Before Ted Haggard confessed to sexual misconduct, he resigned as president of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) on November 2. The next day, when Haggard still denied paying a male prostitute for sex, he explained that he had resigned because "right now my trust is questionable."
In the wake of Haggard's breach of trust, it came as little surprise that the NAE board chose Leith Anderson as interim president. Anderson, senior pastor of Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, previously guided the umbrella organization through a financial crisis as interim president from 2001 to 2003.
"Leith Anderson is highly respected and well known," NAE board chairman Roy Taylor told CT. "He is a good choice to communicate our commitment to character and stability. He's also a very creative and strategic thinker."
Other evangelical leaders echoed Taylor's praise for Anderson. Sojourners founder Jim Wallis said Anderson "has the moral authority to take the [NAE] through this crisis and beyond." Yet Haggard's misconduct has raised questions about what the NAE's "beyond" should look like. For some years, the NAE has struggled to maintain steady leadership and vision. Taylor said the NAE will reevaluate whether the Haggard model of a bivocational spokesman remains appropriate. The NAE could return to its earlier model and hire a manager who may not feel as comfortable in front of the camera as Haggard did.
The board's executive committee plans to discuss these concerns while meeting December 13 in Minneapolis. Anderson has told the committee he wants a succession plan in writing by January 2007.
Succession may be the least of the NAE's concerns. Gordon MacDonald, chair of World Relief, which the NAE oversees, said, "[M]y own sense ...