Christians for Biblical Equality
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Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE) is a non-profit organization of churches and individual members who believe that the Bible, properly interpreted, teaches the fundamental equality of believers of both sexes, all racial and ethnic groups, and all economic classes. Its charter, Statement of Faith, and raison d'être are based on its interpretation of overarching principles of the Bible: that men and women are equally created in God's image; equally responsible for sin; equally redeemed by Christ; equally gifted by God's Spirit for service; and equally held responsible for using their God-given gifts. CBE's international home office is in Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States.
According to Christianity Today, most of those attending a CBE conference it visited were evangelicals with high regard for the Scriptures. The magazine reported a kinship between some CBE members and well-known "functional egalitarians" such as biblical deaconess Phoebe,[Rom. 16:1] Priscilla who taught Apollos "the way of God,"[Acts 18:26] Corrie Ten Boom and Salvation Army cofounder Catherine Booth, admired for doing "God's work."
CBE exists to broadly communicate "the biblical truth that all believers – without regard to gender, ethnicity or class – must exercise their God-given gifts with equal authority and equal responsibility in church, home and world." CBE has grown to include members from over 100 denominations and 65 countries.
The organization is an educational ministry that publishes three award-winning journals, hosts a Web site and a blog, and a weekly e-newsletter. It provides an online bookstore devoted to reviewing and promoting resources on gender and the Bible from an egalitarian (as opposed to complementarian) perspective. It supports grassroots chapters around the world. CBE's scholarly journal, Priscilla Papers, and ministry magazine, Mutuality, have received various publishing awards.
CBE's Christian ethics
CBE holds that any interpretation of scripture that prohibits women from using their spiritual gifts and abilities in ministry constitutes injustice. CBE defines injustice as an abuse of power, taking from others freedom, dignity, resources, and even life itself. CBE considers gender discrimination within the church to be an injustice that harms the Christian church at large and Christian ministry in the world. The organization sees as its call to be part of God's mission in opposing injustice as required in Scriptures such as Galatians 3:28:
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (TNIV).
It has four core beliefs (values):
- The Bible teaches the equality of women and men.
- God has given each person gifts to be used for the good of Christ's kingdom.
- Christians are to develop and exercise their God-given gifts in home, church, and society.
- The Bible teaches that Christians are to oppose injustice.
CBE was founded out of concerns over the inability of many women to use their gifts in ministry, several evangelical leaders assembled in 1987 to publish their biblical perspective in a new scholarly journal, Priscilla Papers. Included in the group were Gilbert Bilezikian, W. Ward Gasque, Stanley Gundry, Gretchen Gaebelein Hull, Catherine Clark Kroeger, Jo Anne Lyon, Alvera Mickelsen and Roger Nicole. The group determined that a national organization was needed to provide education, support, and leadership about biblical equality. They constructed a statement, "Men, Women, and Biblical Equality," that is an overview of the biblical teachings that support women’s full participation in all levels of ministry, as well as mutuality in marriage. The statement was widely published in 1990 in such national forums as Christianity Today and Leadership. This statement has been translated and disseminated into 15 languages. Opposition arose to this evangelical egalitarian organization—the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) was formed to support a traditional hierarchical view.
Christians for Biblical Equality was established on January 2, 1988. Catherine Clark Kroeger served as the first president of the organization. Since 2001, Mimi Haddad has served as CBE’s second president. CBE's papers are held at Catherine Clark Kroeger's family home.
1994 Statement on Abuse with the CBMW
In 1994, three members of CBE met privately with three members of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW), a complementarian evangelical organization (at the CBE's request). From the CBMW, Dr. Ray Ortlund (its president at that time), Mary Kassian, and Wayne Grudem met with three of the CBE's leaders in Chicago to talk about where they could come to points of agreement.
According to Grudem, as discussions progressed both sides overcame some misunderstandings about each other. One result of that meeting was an agreement to work on a joint statement on abuse in marriage, which was drafted by the CBMW with feedback from the CBE. However, before it was to be issued, the CBE's board declined to join the statement, to the confusion of their counterparts with the CBMW. The statement was later published in the CBMW's own newsletter (later renamed the Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood). It has subsequently been published on their website and in many of their publications.
James Beck, writing for the CBE Board of Directors, in a letter declining the joint statement, stated: "We do not feel it would be helpful to convene a joint press conference at ETS to issue a joint statement on abuse. CBE’s position on abuse flows directly out of our theological understanding of Scripture and what it teaches about gender and roles. If we attempt to issue a joint statement with an organization that differs fundamentally from us on this issue, we feel both organizations would be giving very mixed signals to their respective constituencies."
Wayne Grudem, commented: “We regret that CBE declined to join us in this statement. If CBE will not join us in something on which we agree (condemning abuse), then I see little hope that they will be willing to join us in constructive dialogue on issues where we disagree. This is unfortunate for the evangelical world.”
Beginning in 1989, CBE has presented international conferences—three-day events consisting of plenary sessions and workshops in such U.S. cities such as Cape Cod, Massachusetts; Saint Paul, Minnesota; Winter Park, Colorado; Wheaton, Illinois; San Diego, California; Orlando, Florida; Dallas, Texas; Portland, Oregon; Denver, Colorado; Toronto, Canada; St. Louis, Missouri; Houston, Texas; Seattle, Washington; Chicago, Illinois; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The 2015 International Conference will be conducted in Los Angeles, California.
Board of Reference Members and Endorsers
The organization's Web site provides a list of CBE's Board of Reference Members and numerous endorsers, an interdenominational and international group of ministry leaders, theologians and authors prominent in evangelical circles who affirm the mission of CBE.
- Christian Egalitarianism—an article that distinguishes between philosophical egalitarianism and uniquely Christian Egalitarianism
- Complementarianism—an alternative Christian view. Complementarians interpret Scripture to teach that women and men are created equal though men are to hold authority over women in the home and/or the church. This authority is not 'ultimate', but derived from God's ultimate authority over the church and home. The use of the term complementarian is disputed, as many members of CBE consider themselves to be complementarians, but without hierarchy; that is, they believe that the sexes complement each other, but they do not believe in the necessity of male spiritual authority.
- Christian views of women—a developing article that includes a section on "Jesus and woman"
- Evangelical and Ecumenical Women’s Caucus
- Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood—argues on behalf of a fully complementarian position
- Christians for Biblical Equality. Spiritrestoration.org. Retrieved on 2011-02-15.
- Our Mission and History | Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE) Archived 2011-06-14 at the Wayback Machine.. Cbeinternational.org (1988-01-02). Retrieved on 2011-02-15.
- Statement of Faith | Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE). Cbeinternational.org. Retrieved on 2011-02-15.
- Tennant, Agnieszka. "Seahorses, Egalitarians, and Traditional Sex-Role Reversal." Christianity Today, July (Web-only), 2001. August 12, 2009
- online bookstore
- Painter, Kristen Leigh (2016-07-20). "Obituary: Professor, nonprofit leader Alvera Mickelsen blended feminism and Christian teaching". Star Tribune. Retrieved 2016-08-06.
- Randall Herbert Balmer. "Encyclopedia of Evangelicalism". Baylor University Press 2004.
- Hull, William (2000). "Women and the Southern Baptist Convention". Journal of Christian Ethics. 6 (4): 10.
- "Personal Reflections on the History of CBMW and the State of the Gender Debate," CBMW.org, 31 May 2009.
- "Statement on Abuse," CBMW, November 1994.
- "CBE Declines Joint Statement" (PDF). CBMW News. 1 (1): 3. August 1995.