The process of Christian accountability has rarely been as sorely taxed as in 1995. The misdeeds of Christian leaders, involving primarily financial and personal wrongdoing, has harmed the witness of the church.

Sin is no respecter of persons. It is an equal opportunity experience for everyday believers as well as leaders. This year, the names of Ellen Cooke of the Episcopal church, Jack Bennett from New Era Philanthropy, and Christian music's Sandi Patty have been prominently in the headlines. But their misconduct is symptomatic of the more troubling reality that the corporate witness of the Christian community is in grave jeopardy.

BETRAYALS OF TRUST

There is hope for renewal for the Christian institutions and individuals who have betrayed the trust invested in them. But that renewal must not be compromised by easy reconciliation and cheap restoration.

Rather, a full-bodied hope and robust renewal should be centered not only on grace (which brings forgiveness), but also costly amendment of life (which can restore public trust and Christian credibility).

Created in 1979, the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability was formed out of the fundraising scandals of the 1970s and grew after the moral scandals of the 1980s. In the 1990s, the evangelical movement needs a deeper and broader level of accountability to reflect the changing circumstances of Christian ministry.

One of the profound changes occurring within Christian ministry has been the reality that the evangelical market now represents billions of dollars spent annually for goods and services, including books, music, educational materials, counseling, management, and countless other needs. Christian retailing alone accounts for $3 billion in annual spending, according ...

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