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New evangelist leader plans to avoid politics

DALLAS -- Nine months after influential US evangelist Ted Haggard was disgraced in a gay sex scandal, the man poised to take his place in the pulpit says he plans to steer clear of overt politics and focus on the Bible instead.

"I believe Christians need to be good citizens. . . . But I will not take near the active political role that Ted did," Brady Boyd, recommended by a search committee to be the new senior pastor at New Life Church in Colorado Springs, said in an interview.

Haggard, a vocal critic of gay marriage, was forced from the helm of New Life -- the 14,000-member "mega-church" he founded in 1985 -- in November after a male escort said the two had sexual liaisons. Haggard later admitted to undisclosed sexual immorality and also stepped down as president of the National Association of Evangelicals.

Haggard was not as strident on the issue of homosexuality as some other US preachers. But his fiery speaking style made him a poster boy for conservative causes often embraced by the Republican Party.

"I will encourage people to be involved in the political process but I will not touch on hot-button political issues because I do not think that is the role of the pulpit," said Boyd, a 40-year-old preacher now based at Gateway Church in Southlake, an affluent town near Dallas.

But he said the conservative evangelical message of healthy families would be a cornerstone of his ministry. American evangelical Christians, who number 60 million, believe that many of the country's social ills stem from high divorce rates and teenage pregnancies.