A senior leader of the influential US evangelical movement and opponent of homosexual marriage has resigned following media revelations he paid for sex with a male prostitute.
Ted Haggard, president of the 30-million-strong National Association of Evangelicals and senior pastor at the New Life Church, said he was stepping aside in order to allow an investigation to proceed smoothly.
"I am voluntarily stepping aside from leadership so that the overseer process can be allowed to proceed with integrity," Haggard said in a statement released by the New Life Church in Colorado Springs. "I hope to be able to discuss this matter in more detail at a later date. In the interim, I will seek both spiritual advice and guidance."
The statement said Haggard felt he could "not continue to minister under the cloud created by the accusations made on Denver talk radio".
The married father-of-five, who has denied the allegations, is seen as an ardent supporter of President George Bush and is credited with rallying evangelical voters behind the Republicans during the 2004 election.
He reportedly takes part in regular conference calls with White House staff and was named by Time Magazine as one of the 25 most influential evangelical Christians in America.
Haggard's decision to step down came after a 49-year-old Denver man told a local radio network that the religious leader had been his client for three years. Mike Jones said he had felt compelled to come forward because he believed Haggard's stance against same-sex unions was hypocritical.
"After sitting back and contemplating this issue, the biggest reason is being a gay man all my life, I have experience with my friends, some great sadness of people that were in a relationship through the years," Jones said.
"I felt it was my responsibility to my fellow brothers and sisters, that I had to take a stand, and I cannot sit back anymore and hear (what) to me is an anti-gay message."