Haggard: I Am Sympathetic To Gays

Former Pastor To Start Hosting Prayer Services

Ted Haggard, who was dismissed from the megachurch he founded after a man alleged a cash-for-sex relationship with him, plans to lead people in worship again this Thursday.

In an exclusive television interview with 7NEWS, Haggard said many great revivals happened out in a field or in a barn, and that's what he's hoping for this time around.

Haggard said he and his wife have been healing rapidly since returning to Colorado Springs from Arizona.

He and his wife moved back into their former home, and the two of them plan to lead a prayer group Thursday in their living room. If the crowd is too large, they plan to move the event out to their barn.

"There's nothing worse than being separate from your friends during a time of crisis. We are glad to be home," said Haggard.

"A couple of weeks ago we decided we'd like to have a prayer meeting at our house," said Haggard. "Now we'll see how many come. We thought about going to one, but because of my deal we knew that some people would be awkward there. So we thought, if we have one at our house then everyone who comes is comfortable with what's gone on in my life."

Haggard said he has no expectations. It could draw five people, it could draw 200, he said.

Haggard said since his return to Colorado Springs, people seem to be more accepting of him.

"We are very pleased with the process that's happened in us since we've been home. People are very sympathetic to the fact that I had 22 years of wonderful days at New Life Church. I had a really bad time and got myself into trouble, and I did that to me -- nobody did it to me. And then there's resurrection," said Haggard. "And for those that have the grace to be kind to me, I appreciate that. And for those that are mean and angry -- I understand."

"Do you worry at all that people will have a hard time trusting you?" asked 7NEWS reporter Russell Haythorn.

"They will, and so, if they'll give me the grace to earn trust again, I will earn it," said Haggard. "I know some people will hold a grudge for 30 or 40 years, and so, that's a fact of life, and I know those are people that will never be in my life again. And I regret that."

Haggard said his struggles parallel those in the Bible.

"Most of the primary characters of the Bible had horrible, horrible incidents in their lives. David misused his power to murder people. He was an adulterer. And he was still a man after God's own heart," Haggard said.

Haggard said he never turned away from God. He said America loves a scandal, but they love a comeback even more -- and that's what he's hoping for.

"I went through a horrible time in my life. And now we've walked through that, we've recovered from it. We're grateful for that grace and mercy -- and for the comeback," said Haggard.

Haggard also said he was never an anti-gay hateful preacher. Yet for some reason, he said that's the image that has been portrayed.

"I was always well aware of my own personal struggles, but my desire was to be more Godly," said Haggard. “I was never a religious right, hateful, anti-gay guy -- secretly running off, except right at the end. I'd say right at the end, before the crisis. That did develop a little bit stronger."

Haggard said he believes he had a gay affair with an escort from Denver because of an incident in the 2nd grade where one of his father's employees had an encounter with him.

"Do you think people are born gay, or is it a learned behavior?" asked Haythorn.

"I haven’t got a clue. All I know is that in my case it's a very sad story. I regret that it happened. But, I'm glad I've been through what I've been through to take care of it, because in my story it wasn't about being born gay or being gay. I've always had a wonderful relationship with my wife."

Haggard said if he had undergone trauma resolution therapy early in his life, the scandal may have never happened.

"But it did. And unfortunately it was sexual. And unfortunately, it was about the most socially unacceptable type of thing that you can have. But, it was good for me as a heterosexual evangelical Christian, father of five, 30-year husband of Gayle. It was good for me to go through the Christian hatred of people believing that I was a gay man -- and hating me so strongly because of it. And so because of it, my compassion for the homosexual community has gone up incredibly," said Haggard.

"Every person that goes through the responses of childhood trauma does ask the question themselves, 'What in the world am I thinking?' Because you find yourself compulsively doing things that you don't believe in," said Haggard of his affair. “It's not rational. It's emotional. It's compulsion.”

Haggard resigned as pastor of New Life Church in 2006 after he admitted to being a client of a gay escort.