Haggard downsizes aspirations, says he's content to lead small church

MARK BARNA Updated: December 16, 2010 at 12:00 am • Published: December 16, 2010

Ted Haggard once led a 14,000-member megachurch, was president of the National Association of Evangelicals, had the ear of U.S. presidents and was paid to speak at churches across the country.

These days, he says, he’s content to run a small church that meets in a middle-school auditorium in Colorado Springs.

“St. James is what Gayle and I will do the rest of our lives,” Haggard said.

When Ted Haggard announced the founding of St. James in June, about a dozen media outlets covered the event at his Colorado Springs home.

Haggard did plenty of media interviews for months afterward and used Twitter daily to tell people of the church’s progress.

Since September, though, he’s been mostly silent.

Haggard canceled his Twitter account, changed his e-mail address and declined almost all media interviews.

Haggard and his wife, Gayle, have given no talks, paid or unpaid, at other churches.

“I am loving living a peaceful, quiet life,” Haggard said Thursday after returning from a religious retreat in the Rocky Mountains. “I have intentionally kept it all super simple.”

Haggard wants to focus on St. James, which for the past four months has met at Timberview Middle School, 8680 Scarborough Drive. The church has grown from 160 to 300 people and donations have risen by 40 percent, he said.

Haggard takes no salary, he said. The only compensation he gets is health coverage for his family and a small housing allowance.

Haggard resigned from New Life Church in the wake of an illegal drug and gay sex scandal more than four years ago. He and his family left Colorado to begin a 19-month odyssey in which they moved to three different states, variously living in an apartment and friends’ homes.

They returned to Colorado Springs in June 2008. The following year, Ted and Gayle Haggard did numerous interviews together, including on “Oprah” and “Larry King Live.” This year they went on a media tour to promote Gayle Haggard’s book, “Why I Stayed.”

Now, Ted Haggard says he’s doesn’t want or need the spotlight.

He spent three days alone this week at a cabin in  Bailey owned by a ministry, fasting, praying, reading the Bible and taking meditative walks, he said.

Haggard plans to be more in the public eye next year as St. James starts community programs. Beyond that, his only other aspiration is deepening his faith, he said.

“After what I’ve been through, I am more sold on God than ever.”

To read Haggard’s view on forgiveness in American culture, go to Barna’s blog, The Pulpit, at www.thepulpit.freedomblogging.com.

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