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Clinton Recruits Spiritual Advisers

September 16, 1998

BOSTON (AP) _ The Rev. Tony Campolo doesn’t shy away from a political challenge: he has endured the wrath of colleagues for his leftist social views and criticized the Christian Coalition for its alliance with the GOP.

These days, Campolo faces perhaps his greatest struggle _ to heal the president of the United States.

Campolo, a sociology professor at Eastern College in Pennsylvania _ together with the Rev. Gordon MacDonald of Lexington, Mass. _ has been chosen by President Clinton to help him through a crisis that may cost him the White House.

``We want him to understand what went wrong with him personally that led to the tragic sins that have marred his life and the office of the Presidency,″ Campolo said in a statement Tuesday.

The two men, who have known the president for some time, said they will pray weekly with the president and help him seek forgiveness from God after his affair with former intern Monica Lewinsky.

Campolo has already faced barbs for his new role, according to David Fraser, a colleague. ``He’s been criticized by the religious right because of his willingness to be in relationship to Clinton,″ Fraser said.

But, he added, Campolo won’t likely be easy on Clinton.

``I know Tony certainly would not endorse what the president has done. I know he would not endorse the idea that forgiveness is without consequences,″ he said.

Campolo is founder of an ecumenical Christian organization called Urban Promise that gives financial assistance and sends volunteers to schools in the poorest sections of Philadelphia and Camden, N.J. He is the author of more than 25 books, including ``Is Jesus a Republican or a Democrat?″

He has often challenged the Christian Coalition’s role in politics.

``With the rise of the Christian Coalition, evangelism has been reduced to the Republican Party. What they worship is not the biblical Jesus, but a Jesus of their own values _ a Jesus who is white, Anglo-Saxon, Republican,″ he said in 1996.

Campolo said he and MacDonald weren’t worried about the perception that they were being used for political purposes.

``Should this be true, it would not be the first time that Christians have been taken in. But we would rather be men of faith who believe that God is working in the life of the president than to join that army of cynics... who cannot accept a plea for forgiveness at face value,″ Campolo said.

MacDonald, like Clinton, has disclosed having an extramarital affair publicly. ``I am in a position to talk the language of repentance,″ MacDonald said in a sermon Sunday.

In 1987, MacDonald resigned from his post as head of InterVarsity, a mission organization of college students, after admitting the rumors of his affair were true.

Two years later, after publicly seeking forgiveness, completing a ``restoration″ and writing a book about the process called ``Rebuilding Your Broken World,″ he joined Trinity Baptist Church in Manhattan.

``He’s an awesome teaching pastor,″ said Rick Dennler of Seattle, who said he became a Christian because of MacDonald. ``If there’s anybody out there who can effectively come alongside the president at a time like this, it’s Gordon MacDonald.″

Campolo said he and MacDonald weren’t worried about the perception that they were being used for political purposes.

``Should this be true, it would not be the first time that Christians have been taken in,″ he said. ``But we would rather be men of faith who believe that God is working in the life of the president than to join that army of cynics ... who cannot accept a plea for forgiveness at face value.″