Interview with Leith Anderson, Interim President of the NAE

The Rev. Dr. Leith Anderson, senior pastor at the 5,000-member Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie, Minn., was appointed as the Interim President of the National Association of Evangelicals on Saturday, Nov. 4, following the sudden resignation of the Rev. Ted Haggard, who stepped down amid allegations of drug use and sexual immorality.

The following are excerpts from an interview with Dr. Anderson on Tuesday, November 7, 2006:

CP: What does this presidency mean for you and for the NAE?

Anderson: For me, personally, this means working harder. I already had a pretty busy schedule before taking on this role. As far as the NAE is concerned, it means looking to the future and reaffirming its mission and purpose.

CP: How long do you expect your term to last?

Anderson: It’s open-ended, but I have asked for a meeting with the Executive Committee on the 13th of December, and I’ve requested that we have a written plan in place by the first of January to find a long-term president. We’ll figure that out then.

I have served as the interim president before, and that lasted a couple of years. That is not my intention this time around.

CP: The NAE offices were mostly housed in Rev. Haggard’s New Life Church. Will the offices move into Wooddale Church or elsewhere?

Anderson: The offices have been in Wooddale in the past, and certain functions will move back in. Some of our people and staff have already dedicated themselves to provide multiple services to the NAE, and we will be doing that temporarily.

CP: You’re taking the helm at a very difficult time for the NAE. What is your reflection on everything that has happened, and what are your plans for the future?

Anderson: I see this as a temporary disappointment or sadness, and not a long-term issue for the NAE. This incident is not unlike a plane crash. When a plane crashes, it is front-page news and it causes a lot of sadness. However, it doesn’t have a permanent impact on the air travel industry, which is still the safest way to travel. As far as the NAE is concerned, I believe it will continue just fine. It will continue its public affairs work in Washington, its ministry and networking, and it will last as a healthy and ongoing organization.

CP: During Rev. Haggard’s tenure, there seemed to have been some internal disputes regarding the creation-care aspect of the NAE’s major talking points. Do you see that changing?

Anderson: Well, my name is the first on the list of supporters to the Evangelical Climate Initiative, and I was one of the speakers who were in Washington to launch the initiative. This issue will not be of any higher priority than any other, but my stance is public and self-explanatory.

CP: I heard the NAE has been receiving numerous calls of support and prayer. Is there anything you would like to say to your constituents?

Anderson: The primary message I want to give is that in the NAE, Jesus Christ is the leader and not anyone else. The center of loyalty and focus has been and always will be on Jesus Christ and his mission to the world.

Another thing I want to mention is that the NAE has been receiving emails from supporters everywhere – from Hong Kong to New Delhi. The interesting thing is that encouragement has not only come from the evangelical community, but from the secular press as well. Everybody I have encountered has been positive and affirming, and it’s been wonderful to receive such support.
Leith Anderson is the senior Pastor of Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie, Minn. – a position that he was first called to on January 1, 1977, at a megachurch affiliated with the Baptist General Conference. During Dr. Anderson’s tenure, the church has grown to 5,000 regular attendees and is known for its outreach overseas, including to victims of HIV/AIDS.

Dr. Anderson’s education includes Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Ill.; Bradley University in Peoria, Ill. (B.A., Sociology); Denver Seminary in Denver, Colo. (Master of Divinity); and Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif. (Doctor of Ministry). He is the author of eight books and the radio voice of Faith Matters, which is heard on Christian stations across the United States.

Biography provided by the National Association of Evangelicals