'C Street' Mystery to Some, Refuge for Others

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WASHINGTON -- Recent political scandals have put a Washington D.C. Bible study group under the microscope and in the headlines.

It's known as the "C Street Ministry" and members include South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford and Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., who both admitted extra marital affairs.

On the outside, it's just a normal Victorian townhouse nestled a few blocks from Capitol Hill. but inside is the much talked about C Street ministry.

Gov. Mark Sanford even mentioned it by name when went before cameras to admit his affair.

"I was part of a group called C Street when I was in Washington," Sanford said.

C Street is also the cover story of this week's WORLD magazine, called "The ABCs of C Street: The Capitol Hill Row House, its Headliners and the Jesus Followers Who Back It." 

CBN News spoke with the story's author, Lee Pitts.  Click play for his comments.

C Street is run by a Christian group well known in Washington political circles. "The fellowship" grabs headlines for running the National Prayer Breakfast, but it goes much deeper than that. This townhouse is a place where congressmen live, discuss the Bible and share their personal lives. But details are hard to come by and cameras are not allowed.

So what exactly goes on up these steps and through that door at the C Street Ministry? It has been somewhat secretive, but we talked to someone who's been behind that green door.

Rev. Rob Scheck has counseled congressmen at C Street.

"What you might see inside is a small group of people huddled in a corner maybe three or four of them praying together, sometimes with an open Bible on someone's lap talking about a verse," said Scheck, president of Faith & Action.

Think of C Street as a small Bible study group where politicians are held accountable in their relationships -- a spiritual refuge of sorts.

"It's sort of a place outside the cacophony, the noise, the distraction of Capitol Hill. I find it a lovely place to visit and I wish more people knew about it and why it's here," Scheck said.

But the public doesn't know much about it and that's intentional. Doug Coe is the fellowship's founder. He simply doesn't do interviews and though he's been in this town for decades, he keeps a very low profile

"He works under the radar -- not because he has something to hide, but because he wants to protect the integrity of those relationships with really well known people," said Michael Cromartie with the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

But make no mistake: What is taught in that house is very much Christ-centered.

"I think he feels that if people look at the life and teachings and in fact the work of Jesus Christ, that they'll be drawn to him, so that's his method," Cromartie said.

But Coe's decision to keep things hush-hush in the house has just led to more media scrutiny. It's been called "the Christian mafia" or "the family," making skeptics wonder what is really going on in that house as imaginations run wild.

"Their cloak of secrecy has not served them well," Scheck said. "I think if they were a little more open about what they do, a little more candid about who they are, that maybe they would avoid some of that labeling."

And speaking of labels, while the mainstream media has focused heavily on the two conservative Christian politicians caught up in affairs while attending C Street, the ministry does not cater to one party.

"It is anything but a sort of conservative Republican kabal," Cromartie said.

And yes, while Sanford and Ensign morally failed even while attending C Street, there is a flip side.

"The fact of the matter is what you ought to do if you want to do a real story on C Street is find out how many affairs were thwarted because of the accountability of this house," Cromartie said.

Holding politicians accountable spiritually in the nation's capitol. Not an easy job at all.

*Originally aired August 18, 2009

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David Brody is an Emmy Award-winning veteran news journalist who has interviewed many prominent national figures during his career of nearly 25 years. Currently, David covers the White House and interviews national newsmakers across the country.  Follow David on Twitter @TheBrodyFile and "like" him at Facebook.com/TheBrodyFile.