Leith Anderson is president emeritus of the National Association of Evangelicals and pastor emeritus of Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. He served as NAE president from 2007–2019, after twice serving as interim president. He served as senior pastor of Wooddale Church for 35 years before retiring in 2011. He has been published in many periodicals and has written over 20 books. Anderson has a Doctor of Ministry degree from Fuller Theological Seminary, and is a graduate of Moody Bible Institute, Bradley University and Denver Seminary.
We were watching the evening news in November 2006 when the anchor announced allegations of a scandal involving Ted Haggard, Pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs and President of the National Association of Evangelicals. My heart sank.
I turned to my wife, Charleen, and said, “They’re going to call me.” It was about an hour later that the phone rang and a representative of the NAE Executive Committee explained that Ted was no longer the president and asked if I would immediately become the interim president of NAE. They wanted to release an announcement the next morning. I asked for a couple of hours to decide and to call back with my answer.
The elders of Wooddale Church came to our home for a long scheduled party that evening. I asked them to meet with me upstairs, explained the request and asked for their advice. They unanimously said that I was the right guy for this difficult leadership situation, had been the interim president of NAE once before and that I should do it.
It is not easy to follow a fallen leader. Trust is damaged. Emotions are raw. Anger mixes with hurt. Often those who mislead move on with their own agenda and leave the damage for someone else to fix.
I was teaching a Sunday night class a couple of days later when a TV network camera crew came looking for me. The klieg lights were bright, and the reporter held an unexpected microphone for my comment. I said that there are more than 400,000 pastors in America and 399,999 of them were not in the news for unethical behavior that weekend. I explained that the reason the Haggard story was national news was because it was so very unusual.
While we call for ethical biblical behavior among our pastors and decry the unethical behavior of a few, let’s remember that most pastors are good and faithful servants who practice the Christian faith that they preach.
This article originally appeared in the NAE Insight.