An Open Letter to Men Who Broke the Billy Graham Rule

Tish Harrison Warren

To the men who have met with me one-on-one:

In light of the Vice President’s revelation that he does not eat meals alone with women (besides his wife) and the widespread discussion of the “Billy Graham Rule,” I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for meeting with me — some of you years ago, some of you last week — to disciple me, befriend me, love me, and honor me as a fellow follower of Christ and as a human being.

So thank you.

Thank you to my college minister, who over four years and endless cups of coffee and lunches and walks slowly taught me about grace and dared me to believe that God runs to those who feel like failures in the Christian life. Thank you that when I was growing cynical after seeing a particularly terrible example of Christian leadership, you invited me to be an intern in the church, saying, “I want you to see how a healthy church works before you give up on ministry.”

Thank you to my former pastor. You made time to get to know me, constantly told me, “I’m proud of you, girl,” and stood in as a dad for me, while still honoring how much my real-life dad meant to me.

Thank you to my seminary professor. You met with me over a meal to make me promise I’d finish seminary because you thought I was called to it. Even though you were a pastor in a denomination that did not ordain women, you saw something in me in your class and went out of your way to name it and fan it into flame.

Thank you to my ministry supervisor in campus ministry. You met with me often and always knew how to ask great questions. You never failed to make me laugh, pay for my coffee, and call the best work out of me because I was 100% sure you were for me.

Thank you to my colleague in ministry who saw me as a valued member of his church and staff, who met with me weekly to scheme about how our church could love people and preach the gospel more effectively.

Thank you to my spiritual director, who asks hard questions about my marriage or my prayer life or my sleep habits and tells me to chill out a lot.

Thank you to my current boss for his intentional commitment to hiring a woman as a pastor and including me in church decisions in important and meaningful ways. You wanted to make sure that you were raising up not just male leaders in ministry, but female ones as well.  Thank you for believing that women have perspective and gifts to offer your church, and for believing that female voices matter and should be amplified.

Thank you to my (male) priest friend who insisted that women be included in a ministry gathering in our denomination — and when his colleagues asked, “What do we do about the men who won’t be comfortable in small groups with women?” replied, “Well, we could suggest they get counseling.”

And thank you to the many men who have been friends to me, who I met in college, at work, through writing and publishing, or in the pew beside me. Thank you for good conversations that helped me find my way, for asking my advice and giving me yours, and for thinking that I, as a woman, may have a unique perspective to offer you.

You, men-who’ve-met-with-me-one-on-one, who’ve eaten with me, had coffee with me, mentored me, encouraged me, and befriended me — you have changed my life. I am a Christian because you poured into me. I am a pastor because you pastored me. I am, I hope, a better wife and mother because you are in my life.

You did not see me as a sexual threat to be avoided, but as a human being, even a sister. And you were safe. You never hit on me. You never made me feel weird or uneasy. If you ever struggled with sexual temptation, you’ve dealt with that by talking with your wife, male friends, or a counselor so that you could be a friend, brother, and pastor to women around you. Because of that, I have the gift of having men in my life who are trustworthy and who are true, dear friends.

And thanks also to your wives. They do not see me (and all the other women on the planet) as a danger. They do not regard your friendship with or ministry among women as perilous, but as essential. They pushed you out of the house to go love people in the name of Jesus, with full confidence in you and in the boundaries you no doubt set together. Many of them have also become mentors and friends to me as well, and I have felt only welcome from them. They have helped me to encourage my own husband to befriend and invest in women, hoping that he could impact someone as I have been impacted by you.

I am grateful to you, my brothers and pastors. Thank you for talking to me about theology and politics — because you didn’t assume women don’t care about these topics or aren’t smart enough to engage them. Thank you for not hiving yourself off at parties, with the men in one room and the women in another. Thank you for breaking the “Billy Graham rule,” for not winking at subtle sexism in the name of propriety, and for caring about me more than you clung to legalism and fear. Thank you for seeing me as someone worthy of love and investment, and not simply as a temptation to avoid. Mostly, I thank you for seeing me as a human being, God’s image bearer, who, like you, needs Jesus and pastors and friends and good conversation over coffee.

Your impact on my life is clear to me each and every day. And I thank God for you.

Tish Harrison Warren is a priest in the Anglican Church in North America. After eight years with InterVarsity Graduate and Faculty Ministries, she now serves as Co-Associate Rector at Church of the Ascension in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She writes regularly for The Well, CT Women (formerly her.meneutics), and Christianity Today. Her work has also appeared in Comment Magazine, Christ and Pop Culture, Art House America, and elsewhere. She is author of Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life (IVP). She and her husband Jonathan have two young daughters.

46 comments

I support the original post. I have been married and working full time for almost 40 years.My husband has worked for and with women and I have for and with men. Christian communities are the only places where I've been excluded from conversation and meetings because I'm a woman based on this rule . More than once, decisions were made that involved me that I had no input because of the sexual segregation . I believe it is wrong to exclude women from conversations that involve them at work . Marriages are sacred, no question. Good boundaries in marriage does not necessarily mean that other women are seductresses. Respect and fairness are the practices of loving God and loving neighbor.

May 25, 2017 10:50AM by Elizabeth

Great article, Tish! My wife liked it a lot and passed it on to me. (She also loved your *Ordinary Liturgy* book and has read sections to me that we've discussed). Taking time and space for gratitude toward those who have influenced our lives in positive ways is so powerful and encouraging! It inspires me as dad, granddad, brother, husband, friend, etc. to recognize and redeem the opportunities to encourage development of leader identity in women preparing for and serving in vocation. God bless!

Apr 23, 2017 6:56AM by Jim

This article made me feel very sad and disappointed. I don't think, Tish, that you are motivated by gratitude to these men as much as you are taking a swipe at Mike Pence.

I read this after spending a day with family members who hate Mike Pence. None of us were Trump voters, but Pence is so hated that someone made the statement that she would "take a bullet for Trump to keep Pence out of the White House." When I questioned that, she was adamant in her hatred of him. It is because he is an outspoken Christian, very different from her culturally, so he is despised.

An appreciation for the spirit of Pence's (and Graham's!) positions should have been noted in your article. Your words hit me as Christianized snark, which is unworthy of you and your otherwise kindly insights. By "thanking" the men in your life for not seeing you as a "sexual threat" and clinging to "legalism and fear," for seeing you as smart and interested in theology, you implied that men who strive to keep the Billy Graham rule don't see women in the same way. Like many in this stream, I know way too many families that have been devastated by unfaithfulness which began with a little too much one-on-one time. It is not necessarily discriminatory against women for men (and women) to guard against situations that can lead hearts astray. By not attributing any positive motivations to Graham and Pence, you fed right into the hatred of evangelical Christians that I described above.

Apr 19, 2017 8:03AM by Terri

Loved the heart of this article but as someone whose husband cheated on her with a coworker, we have had to enact strict boundaries. People can call me insecure but they don't understand that solo female friendships are a marriage hazard for us. Some men don't struggle like mine but unfortunately, you don't know you aren't safe until its too late. We have to be careful in labeling/generalizing until we learn the reasons behind it.

It must be said that men aren't the only susceptible ones here. Also, our culture is such a strong tide of peer pressure, open marriages, social media etc that any boundary marks you as socially awkward, uncool etc.

On another note, I thank God that the author had such amazing men in her life! We need more strong men! I do agree with the above comments towards Pence and Billy Graham. Many godly men fell into sin, staining the reputation of Christ and his ministry stood out for a reason.

Apr 27, 2017 9:16AM by Stephanie

I appreciate this post, as someone who has been told I couldn't be invested in like the male employees because I could not be taken to lunch.

This rule comes up a lot in ministry settings, but don't a lot of Christians work in secular business? Who even gets a choice there? It may work for the VP, but in my work history, if you have a male boss, you will sometimes have to meet with him, period, or vice versa if you're a male with a female boss, like my husband. You may also have to work in collaboration with colleagues regardless of gender.

Also, today we can't assume that same-sex relationships won't risk some of the same issues! Even if it's only an unfounded accusation. But thankfully, as believers we have the Holy Spirit of God, and we do not do well to underestimate His power.

Apr 12, 2017 1:47PM by Anonymous

I think it's vitally important for women to have the same level of access to the upper levels of church / ministerial management as men. To this day, I'm frustrated that even though I'm the tither in my family, my husband is the one who gets the thank you note at in January for our tax statement. This year's travesty with the church blindly looking past Trump's egregious mockery of women and rationalizing it all away, even pretending to claim "He's like David, a man after God's own heart," was quite nauseating. If women had more voice at the top of the evangelical food chain, a different perspective would have come forth. And yet, there are times when I feel sexually slimed in a conversational context, unfortunately by pastoral staff, and I have to keep my distance. On a case by case basis, it's up to each individual in the party to determine propriety and live by the voice of the Holy Spirit in their hearts. Setting up superficial rules cannot replace the voice of God. There are perfectly good reasons for men and women to meet 1:1 alone as well as to *not* meet 1:1. There's no one size fits all answer to this.

Apr 12, 2017 12:36PM by Heather

The more I think about this, the more irked I become. She's not only ridiculing the men who are doing their best to give their wives their higher priority, she's insulting their wives! We're supposed to ignore any and all insecurities, and put off any jealousy over another woman spending precious time with our husbands who (in this 'work 60+ hours a week' world we live in) I'd love to spend time with?

The divorce rate among evangelical Christians is at or above the divorce rate of the world. Why, literally, in the name of God would someone disrespect someone going above and beyond to remain completely faithful to their spouse?!?! If you think for a hot second that Satan isn't laughing himself silly over the breakdown of marriages and family, you're fooling yourself.

In this society of extreme sports, extreme makeovers, extreme fitness, extreme marketing, etc etc, I think it's time for some extreme "marriaging!" I'm not the best example of this, but we are failing our families (and disciples that look up to us) left and right with infidelity and divorce and I don't want to be a part of that. I want to be intentionally faithful. Even if people like this lady insult and belittle me.

Extreme Marriaging. That's what I'm proposing.

Apr 11, 2017 8:25PM by Kimberley Wicker

Do you think perhaps the divorce rate is high in the Christian church because we decide that everything is a temptation? Even having coffee with a friend is a huge temptation to leave your wife? Also, we are rejecting spending important time with others might be bad for a marriage.

Apr 13, 2017 8:40PM by Amelia Little

I can't think of any of my female friends who have ever felt that they got to spend as much quality time with their husbands as they want. It is always a struggle to make regular date nights. If my husband is having quality one on one time with someone, I want it to be me. Spare time is precious nowadays! I don't know of any married person that "needs" to have dinner alone with someone from the opposite sex, especially non-work related. That's ludicrous. I won't go so far as to say that every man needs to have this hard and fast rule, but there should be zero shame for someone who does keep it. I will always applaud those who are so committed that they want to take extra steps to protect their marriage. I don't understand the underhanded insulting in this letter. If Mike Pence said that he wants a plural marriage, I have a feeling he'd face less criticism. It's a twisted mentality.

Apr 21, 2017 10:35PM by Anonymous

I just want to say that when a man makes a rule regarding boundaries when meeting 1-1 with women it should be respected in the same way as if a woman made the same rule. Boundaries are there not just for the people directly involved, but for the many people that can be impacted by even the slightest indication of weakness. Jesus prayed for the weak but he also made provision for it. Boundaries are a provision from the Lord.

Apr 10, 2017 2:20PM by Neil

I loved this article, but on the other hand personally know 4 families who were destroyed after one-on-one, christian counseling time. One, a pastor who counseled a woman alone, and after some years left his wife and 5 children to be with her. The other a youth pastor... same situation (left 4 children and his wife). The other a praise and worship leader with a much younger, more beautiful woman (left 2 children). The other a military man who became very close with his driver (a female) while in combat. The genius that thought putting men and women together in life-and-death situations en masse was not thinking of the wives and children back home (one wife with 2 children devastated on that one).
It's great that some people have not experienced any to this in their lives. Frankly, I'm surprised that American christians have this "billy graham" rule, as the northern culture is so stand off-ish and impersonal. How could any sexual temptation come from a place where people don't really get to know each other, where neighbors don't even know each other's names?
I just know that in most circles I ran in, infidelity was the norm (even among the religious) precisely because nobody has guards up. I'm not here to judge one way as best than the other, just to point out that tons of children grow up without families because rules like this aren't in place. Do I think it's old-fashioned? yes. Do I think it's too bad that human nature is what it is? yes. Do I think those rules are worth it if they save one marriage from destroying the lives of their children? I think it's up to every individual to decide what they think is best, and if they think they're "strong" or not.

Apr 9, 2017 8:15AM by Anonymous

Soft sexism in the church robs women of leadership and mentoring opportunities.

If ministers and servants in the Church are all male, and not allowed to meet with a woman student or trainee, we automatically perpetuate a male-only ministry.

And that is a loss.

That is all.
#nuance

Apr 8, 2017 6:57PM by Karen Smith

You, and others who have had your experience, are incredibly blessed to have had really good relationships and mentoring experiences with male colleagues, classmates, etc. I'm thrilled for all of you. I, however, have had none of that, beginning from having grown up in a church where men sat on one side, and the women on the other. There's more....but that's enough! ha I am 70+ and, to this day, I go no farther than shaking hands with a man and "maybe" chatting if I am in a group setting. Recently one of the pastoral staff came to our pew before church and talked a moment with my husband. I was sitting beside him. He did not acknowledge me in any way. Folks, we've got a long way to go, but there's hope 'cause we're all "just folks" and put our shoes on one at a time. Blessings.....

Apr 8, 2017 8:29AM by Anonymous

It is nice to fantasize about all the great friendships that can occur when men meet with women alone, but apparently some who have commented are aware of what is going on in society. There are huge amounts of false rape allegations and allegations of sexual harassment happening all the time with little blow back on the female if discovered, but with life changing damage to the men so falsely accused. Personally, nice as it is to have the sugar coated world where all is groovy and nice, reality is it is not nice. For men's own self protection, stick to the BGR.

Apr 7, 2017 5:03PM by Anonymous

Here's the thing...
Jesus was often on the receiving end of those false accusations. So much so that it led to his death. Which then led to our redemption.
I have seen these false accusations and I agree that they are life damaging but I for one am thankful for Jesus being willing to endure them- to the point of death.

Apr 10, 2017 10:29AM by Anonymous

Amen! Thank you anonymous! Not everyone has had a positive role model in Males. I applaud a man who respects his wife so much that he chooses to not put himself in a position to have others possibly gossip or take a hug the wrong way. This is just another letter to bash the VP for his personal choice for his life. Thank you for breaking the bubble of nonsense that everyone seems to be feeling about one man who respects his wife! Get over it and move on!

Apr 9, 2017 1:13AM by Anonymous

As a woman who has been greatly blessed by the healthy relationships with the male pastors, colleagues and brothers in my life, I absolutely agree with your sentiments of being grateful for the men who have taken time to support me in my journey.
But as someone that works at a church, alongside many pastors I respect, I also want to honor the men who do set healthy boundaries to safeguard their marriage. I believe the heart behind those rules are not to treat women as temptation but to protect themselves, their wives and the women they encounter. The stats in broken marriages and divorce are real. It's acknowledging that we are all vulnerable people. I may not always agree to the extend of those boundaries but if that's what needs to be done for that particular person to honor God in that relationship, should we not support it?
I believe we can appreciate the men who do feel comfortable investing is us and still honor those that require more limits in how they interact with women. I don't believe those two have to be mutually exclusive.
For those who speak of self control...yes! We do need to use self control. But when we are faced with a delicious tub of ice cream, can we always choose the healthier option? Ice cream isn't bad but sometimes we need to understand our weakness towards delicious things that aren't always good for us in large amounts.

Apr 7, 2017 7:07AM by Vic

I agree with you. I'm wondering from the article and some of the comments why boundaries are considered a bad thing. Of course there are people who can eat and spend time together that do not fall to temptations or even have those temptations, but there are plenty that do, and all it takes is a little spark to start a fire. My father, who was a pastor for 36 years, also had a rule of never being alone with a woman. If he was counseling a female he always left the door to his office open or had another woman with him. He protecting himself from temptation or the appearance of impropriety. I think he was a very wise man.

Apr 8, 2017 1:56PM by Lauri Pittman

Tish,

I wish I'd written this. I've spoken about the other perspective on this,but I have also had men (mostly younger men) who have been good colleagues and friends to me. Those who have sought my mentoring and not felt awkward about acknowledging that to their friends and churches and organisations.

They have made me feel validated, encouraged, and 'normal' in that I haven't felt that ugly feeling you get when a male peer holds you at arms' length and you know the reason behind it.

Great post, I'm reposting.

Apr 7, 2017 2:07AM by Bev Murrill

It’s encouraging to hear about all of the men and women who have supported and invested in you – what a blessing. I agree that the so-called “Billy Graham Rule” could be linked to a man's unbiblical view of women, but is that always the case? Surely there are men who choose to follow the BGR while supporting the women around them in many ways. This piece, while it raises some important questions, leaves little room for differences in how Christian men live out their God-given roles of Christian brother and faithful husband.

Apr 6, 2017 5:58PM by Bethany

As a Christian woman who is called to singleness and not interested in romance or marriage, I want to say thank you for this. If the Christian men in my life allowed this rule to dictate their lives, I wouldn't spend much time socializing with anyone!

Over the course of 20 years as a determinedly single adult, I've had exactly ONE time when my encounters with a man felt inappropriate to me. Speaking the truth in love, I told him I felt uncomfortable with him telling me things I thought he should discuss first and foremost with his wife. He didn't like it, but I held firm on the issue, and stopped spending time with THAT particular man when his wife wasn't available to be with us.

Not only should Christian women trust their husbands more, they might try trusting other women more, too.

(Slightly off-topic, but I live in Indiana and Mike Pence spent several years ruining our state before he burst out onto a national stage. I am always SO embarrassed for my home state when I see his name in the news.)

Apr 6, 2017 11:51AM by Single Christian Woman--NOT a Threat to Your Marriage

I would just like to say that Mike Pence is a public servant and a high profile politician, which makes him vulnerable to any media outlet making unfounded accusations accompanied by photos of him with "another woman". I think he is wise to use the so-called BGR. He is not a pastor, so it is inappropriate to compare his use of the BGR with a pastor's use of the rule. That is a different discussion. Blessings to all who have joined this discussion. It is good to try to understand different points of view.

Apr 6, 2017 7:37AM by Laura Tang

Thank you! This is beautiful. This made me reflect back on the pastors and pastoral co-workers (and friends) who have done this for me over the years. Single men, engaged men, married men. Men in long distance relationships while I was nearby. And none of them made me feel anything but a friend and fellow gospel worker.

A Life Overseas mission community blog had a conversation about this last year. I wrote a follow up piece outlining my objections to the "biblical basis" to the BGR.

http://www.alifeoverseas.com/misogyny-in-missions-part-2/

Apr 6, 2017 2:51AM by Tanya

Although I have met with men one-on-one in both business and social situations, I still believe in the Billy Graham Rule. I was married for 28 years to a man who I trusted to be as faithful in these situations as I was. I was wrong. He's now married to one of the women that he did business with, and was willing to break the rule he so strongly promoted. The rule works, if you want it to work. And there are those who feel that they are capable of monitoring their behavior, and break the rule. The rule is good for helping us to protect ourselves and our spouse/significant other, but the bottom line is whether your heart is right in your primary relationship. If it's not, you can make up any rule you want, and excuse yourself from following it when you feel like it. That doesn't make the rule wrong, it makes you wrong.

Apr 5, 2017 7:32PM by Anonymous

It seems to me your experience proves the ineffectiveness of the rule. As you stated, it is the heart that matters, not the rule. If one has a right heart toward their marriage, and their brothers and sisters in Christ, they don't need the Billy Graham rule to keep themselves in check, and if one doesn't have a right heart, the rule will not change that, nor will it prevent them from breaking either the rule itself, or their wedding vows.

Apr 8, 2017 10:06AM by Anonymous

I wonder which way the causation goes, sometimes.

It makes a lot of sense that those who are willing to sacrifice business opportunities due to the Billy Graham Rule are the folks who already value their marriage greatly.

So does usage of the BGR cause fidelity, or does fidelity cause usage of the BGR?

Apr 6, 2017 11:49AM by Nil

What a beautiful, important piece. People who support the so called "Billy Graham rule" rarely have any Biblical support for it, which I find so disheartening! Why strive to be like Billy Graham when we should strive to be like Christ? It's obvious from John 4 for example, Jesus met alone with and invested in women.

I definitely understand personal conviction and if someone feels led that way, certainly act on it - but if your personal conviction means you're not able to meet with 50% of your church congregation (and most demographics show the U.S. church is much more than 50% women) - then I think that would disqualify you from being a lead pastor!

Apr 5, 2017 5:27PM by Rachel

Huzzah, my friend and former student. Thanks for this thoughtful piece. "Thank you...for not winking at subtle sexism in the name of propriety..." Well said! I'd add, thanks for being a grownup and not a 'professional weaker brother.'

Apr 5, 2017 3:26PM by Jared Stallones

That's great that you have been affirmed by men you have worked for or with over the years! I too have enjoyed working with men in the workplace.

However, the issue is not that men or their wives perceive a woman as "a danger", nor is it male domination, nor is it men not taking women seriously, or even men objectifying women. The issue is temptation. It's recognizing that men and women have hormones, passions, and can be easily tempted.

The second issue closely tied to this is that, even in this amoral age, Christians should not give the appearance of evil---in this case the appearance of an assignation with someone other than one's spouse.

Adultery does not begin with two people hopping into bed. It begins with two people sharing small pleasantries in private settings. It's easy over a meal for talk to leave business matters and move into the personal.

I've known ministers who would not counsel women---according to the biblical mandate--and so, their churches provided counseling through the women in the church or professional counselors. Other ministers would counsel women only with their office door open and a woman from the church, sworn to confidentiality, who sat in a corner or just outside the door. Such an arrangement guards both their reputations and their virtue.

Mike Pence's personal rule---sometimes known as the "Billy Graham rule"--- is immensely practical, simple, and sensible and shouldn't be denigrated. We are all weak. Recognizing that is healthy. It is easy for people to be compromised. That being said, Pence's personal rule, doesn't mean he doesn't work with women, listen to women, or collaborate with women. He is defining his personal interactions with women to guard his marriage and that should be applauded.

Apr 5, 2017 2:52PM by Eugenie

Then, there's this thing called 'self control'.
We are faced with temptations daily. Avoiding them is often not possible, in other cases it actually exacerbates the problem so is not advisable.
If we rely on our own strength we are sure to fail, but through Christ we have victory. Avoidance is a sign of relying on our own strength (repeat offenders may need to employ extra caution, but we should not place everyone in their shoes).
When church groups practice avoidance of being alone with the opposite sex on a regular basis -that's a sure sign of an unhealthy church

Apr 5, 2017 5:51PM by Fluffy baby bunny rabbit

Then again, while self control is good and Christ has given us the victory, we're also told to flee from temptation. We don't know a person's personal temptations, but this may be as simple as people recognizing an area where they're weak and responding accordingly. What can be seen as avoidance can also be seen as proactive. Must it be sexist for me to admit that I am easily tempted to stray from my marriage covenant?

Apr 6, 2017 2:08PM by Mark

I completely agree with your assessment. While it is wonderful that some men are able to have such interactions with women without temptation, that does not mean all men should be expected to do the same. It's the issue Paul talks about in Romans 14 pure and simple:
"1 Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. 2 One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3 The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them." (Romans 14:1-3 NIV)
We need to accept and encourage the one's whose faith is 'weak' in the area of temptation by limiting our own freedom in their case. I am not tempted in the sexual area yet I have several friends who are. I will not let them alone in compromising situations because of that. I have my own temptations where I am weak and they are willing to step in and aid me.
We cannot look with judgement on those who do not practice the BGR because we do, and we cannot look as those who do practice the BGR as old fashioned or sexist. It's far more complicated than that.
Also, BGR is in the public's eye a lot more than the average pastor. He's representing Christ to the nation. He automatically has a far higher standard he's held to. (Right or not.) It was wise, in my opinion, for him to take such a stance.

Apr 12, 2017 7:20AM by Michelle

Not to mention the fact that "not giving the appearance of evil" is subpar theology based on a subpar translation of a single verse of scripture. Jesus Himself failed this kind of subjective eye-test many times over, yet was without sin.

Apr 5, 2017 9:37PM by Anonymous

Great article!

Just curious, how did you get a picture of a photo shoot I just had with my husband??

(No for real. It's me and my husband in a photo shoot we just had!)

Christa ☺❤

Apr 5, 2017 11:04AM by Christa black gifford

Hi Christa, that's very interesting! We got this photo from a stock photo website called stocksnap.io.

Apr 5, 2017 11:59AM by ann.boyd AD-2014

Beautifully and thoughtfully written. Thank you for your courage, and your leadership. Please carry on.

Apr 5, 2017 9:32AM by David Rice

Thank you so much for this healing piece, Tish Harrison Warren. I was treated very much as "a sexual threat to be avoided," not as a human being, and not a sister while lost in the Evangelical world in and around Moody. I was very often made to "feel weird or uneasy," as if I was responsible for the thought life of the males (professors, admins, pastors, ministry leaders, classmates,) around me.

It took until I left Evangelicalism altogether to finally understand that God values me as a human being and not just an object on the lives of men. I finally learned to embrace my femaleness as being as much a reflection of the image of God as maleness is. I think that's very telling.

Apr 5, 2017 7:22AM by MBI Survivor

This is a terribly uncharitable interpretation of those who wish to follow the so called "Billy Graham Rule".

Every healthy marriage has boundaries that go beyond acts that would constitute cheating. Discerning Christian men who set this particular boundary for their marriage do not necessarily see other women as a "sexual threat", and they do not fail to see other women as human beings. They simply wish to avoid even the appearance of impropriety, and wish to err on the side of their spouse's peace of mind.

From the fact that all people have equal moral value, it does not follow that we have equal moral obligations to all people.

Apr 4, 2017 11:44PM by Josh

I don't think this letter is uncharitable. There is a legalism involved here that really diminishes the freedom we have in Christ. After experiencing the effects of a deficit focused tradition for a long time, I see a lot of freedom in Christ in what Tish has written. The problem with legalistic rules is that they do not quash sin. That quashing has to be internal - and growth and freedom oriented. That is real maturity.

Apr 6, 2017 11:23AM by Jan

I actually choose to trust my partner, and he me. And that has worked out very well for 15 years or so.

And I have a history (prior to ththat 15 years) that isn't so squeaky clean.

The answer isn't to avoid 'temptation' (or in this case the appearance of it) but to put all your trust in God - not yourself.

Apr 5, 2017 5:55PM by Fluffy baby bunny rabbit

Just like the article, this response comment is guilty of hyperbole. The is not (necessarily) about "avoiding temptation". It is again (arguably) about avoiding even the appearance of impropriety. It is about erring on the side of putting your spouse's mind at rest.

Nuance is not the enemy. I recommend you try it.

Apr 5, 2017 9:16PM by Josh

I would agree with anonymous's comments that we need to extend grace, patience and understanding to others with particular vulnerabilities. To me that is different than suggesting a rule for men in ministry that impacts investment in the development of women. Even as we sympathize with those who need grace as leaders, I hope we will be savvy about the needs of those being led. How would we feel about a rule that suggested that some leaders never meet with a Hispanic or African American person alone or with a young person alone when people from these demographics groups are included under a person's leadership? Too often, the outcome has involved investing unevenly in our communities rather than identifying ways to insure that the needs of women are met.

Apr 4, 2017 3:37PM by Nancy Pedulla

Tish, this is an excellent article and I'm thankful, too, for men who have invested in me spiritually and believed in my giftedness.

I can't agree with Nancy's comment about "ending this sad rule" because the Bible calls us to care for the weaker brother/sister in many, many places. We are called to give up our rights and wants at times to not cause others to sin. While some people probably need to be called to "end this sad rule," others may need to be given grace and patience and understanding.

Men and women are all coming from different backgrounds and experiences and we have unique vulnerabilities. If someone sincerely admits brokenness and weakness, it's not appropriate to say "just get over it." We need to respect those who choose to avoid alcohol or have certain foods in their home or even spend time alone with women if they are doing it knowing that they are vulnerable in that area.

Galatians 6:2
Carry one another's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the Law of Christ.

Apr 4, 2017 12:52PM by Anonymous

I think that getting rid of the 'sad rule' is a positive step, because having been made a 'rule' the implication is that everyone follow it. Instead, if someone identifies a weakness within themselves they take appropriate measures to help themselves. If this means declining to meet a member of the opposite sex alone then that's fine and should be respected. This is simply common sense, surely?

But as a general rule - it has to go.

Apr 5, 2017 6:00PM by Fluffy baby bunny rabbit

Thank you for writing and speaking on behalf of so many of us women! Well said!

Apr 4, 2017 12:34PM by Anonymous

YES!! Well said! I couldn't agree more about the need to end this sad rule, which has such unfortunate consequences for women in their journeys of leadership!!

Apr 4, 2017 12:21PM by Nancy Pedulla

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