thing that can be fid.Last spring, Ted's eldest son, Marcus, approached me at a conference where I was speaking about a book I wrote on my semester undercover at the Reverend Jerry Falwell's Liberty University.As severance, the church would provide fourteen months' salary for him and Gayle (about $200,000) and assorted other benefits.Ted obediently signed the agreement, but he now believes it was excessively harsh treatment for a family in the midst of a major crisis—especially since, well, isn't providing mercy for sinners sort of "You've got to understand, Kevin, people are, at their cores, hateful," he says, rising to stamp out the fire's embers and go to bed.He was never a homophobe, either, he says, and though he supported a 2006 amendment outlawing gay marriage in Colorado, he was also in favor of a ballot measure that would have extended domestic-partner benefits to same-sex couples.
But Ted's true sore spot, the thing that drains the life from his voice, is the way he and Gayle were treated by their church in the wake of the scandal.
A few months later, I called Ted to ask if he would be open to letting me meet with him.
He was wary, but after consulting Gayle, his wife of thirty-two years and the closest thing he has to a publicist, he agreed to let me visit.
"We're starting to do the things we did before, because we're getting a grip on life again."The air is colder up here than in Colorado Springs, and we huddle around the fire as Ted delivers a series of autobiographical mini-sermons about his childhood in rural Indiana and his time at Oral Roberts.
He loved school, even though he now realizes "it was where I was taught that I could pray through my issues instead of getting real help." He tears up talking about this stuff, though he says everything makes him cry these days.
"Here I was, feeling like I'd wasted my life," Ted says.