Dave Miller’s article of last week lumped the whole sordid matter under “The Ravi Zacharias Problem” and I’ll presume that readers are familiar with that squalid and deplorable mess.
One aspect of it that has arisen is that the BG Rule, the man of God (pastor, evangelist, or other male Christian figure) will not be alone with any woman not his wife, Billy Graham and his team establishing that practice early on in his evangelistic ministry.
The rule has been adopted by many of the brethren (it was recommended to me as a ministerial standard when I was ordained decades ago) and is held up as a shield against the wiles of the devil and all those devilish women who would “take a pastor down.” The phrase with quotes is the way I’ve often heard it described.
If a brother wants to pattern his relationships and interactions with females in this manner, he may do so. But he might be apprised that such is highly sexist, presumes all women to be potential steamy seductresses, and makes it appear that he, the pillar of male rectitude, is powerless to resist; thus, the hard and fast rule about ever being with any woman alone other than his beloved wife.
Zacharias, as you probably know, was a BGR follower, except when he needed those medical massages. One can see how that played out with numerous victims, accusations of rape in some cases, and a lifetime of ministry totally undermined by his own decisions and choices.
I’m curious if the rule which is in its seventh decade now, is still applicable, useful and practical. The changes since the 1940s are considerable: females in the workplace, including church staffs; the manner business is conducted; the ubiquitous use of social media for relationships and contacts.
I was a single staff guy most of my ministry. If my church had an administrative assistant, always a woman, it was impossible to always have a third person at the church at all times. It’s also a brazen and thoughtless insult to all women to be treated thus.
NAMB has a Code of Conduct for church planters and employees (it is dated 2017):
Code of Conduct
I will conduct myself in a way that reflects positively on Christ and the North American Mission Board.
I will be a tithing member of record and in good standing in a Southern Baptist or Canadian National Baptist Church.
I will abstain from the consumption of any alcoholic beverage or illegal drugs.
I will not view pornography.
I will maintain financial integrity.
I will not show affection that could be questioned.
I will be careful in answering cards, letters, and email notes from the opposite sex.
If married, other than my spouse or another family member, I will not be at a residence alone, have a meal alone or be in a car alone with the opposite sex.
I will pray for the integrity of other missionaries and staff members.
Looks pretty sensible to me. The sentence in bold is as close to the BGR as this comes. Even that is difficult. If I followed the NAMB code it would have ended my shut-in ministry, all those widows living alone. But, the young hipster church planters don’t do that ministry anyway.
The bottom line for all this is: You can’t formulate a rule or write a code of conduct that covers it all. Maybe the mighty pastor, elder, overseer, evangelist, planter, missionary should just be above reproach and do what is necessary to maintain a good reputation in the church and community.