By Denny Burk
Last month, the CBMW board chairman invited me to consider coming on board as the new president of the organization. As I began praying about this unexpected opportunity, my thoughts turned very quickly from whether to accept the position to what CBMW needs to be and to do in the days ahead. A very clear vision began forming in my mind. I shared that vision with the board of directors before they elected me last week, and I would like to share that vision with you now.
The vision I articulated last week very much aligns with CBMW’s vision statement, which reads:
“The vision of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood is to see the vast majority of evangelical homes, churches, academic institutions, and other ministries adopt the principles of the Danvers Statement as a part of their personal convictions and doctrinal confessions and apply them in consistent, heart-felt practice.”
This remains CBMW’s vision, and I intend to pursue this vision as president. But to do so, CBMW will need both to affirm and to advance.
The Danvers Statement must define the mission and vision of CBMW. Danvers is our true north. At the heart of that statement is a biblical conviction about what it means to be created in the image of God as male and female:
“Both Adam and Eve were created in God’s image, equal before God as persons and distinct in their manhood and womanhood. . . 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.”
As Danvers makes clear, these truths have immediate implications for leadership in the home and in the church. We believe this to be a faithful summary of biblical teaching.
There is room in the complementarian coalition for differences in application, and indeed we know that individual ministries and churches will carry out the Danvers vision in ways not specified by Danvers. Nevertheless, we welcome all evangelicals who affirm Danvers into a coalition to advance this biblical vision.
We also wish to affirm that the Danvers Statement promotes the full equality of women as co-heirs of the gospel and co-laborers in advancing the Kingdom. We want to affirm that a biblical view of complementarity blesses, honors, and protects women. To this end, I would like to revisit CBMW’s Statement against Abuse, to reiterate that the abuse of women is a serious crime, and has no place in a complementarian framework.
The church in every generation needs to be taught what scripture says about the complementary differences between male and female and how those differences impact family and church leadership. That has been and always will be at the heart of CBMW’s work.
But in the thirty years since the drafting of the Danvers Statement, challenges to this biblical vision 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. Nevertheless, the theological vision of Danvers has implications for the current challenges we are facing. For that reason, I believe that CBMW needs to address these challenges explicitly, and we need to do so in some specific ways.
First, we need Danvers evangelicals to come together to produce a new statement of conviction concerning these current challenges. This will be hard work and will likely take some time. But it will be worth the effort to produce a statement of evangelical unity on these matters that can serve as a reference point for churches and Christian organizations that are looking for confessional language on these issues. We will need all hands on deck for this effort, and I am hopeful that a broad coalition of like-minded brothers and sisters will come together to have a hand in this work. I am confident that we can achieve this.
Second, CBMW will not be backing away from or revising Danvers. Danvers is an historical document and should be left as is. Our aim, however, is for CBMW to adopt this new statement in addition to Danvers to define the parameters of our work. The organization would then work to produce resources, conferences, etc. in order to equip churches and organizations to face these current challenges within the vision of both statements. The church needs fresh scholarship and pastorally focused contributions on these matters, and that is what we aim to foster and produce.
None of us are free of the consequences of living in a broken, sinful world. We want to come alongside those brothers and sisters who are dealing with painful gender and sexual identity issues and who wish to know what God would say to them. The gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ speaks to all of our deep-felt needs, offers us hope, and sheds light on the path that leads to life. At the end of the day, this is the good news we aim to communicate.
I want to thank the CBMW board of directors for their support and for the opportunity to serve an organization that I care so deeply about. I also want to thank my friend and outgoing president Owen Strachan for the faithful labor that he put into this work over the last four years. Owen has built a platform and organization that did not even exist at this time four years ago, and we are the beneficiaries. Truly we reap in fields others have planted, and we give thanks.
Christians are facing unprecedented challenges to the Bible’s teaching on gender and sexuality, and CBMW has its work cut out for it. I am eager to help advance the biblical conviction reflected in the Danvers Statement in order to meet those challenges. I hope and pray that many of you will join us.
You, too, can help support the ministry of CBMW. We are a non-profit organization that is fully-funded by individual gifts and ministry partnerships. Your contribution will go directly toward the production of more gospel-centered, church-equipping resources.