Sacred Friendship Gathering – Saturday

3:30pmJohn Armstrong “Unity in the Church”

“The most important word in cross-gender friendship is friendship.”

John 15 takes us from servants to friends.

Our oneness with one another should astound the world and draw people to God. He is the God of human friendships and relationships. (John 17:22-23)

Our unity is not to be partial, it is to be complete.

Be prepared to seek reconciliation also with your enemies.

2:50pm – Panel Q & A

Should people have cross-gender friendships?

Sheila: Is “love one another” an imperative?

Jennifer: Reconciliation between the genders is an imperative. And I don’t know how you do reconciliation without friendship.

Kathy: We assume that whatever the current system is, is somehow right. I don’t have an agenda, but I want to be a voice into the possibility that maybe the way we’re doing it isn’t right.

How do you decide if this is a topic that you’re willing to die on?

Meredith: It goes in cycles. There are other people who are included about stories that aren’t ours to tell.

Dan: This has been a journey for me. I didn’t know where this was going to go. I found my way through friends.

Why is this framed around cross-gender friendship? Is it creating an arbitrary boundary? Should we stick with family language?

Jennifer: The family dynamic is fine as long as men and women were separated. The familial language didn’t do anything to bridge the gap.

Jim: To have people hear, we have to say things differently.

Meredith: Brother in the Lord doesn’t “mean” anything. We’ve used that language so much that it goes right by without our understanding.

How do women encourage men to empower women?

Kathy: We have this idea that there’s a limited amount of space so that men have to decrease to “make room” for women. We need to understand that there’s plenty of space for everyone.

1:35pmKathy Escobar speaking. “Healing and Cross-Gender Friendship”

“I don’t wake up thinking about cross-gender friendships, but I do think about ways that we can all be set free.”

“We know how to be over people and under people, but we don’t know how to be along-side them.”

“I was a person in need of healing, and I thought the Church was where I could receive that.”

When we fully show up, sometimes “the power” doesn’t know what to do with it.

Kathy co-pastors The Refuge with a man. This has taught her how to learn how to work along-side, instead of in a power structure.

This isn’t about a job – it’s about friendship.

“Friendship heals the brokenness of our stories.”

It’s okay to need things. We can sort out those things through one another, but we have to be in touch with our brokenness.

Friendship allows us to become more comfortable in our own skin.

Healing friendship takes intention and practice. We have to learn how to do it.

We may live in Genesis 3, but there’s no reason why we can’t taste Genesis 1.

1:15pm –  Jim Henderson speaking. “The Only Reason Jesus Gives Us Power is to Give It Away”

We can have power in many different contexts. Because of the color of our skin, because we have children, because of our work position.

“One of my attractions to Jesus was his rejection of power.”

Jesus kept disappearing.

There is a way that we treat women that is not okay, and we simply accept it. It’s time change the conversation.

11:15am – Forrest and Vanessa Horn

Couple shares about how their marriage works with Vanessa’s cross-gender friendship. Choosing to embrace who they were called to be, and even embracing some of the pain from that relationship. Overcoming the guards that we have between men and women, overcoming the assumptions about intentions between men and women. Forrest talks about seeing his wife’s friend not as an idea, but as a person, and wanting to love his wife so much that he was willing to walk through his pain.

10:36am – Q & A with Dan, Jennifer, & Susanne

Are men asking these questions, or is it primarily women?

Dan: “Absolutely. Many men do not know what this kind of friendship looks like, but they’re intrigued. The evangelical culture trains men to be weak (they can’t begin to look a woman, must “bounce their eyes,” any superficial exchange could lead to sin). Rather than approaching it as a battle, we need to treat it as a journey to love. Look at one another through the eyes of love rather than lust.”

“You can embrace the physicality of friendship without it being sexual.”

Jennifer: “Rather than to see one another less, we must learn to see one another more. Not just objects, not a danger, but to fully see one another.”

Susanne: “I have seen the damage of men not speaking to the beauty. Women are tired of being seen as dangerous. We can be wise, not just run away.”

Dan: “When you embrace the full person, you can embrace their beauty without objectifying them.”

Jennifer: “If someone has so many rules about interactions, I do not trust that their intentions are good.”

Why do you use the word beauty?

Dan: “Beauty crosses boundaries, but beauty understands difference. So you can say no to an unhealthy aspect, but yes to an ever deepening relationship.”

Please talk about emotional adultery.

Jennifer: “This is one that bugs me a lot. I want to push back on people who want to raise that red flag quickly. Do you agree that emotional infidelity is a synonym? If they agree to that, infidelity means unfaithfulness. So it is not defined by what is happening in the friendship, but what is NOT happening in your marriage.”

Susanne: Live our friendships in the light and in community rather than running away. Nothing we do is in secret.

“When trying to be faithful to my future husband, I realized there was no category for men who I wanted to be friends with but not have it be anything romantic. I thought I was protecting myself before, but this is teaching me how to better protect my future marriage.”

What if you married, would you leave this friendship?

Jennifer: If that conversation happened, I would have failed long before. It’s out on principle because I’m not willing not to have men in my life. I’d be willing to work with someone who had never had opposite gender friends.

Susanne: Dan is such a part of my life, that when I started dating, that was just part of who I am. It’s a conversation that happens right away because it’s so key to my life.

It’s more work as a man to be emotional intimacy. When do we cross that line? How do we define emotional infidelity?

Jennifer: The goal is not to avoid emotional unfaithfulness, but to be emotionally faithful. Honor where your spouse is and your spouse’s expectations. Any time that another relationship takes away from the relationship with the spouse.

Dan: I just want someone to show me where emotional privacy is imparitive for marriage. Our spouse is someone to be valued and honored – that is the goal of love. To protect the emotional integrity of our relationship. In our culture, we have put emotional exclusivity on our spouse, so we can’t say that we love you with all our heart to anyone else. We don’t love our family with “part” of our heart, but we say that it’s not okay for friends.

I want to expand a wide range of emotional intimacy.

Emotional boundaries are crossed if we see dissatisfaction in places that our spouse does not meet needs that our friends bring. We need to embrace that friendship without looking at it as the grass is greener.

Do you represent a small fraction of men? Or is this possible for all men?

Dan: We have models in our culture where men & women have worked closely. Adult siblings. Men and women working together. Work environments where men & women have deep emotional connections without getting it on. But when we come to church, things change.

9:30amJim Henderson interviews Dan Brennan, Jennifer Ould, & Susanne Osborne.

Jennifer: Born in the south. Mother widowed twice. Studied Sexual Formation in seminary – particularly as a single woman and how people in the church treat adult singles. As a single adult, she found that she could become friends with married families by babysitting the kids – she needed to be intentional about seeking those friendships, rather than waiting for

She found that in working with one sub-culture (Mormons), she discovered a passion for other sub-cultures that feel alienated by evangelicals.

Susanne: Masters in Church History. Her interest in this is borne out of a study of the Trinity. How God is relational – God is a family. As a 32 year old single, she was interested in knowing more about the idea of family.

How did you meet?

Jennifer: Met Dan online. She grew up in an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist community. Found New Kind of Christian by Brian McLaren. Found Dan on a discussion board about that book. They were a part of a separate group sharing about their stories. Their friendship moved from online to phone conversations, to meeting in person.

Dan: Was in a healing prayer ministry at the time, and felt like that could be something that would benefit Jennifer. The first time that Jennifer called, Sheila (Dan’s wife) answered and recognized her name. That transparency helped with the comfort of the friendship.

Susanne: Jennifer and Susanne were already friends at school, and Susanne met Dan after a discussion about healing prayer. Became friends later. She pursued the intentional friendship later. Her interest in this issue was sparked after reading “I Kissed Dating Goodbye.” Was afraid of being emotionally close to a man because she wanted to save herself for her husband, even emotionally. Noticed that when she was counseling men and women, cross-gender therapy was important (men needing a woman to speak into their lives, women needing safe men after abuse).

As she approached 30, she had cut out the voices of men in her life because she was “waiting” for marriage. She knew that Dan and Jenn’s friendship was safe, so she sought out friendship with him through prayer.

Let’s talk about intentionality. Talk about realizing that a friendship was “on purpose.”

Dan: Early in friendship with Jennifer, it was primarily about prayer, and him praying for her. When she moved closer, he asked for the friendship to be more balanced, in that they would pray for one another.

Jennifer: She didn’t know that she was Dan’s first cross-gender friends – she thought Dan knew what he was doing! It was clear that their friendship needed to change because they were moving from a phone conversation to regular meeting.

Susanne: She knew that something needed to shift in the way that she was dealing with men, so she was very intentional about her friendship. She had previously had intense ministry moments with men, but then they were over. She wanted to

How do you deal with some of the negative feedback in your cross-gender friendships?

Jennifer: They all began attending church together. She developed other friendships, but was primarily friends with Dan & Sheila. She went for prayer with a woman who offered to be a prayer partner. When she said that she already prayed with Dan regularly, this woman “strongly recommended” that she have only female prayer partners. The church called Dan on the carpet for praying with a woman.

Dan: He was told that he was “playing with fire.” He “needed to mature” because it was immaturity to have close female friends and emotional needs met outside of his wife. He could have submitted to the shame of it, but he knew that his friendship was very important and he wanted to be more intentional about friendship between men and women.

Jennifer: This wasn’t a quick thing, but rather a long event. It would have been preferable for there to be a conversation, but there was no discussion to be had.

Dan: They left the church, and Dan decided to write Sacred Unions, Sacred Passions. Helping people work through the shame, and learn what it means to embrace delight. He had to choose that very intentionally.

Susanne: Hasn’t received a lot of push-back. Has mostly received the “inquisitive brow.”

“I was the main person that I needed to overcome in our friendship.”

Talk about your canoeing trips.

Jennifer: Put pictures of a canoeing trip on Facebook. “I would never do anything with Dan that I couldn’t share.” It was never about what they did, but only about how it LOOKED.

Dan: Part of the challenge for Jennifer & Susanne is that he is called to be open. There’s a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t.” If you share, you’re flaunting it. If you don’t, you’re hiding something.

Why is this topic important to you?

Dan: “Love. I have received Christ’s love through Jennifer & Susanne. They have healed parts of me. I have seen their love towards me as extremely virtuous. It’s a part of the kingdom of ‘love one another.’”

“Part of love is that friendship is a school of love. I have been schooled & educated in a deep, moral way through friendship with Jennifer & Susanne.”

The call to lay down our lives for one another is not only for husbands and wives, but also for friends.

Susanne: “Our calling is to learn how to love someone of the opposite gender and the same gender beyond any attraction. There’s a more thorough healing that can happen so we can love one another deeply. Women and men need one another to minister to each other.”

Jennifer: “The lost apologetic is to love one another. That is missing between men and women. What would it say to the world if they could see men and women loving one another. This is a brokenness that is in many cultures. We can start breaking through those barriers.”

9:10amDan Brennan welcomes us to the second day. Talks a bit about intentional intimacy and sexuality in friendship. Preparing to deconstruct Freud’s impact on cross-gender friendship. Followed with a time of worship.

Arrived around 8:30am, ready for another day of honoring friendship. I love seeing people standing around, eating bagels and talking. Pairs of men and women, women and women, men and men. Stories of friendships that matter. It’s a beautiful thing. (I ADORE how the theme of beauty is woven through this conference.)

Follow here for updates through the day.

  • Amber Wackford

    My psychologist self is SO interested to hear Dan’s desconstruction of Freud! 

    And my history in counseling isn’t littered with a lot of male clients, but I worked in a college counseling office and the only time I cried with a client was when one of my dude’s was sharing his story.  It was powerful. And he left at the end of the year having confronted “ugly” parts of himself that were inhibiting his functioning, and he said  it wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t spent the weeks meeting with me.  Now, I don’t know what exactly worked in that client-counselor relationship, but something did. And it mattered. It mattered for that client and it mattered for me. And it honored Jesus.
    And that IS a thing of beauty!

    • Dan Brennan

      Amber, beautiful!! The heart seeks after appropriate love, vulnerability, tenderness, trust. It doesn’t know the difference between professional and non-professional love, tenderness, vulnerability, safety. 

  • Steve Dawson

    Jim Henderson  “The Only Reason Jesus Gives Us Power is to Give It Away”


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