COLORADO SPRINGS, COLO. The Rev. Ted Haggard was dismissed Saturday as leader of the megachurch he founded after a board determined the influential evangelist had committed "sexually immoral conduct," the church said Saturday.
Haggard had resigned two days earlier as president of the National Association of Evangelicals, where he held sway in Washington and condemned homosexuality, after a Denver man named Mike Jones claimed to have had drug-fueled trysts with him. Haggard also had placed himself on administrative leave from the New Life Church, but its Overseer Board took the stronger action Saturday.
"Our investigation and Pastor Haggard's public statements have proven without a doubt that he has committed sexually immoral conduct," the independent board said in a statement.
Haggard was "informed of this decision," the statement said, and he "agreed as well that he should be dismissed."
Haggard, 50, on Friday acknowledged paying Jones for a massage and for methamphetamine, but said he did not have sex with him and did not take the drug.
The statement from the 14,000-member church said the investigation would continue to determine the extent of the misconduct. The Rev. Mike Ware of Victory Church in Westminster, a member of the board, declined to characterize what investigators found but said the board did not talk to Jones.
Haggard did not answer his home or mobile phones Saturday, and neither was accepting messages.
Jones said he was saddened by the news of Haggard's dismissal.
"I feel really bad for his wife and family and his congregation. I know it's a sad day for them, too," Jones said. "I feel bad when someone has so many attachments to others. It affects everyone. I'm certainly not cheering or jumping up and down over what's happened.
"I just hope the family has peace and can come to terms with things. I hope they can continue with a happy life."
The Rev. Ross Parsley will lead the church until a permanent replacement for Haggard is chosen by the end of the year, the statement said. A letter explaining Haggard's removal and an apology from him will be read at today's services.
Richard Cizik, the evangelical association's vice president for governmental affairs, called Haggard's ouster "heartbreaking and unfortunate."
"He is a man who has done a lot of good and who hopefully after a period of repentance and counsel and spiritual restoration will have a future ministry at some point," Cizik said.
The board's decision cuts Haggard off from the massive church he founded in the mid-1980s.