WAYNESVILLE, N.C. — A Baptist preacher accused of running out nine congregants who refused to support President Bush resigned Tuesday.
"I am resigning with gratitude in my heart for all of you, particularly those of you who love me and my family," the Rev. Chan Chandler said during a meeting at East Waynesville Baptist Church.
Congregants of the 100-member church in western North Carolina have said Chandler endorsed Bush from the pulpit during last year's presidential campaign and said that anyone who planned to vote for Democratic nominee Sen. John F. Kerry needed to "repent or resign."
The church members said Chandler continued to preach about politics after Bush won reelection, culminating with a church gathering last week in which the nine members said they were ousted.
Speaking from the pulpit Tuesday night, Chandler opened the meeting with prayer before telling the gathered congregation: "For me to remain now would only cause more hurt for me and my family."
Chandler made no mention of Bush or Kerry, saying only that the dispute was rooted in his strong feelings about abortion.
Chandler's resignation came a day after a national group that lobbies for church-state separation urged the Internal Revenue Service to investigate the tax-exempt status of the church.
IRS rules bar clear-cut politicking by tax-exempt groups.