President In Crisis: Church offers guiding hand

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SHOULD BILL Clinton feel temptation tugging at his trousers, help will now be on hand from a higher power. The White House has appointed a panel of spiritual advisers who will hold him "accountable for his behaviour" and help him to resist "temptations that have conquered him in the past," members of the group said yesterday.

The President is a church-going man, though he has not attended for several weeks since he first confessed to the grand jury and then to the American people that he had had an "inappropriate relationship" with Monica Lewinsky. Mr Clinton chose a meeting of religious leaders at the White House last Friday for his most open apology to the nation, his family and Monica Lewinsky. But he has also been criticised by religious leaders, and there has been pressure for him to be expelled from the church he used to attend in Arkansas.

One of those appointed to the panel is the Rev Tony Campolo, a liberal Baptist pastor from Pennsylvania. "We want him to understand what went wrong with him personally that led to the tragic sins that have so marred his life and the office of the presidency," he said. "We want to provide all the help we can to spiritually strengthen him against yielding to the temptations that have conquered him in the past."

Another of those named is Gordon MacDonald of Massachusetts, who left the ministry 12 years ago after confessing to infidelity.

Mr Campolo said: "There are those who will say Gordon and I are being used and manipulated. Should this be true, it would not be the first time Christians have been taken in. But we would rather be men of faith who believe God is working in the life of the President than join the army of cynics, many of whom are religious leaders who cannot accept a plea for forgiveness at face value."