Clergy at Breakfast Laud Repentance as They Forgive Sinner

Article excerpt

More than 100 clergy emerged from a White House breakfast of omelets and soul-searching with President Clinton yesterday convinced that he sincerely experienced the repentance of a sinner.

"It was a very moving and profound moment," said Bishop Felton E. May, United Methodist leader of the Washington region. "A man laid bare his soul in confession and contrition."

Bishop May and other guests at the annual clergy breakfast likened Mr. Clinton's quest for forgiveness to that of King David.

"I don't think there's been anything since King David that would measure it," said Tony Campolo, a Baptist ministry leader.

Mr. Clinton, in remarks he wrote the night before, walked a path to redemption central to his Baptist faith and other religious traditions.

"I don't think there is a fancy way to say that I have sinned," Mr. Clinton said.

The annual event fell by coincidence on the day Congress released independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr's report on presidential misconduct.

Mr. Clinton's repentance was televised live on C-SPAN and CNN, but coverage ended before the clergy's exchanges with the president and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.

"She seemed to be very supportive of him and interested in his healing and restoration as well," said Bishop T.D. Jakes of Texas.

One cleric not attending, the Rev. Herbert W. Chilstrom, former head of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, yesterday urged Mr. Clinton to "resign immediately."

"To fall once and be sorrowful is one thing. To fall again and again and only admit to an `inappropriate relationship' when one is caught is another," said Mr. Chilstrom, a Democratic Party loyalist.

The Rev. Joan Brown Campbell, leader of the National Council of Churches, disagreed. …