A research fellow with the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) has written a piece for a liberal website criticizing Vice President Mike Pence for the boundaries he sets for his marriage.
Prior, an English professor at Liberty University, referenced the vice president’s longstanding rule to never eat alone with a woman other than his wife or attend events where alcohol is served unless his wife is with him. A recent Washington Post profile of Pence’s wife, Karen, mentioned how the vice president had spoken publicly about this commitment back in 2002.
Such an approach to honoring marital fidelity is dubbed “the Billy Graham rule” by some evangelicals because the famed evangelist is known for teaching and practicing similar safeguards.
But Prior said the focus on rules is misplaced and that what should be discussed is prudence.
“Prudence, in fact, is what seems to be missing from the conversation about the vice president’s ‘rules.’ And I don’t mean prudence in the way that some supporters of the Billy Graham rule are using the term. Prudence as properly understood is a virtue, not a rule,” Prior wrote.
Prior has been controversial among some Southern Baptists and other conservative Christians for what they characterize as liberal-leaning views and muted, overly-nuanced expression of Christian belief. She has been involved in animal rights activism and promoting evangelical outreach to gays that some say has led to confusing messages. She has also advocated for using “temperate words” when discussing abortion.
Prior was appointed to the ERLC by its president Russell Moore in 2014. While Moore has been the subject of criticism since stepping into his role in 2013, the tension has heated up in recent months, with more than 100 Southern Baptist churches threatening to pull funds from the program that supports the ERLC. The ERLC is the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention and has offices in Nashville and Washington, D.C.
Moore’s supporters say he is effective at appealing to millennials and broadening the scope of Christian concerns. But critics say he is too progressive on immigration, race, and other issues, and too condescending toward conservative Christian leaders and movements of the past few decades.