Close cross-sex friendships may discover the double bind of transparency and secrecy--especially in some evangelical communities. Whenever these cultural binds take place, social complexity or relational depth is challenged. Double binds always attempt to force the relationship into false dichotomies. Either this or that, but one can't be in the deep middle between the either/or.
For male-female friendships, one often hears about the need to practice the friendship out in the open. This popular counsel is especially helpful for those who are married. On the other hand, if the friends intentionally practice transparency within their community they risk facing social disapproval and suspicion--and a backlash if they don't conform to powerful stereotypes in the evangelical community. The backlash reinforces the pressure to conform to current evangelical fashions defining morality (the Colorado Springs variety, maybe). The fact of the matter is that healthy, good, flourishing, intimate male-female friendships are counterstereotypical: they challenge many deeply-held prescriptive stereotypes that some Christians embrace concerning men, women, gender, faith, friendship, community, and social order.
Is there hope for progress?
I lose count of the stories of male-female friends who felt fear of social disapproval or backlash within their church communities and so practiced their friendship in secret rather than in the public view of their community. And the threat of backlash is even more severe if either friend is in church leadership or believes they have the gift of leadership. Because male-female friendships are marginalized, they are required to be peripheral within some church communities when leadership is involved. If they practice close friendship out in the open, either the man or woman runs the risks being viewed by some as being incapable of leadership. If the friends continue in transparency, they necessarily practice behavior that is counterstereotypical for leadership. The other choice is that the friends practice secrecy in order to align with keeping the peace with the greatest number in the community.
The marginalization of close male-female friendship, thus, makes no social progress or advancement in church leadership and therefore ultimately community. Discerning women who have aspired to leadership or who are leaders understand the pressure to either drop out or courageously press through the social pressure of double binds in leadership.
Powerful stereotypes embedded in social views of order, biology, creation, or design have been challenged. Just over 120 years ago, many conservative Christian communities believed women were too emotional or irrational to vote. Indeed, it has only been in modernity that communities began to see women were capable of sustaining deep friendships. Thankfully, one can list many stereotypes and fashions of morality churches have abandoned.