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Karen Pence opens up about the role of faith in her marriage

Second lady Karen Pence spoke to CBN News on Tuesday about the importance of making Jesus the No. 1 focus of her marriage to Vice President Mike Pence, who has been in the headlines recently over his adherence to the so-called “Billy Graham rule.” In a 2002 interview, Mike Pence said he does not meet, travel, or dine alone with any woman other than his wife. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Second lady Karen Pence, in her first interview since the uproar over reports of her husband’s adherence to the so-called “Billy Graham rule,” is speaking out about the importance of faith in their marriage.

In a recent Washington Post profile of Karen Pence, Vice President Mike Pence was quoted in 2002 — then a representative in Congress — as saying he doesn’t dine alone with any woman other than his wife.

For them, it’s a way to honor one another and avoid even the appearance of wrongdoing.

But the revelation drew immediate scrutiny. While for some it’s cause for frustration, for the Pences it’s part of a deeply held conviction to always put their faith first. In fact, it’s something they’ve been discussing since they were first dating.

Karen Pence opened up about one particular memory in an interview this week with CBN News.

“When we first started dating,” she recalled, “I remember saying something to Mike, something silly, like, ‘Oh, you’re my No. 1.’ And he stopped right there and said, ‘You know what, I’m probably gonna disappoint you if you make me No. 1 in your life.’”

“What he was talking about, you know, you need to have God as No. 1 — Jesus needs to be No. 1 in your life,” she continued. “He didn’t mind being No. 2, but he just said, ‘You know, I’m human and I’m gonna let you down.’ ”

Karen Pence said having that “focus” in their marriage has made all the difference.

The Pences have been married since 1985.

The “Billy Graham rule” arose in 1948, when evangelist Billy Graham, a young man at the time, was beginning a series of events in Modesto, California.

In his autobiography, “Just As I Am,” Graham said he was disheartened by the downfall of so many other evangelists and wanted to ensure his team was safeguarded against the temptations that so easily tripped up those around them.

“In reality,” he wrote, “it was more of an informal understanding among ourselves — a shared commitment to do all we could do to uphold the Bible’s standard of absolute integrity and purity for evangelicals.”

The rules, according to The Gospel Coalition, centered on four topics: money, sexual immorality, attitude against the local church, and publicity.

Graham wrote that there was often the “temptation to wring as much money as possible out of an audience” by making emotional appeals, so — when possible — he relied on funding raised before events.

On sexual immorality, the well-known pastor was straightforward: “We pledged among ourselves to avoid any situation that would have even the appearance of compromise or suspicion. From that day on, I did not travel, meet, or eat alone with a woman other than my wife.”

Graham also wanted to protect himself and his team from espousing an “anti-church or anti-clergy attitude.” He admitted there was often the temptation to criticize other pastors and local churches.

“This was not only counterproductive but also wrong from the Bible’s standpoint,” he wrote.

Lastly, he wanted to avoid the pride that so often accompanies the great publicity he received. Graham wrote that many of his predecessors were tempted to “exaggerate their successes” by claiming higher attendance numbers than they really had.

“It often made the press so suspicious of evangelists that they refused to take notice of their work,” he wrote. “In Modesto, we committed ourselves to integrity in our publicity and reporting.”

Years later, the late Cliff Barrows, who served as the music director for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, referred to the four rules as the “Modesto Manifesto.”

Graham and his team said those rules made clear their “determination that integrity would be the hallmark of both our lives and our ministry.”

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