It is 2017 and I can't believe that we are revisiting the Billy Graham rule, surely we are beyond that today. But no, here we find ourselves on the blogs debating it once more. In the New Zealand culture that I grew up in we have a long history of women hiking up their skirts, pushing up their shirt sleeves and mucking in beside men. This was how I assumed things worked and I am very grateful that I was completely unaware of the Billy Graham rule until a few years ago.
I don’t want to add to the debate about the appropriateness of the Billy Graham rule, there is quite enough written already. I have also seen some lovely posts (such as this one from
Tish Harrison Warren) thanking the men who don't follow this restrictive rule, who have contributed so much to women in ministry. I am also immensely grateful to the men who have ignored the BGR to encourage and develop my ministry.
But in this debate and the tributes that I have seen, the question that hasn’t been asked is how can women lead well if the Billy Graham Rule is followed? So I want to acknowledge and thank all the men that haven’t featured so far in this debate, and that is those men who ignored the BG rule to allow women to be their leaders.
I want to particularly express my gratitude to those men who accepted the opportunity to let me lead them. I lead in a supportive, facilitative style and connection plays a vital part in leading that way. It is the one-to-one meetings that build that sense of connection. Without men who were willing to ignore the BG rule, and meet with me in cafes, my leadership would have been limited to womens ministry, and that is not somewhere I would have thrived.
I wouldn't be the leader I am today without the men who I led.
To all the men I have known who were willing to live out Galatians 3:28, who could look beyond the gender stereotypes perpetuated by the church and treat me as an older sister and acknowledge my leadership, I thank you, because I wouldn’t be where I am today without having had the opportunity to lead you.
Thank you that you could ignore the BG rule and I could give you rides home or to meetings and talk theology, philosophy, evangelism and contextualisation on the way.
Thank you for trusting me with your dreams, you helped me understand the men I was leading. Thank you for notbeing afraid to spend afternoons in the pub teaching me about beer, while I encouraged you to grow as a leader. I was a newleader with much to learn and your generosity helped me develop my leadership skills.
Thank you to the men that I managed, thanks for sharing lunches in cafes as we discussed your work. I know for some of you it was out of your comfort zone to have a woman leader, but you were willingto give it a go, and your generosity in going with that even though I made many mistakes is appreciated.
Thank you to the men who did your internships with me, who watched me drink coffee as we set growth goals and plans. Thank you for the immense privilege of catching a glimpse of the men you would become in the years ahead, that was probably only shown because we could meet one to one.
Thank you to the men who shared their lives with me, as I tried to care for you as whole people, not just focussing on your work or leadership skills. Thank you that you didn’t find it creepy or inappropriate that I thought about you and prayed for you after work or in the middle of the night when you were troubled. Because being responsible for your welfare is part of what leaders do.
I have made many mistakes as I have grown my leadership skills, but meeting one-to-one with you generous men is not one of them.
Thanks men most of all for the opportunity to love you, care for you and nurture your growth because that's what you taught me leadership was about.