By NEELA BANERJEE
WASHINGTON, Nov. 2 — The Rev. Ted Haggard, the president of the National Association of Evangelicals and one of the nation’s most influential Christian leaders, resigned on Thursday, one day after a former male prostitute in Denver said in television and radio interviews that he had had a three-year sexual relationship with Mr. Haggard.
Mr. Haggard, who is married and has five children, has denied the accusation, saying in a television interview: “I am steady with my wife. I’m faithful to my wife.”
He also said he had never met the man making the accusation.
In addition to resigning from his post with the association, which represents millions of Christians from 60 denominations, Mr. Haggard said he was temporarily stepping down as head pastor of his 14,000-member Colorado Springs megachurch, New Life. He said he did not want his work to be hampered by the independent inquiry the church was starting.
“I am voluntarily stepping aside from leadership so that the overseer process can be allowed to proceed with integrity,” Mr. Haggard said in a statement released by the church’s legal counsel, Martin Nussbaum. “I hope to be able to discuss this matter in more detail at a later date.”
The Rev. Richard Cizik, vice president for governmental affairs at the association, said the group’s 15-member executive board would meet on Friday to decide whether to accept the resignation.
“It doesn’t comport with the man that I know,” Mr. Cizik said of the accusation. “Let’s not crucify the man before we know the facts.”
The evangelical association states on its Web site that homosexual sex is condemned by Scripture, and Mr. Haggard has advocated passage of an amendment to the United States Constitution to ban same-sex marriage.
The accuser, Mike Jones, told KUSA, Channel 9, in Denver that Mr. Haggard had paid him for sex over the last three years, and that he had methamphetamine several times.
“People may look at me and think what I’ve done is immoral,” Mr. Jones, who said he is no longer a prostitute, told KUSA. “But I think I had to do the moral thing in my mind, and that is expose someone who is preaching one thing and doing the opposite behind everybody’s back.”
Mr. Haggard said in a lengthy interview with KUSA that he had never used drugs of any kind and that he did not smoke or drink alcohol.
Mr. Haggard has been a supporter of an amendment to the state’s Constitution banning same-sex marriage, on which Coloradans will vote next week. He told KUSA that the accusations might have been politically motivated.
Calls to Mr. Haggard and Mr. Jones were not returned. But Mr. Jones told The Associated Press that he had decided to go public with his accusation because of the campaign against the amendment..
“It made me angry that here’s someone preaching about gay marriage and going behind the scenes having gay sex,” Mr. Jones said.