For over 25 years I have helped businesses find leaders. Recently, I have added Christian organizations to my list of clients. Both groups want good leaders, but I am finding it increasingly difficult to accept the almost universal practice by Christian groups of banishing leaders who have stumbled in their Christian walk.

It almost seems that forgiveness and love—central themes of our faith—cannot apply to leaders of Christian organizations. We agree that God forgives sinners. We also believe that because God forgives the sinner, we must too. Yet, somehow, Christian organizations rarely find it possible to restore the fallen one to fellowship in a way that eventually allows a return to leadership.

Wrestling With Forgiveness

Could it be that we do not really have a desire to wrestle with the implications of genuine forgiveness? Is it easier to interview a new, “clean” candidate than work with one who can be viewed as tarnished?

Consider the case of Chuck Colson. His “sins” and resulting prison term were before his spiritual rebirth, so Christians everywhere warmly embraced him with forgiveness. But now that he is one of us, woe to him if he stumbles again. The pattern suggests that he would be stripped of his well-earned leadership role and forever denied a return to it.

On the other hand, Paul Thayer, former LTV Corporation chief executive officer, recently completed a prison term related to illegal securities trading activities. He has been quickly hired by another firm in a key role because his debt is paid and he is a talented executive. Does the secular world understand forgiveness better than we do?

No Room For “Big” Sins

There are at least two other reasons why Christian leaders ...

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