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Giving account

"Giving account" Continued...

Issue: "Crackdown," July 18, 2009

It's not that accountability wasn't offered: Culbertson said at least six high-profile politicians and businessmen met with Sanford at the beginning of his first term as governor to press Sanford to meet regularly with other Christian men: "Mark agreed intellectually, but it never happened."

Culbertson said he approached Sanford several more times, but Sanford shrugged him off. In recent weeks, he said Sanford told him: "I'd give anything if I would have done what I said I was going to do."

Another problem: Sanford wasn't actively involved in a local church. In a February interview, Sanford told WORLD he considered the evangelical Seacoast Church in Mt. Pleasant, S.C., his home church, and attended Trinity Episcopal Church when he was in the capital. But Sanford acknowledged he often traveled on Sundays and missed church services.

Culbertson says Sanford's desire to avoid creating a scene when showing up for church also meant the governor would slip in late and leave early when he did attend services. (President Barack Obama has expressed a similar dilemma in trying to settle on a church home in Washington.)

Chuck Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship and a former Nixon confidant who went to prison for his role in Watergate, says spiritual accountability can be rare in Washington and is "a major problem" in politics: "You don't have accountability groups generally because you don't want to confess your sins to someone you may be running against in the future."

Rob Schenck, an evangelical minister who leads a Bible study for lawmakers on Capitol Hill, says accountability groups shouldn't replace the role of the church. For example, he applauds the work of C Street but has worried the group can become too insular: "All the benefits of the church-to properly and sensitively impose discipline on Christians-was missing."

Greg Surratt, the Mount Pleasant minister who Sanford considers his pastor, says his congregation is "heart-broken" over Sanford's fall, but declined to discuss whether he had known about the governor's infidelity before his press conference. Surratt said he will help the Sanfords if they desire his help.

Ultimately, Sanford chose his own path, learning the lesson Culbertson says they discussed often in Bible study: "You can choose your sins, but you can't choose your consequences."

Sanford faces a litany of consequences. His wife, Jenny, said she's willing to reconcile, but wants to see humility and repentance from Sanford. For now, she said she's focused on her children and her Christian faith, saying she would "seek the wisdom of Solomon, the strength and patience of Job, and the grace of God in helping to heal my family."

Sanford also faces political consequences, including damaging an already-fragile Republican Party. Larry Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia, said infidelity by Sanford, Ensign, and other Republicans taints the whole GOP: "If you take conservative positions on social and moral issues, you have to walk the walk, you can't just talk the talk."

-with reporting by Emily Belz and Edward Lee Pitts in Washington

Political philandering 2007-2009

By The Editors


Republicans:
• Gov. Mark Sanford, S.C. 2009
• Sen. John Ensign, Nev. 2009
• Former Rep. Vito Fossella, N.Y. 2008
• Former Sen. Larry Craig, Idaho 2007
• Sen David Vitter, La. 2007
Democrats:
• Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, N.Y. 2008
• Gov. David Paterson, N.Y. 2008
• Former Sen. John Edwards, N.C. 2008
• Former Rep. Tim Mahoney, Fla. 2008

Jamie Dean
Jamie Dean

Jamie lives and works in North Carolina, where she covers the national political beat and other topics as news editor for WORLD. Follow Jamie on Twitter @deanworldmag.

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