CBMW has been in operation since 1987, when a meeting in Dallas, Texas, brought together a number of evangelical leaders and scholars, including John Piper, Wayne Grudem, Wayne House, S. Lewis Johnson, James Borland, Susan Foh, and Ken Sarles. These figures were concerned by the spread of unbiblical teaching. Under Piper’s leadership, the group drafted a statement outlining what would become the definitive theological articulation of “complementarianism,” the biblically derived view that men and women are complementary, possessing equal dignity and worth as the image of God, and called to different roles that each glorify him.
The group next met at the Sheraton Ferncroft Resort in Danvers, Massachusetts, on December 2-3, 1987, before the 1987 meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society. The draft was adopted in meeting and called the Danvers Statement on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. The group then voted to incorporate as the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.
The organization built steam for several years, running an ad in Christianity Today that drew a huge response. It was clear that CBMW represented the concerns of a large, and to that point relatively quiet, constituency. During this period, Grudem and Piper worked on assembling and editing essays for a project released by Crossway in 1991 entitled Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism. Now known as RBMW (or, among younger complementarians, the “blue book”), the text was named “Book of the Year” by Christianity Today in 1992. It signaled that complementarianism rested upon extensive scholarship and featured an impressive array of essays on exegetical, theological, and applicatory topics. Later in the 1990s CBMW engaged several issues related to “gender neutral” Bible translation, contending for the importance of fidelity to the original text.
CBMW has played a formative role in helping numerous denominations and organizations promote gospel-driven gender roles, including the Southern Baptist Convention and the Presbyterian Church of America. Under the leadership of leaders like Randy Stinson, Bruce Ware, and J. Ligon Duncan, CBMW increased its influence in the first decade of the 21st century, holding several major conferences on gender roles, launching CBMW.org, and publishing the Journal for Biblical Manhood & Womanhood. JBMW has been published in journal form since 1994 and has fostered critical academic discussion of crucial exegetical, theological, and pastoral issues. In 2019, the journal underwent restructuring and is now published under the new masthead, Eikon: A Journal for Biblical Anthropology.
Today, many evangelical groups are convictionally complementarian. The contemporary surge of interest in the gospel and the greatness of God has coincided with widespread adoption of complementarianism, with many prominent churches, seminaries, authors, and para-church organizations joyfully celebrating God’s good design for manhood and womanhood, home and church.
CBMW is in its fourth decade of operation. But in the thirty years since the drafting of the Danvers Statement, challenges to the Bible’s teaching have not abated. In fact, the challenges have only increased and broadened. Western culture has embarked upon a total revision of sexual and gender norms. It has evicted the male-female complement from the definition of marriage. Indeed, with the transgender challenge, it has thrown into question the meaning of the sexual binary that God has encoded into every cell in our bodies.
As a result, churches find themselves facing questions about manhood and womanhood that were barely imagined when the Danvers Statement was written. Under the leadership of Dr. Denny Burk, CBMW focuses its resources and conferences on addressing this full range of challenges to what scripture teaches about manhood and womanhood.
In 2017, CBMW convened a meeting of over 80 evangelical leaders in Nashville, Tennessee, to draft a consensus document on biblical sexuality. This document came to be known as the Nashville Statement. Since its release, the Nashville Statement or its language has been commended or adopted by denominational organizations like the PCA and the SBC, as well as incorporated into the governing documents of several evangelical schools, including Cedarville University, Union University, SBTS, and MBTS.
The challenges are ongoing and so must be CBMW’s work.