A Good Reportrnby Harold O. }. BrownrnmrnWriting to Timothy, his younger brother in the faith, thernApostle Paul listed a number of attributes desirable in arnbishop. His final admonition is this: “Moreover, he must haverna good report of them which are without [outside]: lest he fallrninto reproach and the snare of the devil” (I Timothy 3:7). In thernUnited States of half a century ago, a good report was taken forrngranted for the clergy of all confessions and denominations.rnThe entertainment media—and especially movies—generallyrnportrayed the clergy in a favorable light, a bit naive, perhaps,rnbut basically good. When the occasional rascal was portrayed,rnit was usually someone from the fringe, such as the mercenaryrnevangelist oi Elmer Gantry or the pompous missionary of ColernPorter’s Anything Goes. Such Protestants were easy to attack,rnbecause Protestantism has so many splinter groups and independentrnoperators; to portray a Roman Catholic priest or a Jewishrnrabbi in such a light would have been unthinkable, at leastrnin the 1950’s. Today it is easy to attack a priest, although rabbisrnstill enjoy a certain immunity: lampooning a rabbi would probablyrnbe condemned as anti-Semitic.rnForty years ago, merely identifying oneself as a minister,rnpriest, or rabbi was a virtual guarantee of respectful treatment,rnand perhaps of a discount in stores or even “professional courtesy”rnfrom doctors and dentists as well. In recent decades, withrnthe rise of what Pitirim Sorokin called “colossalism” andrn”chaotic syncretism,” the reputation of the clergy has suffered,rnsometimes justifiably so. Undoubtedly some of the most visiblernclergy are not good role models, but the pulpits are still filledrnwith those who can and should be.rnWith the increasing presence of independent organizationsrnand agencies not connected with “connectional” churches, itrnhas become possible for a talented loner to achieve nationwidernHarold O.]. Brown teaches theology and ethics at Trinity EvangelicalrnDivinity School.rnfame—or infamy. A few years ago we had a series of spectacularrnscandals involving three so-called “television evangelists,”rnthe “colossal” figures of Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, and BillyrnJames Hargis. Mainline Christians and evangelicals alikerncould shrug such things off on the grounds that these peoplernwere largely the religious equivalent of loose cannons or unguidedrnmissiles, and of course the Catholics, untouched, couldrnsay, “See what all this religious hoopla leads to!” More recently,rnhowever, the Roman Catholic fellowship has been shakenrnb}’ some particularly odious sex scandals, involving supposedlyrncelibate priests and minor boys. There is some reason to thinkrnthat the sex scandals are blown out of proportion; nevertheless,rnthat they occur at all detracts from the respect hitherto awardedrnCatholic priests by the general public and the media. ThernEpiscopalians, not so sensitive as traditional Catholics andrne’angelical Protestants on sexual issues, have had a sticky financialrnmess on their hands, and even the black church gainedrnmedia infamy when the head of the National Baptist Association,rnthe Reverend Henry Lyon, was accused of both adulteryrnand the misappropriation of hundreds of thousands of churchrndollars. The mass media, of course, now prefer to portray thernclerg}’ as hypocritical, ineffectual, and frequently immoral asrnwell. But what the media do not point out is that for everyrnpriestly pederast or Baptist embezzler there are thousands of religiousrnprofessionals who are living according to the precepts ofrnJesus and who really do deserve “a good report among themrnwhich are without.” Of course the flagrant exceptions make forrnmore spectacular news.rnAs the season approaches when Christians celebrate therncoming of the Savior, it will be good to recognize that exceptionsrnare exceptional, and instead of dwelling on spectacularrnfailures, look at the role played by the majority of clergy inrnour somewhat compromised republic. From the early days ofrn24/CHRONICLESrnrnrn