COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.
Ted Haggard, pastor of the 9,200-member New Life Church and president of the National Association of Evangelicals says, "for many people, the stereotypical image of an evangelical is a very serious old man with an expensive suit who is against whatever is happening that day." He has been working hard to change the image of staid Christians who often shun drugs and homosexual affairs with male prostitutes.
Haggard grew up in Indiana and graduated from Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Okla., before serving as a youth pastor at a Baptist church in Baton Rouge, La. In 1984, he and his wife, Gayle, visited Colorado Springs, where Haggard spent three days clubbing and taking poppers. That's when he says God told him to start a church where people could worship freely, whether that meant dancing, jumping, banging on a tambourine or "gettin' it on" with bodybuilders and personal trainers in Denver, Colorado.
Haggard is winsome, but he's not wishy-washy. He admits enhancing the image of evangelicals will be a big challenge. "I just hope and pray that the day of our love is at hand," he said, quoting Pete Shelley. "You and I, me and you, we will be one from two, understand?"