Two Christian politicians who confessed to adulteries this summer focused the spotlight on the Fellowship, a group that offers high-profile leaders Christian spirituality with confidentiality.
In June, Nevada Senator John Ensign confessed to having an affair with a former staff member, and a week later, South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford admitted to having an affair with an Argentine woman. In a press conference, Sanford referenced "C Street," the house on Capitol Hill where a small number of politicians like Ensign have lived and participated in the Fellowship's Bible studies. The estranged wife of former Representative Chip Pickering has said he too had a long-term affair while he was living at the house.
The Fellowship is a Christian network designed to minister to high-profile leaders through small-group Bible studies. CT's requests for comment were not returned.
About 40 percent of evangelicals participate in some kind of weekly prayer group or religious activity, compared with 23 percent of the total U.S. population, according to the 2008 Religious Landscape Survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. Observers say the Fellowship could provide an example of the challenges accountability groups face in local churches.
The Fellowship takes a quiet role on Capitol Hill, generating suspicion of what goes on in the C Street house, said Rice University sociology professor Michael Lindsay.
"The Fellowship has been one of the most powerful sources of spiritual encouragement for some of the public officials over the 20th century," said Lindsay, who authored Faith in the Halls of Power: How Evangelicals Joined the American Elite. "It provides the same kind of support that many churches do, but it does so as a free-floating ...