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Large secular businesses often do better than Christian institutions in creating structures of justice to govern their organizations. Both their size and legal requirements require them to focus on procedures rather than relationships. But when Christian organizations fail to treat their people fairly or to protect the assets with which God has entrusted them, we are rightly embarrassed. Christian organizations need to learn from their secular counterparts how seemingly impersonal structures of justice actually increase trust.

Consider the following true stories.

A staff minister at a local church was called in and fired, effective immediately. No warning had been extended. No program for work improvement had been designed. At the meeting, no explanation was given for the firing. No grounds of appeal were offered. No severance package was tendered. Later, the minister discovered that vicious, unfounded rumors of personal immorality had been circulating, but he was given no opportunity to respond.

Embezzlement of Sunday collections has emerged as a concern in the U.S. Catholic Church. A survey by Villanova University of 76 dioceses found that 85 percent of them reported cases of embezzlement within the past five years, with 11 percent of those cases involving sums greater than $500,000.

In February, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) announced it was challenging the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) to improve its handling of sex-abuse allegations in Baptist congregations. Turning its attention from its home community, the Roman Catholic Church, SNAP urged the SBC executive committee to create an independent review board to deal with sex-abuse accusations. SBC president Frank Page correctly noted that Baptist ...

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Do Likewise
David P. Gushee serves as Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics and Director of the Center for Theology and Public Life at Mercer University, where he also chairs the Mercer Lyceum initiative on rebuilding democracy. His column ran from 2005 to 2007.
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April 2007

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