It’s Not Billy Graham Rule or Bust by T. H. Warren
15 ways my husband and I guard our marriage while still loving our friends of the opposite sex.
by TISH HARRISON WARREN| APRIL 27, 2018
With recent allegations of indiscretion against a prominent megachurch pastor, some Christian leaders have doubled down on the so-called Billy Graham Rule, which dictates that men and women should never meet alone.
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary president Danny Akin tweeted, “A valuable lesson we all can learn from this tragic situation: follow the @BillyGraham rule. If you are married, never be alone with someone of the opposite sex who is not your spouse. Never!”
This rule, in its most pristine form, renders male-female friendships impossible. However unintentionally, it communicates to women that they are fundamentally dangerous. And it bars men from meaningful mentorship or pastoral care of women and vice-versa.
I, for one, give thanks for the many men I know who broke the Billy Graham Rule.
My life has been enriched by male friends, mentors, coworkers, and collaborators….
…Yet, I’d submit that the Billy Graham Rule is less like buckling a seatbelt and more akin to refusing to share the road with anyone else (and then claiming that’s the only truly safe way to drive).
It shuts down relationships to protect oneself from the wreckage of sin and puts the burden of that primarily on others—namely on women, who are less welcome in male spaces. (Not to mention the confusion it poses for those who are same-sex attracted: Are they supposed to avoid friendships with either sex to ward off all possible temptation?)
So how do we deal with the inherent tension of wanting to preserve appropriate male-female relationships and also wanting to avoid sin and impropriety in those relationships? How do men and women cultivate self-control, trustworthiness, and transparency and take up practices that nudge them toward healthy relationships and boundaries?
Between legalism and license lies the messier space of wisdom and cultivation of virtue. It is in that space where we—as individuals and in relationships—flourish. People need meaningful relationships with members of the opposite sex, and they need them to be safe, honoring, and full of integrity.
..Here, I’ll offer some practices that my husband and I have taken up together. They fall in the realm of wisdom and prudence, not iron-clad law, not one-size-fits-all. …
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