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New Life members welcomes "Former Male Prostitute"

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  • Laura
    As soon as the visitor from Denver walked through the church doors Sunday morning, heads turned. Word spread quickly: He was here. Just about every person who
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 2, 2007
      As soon as the visitor from Denver walked through the church doors
      Sunday morning, heads turned. Word spread quickly: He was here.

      Just about every person who offered him a handshake said the same
      thing: Welcome, thank you and God bless.

      About 14,000 people pour into New Life Church in Colorado Springs
      each Sunday, so anonymity is not difficult to achieve.

      One exception is when you are Mike Jones, the former male prostitute
      whose allegations of a three-year sexual liaison with church founder
      Ted Haggard triggered national scandal and led to Haggard's fall.

      Jones attended services Sunday at New Life Church on a
      reconnaissance mission for his forthcoming book and said he was
      greeted warmly. Haggard, in an apology to the church, had urged
      members to forgive and thank Jones for exposing deceit.

      "I had read a lot about the church, but there's nothing like seeing
      it for yourself," Jones said. "It wasn't to rub anyone's face in it
      by any means. I was wanting to get some perspective, to see where
      they are coming from, what the magnet is."

      Jones had been invited to New Life several times by church members
      since Haggard resigned as president of the National Association of
      Evangelicals and was fired from the church after admitting in
      November to "sexual immorality."

      Jones was accompanied Sunday by members of a New York- based theater
      troupe, the Civilians, who are in Colorado Springs researching a
      project on evangelicals. Church leaders were told in advance of the
      visit.

      "A couple of ladies cried when they were touching me," Jones
      said. "I was thanked for exposing the church, for helping Ted
      Haggard. A couple of them said they hoped I get God into my life.
      And they all said 'God bless you,' every one of them."

      But Jones - who came forward out of anger toward Haggard's political
      stances against homosexuality - said he wasn't impressed on the
      whole. If the Gospel message is enough, he said, why the loud music
      and MTV-quality production?

      "There seems to be something missing, some realism, in my opinion,
      because it's so vast, like some kind of self-contained city," said
      Jones, who said he was raised Methodist but is estranged from
      organized religion.

      When associate pastor Rob Brendle encountered Jones in the foyer, he
      commented, "The last time I saw you was on the other side of a split
      screen" during TV interviews.

      Brendle characterized Jones' presence as a reminder of both grief
      and God's faithfulness.

      "I told Mike, 'I don't want to impose my religious beliefs on you,
      but I believe God used you to correct us, and I appreciate that,"'
      Brendle said. "The church's response to him was overwhelmingly warm.
      One of the wonderful and enduring truths of Christianity is to love
      people the world sets up to be your enemies."

      Haggard and his wife, Gayle, have completed a counseling program at
      an Arizona treatment center and are back in Colorado Springs
      awaiting direction from a panel overseeing what has been termed
      Haggard's "restoration," Brendle said.

      Staff writer Eric Gorski can be reached at 303-954-1698 or
      egorski@....
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