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The Core of CBE: Galatians 3:28 in Our Past, Present, and Future

by Mimi Haddad | January 12, 2022

CBE was founded by three fierce women of faith—forces of nature in every sense of the phrase: God’s very own Alvera Mickelsen, Catherine Clark Kroeger, and Gretchen Gaebelein Hull. They were deeply devoted to Galatians 3:28, so CBE’s mission promoted women as equal agents of Christ in the church, home, and world regardless of their ethnicity, race, or economic status. I’d like to share with you, in their words, the values they envisioned for CBE, values on which they based their whole lives:

Alvera Mickelsen

  • Equality between genders, races, classes, and ages due to all sharing the image of God, (i.e., the image of God in us is the equalizer).
  • Each individual is gifted by God as God chooses.
  • Each person is both obligated and free to use their gifts. The fact that we have gifts implies both personal responsibility and the God-given freedom to use them.
  • We are called into community to affirm and encourage others.
  • The power to do all of the above comes from the Holy Spirit.

Gretchen Gaebelein Hull:

  • Be prophetic.
  • Maintain scholarly credibility and integrity.
  • Never dilute or compromise the message to appeal to greater numbers.
  • Excellence.

Cathy Kroeger:

  • Adherence to the Scriptures.
  • Equality for men and women.
  • Thus, create a biblical basis for the equality of men and women.
  • To serve primarily conservative and evangelical women, although there was also a vision to minister to radical feminists.

Established as a US educational nonprofit in 1988, CBE began publishing and promoting biblical resources to support women in all spheres of service and leadership worldwide. There was much to learn and address! As a young, fledgling nonprofit seen by some as theologically misguided, CBE embraced the challenges of growing a donor base and a skilled staff and board, all while launching local chapters, hosting international conferences, and publishing books and journals. With our three founders already enjoying retirement, many wondered if these efforts were sustainable.

From the beginning, CBE included women of color (WOC) as speakers, writers, board members, and chapter leaders, addressing topics relevant to their experiences in the church, home, and world. Brenda Salter McNeil, Jeannette Yep, Karen McKinney, and I served as early board members and/or led key projects that shaped CBE’s work and mission. And in 1996, Dr. Virginia Patterson, president of Pioneer Clubs for twenty-seven years, became chair of CBE’s board.

A descendent of the Cherokee tribe and the first woman named Christian manager of the year by the Christian Management Association, Patterson’s strategic leadership transitioned CBE’s operational board to a governance board. The result was significant growth from a 60K annual budget to one that hovered over 1 million per year. Patterson also incorporated a cyclical five-year process of strategic planning to evaluate CBE’s mission on relevant topics like social justice, sexual orientation, and (most recently) the intersection of sexism and racism.

Strategic Planning: The Intersection of Sexism and Racism

For the past two years, consultant Dr. Ruben Rivera has led an exploration of CBE’s mission through the unique lens offered by ethnically and racially diverse CBE supporters.1 After surveying a cross section of CBE leaders and supporters in 2020, Rivera presented the following Executive Summary of results:2

Diversify!

Overall, CBE’s community wants to see more diversity with respect to race, ethnicity, and nationality. Increased diversity will allow CBE to better address challenges to women’s biblical equality that white US women simply do not encounter.3 Afterall, CBE is an international organization!4

Race/Ethnicity and Gender Are Intertwined

Most want CBE to “include and respond to” the “inescapable challenges facing women” of ethnic and racial minorities worldwide.5 This will require deploying an organization-wide antiracist policy without losing sight of CBE’s calling as a Christian educational (not political) nonprofit.

Focus on Mutuality Between Women and Men, Not Sexual Orientation

By far, both white respondents and respondents of color greatly value CBE’s mission and scholarly expertise in promoting biblical mutuality between women and men worldwide. Recognizing CBE’s mission as a crucial task, and CBE as its global leader, respondents advised against addressing sexual orientation issues.

Galatians 3:28 Is Our Past, Present, and Future

There is stunning overlap between the core values of CBE’s founders and the priorities expressed by CBE survey respondents:6

Three areas respondents of color most appreciate about CBE’s current work:

  • Commitment to women’s equality, advocacy.
  • Biblical/scholarly rigor and quality.
  • Resources (website, publications, conferences, teaching) for women’s equality.

Three areas white respondents most appreciate about CBE’s current work:

  • Commitment to women’s equality, advocacy.
  • Encouragement, support, and inspiration to women.
  • Biblical/scholarly rigor and quality.

Three topics respondents of color hope CBE focuses more on in the future:

  • Continue commitment and advocacy for women’s equality and leadership.
  • Expand membership and leadership beyond white persons.
  • Expand to include gender equity, women of color, underprivileged women, and women outside of the US (Latin America, Africa, Asia).

Three topics white respondents hope CBE focuses more on in the future:

  • Continue commitment and advocacy for women’s equality and leadership.
  • Some want focus on women’s equality; others want to include equality advocacy in other areas like race.
  • Increase the presence and voices of women of color.

Just as Mickelsen, Hull, and Kroeger, CBE’s three founders, were resolutely committed to excellence in biblical scholarship as it affirms women’s equal service and leadership in the church, home, and world, they also resisted pandering to pop culture for the sake of numbers and growth. Rather, they remained committed to cultivating a prophetic voice that elevated women’s equality worldwide, with “equality” including all “races, classes, and ages due to all sharing the image of God.”7

Our Vision for 2022

As I lamented last New Year, without our marginalized sisters worldwide “we cannot respond fully to CBE’s mission embodied in Galatians 3:28.” Our cornerstone verse will guide our commitment to explore the intersection of sexism and racism under the leadership of those who have experienced its double burden.

In 2022, CBE will increasingly direct our energies to becoming a vibrant antiracist organization through board, staff, and leader trainings. We will embrace the egalitarian vision, wisdom, and leadership of those who hold space at the intersection of gender, race, and ethnicity. In serving women worldwide, CBE will increase our free and accessible biblical resources (through radio, podcasts, and web resources) to serve the global Christian community.

Prayerfully, beside our sisters and brothers worldwide, we seek to be excellent, prophetic, biblical agents of renewal in declaring our oneness in Christ, regardless of gender, race, or class. For we can never determine how God’s Spirit has gifted and called someone based only on their gender, race, or class—as biblical history makes clear.

In demonstrating God’s power and call to oneness in Christ, we covet your prayers and partnership in 2022.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.

Notes

  1. Dr. Ruben Rivera led CBE’s community leaders through: The Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) / Intercultural Development Plan (IDP); he surveyed CBE’s community, desegregating data by race; and he conducted fifteen listening sessions with CBE supporters of color.
  2. 188 respondents completed CBE’s 2020 online survey of approximately 800 invited. Of 188, 48 identified as people of color (POC). 133 identified as white. Of the 48, 53 percent identified as Black (US/Non-US); 20 percent identified as Asian Americans; 10 percent identified as Latinx or Hispanic; 9 percent identified as mixed race/ethnicity; 4 percent identified as “other” ethnic/racial minorities; 2 percent identified as Middle Eastern; and 2 percent identified as Native American / American Indian / Alaskan Native.
  3. “Exploring the Fullness of Gal. 3:28: In Christ There is Neither Jew Nor Greek, Slave Nor Free, Male Nor Female” is the topic of CBE’s 2022 International Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, Aug 3–6.
  4. CBE’s yearly conferences alternate between the US and abroad.
  5. Rivera’s 2020 Executive Survey report presented to CBE’s board.
  6. The following 2020 survey results were presented to CBE’s board in 2020 by Dr. Ruben Rivera.
  7. Alvera Mickelsen’s top core values.

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