Authors' Bias | Interpretation: conservative

Does Headship and Submission still exist
in the New Testament Church?

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1. In the church, spiritual gifts of women and men are to be recognized, developed and used in serving and teaching ministries at all levels of involvement: as small group leaders, counselors, facilitators, administrators, ushers, communion servers, and board members, and in pastoral care, teaching, preaching, and worship.

In so doing, the church will honor God as the source of spiritual gifts. The church will also fulfill God's mandate of stewardship without the appalling loss to God's kingdom that results when half of the church's members are excluded from positions of responsibility.

CBMW comment: Again there is the fallacy of the excluded middle. The last sentence implies that if women are not given access to "teaching ministries at all levels" including "preaching," then they are "excluded from positions of responsibility." This is not true. All of the hundreds of ministries women rightly undertake carry responsibility, many of them very great responsibility. The Danvers Statement (Affirmation Nine) makes it plain that we want every Christian, man and woman, to be responsibly and significantly engaged in ministry. But we do not so elevate the office of elder or pastor as to imply that the thousands of other believers---men and women---who serve Christ in a thousand other ways do not have positions of responsibility.

The other problem in this paragraph is again the ambiguity concerning the precise point at issue: namely, may women rightly fill the role of pastor or elder? The paragraph focuses on the generally permissible function of "preaching" and "teaching" but does not say explicitly that women may teach Scripture to men or hold the office of preaching pastor or teaching elder. Thus again, because of this lack of clarity, people may endorse this statement who have significantly different views on one of the crucial issues at stake---a woman's right to fill the role of preaching pastor or teaching elder. How is truth served in this crucial debate by formulating positions that win assent through ambiguity on the issues at the very heart of the debate?

2. In the church, public recognition is to be given to both women and men who exercise ministries of service and leadership.

In so doing, the church will model the unity and harmony that should characterize the community of believers. In a world fractured by discrimination and segregation, the church will dissociate itself from worldly or pagan devices designed to make women feel inferior for being female. It will help prevent their departure from the church or their rejection of the Christian faith.

CBMW comment: No one can disagree with the aim to renounce "worldly and pagan devices designed to make women feel inferior." But we wish there had been some clarity about who or what is being indicted here. Is our interpretation of Scripture being called a pagan device? Are we the ones who by "design" aim to make women feel "inferior"? If so it would help readers make reasoned decisions about this matter if CBE said: "The view that endorses only men in the pastoral office is a pagan device and is designed to make women feel inferior." But again the language wins support without making clear what is being supported. We do not understand the rationale for such formulations in the present context of church controversy. It seems to us that we should all want to help our readers know as clearly as possible what is pagan and what is not, what is designed to make women feel inferior and what is not.

The desire to win the heart of contemporary women is tremendously important and praiseworthy. We share it. We too think the church should be a "city set on a hill that cannot be hid"---a beautifully attractive community of love and harmony and respect. But we caution that there will always be moral commitments in the church that are at first unattractive to the world. In one and the same context Jesus said two seemingly contradictory things: Men will "revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account;" and, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 5:11, 16). Which is it? Will they speak evil of us, or will they glorify God? The answer is: both---sometimes one and sometimes the other, and sometimes one followed by the other (1 Peter 2:12). The point is that we cannot shape all our life so as to win approval from the world. Some of it we can. But in other parts of it, rejection by the world may not be owing to our failure. We affirm with CBE that we must always struggle to discover the right missionary balance.


3. In the Christian home, husband and wife are to defer to each other in seeking to fulfill each other's preferences, desires and aspirations. Neither spouse is to seek to dominate the other but each is to act as servant of the other, in humility considering the other as better than oneself. In case of decisional deadlock they should seek resolution through biblical methods of conflict resolution rather than by one spouse imposing a decision upon the other.

In so doing, husband and wife will help the Christian home stand against improper use of power and authority by spouses and will protect the home from wife and child abuse that sometimes tragically follows a hierarchical interpretation of the husband's "headship."

CBMW comment: We agree that in a good marriage spouses will try to outdo one another in showing honor (Romans 12:10). Husbands and wives will often yield their own preferences to make each other happy. That is the way love is. "Through love be servants of one another" (Galatians 5:13). This is what husbands should use their leadership to cultivate. The responsibility of leadership that God calls a husband to bear is not conceived in terms of unilateral veto power. But the CBE statement does not make clear if they believe any unique leadership of the husband is good or if it is compatible with this kind of mutual kindness. This is another unfortunate ambiguity on a point that lies at the heart of the debate.

Again it seems to us that CBE is seeking to strengthen its case through the fallacy of the excluded middle. For example, CBE pictures, on the one hand, two humble spouses, each seeking to consider the other better than oneself; on the other hand, it pictures two spouses where one seeks "to dominate the other" and "impose a decision upon the other." In this way the CBE position is made to look like the only loving one, because the real middle position, the one we take, is excluded. We do not counsel any man to "dominate" his wife or to "impose" his decisions on her. We speak of a husband bearing the responsibility of servant-leadership and a wife gladly affirming that leadership. Moreover, we urge wives never to follow a husband's lead into sin. When we say that a husband should bear the responsibility to break a decisional deadlock, we do not mean that it will be without much interaction with his wife, or that he will always break it according to his own preference. Responsibility to lead is not synonymous with getting your way.

To say that wife and child abuse "sometimes follows a hierarchical interpretation of the husband's headship" is no doubt true. But it also sometimes follows an egalitarian interpretation of headship. Neither of us intends to give any encouragement for abuse. But the outcome of our teachings may differ from what we intend, and this cuts both ways. We would encourage those who minimize the husband's unique role as leader to consider the possibility that this may in fact be cultivating a milieu of gender confusion that in the long run brings about more abuse.

For example, sons who grow up in homes where the father gives no clear model of caring, strong, courteous leadership distinct from the role of the mother will find it much harder to develop their natural masculine identity in positive ways and will be likely candidates for the folly of macho distortions of manhood that ruin many homes. (See Chapter 17.) In the years to come, will it be enough to tell husbands and wives to love each other, without helping them discover what is unique about manhood and womanhood in the dynamic of marriage? If all the emphasis is on gender neutrality and undifferentiated roles, how will sons learn the answer to the question: What does it mean to grow up to be a man and not a woman? And how will daughters learn to answer the question: What does it mean to grow up to be a woman and not a man? If these questions are regarded as anything less than utterly crucial, we think the resulting frustrations and confusions, through the loss of clear sexual identity in the generations to come, will erupt with a tidal wave of hostilities and perversions that we can now scarcely imagine.

4. In the Christian home, spouses are to learn to share the responsibilities of leadership on the basis of gifts, expertise, and availability, with due regard for the partner most affected by the decision under consideration.

In so doing, spouses will learn to respect their competencies and their complementarity. This will prevent one spouse from becoming the perennial loser, often forced to practice ingratiating or deceitful manipulation to protect self-esteem. By establishing their marriage on a partnership basis, the couple will protect it from joining the tide of dead or broken marriages resulting from marital inequities.

5. In the Christian home, couples who share a lifestyle characterized by the freedom they find in Christ will do so without experiencing feelings of guilt or resorting to hypocrisy. They are freed to emerge from an unbiblical "traditionalism" and can rejoice in their mutual accountability in Christ. In so doing, they will openly express their obedience to Scripture, will model an example for other couples in quest of freedom in Christ, and will stand against patterns of domination and inequality sometimes imposed upon church and family.

CBMW comment: If Christ, in leading the church, does not "dominate" the church, and if God, in being the head of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:3), does not "dominate" Christ, and if elders "who lead well" (1 Timothy 5:17) need not "dominate" the flock, then domination is not the only alternative to the CBE gender-neutral conception of roles in marriage. There is a Biblical vision of warmth and respect and love that glories in the God-given, personal differences between manhood and womanhood. But in reading the CBE declaration one is left with the impression that the choice is between their view and "unbiblical 'traditionalism.'" We believe there is another choice. That is why we have written this book.

We believe that biblical equality as reflected in this document is true to Scripture.

CBMW comment: An Assessment of Men, Women and Biblical Equality by the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood

Apart from our disagreeing with the (apparent) CBE endorsement of women as preaching pastors and teaching elders and with their lack of endorsement of a man's responsibility to give primary leadership in his home, our summary concerns are these:

1. The CBE statement says nothing positive concerning the special responsibilities that a person should bear by virtue of being a man or a woman. The silence of CBE on such implications for sexual differences is typical of egalitarians. It is one of the reasons why so many young people today are confused about what it means to be a man or a woman. Readers are only told how their sexual differences don’t count. They are not told in what sense they do count. We believe that the resulting confusion and frustration over male and female identity will be increasingly responsible for the precise negative effects that CBE aims to avert.

2. We lament the absence of clarity on key points of disagreement. Only occasionally must we disagree with the actual wording of the declaration, even though its authors hold significantly different views from ours. This is because some affirmations are accepted by all evangelicals and others are so ambiguous as to allow clouded agreement by people with deep divergences. In other words, the CBE statement does not offer a clear contrary alternative to the Danvers Statement. The controversial positions that distinguish CBE from CBMW do not receive crisp, clear expression. This is doubly troubling from our point of view, because we regard ambiguity of this kind as the common prelude to liberalism. The loss of clarity and precision can easily create a fog in which it is much harder to discern what ideas are really coming and going.

3. We are troubled by the repeated fallacy of the excluded middle: the strengthening of one's position by exposing the shortcomings of an ugly alternative while giving the impression that there are no other alternatives when in truth there are. The CBE statement is a strangely oblique and ambiguous document. Chauvinistic abuses to our right are deplored. Controversial egalitarian convictions to our left are implicitly suggested in non-controversial language. But we do not recognize our own position as either the one suggested or the one rejected.

Almost all the denunciations in the CBE declaration refer to relational abuses that we reject, too. Thus CBE distances itself most often from a corruption of Biblical complementarity that we do not share, so that the reader is left wondering what CBE really thinks about a position like ours that rejects those same corruptions. Some examples:

- The "rulership" of man over woman is rightly rejected by CBE as part of the curse, but there is no explicit denial of our affirmation that the loving headship of husbands is rooted in creation before the curse.

- The "improper use of power and authority by spouses" is rightly rejected, but there is no explicit reckoning with the proper use of authority in a husband's loving leadership in the home, which is at the heart of CBMW's vision.

- CBE says the husband's headship is to be carried out as "self-giving love and service." Yes, but no explicit denial is made of our affirmation that this is the form of a husband's leadership, not an alternative to it.

4. The CBE hermeneutical procedure seems to us to pit Scripture against Scripture, with the result that crucial portions of God's Word are not allowed to have their proper say. For example, they speak of "the broader teaching of Scripture" and "the totality of Scripture" and the need to interpret "wholistically [sic] and thematically." Having defined this "totality" in terms of equality and the leveling of gender-based role distinctions, they say that the key texts that we appeal to as decisive "must not be interpreted" in a way that jeopardizes what they have determined to be the totality. This is very precarious and seems in fact to muzzle the most important passages on the issue at stake.

We do not claim to be above this very hermeneutical problem-determining the meaning of the parts by the whole, while at the same time defining the whole from the meaning of the parts. We all struggle here. And it is not just a problem in Biblical hermeneutics. Nevertheless we protest that CBE is heavy-handed in using the whole against the parts. And we appeal for the sake of 1 Timothy 2:12-14; 1 Corinthians 11:3-16; 14:34-36; Ephesians 5:22-33; Colossians 3:18-19; 1 Peter 3:1-7; Titus 2:5, etc. that they be given their say in shaping the "totality of Scripture" instead of being treated like outsiders with no exegetical vote---especially when these are the very texts that speak most explicitly and directly to the questions of distinct roles for men and women. This is all the more crucial today because the temptation to conform the "totality of Scripture" to contemporary egalitarian culture is just as strong today as the temptation to hold on to hierarchical tradition. This means that, contrary to the assumptions of many, the very texts of which we are being told what they "must not" mean are needed in all their special focus to protect the "totality of Scripture" from cultural distortion.

Again we want to confess explicitly that we have the same need in our effort of interpretation. We too are vulnerable to cultural, traditional, and personal influences that may distort our sense of what the totality of Scripture is saying. Yet we hope that in this book we have given evidence of being shaped and guided by all the Scripture, not just some of it.

Reasons for Hope

We not only want to pursue charity and cultivate clarity, but also to live in hope---hope that this controversy will move toward resolution in many fellowships and eventually in the church as a whole; hope that in the process we will become deeper and wiser and holier people; and hope that through it all our mission to a perishing world will not be hindered but advanced. What warrants are there for this hope? We see at least three. And, as with all signs of hope, these are also spurs to pray, because prophecies of this sort can be easily squandered. What will not be received by one generation God will save for the blessing of another.

1. There is hope because we stand together on the authority of God's Word, the Bible. As agonizing as the impasse may feel, there is reason to believe that while this common ground prevails, new light may yet break forth upon us. The Word is living and active; it will pierce through all our confusion. It is not passive, but "at work in you who believe" (1 Thessalonians 2:13). It will not suffer itself indefinitely to bear our misuses. It will set us straight, or it will drive us off, or it will show us how to live in peace and fulfill our mission to the world in spite of everything. "The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple... the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes" (Psalm 19:7-8). "You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free" (John 8:32). One can bemoan the puzzling impasse of multiple interpretations, or one can rejoice over the precious and auspicious privilege of standing together on one solid foundation. No doubt we feel both from time to time. May our footing remain firm and our common joy increase.

2. There is hope because of the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Not only do we believe in the Holy Spirit, but also each of us is indwelt by Him, for we confess heartily, on both sides of this issue, that Jesus Christ is Lord of all. And "no one can say 'Jesus is Lord' except by the Holy Spirit" (1 Corinthians 12:3). He is the Spirit of truth (John 16:13). He does not delight in disagreement among His people. He is urging and pressing us ever on toward "the unity of the Spirit" (Ephesians 4:3). Therefore we may dare to hear the words of the apostle as if spoken just for us: "Let those of us who are mature be thus minded; and if in anything you are otherwise minded, God will reveal that also to you" (Philippians 3:15). God is committed to correcting His people. He is not indifferent to darkness. "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives to all men generously and without reproaching" (James 1:5). "His anointing teaches you about everything" (1 John 2:27).

One of His indispensable contributions in the task of interpretation is teachability and humility. The "natural person" without the Spirit of God senses that the things of the Spirit are foolish. Therefore he cannot grasp them, because there is no welcoming attitude or spirit (1 Corinthians 2:13-16). Where the heart is averse, the mind will avert the truth. We have a thousand ways to justify with our brains the biases of the soul. More than we would like to think, our reason is the unwitting servant or our wishes. This condition is the special concern of the Holy Spirit. He works from within, sovereignly opening and humbling us to the truth of the Word. The "spiritual person assesses all things." Those who possess the Spirit eventually welcome the things of God. The template in the soul is cleansed of self and comes to feel the delight of meshing with its counterpiece in the Word of truth.

There is a specific application of this truth to the issue of manhood and womanhood. It is something we all suspect to be the case but are often fearful of articulating lest we sound presumptuous. But it is so vital in this matter that we should not avoid it. Do we not find ourselves again and again baffled that others cannot simply "feel" the rightness of what we are saying about the relationship of men and women? On the other hand, repeatedly people will say (on one side or the other): "That surely rings bells in my heart." Or: "That feels right to me." Or: "I really resonate with that." In fact, some have said to those of us speaking out in this controversy, "You're wasting your time arguing about this, because it's a matter of inner taste. Either you sense the vision as beautiful or you don't, and no amount of arguing is going to make something look attractive to the eyes of the heart if it doesn't see it in an instant."

There is something very profound being spoken here. Jonathan Edwards, the eighteenth-century preacher and theologian, developed it better than anyone we know. In describing how the saints are led by the Holy Spirit, he argues that, just as a good eye recognizes natural beauty, and a good ear knows harmony, and a good tongue tastes sweetness---all without a train of reasoning---so there is a spiritual sense in the regenerate soul that perceives immediately the fitness and beauty of a holy action or a relationship. Edwards puts it like this:

Thus a holy person is led by the Spirit, as he is instructed and led by his holy taste and disposition of heart; whereby, in the lively exercise of grace, he easily distinguishes good and evil, and knows at once what is a suitable, amiable behavior towards God, and towards man... and judges what is right, as it were, spontaneously, without a particular deduction, by any other arguments than the beauty that is seen, and goodness that is tasted. {9}

This, Edwards explains, is why the simplest people are very often wiser and more holy than those who are very educated and scholarly. The ability to perceive what is morally good and beautiful is a function of a spiritual faculty, a discerning sense of fitness, a taste for what is lovely in the sight of God. Edwards sums up his discussion with the following sentence:

There is a divine taste, given and maintained by the Spirit of God, in the hearts of the saints, whereby they are... led and guided in discerning and distinguishing the true spiritual and holy beauty of actions; and that more easily, readily, and accurately, as they have more or less of the Spirit of God dwelling in them. And thus the sons of God are led by the Spirit of God in their behavior in the world.{10}

What this implies is that discerning the beauty and goodness of any vision of manhood and womanhood involves more than just rational exegetical argumentation. Each of us has some capacity for immediate, moral perception of what Edwards calls the amiableness or suitableness of a pattern of behavior. He says that we will distinguish what is truly beautiful more "readily and accurately" as we have more or less of God's Spirit dwelling in us.

If Edwards is right---and we believe he is---there is reason to hope that we may come together under a vision of manhood and womanhood, notwithstanding all our exegetical disagreements. For the business of the sovereign Holy Spirit is to lead His people (Romans 8:14). And if He leads as Edwards says He does-by giving a divine taste for what is morally beautiful-then none of us dare say, "The day cannot dawn when we will not be drawn to the beauty of a different vision." Surely none is prepared to say that the influence of the Holy Spirit that we now have is all there is to have. Which of us needs more refinement in spiritual taste? God will make that plain in His time. More important than knowing that fact is the confession that each of us needs to be changed from one degree of glory to another. And if there were a great cry from us all, would God not answer---perhaps with a vision of manhood and womanhood none has yet seen or spoken?

3. Finally, there is reason to hope because the things that unite those of us on both sides of this issue are inexpressibly magnificent and infinitely valuable. This is why our mission to the world will not be blunted but will in fact prosper and triumph by the sovereign grace of God.

We serve the same omnipotent God, and there is none like Him. "I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying 'My counsel shall stand, and I shall accomplish all my purpose'" (Isaiah 46:10). The utter uniqueness of this omnipotent God that we serve together is not merely that He is sovereign and makes all His plans to stand. It is also the breathtaking truth that He works for us with His omnipotence! "From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides thee, who works for those who wait for him" (Isaiah 64:4).

Do we not share the faith that the earth is the Lord's and everything in it---that He made everything and everyone? Every human being is God's by right, whether they are in rebellion against Him or allegiance to Him. He is King over the nations.

Do we not share the faith that in these last days God has spoken to us by a Son, Jesus Christ, whom He appointed the heir of all things and through whom He made the world? Do we not believe together that Jesus reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of His nature, upholding the universe by the Word of His power? We believe that this great and glorious Son of God became flesh and dwelt among us. He was tempted but never sinned. He taught like no one else ever taught, and loved like no one else ever loved. He said He came to serve and to give His life a ransom for many. He suffered indescribable shame and pain, and died willingly. He identified the meaning of His own blood in advance: "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins" (Matthew 26:28).

Do we not share the faith that Jesus rose from the dead never to die again, that Satan was defeated, that death was conquered, and that Jesus now reigns at the right hand of the Majesty on high until He puts all His enemies under His feet?

Do we not share the faith that anyone and everyone who turns from sin and calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved? Every believer is delivered from the kingdom of darkness, the fear of death, and the dominion of sin. Every believer receives the gift of forgiveness, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the cleansing of conscience, and the hope of everlasting joy in the presence of God.

Do we not share the faith that God has a heart and a plan for all the nations? He has other sheep that are not of this fold. And the great assurance of our lives is that these He must bring also. His mission cannot fail, for He is God. What His Son has purchased He will possess. And He has purchased people from every tribe and tongue and nation. Therefore the gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. The Son of Man will appear on the clouds with power and great glory. He will send out His angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. Every knee, in all the universe, will bow before Jesus Christ. He will establish His kingdom of righteousness and peace. All that is evil will be cast into outer darkness. And the glory of the Lord will fill the earth as the waters cover the sea.

These things and many more we cherish in common. There is no such thing as Christian fellowship if the shared revelling in these things is not fellowship. This is our united front of love and witness to the world. This is an unblunted point of unified penetration. Indeed, the mission is far advanced, and is moving today at an incredible pace.

In 1900 there were fewer than 10 million Protestants in sub-Saharan Africa. By the year 2000 there will be over 400 million-a growth rate 500 percent faster than the population growth. In 1900 there were only about 50,000 Protestants in Latin America. By the year 2000 there will be over 100 million-a growth rate 20,000 percent faster than the population growth. Just over one hundred years ago there were no Christian churches in Korea. Today there are 6,000 churches in the city of Seoul alone. More Muslims have become Christians in Indonesia, Bangladesh, Iran, and East Africa in the last ten years than in the last ten centuries. Christianity is the most extensive and universal religion in history. There are churches in every country in the world.

The task remaining is great. But we are gaining steadily. The goal is to reach every people group with the gospel and plant the church among them. Several thousand groups remain to be reached. But the number is shrinking steadily, and the number of Christians available to complete the job is growing. The great new reality in missions today is the emergence of non-Western missionaries and agencies. There are over 30,000 personnel and by the end of the century that number will be over 100,000 at the present rate of advance. Not only that, but also, lands once thought to be utterly inaccessible have opened, as it were, overnight under the sovereign hand of God. And as if that were not enough, God is reversing missions and bringing many of the unreached peoples to our own Western cities. In Toronto, Canada, live an estimated 67,000 Chinese Buddhists, 297,000 Indo-Pakistanis, 88,000 Portuguese, and 109,000 Japanese.

The point is this: there is great cause for hope today. Controversies notwithstanding---or perhaps through the very controversies themselves---Christ will build His church. All the families of the earth will be blessed. The nations may rage and the kingdoms totter, but God utters His voice and the earth melts. The victory will not come without suffering. Perhaps this is what will bind us together most sweetly in the end. May the Lord give us more light and more love as we hope in Him.

We stand united in our conviction that the Bible, in its totality, is the liberating Word that provides the most effective way for women and men to exercise the gifts distributed by the Holy Spirit and thus to serve God.

Gilbert Bilezikian
W. Ward Gasque
Stanley N. Gundry
Gretchen Gaebelein Hull
Catherine Clark Kroeger
Jo Anne Lyon
Roger Nicole

Endorsed by: Miriam Adeney, Astri T. Anfindsen, Timothy Paul Allen, James Alsdurf, Phyllis Alsdurf, John E. Anderson, Patricia W. Anderson, Carl E. Armerding, Myron S. Augsburger, Raymond Bakke, Sandra Bauer, James Beck, Virginia L. Beck, Elizabeth Bell, Roy D. Bell, David G. Benner, Gordon C. Bennett, Joyce R. Berggren, Char Binkley, Sandra Bostian, Mark A. Brewer, Bettie Ann Brigham, D. Stuart Briscoe, Kathleen K. Brogan, James A. Brooks, Beth E. Brown, H. Marie Brown, F. F. Bruce, Cheever C. Buckbee, David H. Burr, Donald P. Buteyn, Anthony Campolo, Linda Cannell, Daniel R. Chamberlain, Caroline L. Cherry, Jack M. Chisholm, Gerald Christmas, Rosemary Christmas, David K. Clark, Shirley Close, Bonnidell Clouse, Robert G. Clouse, David W. Clowney, Naomi C. Cole, Mark O. Coleman, Jim Conway, Sally Conway, Kaye V. Cook-Kollars, C. S. Cowles, R. Byron Crozier, Peter H. Davids, Edward R. Dayton, Paul H. De Vries, Sidney De Waal, J. Jey Deifell, Jr., John R. Dellenback, Mary Jane Dellenback, Gary W. Demarest, Dolores Dunnett, Walter Dunnett, Charlotte Dyck, James F. Engel, C. Stephen Evans, Colleen Townsend Evans, Louis Evans, Gabriel Fackre, Gordon D. Fee, John Fischer, Patrice Fischer, David B. Fletcher, Joan D. Flikkema, David A. Fraser, Nils C. Friberg, Donn M. Gaebelein, Kevin Giles, Alfred A. Glenn, Barbara R. Glenn, Arthur A. Goetze, Tita V. Gordovez, Lillian V. Grissen, H. James Groen, Vernon Grounds, Darrell L. Guder, Lee M. Haines, Robin Haines, Richard C. Halverson, Sandra Hart, Stephen A. Hayner, Jo Ellen Heil, Betty C. Henderson, Robert T. Henderson, John J. Herzog, Bartlett L. Hess, I. John Hesselink, Roberta Hestenes, Janet S. Hickman, Marvin D. Hoff, Colleen Holby, Arthur F. Holmes, Beverly Holt, Carol D. C. Howard, David Allan Hubbard, M. Gay Hubbard, Anne Huffman, John Huffman, Philip G. Hull, Sanford D. Hull, Richard G. Hutcheson, Jr., William J. Hybels, Vida S. Icenogle, Dorothy Irvin, Evelyn Jensen, Alan F. Johnson, David W. Johnson, Robert K. Johnston, Rufus Jones, Kenneth S. Kantzer, Robert D. Kettering, John F. Kilner, Herbert V. Klem, Richard C. Kroeger, Harold E. Kurtz, Pauline H. Kurtz, Bruce Larson, Michael R. Leming, William H. Leslie, Arthur H. Lewis, Walter L. Liefeld, Zondra Lindblade, Helen W. Loeb, Richard N. Longenecker, Richard F. Lovelace, Deborah Olsoe Lunde, Kenneth H. Maahs, Faith M. Martin, James R. Mason, Alice P. Mathews, Dolores E. McCabe, Terry McGonigal, David L. McKenna, Lois McKinney, William A. Meyer, Hazel M. Michelson, A. Berkeley Mickelsen, Alvera Mickelsen, Eileen F. Moffett, Samuel H. Moffett, C. Sue Moore, Edward Moore, Graham Morbey, Mary Leigh Morbey, Elizabeth Morgan, Stephen C. Mott, Richard J. Mouw, Jeana Nieporte, William M. Nieporte, Alvaro L. Nieves, Arnold T. Olson, Daisy M. Washburn Osborn, LaDonna Osborn, T. L. Osborn, Grant R. Osborne, Grace Paddon, John Paddon, Elizabeth L. Patterson, Virginia Patterson, Richard Patterson, Jr., Philip Barton Payne, Robert W. Pazmino, Janet M. Peifer, William J. Petersen, Richard V. Pierard, Paul E. Pierson, Carolyn Goodman Plampin, Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Christiane Posselt, Quah Cheng Hock, Robert V. Rakestraw, Sara Robertson, Lianne Roembke, Lydia M. Sarandan, Alvin J. Schmidt, Richard C. Schoenert, David M. Scholer, Jeannette F. Scholer, Robert A. Seiple, Ronald J. Sider, Lewis B. Smedes, James D. Smith III, Paul R. Smith, P. Paul Snezek, Jr., Klyne Snodgrass, Howard A. Snyder, Aida B. Spencer, William D. Spencer, Adele O. Sullivan, W. Nelson Thomson, Ruth A. Tucker, Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen, Joseph W. Viola, Virginia G. Viola, Emily Walther, George H. Walther, Patricia A. Ward, Timothy Weber, Van B. Weigel, Bruce Wilson, Earle L. Wilson, H. C. Wilson, Nicholas Wolterstorff, Linda R. Wright, Walter C. Wright, Jr., Louis H. Zbinden. (9/95)

The Danvers Statement

The "Danvers Statement" summarizes the need for the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) and serves as an overview of our core beliefs. This statement was prepared by several evangelical leaders at a CBMW meeting in Danvers, Massachusetts, in December of 1987. It was first published in final form by the CBMW in Wheaton, Illinois in November of 1988.


We have been moved in our purpose by the following contemporary developments which we observe with deep concern:

1. The widespread uncertainty and confusion in our culture regarding the complementary differences between masculinity and femininity;

2. The tragic effects of this confusion in unraveling the fabric of marriage woven by God out of the beautiful and diverse strands of manhood and womanhood;

3. The increasing promotion given to feminist egalitarianism with accompanying distortions or neglect of the glad harmony portrayed in Scripture between the loving, humble leadership of redeemed husbands and the intelligent, willing support of that leadership by redeemed wives;

4. The widespread ambivalence regarding the values of motherhood, vocational homemaking, and the many ministries historically performed by women;

5. The growing claims of legitimacy for sexual relationships which have Biblically and historically been considered illicit or perverse, and the increase in pornographic portrayal of human sexuality;

6. The upsurge of physical and emotional abuse in the family;

7. The emergence of roles for men and women in church leadership that do not conform to Biblical teaching but backfire in the crippling of Biblically faithful witness;

8. The increasing prevalence and acceptance of hermeneutical oddities devised to reinterpret apparently plain meanings of Biblical texts;

9. The consequent threat to Biblical authority as the clarity of Scripture is jeopardized and the accessibility of its meaning to ordinary people is withdrawn into the restricted realm of technical ingenuity;

10. And behind all this the apparent accommodation of some within the church to the spirit of the age at the expense of winsome, radical Biblical authenticity which in the power of the Holy Spirit may reform rather than reflect our ailing culture.


Recognizing our own abiding sinfulness and fallibility, and acknowledging the genuine evangelical standing of many who do not agree with all of our convictions, nevertheless, moved by the preceding observations and by the hope that the noble Biblical vision of sexual complementarity may yet win the mind and heart of Christ's church, we engage to pursue the following purposes:

1. To study and set forth the Biblical view of the relationship between men and women, especially in the home and in the church.

2. To promote the publication of scholarly and popular materials representing this view.

3. To encourage the confidence of lay people to study and understand for themselves the teaching of Scripture, especially on the issue of relationships between men and women.

4. To encourage the considered and sensitive application of this Biblical view in the appropriate spheres of life.

5. And thereby

- to bring healing to persons and relationships injured by an inadequate grasp of God's will concerning manhood and womanhood,

- to help both men and women realize their full ministry potential through a true understanding and practice of their God-given roles,

- and to promote the spread of the gospel among all peoples by fostering a Biblical wholeness in relationships that will attract a fractured world.


Based on our understanding of Biblical teachings, we affirm the following:

1. Both Adam and Eve were created in God's image, equal before God as persons and distinct in their manhood and womanhood (Gen 1:26-27, 2:18).

2. Distinctions in masculine and feminine roles are ordained by God as part of the created order, and should find an echo in every human heart heart (Gen 2:18, 21-24; 1 Cor 11:7-9; 1 Tim 2:12-14).

3. Adam's headship in marriage was established by God before the Fall, and was not a result of sin (Gen 2:16-18, 21-24, 3:1-13; 1 Cor 11:7-9).

4. The Fall introduced distortions into the relationships between men and women women (Gen 3:1-7, 12, 16).

- In the home, the husband's loving, humble headship tends to be replaced by domination or passivity; the wife's intelligent, willing submission tends to be replaced by usurpation or servility.

- In the church, sin inclines men toward a worldly love of power or an abdication of spiritual responsibility, and inclines women to resist limitations on their roles or to neglect the use of their gifts in appropriate ministries.

4. The Old Testament, as well as the New Testament, manifests the equally high value and dignity which God attached to the roles of both men and women (Gen 1:26-27, 2:18; Gal 3:28). Both Old and New Testaments also affirm the principle of male headship in the family and in the covenant community (Gen 2:18; Eph 5:21-33; Col 3:18-19; 1 Tim 2:11-15).

5. Redemption in Christ aims at removing the distortions introduced by the curse.

- In the family, husbands should forsake harsh or selfish leadership and grow in love and care for their wives; wives should forsake resistance to their husbands' authority and grow in willing, joyful submission to their husbands' leadership (Eph 5:21-33; Col 3:18-19; Tit 2:3-5; 1 Pet 3:1-7).

- In the church, redemption in Christ gives men and women an equal share in the blessings of salvation; nevertheless, some governing and teaching roles within the church are restricted to men (Gal 3:28; 1 Cor 11:2-16; 1 Tim 2:11-15).

6. In all of life Christ is the supreme authority and guide for men and women, so that no earthly submission-domestic, religious, or civil-ever implies a mandate to follow a human authority into sin (Dan 3:10-18; Acts 4:19-20, 5:27-29; 1 Pet 3:1-2).

7. In both men and women a heartfelt sense of call to ministry should never be used to set aside Biblical criteria for particular ministries (1 Tim 2:11-15, 3:1-13; Tit 1:5-9). Rather, Biblical teaching should remain the authority for testing our subjective discernment of God's will.

8. With half the world's population outside the reach of indigenous evangelism; with countless other lost people in those societies that have heard the gospel; with the stresses and miseries of sickness, malnutrition, homelessness, illiteracy, ignorance, aging, addiction, crime, incarceration, neuroses, and loneliness, no man or woman who feels a passion from God to make His grace known in word and deed need ever live without a fulfilling ministry for the glory of Christ and the good of this fallen world (1 Cor 12:7-21).

9. We are convinced that a denial or neglect of these principles will lead to increasingly destructive consequences in our families, our churches, and the culture at large.

Copyright (c) 2004 The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. All rights reserved. Taken from The Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Used by permission of

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