Ministry News: CBE Makes Valuable Contributions to the 2006 Evangelical Theological Society Annual Meeting | CBE International

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Ministry News: CBE Makes Valuable Contributions to the 2006 Evangelical Theological Society Annual Meeting

Christians for Biblical Equality hosted a booth and a community dinner at the 2006 Evangelical Theological Society annual meeting in Washington, D.C., Nov. 15–17.

Before the convention, CBE members and friends met at Margot Eyring’s home for a dinner with Richard Gathro, vice president of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU), and his wife Kathrine. The dinner was followed by a discussion of the Trinity led by Kevin Giles, author of The Trinity and Subordinationism and Jesus and the Father. In addition to hosting CBE President Mimi Haddad and Kevin and Lynley Giles, Margot also volunteered at CBE’s booth during the conference.

A full-page advertisement in the ETS program announcing the twentieth anniversary issue of Priscilla Papers and free articles on biblical equality written by leading ETS scholars drew many visitors to CBE’s booth. Hundreds of resources on gender and the Bible were distributed to professors and students at evangelical seminaries in the United States and beyond. Workers at the booth had opportunities to engage critics, fellowship with colleagues, and encourage women who had been prevented from using their gifts in churches and schools because of their gender. 

CBE members presented papers on topics ranging from core Christian practices such as feeding the hungry to core Christian doctrines such as the Trinity. Their commitment to Scripture and the quality of their scholarship highlighted the ongoing value of egalitarians’ contributions to the ETS and evangelical theology and practice more broadly.

ETS president commends CBE founders 

CBE members such as Linda Belleville, Aída Besançon Spencer, and Catherine Clark Kroeger presented papers and moderated sessions on a variety of topics. All three of these women were commended in ETS President Edwin Yamauchi’s presidential address, in which Cathy Kroeger was applauded by the entire assembly for resisting liberal movements and founding Christians for Biblical Equality. Dr. Yamauchi also noted historical examples of evangelicals such as prominent abolitionist Theodore Dwight Weld and his wife Angelina Emily Grimké who believed the Bible supported the freedom and equality of both slaves and women. 

In light of these current and historical examples, Dr. Yamauchi addressed several recent complementarian publications that suggested egalitarianism leads to liberalism and is inconsistent with biblical inerrancy. He cautioned that, “If egalitarianism is pushed too far, it does cause a real problem of liberalism. Complementarianism, however, pushed too far can enmesh us in a swamp of legalism.” 

Rather than seeking to restrict women’s contributions to evangelical scholarship, Dr. Yamauchi quoted ETS founding member Frank Gaebelein (father of CBE founding member and Priscilla Papers editor emerita Gretchen Gaebelein Hull) that “Another piece of unfinished business relates to the place of women in our society…there are areas…in which women need greater freedom and more support and recognition.” 

Dr. Yamauchi also called for greater ethnic diversity. In a version of his address prepared for publication in the March 2007 issue of the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, Dr. Yamauchi cited 2001 ETS President Darrell Bock’s challenge that, “the primary value of the ETS is the mixture that is here (and we need to do better with regard to that mixture, ethnically, in terms of gender, and internationally).” 

Dr. Yamauchi modeled evangelical scholarship that remains committed to biblical inerrancy without becoming enmeshed in legalism by critically engaging both egalitarian and complementarian scholarship. He commended Harold Hoehner’s (Dallas Theological Seminary) innovative thesis that pastor/teacher is a spiritual gift that both women and men may receive. In his work with the newly-formed study group on Asian-American Christian Thought, Dr. Yamauchi also modeled commitment to greater ethnic diversity within ETS. 

Egalitarian contributions to the Gender and Evangelicals Study Group 

CBE members also presented papers in sessions hosted by the Gender and Evangelicals Study Group (GESG). This study group provides a scholarly forum for egalitarian and complementarian scholars to explore gender in the church, home, and world from theological, biblical, historical, and pastoral perspectives. The GESG is co-moderated by an egalitarian, CBE president Mimi Haddad, and a complementarian, Phoenix Seminary vice president of academic affairs Steve Tracy.

Dr. Haddad commented that “Presentations at this year’s Gender and Evangelicals Study Group were thoughtful, well-researched and generally they were also conciliatory and irenic in tone. With four panels, and a total of thirteen speakers, humility, challenge, and passion for the Gospel characterized most presenters.” She noted complementarian John DelHousaye’s (Phoenix Seminary) paper on Jesus’ inclusion of women in his circle of disciples as an example of scholarship that “created new common ground for both egalitarians and complementarians in perceiving the radical treatment of women by Christ as he moved beyond ritual taboos to include women as full members of the new Covenant.” A popular version of Dr. DelHousaye’s paper was published in the Spring 2006 issue of CBE’s quarterly magazine Mutuality. Another recent Mutuality author whose work appeared on the Spring 2006 issue, egalitarian Carrie Miles (George Mason University), also presented an excellent paper on the topic of Christianity and family values. 

This year GESG sessions focused on the topics of gender and justice and the doctrine of the Trinity. In October of 2005, CBE revised its mission statement to include its commitment to the biblical call to justice. The GESG provides a venue for further articulating this conviction in dialogue with leading egalitarian and complementarian scholars. For example, complementarian Russell Moore (Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) and egalitarians Ron Sider (Palmer Theological Seminary), Cynthia Long Westfall (McMaster Divinity College), and Linda Belleville (Bethel College, Ind.) read papers in the session on “An Evangelical Perspective on Justice and Gender.”

In addition to the inerrancy of Scripture in its original autographs, the following belief is identified as a core doctrine of the ETS: “God is a Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each an uncreated person, one in essence, equal in power and glory.” Several prominent complementarian scholars have proposed a view of the Trinity that affirms the essential equality of all three persons, but also affirms an eternal relationship of supremacy and subordination between the Father and the Son. They argue that the Son’s eternal subordination to the Father within the Trinity provides the theological basis for the permanent subordination of women in relation to men. 

The GESG session on “The Trinity and Gender” discussed this complementarian teaching in light of Scripture and the historic Trinitarian doctrine of God. The subordinationist view of the Trinity was presented by complementarian Bruce Ware (Southern Baptist Seminary), and challenged by egalitarians Millard Erickson (Truett Theological Seminary) and Kevin Giles (vicar of St. Michael’s Church). Erickson noted biblical, philosophical, practical, and theological problems with the view, and Giles offered a primarily historical critique in light of the teachings of Athanasius, the Cappadocians, Augustine, and Calvin, as well as numerous creeds and confessions.

Mimi Haddad attributed the GESG’s success to the importance of the topics and the tone of the presentations, “I believe the lectures were more irenic and better attended because they explored issues that were not only core to orthodox theology, i.e. the doctrine of God, but also practical matters were likewise considered, i.e. evangelical responses to lesbianism and abuse.”

The GESG sessions at the 2007 ETS annual meeting in San Diego, Ca., will be co-moderated by egalitarian Cynthia Long Westfall (McMaster Divinity College) and complementarian Gerry Breshears (Western Seminary). Paper inquiries and proposals for consideration in GESG sessions can be sent to cbe@cbeinternational.org

ETS egalitarians face ongoing challenges 

Egalitarian evangelicals have been encouraged by the leadership of current ETS President Edwin Yamauchi and many of his predecessors. Ron Sider and others’ call for gender justice and Millard Erickson and Kevin Giles’ strong defense of the historic doctrine of the Trinity against the subordinationist view in sessions hosted by the GESG also made significant contributions to egalitarian scholarship. 

However, many challenges remain for ETS egalitarians. Based on his experience as 2005 program chair, Dr. Yamauchi noted that less than 10% of non-study-group papers are presented by women, and these figures are even lower for people of color. No women serve on ETS committees listed in the society’s journal. Dr. Yamauchi concluded that the ETS has “a long way to go before we are representative of society as a whole and of Christianity as a whole.”

Research that articulates the biblical basis for the egalitarian view of gender and defends the historic doctrine of the Trinity is also under-represented in recent volumes of the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (JETS). In an appeal to the ETS Editorial and Executive Committees, New Testament scholar Philip Payne noted that since the current editor of JETS took office in 1999, the journal has not published “a single exegetical defense of the equal standing in Christ’s church of woman and man or a single defense of non-hierarchical interpretation of the eternal relationships of the persons of the Trinity.” Egalitarian scholars who have written responses to complementarian colleagues have also been denied publication in the journal.

At the next ETS annual meeting, prominent complementarian and Trinitarian subordinationist Bruce Ware will begin a three-year term as Vice President (2007), President-Elect (2008), and President (2009). 

Though the 2006 annual meeting was encouraging, the need for evangelical scholarship that affirms biblical equality and justice remains great.

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Barring women from using their God-given talents is an injustice that diminishes the gospel and its impact in the world. CBE International works to inspire and mobilize Christians with the Bible’s call for women and men to co-lead and co-serve as equals.

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