The recent scandal at The New York Times in which reporters filed some three dozen phony or plagiarized stories should concern everyone in ministry.
We in the evangelical community do not consider The Times to be a defender of biblical morality. If anything, the way The Times reports on our culture often undermines morality. Yet, the newspaper's recent struggles with journalistic ethics should encourage those of us in ministry to observe the consequences of stretching the truth and covering up lies.
There is a level of integrity that our culture requires from those who call themselves "professionals." Somehow, ministers have gotten away from this.
What about pastors who preach one thing but do another? Those who ought to be defending biblical morality--professionals called to the ministry--often disregard it. And when they do, the devastation is far worse than when laymen fall from grace.
This is why we decided to run Jack Hayford's column for this issue as our cover story (see page 22). In the article, Dr. Hayford proposes the formation of an International Council for Ethical Accountability (ICEA).
The council would not be a Supreme Court deciding who is right and who is wrong. Rather, it would be a "Better Business Bureau" for those who want to put distance between themselves and those who are not living righteous lives--whether it is living an extravagant lifestyle, taking a casual attitude toward divorce in the ministry or sexual immorality.
This would give those of us in ministry who are trying to live with integrity a strong point of identification, allowing us to separate ourselves from mavericks who don't practice what they preach.
Not only does the world demand integrity from us, the Word of God commands it! But some in the ministry ignore what the Bible says. Maybe they won't ignore it when they are scrutinized by their peers.
We at Ministries Today are not trying to position ourselves, or Jack Hayford for that matter, as the ultimate guardians of ethics, morality or accountability in ministry. Instead, we want to generate discussion about this idea.
To accelerate dialogue and to provide interesting insight, we sent a pre-publication copy of the article to several respected leaders in the charismatic and Pentecostal world (see page 30). It was no surprise to us when we received a strong response. It is the beginning of an important dialogue that we plan to continue in Ministries Today.
Whether or not you agree that the ICEA is merited, we hope that you will take a hard look at your life and ask God to help you practice what you preach. Remember, the world is watching.
Stephen Strang is publisher of Ministries Today and founder of a multimedia company that is proclaiming Jesus worldwide.
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