Christian leaders must walk the talk, avoiding even an appearance of impropriety

Date: 2009-08-14

Recent events involving two high-profile Christian organizations remind me once again of the need to avoid even the appearance of wrongdoing.

In May, Ron and Reynold Mainse, the hosts of 100 Huntley Street — Canada’s longest-running Christian television show — stepped down from their roles after being implicated in an affinity fraud. The departure of Ron, president of Crossroads Christian Communications Inc., and Reynold, Missions host/adviser, followed a report in The Hamilton Spectator linking them to software developer Gordon Driver, who was accused in a California court of running a $14-million Ponzi scheme. Allegations also point to the Mainse brothers as not only investors with but also “finders” for Driver, directing other investors Driver’s way.

The most recent, and ongoing, incident involves Cambridge’s Imagine Adoption Agency. I interviewed executive director Susan Hayhow, in February 2008, as she was launching the Global Outreach Fund. Hayhow planned on $4.8 million to build Faith Village—a community in Ethiopia for the children who weren’t adopted. Hayhow said at the time the project “was always her dream to share God’s love with the children left behind.”

Imagine’s board of directors pulled the plug after discovering several questionable expenses on the agency’s books, including six-figure salaries, trips, home renovations, a horse and saddle, and luxury car leases.

The facts in both the Mainse and Imagine Adoption cases remain under investigation. But both cases appear troubling for all involved stakeholders.

While these stories don’t surprise me — there isn’t much I haven’t seen in my 20-plus years as a journalist specializing in faith issues — they sadden me. They sadden me because, once again, Christians are seen to be acting in a way that seems contradictory to the teachings of Jesus.

Jesus once told his followers that to whom much is given, much is required. Those in the public eye are required to live a life of integrity. A life where what we say and do behind the scenes matches word for word, action for action, with what we say and do in public.

But it goes beyond the actual. The apostle Paul advised Christians to avoid even the appearance of evil. It’s not just what we say and do, it’s how what we say and do is perceived by others. And it’s our responsibility to make sure others don’t even perceive that what we say or do is wrong.

Living a life like this takes effort. It means paying attention to what we say and do. It means examining our motives on a daily basis. It may mean short-term pain, like passing up that seemingly lucrative investment opportunity or foregoing that shiny perk. But in the end, a life of integrity is well worth the effort.

Robert White Is Editor of the Christian Week Ontario Newspaper and a Guelph-Based Freelance Journalist Specializing in Faith-Based Issues.


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