Pickpocketing Purity with the "Pence Rule"

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Bert Perry's picture

...is really how Pence's rule would end up enabling Weinstein, who has of course become famous for what he did as he was violating the Pence rule.  The Pence rule really has a major purpose; if he's accused of impropriety at a given time and place, he can simply say "I was never in a room alone with her."  

Now as the article makes clear, you can take it to ridiculous extents--the example of refusing to enter the room to help an injured friend with her suitcase--but all in all, some variant of the Pence rule makes as much sense as the "two adult" rule for children's ministries.  As I've reminded many Sunday School volunteers, the second person is the witness that the first person didn't appear to do anything.  

I've also had ladies "Pence" me.  Took me aback the first time, but hey....you do that, you never have to explain what you were doing alone with that other person.  

G. N. Barkman's picture

Many years ago, when I was a young pastor, a father, who was one of our deacons, asked me to give his sixteen year old daughter a ride home from a church event.  They lived about twenty-five miles from the church, and I was going that way.  I would save the father a round-trip journey of about fifty miles.  At the time, I declined, explaining that my personal rule was not to be alone with any woman who was not my wife.  Someone seeing us together could start a nasty rumor.  I still believe I did the right thing, but must confess that I have had a few "second thoughts" over the years.  Since the father requested it, and he was clearly comfortable with it, was I being righteous to invoke the Pence Rule, or would I have been more righteous to do this faithful church officer a personal favor?

G. N. Barkman

TylerR's picture

I wouldn't have done it.

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

T Howard's picture

I guess if you're not in the business world the "Pence Rule" makes sense. In my business, I travel with female coworkers on a regular basis. I guess that leaves me open to false accusations, but honestly, I'm not sure what the alternative is.  "Sorry, we have to rent two cars, eat at separate restaurants, and sleep at separate hotels because you might accuse me of sexual harassment or somebody in my church will think we're having an affair."

Some of this is a bit ridiculous. 

TylerR's picture

In a church context, I won't do it. In the real world, I have no issue at all. I think the church world is infinitely more dangerous. Generally, I trust unbelievers more than I trust Christians. The most wicked and backstabbing people I've ever known have been Christians. 

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Ron Bean's picture

How about being alone with a woman doctor? In the interest of full disclosure I am, for the first time in my life, being treated by a PCP who is a woman and I don't have a problem with it. My wife just smiles and reminds me that she has been treated by a member of the opposite sex for her whole life.

 

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Kevin Miller's picture

Ron Bean wrote:

How about being alone with a woman doctor?

It's okay as long as you are alone with her just for medicinal purposes. Smile

Aaron Blumer's picture

There's a certain breed of Christian thinking these days that can't seem to let anything be simple. I'm all for banishing the reflexive labeling and lumping we can in the world, but some things are truly very simple simple. The Pence Rule isn't intended to be a solution to all temptation and sin (as Wally pointed out at Mortification), just a common sense precaution that reduces opportunities to get into multiple kinds of trouble--the misunderstanding kind, the crossing a line kind, and the false accusation kind, just for starters.

Bert Perry's picture

I'll admit to being a bit uneasy when consulting with a woman doctor a couple of years back.  That said, she did a GREAT job.  

Regarding corporate travel, I think we have to draw the distinction between traveling with a person when everybody's pretty much in plain sight, and being behind closed doors with a person of the opposite sex.  As a rule, I've found that most women I work with tend to avoid being behind closed doors with a person of the opposite sex.  Sure, one can misbehave in a car, I guess, but...it's got windows, no?

Final thought; I'm glad I can't repeat Tyler's comments from last night at 8:46.  He may be right, and sure, I've got some examples of backstabbing and the like in the church to repeat, but sad to say, the world "wins" in this regard in my experience.  I will concede that it often hurts worse when it's a supposed brother doing the backstabbing, though.  

dgszweda's picture

As a senior executive in the business world, I have followed this rule for my entire career.  I have too many colleagues who have lost their marriages over increasingly closer contacts at work with someone of the opposite sex.  It was easier for me to say no over a business dinner, than it would be to say no to a compromising situation.    This was never about purity for me, but walking circumspectly around sin.

T Howard's picture

dgszweda wrote:
As a senior executive in the business world, I have followed this rule for my entire career.  

As I mentioned above, when I travel for work, I travel mostly with women. Whether it's my boss, a peer, or one of my direct reports. We usually rent a single car, we usually eat together, and we usually stay at the same hotel. My wife knows with whom I'm traveling. My fellow elders at church know when I travel with women for work. I ask the men in my life group to pray for me when I travel.

This has worked for the past 15 years. That being said, I'm familiar with situations such as dgszweda shared. 

TylerR's picture

Aaron wrote:

I will concede that it often hurts worse when it's a supposed brother doing the backstabbing, though.

That's very true. My wife has a lot of trouble trusting Christians, too. A lot of baggage for both of us.

The "Pence rule" is really more about common sense than anything else. Don't put yourself in a situation where you can do something stupid. It's not about her; it's about me. I'm stupid. I never speak with a woman in a closed door setting if I can help it - and I work for state government. Of course, situations and contexts vary, but I go out of my way to be "above reproach" in all my interactions with women.

The "Pence rule" is the same reason why a pastor should never hire a pretty, young secretary who he'll be alone with at a church five days per week. It's not politically correct to admit that, but most sensible people knows that's a recipe for disaster - because, as the theologian Tim Allen once said, "men are pigs."  

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

TylerR's picture

Agreed. See! You and I can agree on a few things! Smile

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Bert Perry's picture

I'm going to slightly disagree with Doug Wilson on this one.  Moore has all but admitted dating teen girls while in his thirties, and suggests in his defense that he had the permission of their mothers.  Now a certain part of the allegations are disputed, but it strikes me that most of them involve things Moore did pretty much in public--it's just the most salacious two allegations that are alleged to have been in private, and that on dates.  So the Pence rule might, or might not, have helped him at all, unless he'd decided to have a chaperone on all his dates, which also would have been seen as odd.

To get a full picture of the Pence rule, I guess we'd have to ask him whether he had chaperones along while he was courting his wife, no?  Again, I'm of the opinion that there is a substantial difference between being "alone" with someone while visible to the public, and being alone with someone behind closed doors.

Bert Perry's picture

Tyler mentioned that it would be foolish for a church to hire a pretty young secretary that the pastor would be alone with five days per week.  One thing that strikes me is that if both are alone and not being consistently interrupted, maybe a full time secretary of whatever age, sex, or pulchritude is not a good idea, simply for financial reasons.  

 

TylerR's picture

Don't touch the third-rail of the church budget - the secretary the church doesn't actually need.

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Andrew K's picture

Just a side note here, as someone who has spent over 10 years in Muslim and East Asian societies:

While I wouldn't personally feel obligated to keep the "Pence Rule" myself, I do feel there is a part of this where we need to respect the cultures of others who are different from us... including conservative Christians raised with stricter principles about how men and women should relate.

It's somewhat odd, if you think about it, that we are so eager to respect the cultures of people who look and talk different to us while scorning that of the white guy across the row in church.

Susan R's picture

men needing to protect themselves from any appearance of impropriety. I've seen just as many women manipulate men with the threat of accusations as I've seen men try to manipulate women sexually. The Pence Rule in most situations is common sense, IMO. But the Pence Rule is not going to prevent any man bent on harassing women from doing just that.

As a woman, I'm not worried about being alone with a man, because if he does something I don't like, he'll learn the definition of blunt force trauma. No job or relationship is worth being afraid or humiliated.

Steve Newman's picture

Some of this is just wisdom issues. Those of us who are pastors need to be aware of higher accountability and the idea that we are a "public figure" and more susceptible to accusation. Also, there is an increasing need for counseling among single people, men and women, and the result is more "one on one" situations. The way of wisdom is greatly needed today. I do follow the Pence rule when possible, not always possible in the business world. I also work, and had to do a call for the business I worked for at a strip club (not during their business hours). When I finished the work, I was walking out and a deacon from a nearby church was driving by and saw me. I had to do some explaining. 

Ron Bean's picture

I agree that this is a wisdom issue but sometimes our "rule" can border on silliness. I recall a pastor proudly relating the story of how he let a woman who's car had broken down stand in the rain until help came rather than let her sit in his car. Another made his mother and sister ride in the back seat to avoid an appearance of evil.

As to a double standard, I've heard pastors (again proudly) declaring their refusal to be examined by a woman doctor yet let their wives got to mail gynecologists.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

T Howard's picture

Ron Bean wrote:
As to a double standard, I've heard pastors (again proudly) declaring their refusal to be examined by a woman doctor yet let their wives got to mail gynecologists.

I didn't know the USPS was into women's health... Wink

Anyway, I have no issues with the "pence rule." I do, however, have an issue when other Christians seek to impose the "pence rule" on others. If you can't control yourself when alone with another woman who's not your wife, by all means follow the pence rule. If you're afraid of what other's may say if they see you traveling with a coworker, then follow the pence rule. Don't expect other believers to have your same convictions in this regard.

Larry's picture

I recall a pastor proudly relating the story of how he let a woman who's car had broken down stand in the rain until help came rather than let her sit in his car.

Wasn't the story that you should get out and stand in the rain and let her sit in the car?