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Published Date: December 4, 2013

Published Date: December 4, 2013

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Cover of "Created to Thrive".

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Editor’s Note: The Gutenberg Stamp

In the rare event that we at CBE find ourselves unable to use our computers due to a power outage or network problem, we put ourselves to work giving the office a good, thorough cleaning. I always enjoy the change of pace and welcome the chance to locate those buried papers I gave up searching for weeks earlier. It also seems that every time we embark on a major cleaning endeavor, we uncover some treasured object from the early years of CBE. Whether it’s a priceless photo from a conference, a stuffed animal from a beloved member, or an old cookbook we find in the recesses of the office, everything has a story. And each of these stories helps to tell the story of CBE.

During one of our cleaning frenzies, someone was digging through a drawer full of mailing supplies and came across a stamp—not a postage stamp, but the kind you press into an inkpad and then stamp onto a paper. This particular one wasn’t the typical “Media Mail” or address stamp that we see here and there these days. This stamp, which we dubbed “the Gutenberg stamp,” was engineered to hold multiple rows of tiny stamps, each containing a letter or number. It was a miniature moveable type printing press! Having never lived in a home, attended a school, or worked at an office without a computer, I’d never seen or needed such a thing. 

While I pondered this ingenious device, I found myself also marveling at what it represented: the history of CBE; the debt of gratitude I owe to those who came before me; and the dedication of CBE’s founders, leaders, staff, and members.

I am reminded that many things, large and small, have contributed to CBE’s history without my knowing it. In fact, it’s easy for those of us who have not lived through CBE’s history to be completely unaware of it. But our ignorance withholds from us the wisdom of our leaders, perspective on the issues we face today, humility in our work, and inspiration to press on. History teaches us where we came from and where we are, and it points us toward the future. This is true of each of us as individuals, and together as societies and cultures. Such perspective is crucial in a movement like ours that is so deeply rooted in the history of the Christian faith and so vital to its future.

Just as we can easily forget our history, we easily take things for granted. I rarely stop to reflect on the people who came before me. I work on a computer I didn’t raise funds for. I didn’t establish CBE or keep it flourishing all these years. Though I have the privilege to work on Mutuality, I had nothing to do with its creation twenty years ago. Each of us stands on the shoulders of those who came before us. We do well to remember their legacy, honor their efforts, and seek their wisdom.

The Gutenberg stamp also illustrates the dedication of those who came before me. I doubt whether many in my generation have the patience to spend hours completing a task that we can do today with a few clicks of a button. Of course, it goes well beyond the stamping of envelopes and thank you letters. Whether typing on typewriters, conducting research without the internet or digital databases, or stamping countless thank you letters, CBE’s founders, leaders, staff, and members were able to accomplish a great deal with limited resources. Their accomplishments testify to their unwavering commitment to biblical equality—a commitment I hope my own generation will emulate.

This issue completes the twentieth volume of Mutuality. Milestones like this remind us to take a moment to look back and honor our roots. In doing so, I believe we will gain valuable perspective for the years to come. In the articles that follow, several of CBE’s founders and leaders reflect on the past and offer their thoughts on topics ranging from church community to egalitarian marriage to the future of CBE. We’ll span generations by joining a grandmother-granddaughter conversation about biblical equality. We’ll also review two books, including Sarah Bessey’s hugely popular Jesus Feminist, which has sparked widespread discussion about faith, feminism, and equality.

I hope that the wise words of the women and men in this issue will be as refreshing and encouraging to you as they have been to me.