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US Evangelical leader who preached against gays, resigns, says he lied

The president of the US National Association of Evangelicals who often preached virulently against homosexuality, and who resigned after allegations he paid for sex with a male escort, has told his congregation he was a "deceiver and liar".

Evangelical preacher Ted Haggard admitted to "sexual immorality" in a letter read to his Colorado Springs congregation at a 5 November Sunday service. ‘There is a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I’ve been warring against it all of my adult life," Haggard said. But Haggard denied being homosexual or having a homosexual affair, the Denver Post newspaper reported.

The former president of the National Association of Evangelicals, which represents some 30 million evangelical Christians said he takes "responsibility for the entire problem".

A separate letter from Haggard’s wife drew laughter, the Associated Press reported, when she promised to remain with her husband and said church members no longer had to worry about her marriage being so perfect she couldn’t relate to them. "My test has begun; watch me," she wrote. "I will try to prove myself faithful."

Haggard’s resignation came as voters in eight US states were preparing to cast ballots on homosexual marriage. He had supported a proposed amendment to the Colorado state constitution that defines marriage as between one man and one woman. Colorado voters will decide that issue on 6 November when they vote in congressional elections.

Haggard, a married father of five, was considered one of the most influential Evangelical Christians in the nation. He also stepped down as senior pastor of the 14 000-member New Life Church in Colorado Springs.

Baton Rouge pastor Larry Stockstill – who heads one of the New Life’s main congregations – told journalists after the service there were some discrepancies in Haggard’s version of his activities. He had said he was getting a massage from a homosexual prostitute and that was grounds for dismissal.

Mike Jones, 49, of Denver, who said he was a male escort, told local television station KUSA he conducted a three-year sexual "business relationship" with Haggard. Jones said he had gone public with his allegations because of Colorado’s current political fight over same-sex marriage. "It made me angry that here’s someone preaching about gay marriage and going behind the scenes having gay sex," Jones said.

Jones said that he had advertised himself as an escort on the Internet and that a man who called himself Art contacted him. Jones said he later saw the man on television identified as Haggard.

(c) Ecumenical News International