This article originally appeared in the November 20, 1987 issue of Christianity Today.

In recent months, nation and church have been stung by leaders who betrayed their trust and fell into grievous sins. The problem is not new. In the last century, Grover Cleveland was charged with immoral conduct while running for the presidency. He admitted the charge and took responsibility for a son born to a woman with whom he had had an illicit relationship. He repented of his sin, and made restitution by providing for the woman and the child. He also had no further relations with the woman. The American people forgave him, believed he had proved himself capable, acknowledged him now to be a man of moral integrity, and elected him President.

Recently, Gary Hart was accused of carrying on an affair with a model. He lashed out at his accusers, but was finally forced to admit adultery - though he would not say with whom. Frustrated, Hart noted that he was not running for sainthood but for the presidency. He was obviously not repentant, and many questioned both his honesty and his judgment. Instantly, his campaign self-destructed.

Scandals in the Church

Things are not all that different inside the church. When PTL host Jim Bakker betrayed the trust of his supporters by immoral conduct and extravagant living, he claimed that he had repented and that he should be restored immediately to his former role. God had forgiven him, he declared. How could Christian people do less? Some of his former followers indeed have forgiven him, but few observers are convinced that he should be restored to leadership.

The case of Gordon MacDonald presents a different scenario. MacDonald, then president of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, also fell into an illicit ...

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