How easy is it to start a church? No, really: Is it that difficult a process? I’ve been thinking about it since Ted Haggard and his wife Gayle announced they’re launching St. James Church, which started (and will remain in?) their Colorado Springs home. Everyone (including me, in an earlier post) has been focusing on how Haggard, a same-gender-loving man, won’t be letting any gay marriages go down in his new haunt, but can we take a step back and consider that Haggard starting a new church really isn’t — logistically — that big a deal?
On HLN’s gayest program, the Haggards tell Joy Behar they’re “waiting to see who wants to join with us” at the church. Indeed, before yesterday’s first sermon, they had no idea how many people would show up. (Approximately 160 did.) That is not an insignificant number. Haggard grew his New Life Church, founded 25 years ago, from zero persons into a 125,000-member entity. And while he has some scarlet letters to wear now, it isn’t unreasonable to think he could generate a new flock of believers in the tens of thousands.
(Ted also told Behar about healthy vs. unhealthy sexuality, and it’s clear which category he places queers in.)
So how laborious is this endeavor? Not very. In the beginning Haggard must only pay a small fee to register St. James Church as a non-profit so any funds it collects aren’t taxed. He took care of that last month. And the overhead is low; the sermons are taking place in his basement, until space constraints force them elsewhere. Moreover, the media (including Queerty) are doing all the marketing for Haggard; he’s receiving probably millions of dollars in free media impressions from the coverage of his new project.
And Haggard’s humility is his biggest selling point. His willingness to address, with Gayle by his side, his past mistakes make him the ultimate underdog. Whom everyone cheers for. Including, I’m finding, even me. Go get ’em, Teddy!