Some 12 years after starting Colorado-based St. James Church in a defiant comeback from a 2006 sex scandal involving illicit drug use and a male prostitute, former National Association of Evangelicals President Ted Haggard has been accused of inappropriately touching at least two young men and illicit drug use during his new ministry.
“People are scared and worried and don’t want to be connected to him anymore,” the Rev. Kirk “Seth” Sethman, who was ordained as a minister by St. James Church in October 2012, told The Colorado Springs Gazette.
St. James Church did not immediately respond to questions about the allegations when contacted by The Christian Post on Wednesday. But Sethman, a reformed drug addict who served time in prison as a young adult for burglary, insists that Haggard has not been delivered from his wayward proclivities.
He told The Gazette that in the spring of 2012, just under two years after Haggard and his wife, Gayle, started St. James Church, the former megachurch pastor asked a young male church member to whom he was providing counseling to buy him methamphetamine.
Sethman said the young member, who was recovering from heroin addiction, told him what happened. He asked another member who is a medical doctor to help him confront Haggard. He said when they confronted Haggard, the pastor admitted to having the methamphetamine and said he was planning to use it to celebrate his upcoming birthday.
The St. James Church pastor then asked the two men to help him remove the drug from his house so he would not be tempted to use it.
Sethman said when they got to Haggard’s house, Haggard gave him a briefcase to throw away.
“He asked us to conceal the matter and said he would be accountable to us in the future,” Sethman said. “Which never happened.”
Sethman said after he left Haggard’s home, he opened the briefcase and found a bag containing a small amount of the nearly 1 gram of methamphetamine the young church member had bought for the pastor. There was also reportedly a “well-used” glass meth pipe, several sex toys, a DVD with two young males on the cover and a credit card with Ted Haggard’s name.
Sethman, who went blind in 2015 due to a medical condition, said he didn’t call the police because he wanted to protect Haggard, the church and the young man. He said he chose to smoke the remaining methamphetamine instead and waited about a year before disposing of the briefcase.
“I was protecting the young man, the church and Ted,” Sethman said. “My choice I made was wrong, but I thought I was doing right.”
The report said Sethman relapsed into drug use and drinking until 2017 when he rejoined St. James Church.
Around that time, Sethman said a young man told him that “‘it was really weird that Ted kept pushing him to go four-wheeling in the woods with him.'”
In 2006, Haggard was forced to resign as pastor of the 14,000-member New Life Church in Colorado Springs and as president of the National Association of Evangelicals after confessing to “sexual immorality” with Denver male escort Mike Jones. Haggard, who said he would classify himself as bisexual if he weren’t a Christian pastor, said he didn’t have sex with the prostitute.
“We never had sex sex. I bought drugs and a massage from him, and he masturbated me at the end of it. That’s it,” he told GQ in 2011.
Haggard initially denied using methamphetamine he allegedly bought from Jones but later admitted to using the drug.
“Sometimes I’d throw it away,” he told GQ. “Other times, I’d go someplace and masturbate and use it. But it was for masturbation. And that’s one of the reasons why I haven’t been real clear. I don’t want to stand up publicly and say, ‘Hey, I’m a masturbation guy!’
Sethman told The Gazette that he wasn’t aware of Haggard’s 2006 scandal until January 2019 and that after that discovery, he became more concerned about stories he heard about how he conducted himself around young men.
He shared recorded testimony from two young men stating that Haggard made them uncomfortable with touching they felt was inappropriate.
“Sometimes when he touches me, it feels very predatorial and very strange,” one of the men, who was a minor at the time of his alleged touching, was quoted as saying. “He’ll touch me on my pecs or my back or hug me in a way that I’m sliding up his hip or the side of his thigh or his bum. You can kind of tell it’s weird.”
“There’s a lot of highly suspicious things that he does, and you’re like, ‘that doesn’t seem or feel normal.'”
The second young adult male said he was uncomfortable with Haggard’s behavior around the teenager and other minors.
Sethman, who worked as a children’s ministry volunteer under Haggard at New Life Church, said in April 2020, some elders called for Haggard to step down over the concerns raised by the young males.
“What prompted me to write that letter was his abuse of authority and his denying it,” an unidentified elder, who asked leaders to remove Haggard from his role, told The Gazette. “We were looking for accountability.”
The elder says she knows that many people are moved by his charisma, but she sees him as a “silver-tongued … snake in many ways, who makes excuses and lies.”
In April, Haggard announced that he was switching the model of his church to a series of house churches and changed the name to Storyhouse Church. He said there was a “slow decline” in the church over the past two years.
The St. James Church building was sold for $1.95 million, The Gazette reported, citing county records.
Sethman says he is even more concerned about the potential for abuse to occur inside Haggard’s home.
“My prayer,” said Sethman, “is protecting the children and the young adults.”