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Reopening Old Wounds for New Life





An already dark stain for New Life Church just got darker. After spending the last two years trying to recover from the infamous sex-and-drugs scandal of former pastor Ted Haggard, the Colorado Springs, Colo., congregation now faces new revelations—and criticism—regarding a former church volunteer’s relationship with the fallen leader.

On Friday, New Life pastor Brady Boyd confirmed that a former male volunteer approached church leaders shortly following Haggard’s resignation in November 2006 and said he and Haggard had been in an “inappropriate, consensual sexual relationship” that “went on for a long period of time.” Recent reports indicate that the relationship did not involve physical contact, but that on one occasion Haggard masturbated in front of Grant Haas, who was 22 years old at the time. According to Haas, the two exchanged thousands of sexually explicit text messages over several months, many of which featured Haggard talking about sexual positions, pornography, masturbation and drugs.

According to Boyd, the church offered Haas counseling after he came forward, but when Haas decided to sue the church in 2007, New Life’s leaders—given the “overwhelming pool of evidence” that verified his story—reached a legal settlement, agreeing to pay almost $180,000 to assist with moving expenses, counseling, medical bills and college tuition. The agreement came under the stipulation that none of the parties involved discussed the matter publicly.

Last Thursday, however, local television station KRDO-TV informed Boyd that Haas had provided them a detailed account of his story and wanted to go public because of the media attention Haggard was gaining as a ramp up to his HBO documentary, The Trials of Ted Haggard, airing this week. Boyd responded on Friday by e-mailing New Life Church members about the six-figure settlement: “This decision was made not as an attempt to conceal wrongdoings, but to protect him from those who would seek to exploit him. His actions now suggest that he has changed his mind.”

Boyd added that New Life “received reports of a number of incidents of inappropriate behavior” following Haggard’s high-profile fall. “In each case, we have tried our very best to do the right thing each time, including disciplinary action when appropriate.” Boyd also informed members that the settlement was paid using insurance money, not tithes.

“[This] wasn’t at all a settlement to make [Haas] be quiet or not tell his story,” Boyd told reporters on Friday. “Our desire was to help him. Here was a young man who wanted to get on with his life. We considered it more compassionate assistance—certainly not hush money. I know that’s what everyone will want to say because that’s the most salacious thing to say, but that’s not at all what it was.”

Not surprisingly, Haas disagrees. “I really felt the church staff did what they could to get me to move to a different city, to get me to stop going to the church, to make these promises to do whatever they could to help, but their main focus was to cover it up,” he said. “They think Ted Haggard is not a harm to this community and I really think they’re wrong, they’re dead wrong.”

Although New Life could take legal action against Grant for breaking his silence, Boyd said the church has no desire to. “It’s not great for our church either,” Boyd said of the recent publicity. “I think what caused this young man to be a bit aggravated was Ted being seen as a victim, when he himself had experienced a great deal of hurt. I seriously doubt this man would have come forward if the documentary had not been made.”

On Sunday, Boyd addressed the issue with his congregation, reminding them of their “holy tenacity” that has been revealed throughout both the Haggard scandal and last year’s shootings at the church. “I’m sorry that this wound has been reopened for many of you. One day we may have a little scar tissue, but the wounds will not define us. … While scandal and tragedy has been part of our past, it will not be our future.” [AP, 1/24/09, 1/26/09; krdo.com, 1/25/09, 1/27/09]

 

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