“Billy Graham Rule” on being alone with females more prophetic than personal

I’ve been watching some Facebook posts tonight on a discussion on the “Billy Graham Rule,” where the Lord led Billy Graham to never meet, eat, or travel alone with a woman. One article, reporting on Graham’s grandson, Tullian Tchividjian, admitting had an affair and resigning from his pastorate as a result, posed a posed a question on whether this hurts women from “climbing” in Evangelical leadership. Many comments are saying this rule is ridiculous, and still others that that was “personal revelation” to Billy Graham.

First, maybe the reason Billy Graham is pushing 100 and is one of the most respected Evangelical leaders ever is because he actually bothered to live circumspectly (Ephesians 5:15) and err on the side of caution. For Pete’s sake, he didn’t do it to prevent a woman from “climbing” in Evangelical leadership–and what the heck is ANYONE doing trying to climb some ladder in ministry.  If God doesn’t open the doors, get out! You’re in the wrong job!

Second, it’s not a stupid rule in a litigious society where a number of the leaders we used to know and respect have had affairs, and half of the rest have had false accusations railed against them by opportunistic people. It’s not stupid to be cautious. I myself have never been tempted to sin in situations where I have found myself alone with a man. I can say that with a pure heart. If a man would have made an advance, I would have run from the room–in fact, once a man began behaving inappropriately (not in a ministry situation) and I was out of there faster than you could blink–and I told people right away what happened and never went near him again. There is absolutely merit that we are responsible for our behavior and will do what we have resolved in our hearts to do. That said, what if I were in a ministry meeting with a man and he got mad at me and decided to say I came on to him. It works both ways? Remember Joseph? This isn’t a newsflash, people. It’s not narrow-minded to be careful, especially in high profile leadership. The world is ugly and people like fame–at anyone’s expense, sometimes. Being careful is wise.

Finally, the idea that Graham’s rule was only for him, the way God may give someone a personal conviction about eating meat, is what’s actually stupid. The Bible clearly says to avoid even the appearance of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22). Imagine what you might think it appeared like if Billy Graham had come out of a hotel alone with a woman–even if they were innocently eating dinner while having a ministry planning meeting. Recently I was in a meeting with a leader of a major ministry–in a room with windows all around it and masses of people outside those windows so we could be seen at all times but still talk. I like to take pictures of everything because that’s part of my personality. We went and found another person to be in the selfie so that it would not be one man alone with one woman. Stupid? I call that wisdom. I respected it completely.

In the name of avoiding anything “religious” we have lost our reason. The Billy Graham rule was more prophetic than it was personal. It’s not religious, controlling, or petty to care more about our integrity than some rule. I am a woman, and I suppose to some degree I am still in ministry. I have spent a good five years of my adult life in ministry. Not once, not ever, have I felt I could not “advance” in ministry because of a rule like this. What a ludicrous statement that gives no credit to God to do the advancement Himself.

As a final note, I have to add that I work in a secular environment, and while our rules are certainly more lax than a ministry, here are a couple we have in our office. My boss always meets with people with his door open and a secretary outside the office. He is extra careful when the meeting subject is a female, for the very same reasons most men who are careful would be, but this goes for any meeting that could be misconstrued by anyone, true or not. We have an annual award’s ceremony in another city and if the recipient is male, a female cannot take him alone, and if the recipient is female a male cannot take him alone. These are not rules. They are how we conduct things based on wisdom and plain old common sense.

Graham’s rule was wise, circumspect, and from the Lord–but it wasn’t a personal word for him. It is a model for us.

3 comments on ““Billy Graham Rule” on being alone with females more prophetic than personal

  1. estreitta says:

    Amen! It is so much wisdom to not only protect both parties but also when you follow the Billy Graham rule there’s less opportunity for the enemy to use the situation to create a stumbling block. I have a beautiful inside & out friend who had become friends with a minister from another country. He was young handsome and single also. I believe They had been hanging out & staying at a mutual friends house then everyone started going to bed the minister started to come on to my friend. She told him No but he wouldn’t listen to her. She finally had to bite him to get him off. He never tried that again.

    I had many friends that were guys growing up and still do. Now as a married woman I am way more conscientious about not being alone with guy friends regardless of any physical attraction because again it just protects everyone involved no room for emotional attachments.

    I know of people too who have left their spouses because they reconnected with an old flame on online that they were having late night instant message chats with! So I think this should also apply in these situations as well. Bottom line If you can’t have this conversation with your spouse, you shouldn’t be having them with someone else.

    We as followers of Christ need to live our lives above reproach and not allow the enemy any room to bring compromise into our lives!


    • estreitta says:

      This Blog was sooo prophetic.. Reading this through a different lense 3 years later in light of the #metoo and #churchtoo movement happening right now with many well known evangelical and charismatic church leaders being exposed for inappropriate behavior and/or relationships with women in the church… The one that shocked me was reading the accounts of women who interacted with former pastor of Willow Creek Church, Bill Hybels in the Chicago Tribune, Relevant Magazine and the Christian Post. It was deplorable. He even advised to follow the Billy Graham rule to other leaders but apparently did not follow himself… so sad how this has stained the 40 years of ministry with all of the similar accounts… and this is only the beginning…


  2. Gale says:

    Amen and AMEN! Spot on – in EVERY aspect, Dancer! Thank you for your heart!


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