JeffreyGrounds Photography Courtesy of the National Association of Evangelicals
Image source: JeffreyGrounds Photography Courtesy of the National Association of Evangelicals
  • Faith: Christianity
  • Profession: President of the National Association of Evangelicals
  • Lived: 1944 -
  • Nationality: American
  • Known for: NAE President
  • Fun Fact: Leith Anderson’s introduction to writing began as editor of the student newspaper at the Moody Bible Institute.
  • Fun Fact: Anderson served part-time as a youth pastor at Calvary Church in Longmont, Colorado, during his seminary studies.
  • Fun Fact: 

Leith Anderson is president emeritus of the National Association of Evangelicals and Baptist pastor emeritus of Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, after serving as senior pastor from 1977 through 2011.

Early Life and Education

Leith Anderson was born in 1944, the son of Charles William Anderson and Margery Freeman Anderson. His father was pastor of Brookdale Baptist Church in Bloomfield, New Jersey, from 1939 to 1972 and was the founder/president of Northeastern Bible College in Essex Fells, NJ, which later merged with The Kings College in New York City. His mother was born and raised in England and migrated to the United States as an adult.

Leith Anderson graduated from West Essex High School in North Caldwell, New Jersey. He then attended the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. He received his Bachelor of Sociology from Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, then went to Denver Seminary, where he received his Master of Divinity. He received his Doctor of Ministry at the Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasedena, California. Anderson took additional coursework at Northwestern University in Chicago, The Iliff School of Theology in Denver, and the University of Colorado.

Ministry

Leith Anderson’s introduction to writing began as editor of the student newspaper at the Moody Bible Institute and through journalism classes at Northwestern. He served part-time as a youth pastor at Calvary Church in Longmont, Colorado, during his seminary studies. He became the senior pastor of the church when he graduated for ten years in pastoral ministry at the church. While pastoring, he continued academic studies at the University of Colorado and Fuller Theological Seminary, and he became an adjunct professor of pastoral theology and homiletics at Denver Seminary.

In 1977, Anderson began his 35 years as senior pastor of Wooddale Church in the suburbs of Minneapolis. The church was located in Richfield, Minnesota, until 1984, when it moved to a new building on a 33-acre campus in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. The church grew to become a congregation of thousands, one of the larger churches in the state and region. While pastoring, he also wrote books and articles on church and biblical themes and taught in numerous seminary doctoral programs, like at Bethel University and Northeastern Seminary.

In addition, Anderson became a frequent speaker at national and international conferences while serving on boards at Bethel University, Navigators, National Association of Evangelicals, World Vision, World Relief, and other nonprofit organizations. In 2019, he was named the Founder’s Chair of World Vision International. Anderson continued as the pastor of Wooddale Church when he became the interim president of the National Association of Evangelicals as the NAE faced organizational stress in 2001 and continued until 2003. When the NAE had a leadership vacuum in 2006, Anderson returned as interim president. He then became the elected president for terms in 2007 extending through 2019 when he announced his retirement from the position at the end of that term.

At the end of 2011, he retired as pastor of the church and continued as president of the NAE in Washington, D.C., maintaining his home in Minnesota. During his presidency, the NAE stabilized and grew with expanded membership and many new staff and programs, including NAE Talk, conferences addressing contemporary social and theological issues, and Evangelical Leaders Survey, a monthly survey of national leaders on a broad array of topics with published reports. There’s also an Evangelicals magazine, Today’s Conversation podcast, an annual retreat of denomination leaders, and publications titled “Theology of Sex," “For the Health of the Nation,” and others.

As NAE president, Anderson frequently participated in amicus curiae briefs, news conferences, and interviews and connected religious and other leaders across the United States and internationally. Priority was given to religious freedom issues, immigration policies, evangelical biblical theology and values, social justice, and engaging evangelicals in evangelism, humanitarian services, and cultural influence. Anderson was elected to the Founder’s Chair of World Vision International in 2019. He has been published in many periodicals and has written over 20 books. His books include “Dying for Change,” “A Church for The 21st Century,” and “How to Act Like a Christian.”

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