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Published Date: September 5, 2001

Published Date: September 5, 2001

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A Brief History of CBE

After several years of careful analysis and prayer, CBE leaders have finalized a strategic plan to carry God’s work at CBE forward. In the last issue of Mutuality, we presented CBE’s strategic plan. As we look ahead to the future, we never want to forget the past. It is therefore a great privilege to present you with an updated history of CBE. I wish to thank Sara Robertson, Nancy Graf Peters, and Alvera Mickelsen for their help.

Sincerely, Mimi Haddad President of CBE

I. Where we’ve come from

The headlines of the Fall 1987 issue of Priscilla Papers announced, “New Organization Incorporated.” The actual date was August 28, 1987. The name of the organization was “Men, Women and God: Christians for Biblical Equality.” At that time, it was affiliated with Men, Women and God, International, based at the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity. (In time the name was shortened to Christians for Biblical Equality when the group was incorporated in Minnesota as a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization on January 2, 1988.)

Initially this group was made up of members of the Minnesota Chapter of the Evangelical Women’s Caucus. They had withdrawn from EWC after the 1986 conference in Fresno, Calif., when EWC was moving in a direction these members perceived as unbiblical. But equality is biblical, and the need for communicating this truth led to the formation of a new organization, growing out of Catherine Kroeger’s contact with Men, Women, and God in London.

The Minnesota group issued a nationwide invitation to attend a two-day conference in St. Paul, Minn., in March 1987, to determine the interest and feasibility of establishing a new organization. At the close of the conference, 22 people from throughout the United States were invited to join the first steering committee, and many from that group convened at the Brewster, Mass. home of Catherine and Richard Kroeger in August 1987. This group determined that a national organization was needed to provide education, support, and leadership about biblical equality.

The group in Massachusetts formulated a Mission Statement, a Faith Statement, and a Constitution. They also elected the first board of directors, comprised of three men and six women.

CBE’s first major project was the creation of a statement on “Men, Women, and Biblical Equality” which laid out the biblical rationale for equality as well as its application in the community of believers and the family. The authors, Gilbert Bilezikian, W. Ward Gasque, Stanley Gundry, Gretchen Gaebelein Hull, Catherine Clark Kroeger, Jo Anne Lyon, and Roger Nicole, were joined by a host of other signers who also wished to align themselves with these views. It was presented at the first CBE international conference in St. Paul, July 20-23, 1989, attended by over 300. In 1990 it was published widely in such national forums as Christianity Today and Leadership. This generated much interest in the form of new CBE members as well as in the form of theological attacks. Eventually this opposition grew into an organization known as the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

Individuals were also subject to attacks. This was acknowledged with the establishment of the Priscilla and Aquila Award. It is given to someone who has taken great risks or given great effort to promote biblical equality. Some of the recipients have been:

  • David Clowney, who resigned his teaching post at Westminster Seminary because he could no longer subscribe to a position denying women equality and freedom in ministry.
  • Al Schmidt, formerly professor at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. Pat and Stan Gundry. Stan was formerly professor at Moody Bible Institute.
  • Lorraine Anderson, pastor within the Conservative Baptists denomination.
  • Barbara and Dan Gentry Kent. Dan chose early retirement from his teaching post at Southwestern Seminary when he could not subscribe to the Southern Baptist position on the subordination of women.
  • Alvera Mickelsen and Catherine and Richard Kroeger, who had been driving forces of CBE since its inception.
  • Gretchen Gaebelein Hull, editor of Priscilla Papers from 1989 to 2000.
  • Joe and Audra Trull. Joe opted for early retirement from his teaching position at New Orleans Baptist Seminary when he could not subscribe to the Southern Baptist position on the subordination of women.
  • Alan Brehm, who was forced to resign from his teaching post at Southwestern Seminary when he refused to sign the amended Baptist Faith and Message Statement including a statement on the role of women.
  • Molly Marshall, Sarah Francis Anders, Carolyn Clampett, Donna Forrester, Dellana O’Brien, Mary Alice Seals, Nancy Hastings Sehested and Lynn Williams, all formerly with the Southern Baptist Convention.
  • Ruth Bolyard, for initiating CBE’s international chapter ministry.

In 1989 CBE became a member of the National Association of Evangelicals. By 1991 over 1,500 joined CBE with more than 4,000 in our database.

The office, which had been located in Susan McCoubrie’s home, was moved to Inver Grove Heights, Minn., in 1990. It is now located at 122 W. Franklin Ave, Minneapolis, Minn.

Leadership

Catherine Clark Kroeger served as the first President of the organization, and Alvera Mickelsen served as the first chair of the board of directors. In 1995 Kroeger resigned as President and in 1996 Virginia Patterson became board chair and Catherine Kroeger became President Emerita.

With Catherine Kroeger’s retirement as President, the need for a full-time leader was met in the person of Mimi Haddad. Haddad had helped start CBE chapters across the country and had served as development committee chair on the board of directors. She was persuaded to move to Minneapolis in 1997 to head the organization as Director of Development and Public Relations. In 1998 she became Executive Director. She was named CBE President at the 2001 conference in Dallas. Mimi is completing her doctorate in historical theology from the University of Durham in England.

Dan Kent became chair of the board of directors in 2001. The board meets twice a year. It is made up of business people, counselors, authors, educators, theologians, and those involved in other types of full-time ministry. These volunteers serve three-year terms, which can be renewed once. Then they must rotate off the board.

As the organization has matured, the role of the board has also evolved. Rather than being involved in a hands-on capacity, the board has become a policy-making board. The fulfillment of the strategic plans and the administration of the organization are done by the staff.

II. Who we are

The main marketing tool in the early days of CBE was word-of-mouth. And the organization grew, particularly after the publication of the statement “Men, Women, and Biblical Equality,” in Christianity Today. This statement has been translated and disseminated into 14 languages.

Now a more intentional marketing program, using strategic media, is designed to keep membership growing.

There are three membership tracks — individual, chapter and church. CBE chapters provide support and grassroots outreach and education in a variety of locations across the country and the world. Their programming varies according to local needs and interests.

Churches serve as egalitarian havens for those who wish to worship and serve without gender discrimination.

Individual members demonstrate their commitment to equality through their annual membership dues. Their benefits include reduced rates at the resource center and at the conferences. Membership fees also include subscriptions to Mutuality and Priscilla Papers, each published quarterly.

Primarily CBE is funded through contributions. A program of direct mail and personal contact focuses on gifts from individuals and church budgets. Many in-kind gifts have also contributed significantly to the operation of the organization, especially in the technical realm.

Other operating income comes from the resource center and from the conferences.

History of Income

In the last five years, contributions have increased 145 percent, or 29 percent annually. Sales from books have increased 86 percent from 1996-2000. Total revenues have increased 103 percent the past five years, a yearly average of 20.6 percent. Through prudent management the organization has continued to grow and to operate in the black.

III. What we do

Communication

A key publication of CBE is a scholarly journal, Priscilla Papers. It was originally edited by Betty Elliot and published by Catherine and Richard Kroeger as an extension of a study center in their home. Gretchen Gaebelein Hull became the editor in 1989. Carol Thiessen, formerly an editor of Christianity Today, succeeded her in 2000. The journal includes scholarly research as well as inspirational material and book reviews.

Mutuality is a quarterly magazine featuring first-person accounts, other articles, book reviews, and news of CBE. Many academic institutions and churches subscribe to Priscilla Papers and Mutuality.

Resource Ministry

CBE produces and distributes information that offers a scriptural basis for biblical equality. The annual catalog continues to grow and resource sales are a key component of CBE’s income.

Website

Daily, people find CBE through the website. These contacts lead to resource sales and membership.

Conferences

From the beginning, a major facet of the CBE ministry has been national conferences. These three-day events, consisting of general sessions and workshops, have been a significant means of inspiration and education. Conferences have been well attended, and the programs consistently receive high marks for the quality of the speakers and their presentations. They have also been a means of bringing visibility to the organization and of generating new members.

The international conferences have been held in the following locations.

  • 1989 – St. Paul, MN “Serving Together: Women & Men, All Races and Economic Groups”
  • 1991 – Winter Park, CO “Your Sons and Daughters Shall Prophesy”
  • 1993 – Wheaton, IL “Toward a Future and a Hope”
  • 1995 – Wenham, MA “Empowered by the Word”
  • 1997 – St. Paul, MN “For Such a Time as This: Building Godly Relationships”
  • 1999 – San Diego, CA “A More Excellent Way: Reconciliation Through Christ”
  • 2001 – Dallas, TX “Equipping the Church, Empowering the Saints”

In addition to the regular biennial conferences, CBE has also conducted two topical conferences.

  • 1994 – Chicago, IL “Women, Abuse, and the Bible”
  • 2000 – Minneapolis, MN “Ordinary People, Extraordinary Marriages”

IV. Where are we going?

In October 2000 the CBE board of directors adopted a strategic plan, with the intent of reviewing that plan every three to five years. Highlights of that plan include:

Core Values

We believe …

  • 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.

Mission Statement

CBE equips believers by affirming the biblical truth of equality. Thus all believers, without regard to gender, race and class are free and encouraged to use their God-given gifts in families, ministries and communities.

Core Purpose

To communicate the biblical truth that men and women are equally responsible to use their God-given gifts to further Christ’s kingdom.

Envisioned Future

CBE envisions a future where all believers will exercise their gifts for God’s glory, with the full support of the Christian community.

Key Results

To accomplish this plan, four key result areas have been adopted. Goal setting and specific activities each year will focus on these key results:

  1. To promote egalitarian scholarship
  2. To popularize the message
  3. To produce greater market penetration
  4. To establish a financially sound organization