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BATON ROUGE, La.--Television evangelist Jimmy Swaggart, who reportedly was photographed with a prostitute, confessed yesterday that he had sinned and said he would stop preaching until church officials complete an investigation.
"I do not plan in any way to whitewash my sin or call it a mistake," he told his tearful but apparently forgiving congregation. "I call it a sin."
The Assemblies of God denomination has been investigating Swaggart, reportedly for allegations of sexual misconduct. A church official said the evangelist had shown "true humility," and another minister said the door was open for Swaggart to remain in the ministry.
"I will step out of this pulpit for an undetermined, indeterminate period of time," Swaggart said. "We will leave that in the hands of the Lord."
Swaggart, who a year ago had scathingly denounced fellow Assemblies of God evangelist Jim Bakker for committing adultery, did not describe his misconduct.
"Every time I have stood before a congregation, before these television cameras, I have met and faced the issues head on. I have never skirted or sidestepped unpleasantries," Swaggart said. "I can do no less this morning."
Forest H. Hall, secretary treasurer of the Louisiana District of the Assemblies of God, told the 7500 people at Swaggart's sprawling family worship center that the evangelist had confessed to church officials and to his family.
"He confessed to specific incidents of moral failure," said Hall. "In the opinion of the officers of the Louisiana District, he has shown true humility and repentance and has not tried to blame anyone else for his failure."
District church officials would determine "appropriate disciplinary procedures after hearing all the facts and circumstances," Hall said.
He urged Swaggart "to resist the urgings of those outside the church to respond to questions" and called on church members "to refrain from speculation and imagination about this matter."
Amid gasps and streaming tears, the congregation gave Swaggart a standing ovation after Hall turned to him and said, "Brother Swaggart, would you come here? I believe I bring you to a group of people who love you."
Swaggart apologized to his wife, Frances, who was seated behind him during his confession.
"God never gave a man a better helpmate, a companion to stand beside him," Swaggart said. "I have sinned against you, and I beg your forgiveness."
His voice cracking, Swaggart also apologized to those he has preached to and to the students at his Bible college.
"And most of all to my Lord and my savior, my redeemer, the one who I serve and I love and I worship," Swaggart said. "I bow at his feet who has saved me and washed me and cleansed me. I have sinned against you."
"Why? I have asked myself that 10,000 times through 10,000 tears," Swaggart said.
After Swaggart finished, throngs of worshipers, members of the choir and band and other church officials huddled around him for more than 20 minutes, holding hands.
Officials of Swaggart's ministry had met reporters at the door and asked them to check their tape recorders and cameras at the door.
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