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Fallen evangelical leader Ted Haggard to start new church

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Ted Haggard to start new church
  • Ted Haggard's career as a pastor went south after a sex and drugs scandal in 2006
  • Haggard admitted to the sex allegations, but said he tossed the drugs
  • He also stepped aside as pastor of the 14,000-member New Life Church
  • First service to be Sunday at his house; "I don't expect to have another megachurch," he says

(CNN) -- Ted Haggard, the former megachurch pastor and former National Association of Evangelicals chief whose career was undone by a gay prostitution and drugs scandal in 2006, plans to start a new church.

Standing in front of his barn, Haggard and his family announced Wednesday that they are starting a church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, called Saint James.

The church, which will not be affiliated with any denomination, will have its first gathering Sunday at the Haggard home.

"All are welcome. Whether you're a Democrat, a Republican, gay, straight, bi-[sexual], tall, short, addict, recovering addict. ... I believe Jesus' arms are open to all," he said.

In 2006, Haggard acknowledged having received a massage from a Denver, Colorado, man who said that the prominent pastor had paid him for sex over three years.

Haggard also admitted he had bought methamphetamine but said he threw it away.

Those statements led the Board of Overseers at New Life Church to fire Haggard as senior pastor. The church's independent investigative board said he was guilty of "sexually immoral conduct."

Video: Ted Haggard: I'm a changed man

After the allegations were made public, Haggard resigned as president of the influential National Association of Evangelicals, an umbrella group representing more than 45,000 churches with 30 million members.

As part of his severance package with New Life Church, Haggard was barred from speaking publicly for a year. After that time elapsed, he made various media appearances, including starring in a documentary on HBO about his life.

Sunday's service will mark his first return to the ministry in a full-time capacity.

"This is an emotional morning for me," he told reporters. Flanked by his wife Gayle and their children and grandchildren, he said the family members had prayed long and hard before deciding to start another church.

"While many believe I am not qualified, nor will I ever be because of what we've been through, I may be qualified to help other people in need," Haggard said. "I don't expect to have another megachurch. I'll be so pleased if a handful of people join with us. Something is better than nothing, and helping one is better than helping none."

In response to a question, Haggard said he had no plans to perform gay marriages at the new church; that the only marriages he will perform will be between a man and a woman.

"Those are the marriages we'll do in our church," he said. "As for society, that's a different story."

His wife said she backed the move. "I was not willing to let the scandal be the last chapter in our lives," Gayle Haggard told reporters.

In a statement, New Life Church said it "will always be grateful for the many years of dedicated leadership from Ted and Gayle Haggard and we wish their family only the best."