COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – The Rev. Ted Haggard, senior pastor at New Life Church, resigned Thursday as president of the 30-million-member National Association of Evangelicals, following allegations he paid a Denver man for sex over the past three years.

He also placed himself on administrative leave from New Life Church, pending an investigation of Jones’ claims, a move church officials said is standard after allegations of impropriety.

He said in a statement this afternoon that he could “not continue to minister under the cloud created by the accusations made on Denver talk radio this morning.”

Several religious leaders quickly rallied behind Haggard.

“Ted Haggard is a friend of mine, and it appears someone is trying to damage his reputation as a way of influencing the outcome of Tuesday’s election,” Focus on the Family James Dobson said in a news release issued before Haggard resigned his national post Thursday.

Dobson called the media “unconscionable” for reporting “a rumor like this based on nothing but one man’s accusation.”

Haggard, 50, has not returned phone calls Thursday from The Gazette, but he did tell KUSA-TV in Denver Wednesday that “I did not have a homosexual relationship with a man in Denver. I am steady with my wife. I’m faithful to my wife.”

A man who identified himself as Mike Jones, 49, of Denver told The Associated Press Thursday that he has voicemails from Haggard as well as an envelope he said Haggard used to mail him cash. Jones declined to make any of that available to the AP.

“There’s some stuff on there (the voice mails) that’s pretty damning,” he said.

No evidence to substantiate Jones’ claims has been produced.

Jones alleged on Wednesday he and Haggard had a three-year relationship. Jones told his story to a KHOW radio in Denver and to KUSA.

Jones told The Associated Press that Haggard paid him to have sex nearly every month.

Jones said 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.

He said he last had sex with Haggard in August. He said he did not warn him before making his allegations public this week.

Steve Holt, senior pastor at the 3,500-member Mountain Springs Church in Colorado Springs, said of the allegations, “It’s fishy. I think people should take note that this is five days before election, and that Ted is proponent of yes on Amendment 43 and No on Referendum I.”

Amendment 43 would amend the Colorado state constitution to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. Referendum I would grant same-sex couples some of the same rights as married heterosexual couples.

He feels that the so-called religious and cultural wars “are out of control” on both sides. And this is a good example of it.”

He says he has been a good friend of Haggard for 11 years, and they sometimes pray together. “He’s a “man of integrity and good works, and there is no reason to believe the accusations. I don’t want to see him impugned with spurious accusations with no relevant information to back it up.”

The Rev. Rob Brendle, associate pastor for New Life Church, also says the allegations are unfounded.

“I know Ted to be a man of unwavering integrity,” Brendle said. “There’s nothing in this man’s charges that is true.”

The National Association of Evangelicals issued no statement about Haggard Thursday, and its chairman, Rev. Roy Taylor, did not return a phone call.

On Peter Boyles’ radio show on KHOW Thursday, Boyles announced Jones would take a polygraph test Friday morning.

Jones told Boyles his evidence consisted of “various voice mails that he has left me. Even if the voicemails didn’t even mention sex, let’s just say that, why would he be contacting me period?”

Jones said Haggard’s fantasy was for Jones to arrange for a group of “young college guys …around 18-22. He would love to have an orgy,” he said.

Jones said the two got together at least once a month. At first, he said, Haggard claimed he was from Kansas City. “As time went on, the calls started coming from Colorado Springs,” he said.

Jones said he didn’t realize who Haggard was until about two years ago when he saw a History Channel program on which Haggard was interviewed.

Jones said he decided to expose what he called Haggard’s hypocrisy.

“After sitting back and contemplating this issue, the biggest reason is, being a gay man all my life, I have experienced with my friends some sadness. I had two friends that were together 50 years, when one of them would get in a hospital for an accident or something, their partner could not get in to see them. I saw a lot of sadness. I felt it was my responsibility to my fellow brothers and sisters that I had to take a stand.”

He said he was tired of Haggard’s anti-gay messages and acknowledged he hopes the news affects Amendment 43.

“I don’t know if it’s going to change any votes or not. What I want people to think about when they step in the voting booth, is, “If I were a gay person, what would I want out of life? And you would want the same things everybody else wants.”‘

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