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As the Rev. Ted Haggard expresses sorrow for being a "deceiver and a liar," leaders of the National Association of Evangelicals are distancing their organization from the man who led it for three years.

"Most people—I'm not sure everyone—separate this tragedy from NAE; they consider it a tragedy of a man, a pastor and not an NAE scandal — that's the good news," said the Rev. Richard Cizik, vice president for governmental relations of the Washington-based NAE.

"The bad news is it surely impacts the evangelical world, and that includes the NAE."

As evangelicals across the country recoil from one of their own being caught in a sex and drug scandal, the organization that represents them has chosen an interim president and is pressing on. Both Haggard's 14,000-member church in Colorado Springs, Colo., and the NAE have cut ties with Haggard after he admitted to "sexual immorality" with a male escort.

The NAE's executive committee has chosen the Rev. Leith Anderson, pastor of a Minnesota megachurch, to serve as interim president while a permanent replacement for Haggard is sought.

"Internally, I think most evangelicals will not tie what happened with Ted Haggard to NAE," said Anderson, senior pastor of Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie, Minn. "They will understand that if there are 45,000 churches [affiliated with NAE], that 44,999 of them have leaders that did not misbehave and that one person misbehaved and that that is an anomaly."

Externally, he said, people looking from the outside at evangelicals may attempt to paint them all with one brush.

"There will be those that will think the worst of evangelicals because of this and I'm sorry about that," Anderson said. "This is not who we are. This is not what we do. This is ...

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November 2006

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