RELIGION
06/30/2011 04:56 pm ET | Updated Aug 30, 2011

Leith Anderson Retiring: Tim Pawlenty's Pastor Steps Down From Minnesota Megachurch

By Adelle M. Banks
c. 2011 Religion News Service

(RNS) Evangelical leader Leith Anderson has announced plans to retire as senior pastor of his Eden Prairie, Minn., megachurch -- where GOP presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty is a parishioner.

Anderson will end his 35-year pastoral leadership of the 5,000-member Wooddale Church at the end of the year. He will continue his role as president of the National Association of Evangelicals.

"Wooddale Church has been my ministry home for most of my life," Anderson said in a statement. "It is a privilege to have served this congregation for so long, to know that the church is now strong and healthy and to look forward to what God will do in the future with a new senior pastor."

Anderson, 66, will become pastor emeritus and minister-at-large at Wooddale, which has established nine other congregations in Minnesota.

In February, he was named to the White House's advisory council on faith-based programs.

Anderson told the Star Tribune newspaper that his retirement had been planned for a year and did not relate to Pawlenty's campaign.

"I don't have any role in the Pawlenty campaign, and I don't foresee having any role in the campaign," he said.

Anderson twice served as interim NAE president before officially succeeding Ted Haggard, who resigned in the wake of a gay sex and drug scandal, in 2007.