"A brief note about terms: If one word must be used to describe our position, we prefer the term complementarian, since it suggests both equality and beneficial differences between men and women."
John Piper and Wayne Grudem (Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, Preface, xiv)
Do you know the history of complementarianism? I thought I did until I began doing some in depth research. When I shared some of this information with Dee, she found it interesting, so we thought it might be helpful to put together a summary explaining the origins of complementarian movement.
This movement's foundational book (published in 1991) — Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism — provides the following background information in the Preface:
A controversy of major proportions has spread throughout the church.
It began over 20 years ago in society at large. Since then an avalanche of feminist literature has argued that there need be no difference between men's and women's roles—indeed, that to support gender-based role differences is unjust discrimination. Within evangelical Christianity, the counterpart to this movement has been the increasing tendency to oppose any unique leadership role for men in the family and in the church. "Manhood" and "womanhood" as such are now often seen as irrelevant factors in determining fitness for leadership." (page xiii)
In his Personal Reflections on the History of CBMW and the State of the Gender Debate, Wayne Grudem (who played a significant role in establishing complementarianism) provided some background information:
Grudem went on to share the following information:
The Danvers Statement
A number of individuals reacted positively to this announcement, and a month later a group of like-minded men and women met in Dallas, including Wayne Grudem, Wayne House, John Piper, Dorothy Patterson, James Borland, Susan Foh, Ken Sarles, and some others. Wayne House chaired the meeting, and they drafted a statement on what they believed about manhood and womanhood.
In his personal reflections, Grudem wrote:
"But we were still meeting secretly in 1987, not posting the meeting anywhere, not letting anyone know what we were doing. We just didn’t want to get involved in controversy and argument while we were still getting organized and deciding what exactly we would stand for."
With the next ETS meeting fast approaching, the group convened on December 2-3, 1987, at the Sheraton Ferncroft Resort in Danvers, Massachusetts under a cloak of secrecy. They put the finishing touches on their statement and called it the Danvers Statement on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. During that private meeting, attendees voted to incorporate as the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.
One of the individuals who helped draft the Danvers Statement was Mary Kassian, who explained her involvement in a post called Complementarianism for Dummies. (see two screen shots below)
The comps must have really loved Mary Kassian's post because it was published by The Gospel Coalition (TGC) and the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW). We have pondered why Mary, who was fairly young in 1987 (around 27 years old), was involved with writing the Danvers Statement. The only thing we can figure is that it must have had something to do with her submission of Bible study materials to Crossway Books. Here is a screen shot from an interview published in the Women of God Magazine, that explains what happened.
Kassian's first book Women, Creation, and the Fall was published by Crossway in 1990. You can access it here. After perusing the book's contents and footnotes, I believe it took Mary a considerable amount of time to finish the manuscript, and this in all likelihood coincided with her involvement in the Danvers Statement.
Another Christian leader who has played a key role in the promotion of complementarianism is Dr. Lane Dennis, president of Crossway Books. According to Wayne Grudem, Dennis attended the Danvers meeting and was in on the meeting in which the Danvers Statement was finalized.
Two years earlier (1985), John Piper suggested to Lane Dennis a book that would include a compilation of essays on manhood and womanhood. They discussed the potential book, and in 1991 Crossway published Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism. I purchased a used copy through Amazon. It is also available on the Desiring God website here. Some of the key contributors to the book are John Piper, Wayne Grudem, Ray Ortlund, Jr., Thomas Schreiner, D.A. Carson, Douglas Moo, John Frame, Vern Poythress, Paige Patterson, Wayne House, Dorothy Patterson, Dee Jepsen, and Elizabeth Elliot. While this list of contributors is not exhaustive, these are the more recognizable names (at least to us).
In his personal reflections, Wayne Grudem went on to share the following:
We also talked during those meetings about the future of the ETS, and how important it was to show up at the ETS business meeting and vote for candidates for the nominating committee who held to our principles. So we began to show up and vote every year, and I think that has had a positive influence on the officers elected year after year to head the ETS.
(When I reflect on the fact that the incorporation of CBMW, the finalizing of the Danvers Statement, and the agreement to produce Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, all came out of that one meeting at the Sheraton Ferncroft Resort, I think it is one of the Lord’s pleasant acts of providence that twelve years later, on November 17, 1999, I had the honor of giving the ETS presidential address in that very same hotel. Those were the only two occasions in the sixty-year history of the ETS that the Sheraton Ferncroft was the primary hotel for the conference.)
The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW)
According to Wayne Grudem, the core group responsible for the Danvers Statement (which carefully defined complementarianism) was 'very secret' and 'by-invitation-only'. A year after the Danvers Statement was finalized, the group was ready to go public. They chose the 1988 Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) meeting at Wheaton College to announce the formation of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW). They handed out brochures and even held a press conference. Interestingly, only Christianity Today showed up. At that ETS meeting, A Texan named Dr. S. Lewis Johnson told Wayne Grudem that he thought some people from his church would be willing to fund a full-page ad in Christianity Today announcing for formation of CBMW. Lewis and/or his church friends put up the $5,000 to pay for a two-page ad. Grudem explained:
We were thrilled when the January 13, 1989, issue of Christianity Today arrived. They had given us the two center pages, and the magazine just fell open to that spot! The ad proclaimed, “We are pleased to announce the formation of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.” It was very text-heavy and included some questions and answers, the list of Council Members and Board of Reference members, and the entire Danvers Statement! No photos at all! But there was a clip-out coupon to mail in (this was pre-e-mail days). That one ad brought over 1000 responses, which, we were told, astounded the people at Christianity Today when they heard about it-that a single ad that was so text-heavy would bring that much response. People would write us saying, “I wept when I saw your ad. I didn’t know that people held this any more.” We began to sense that this was a big issue and that God was surely blessing our work.
Two years later, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (with its twenty-six essays by twenty-two different authors) was published by Crossway Books, which, according to Grudem, had been an ally of CBMW from day one.
Wayne Grudem then explained how the foundation book for biblical manhood and womanhood became Christianity Today's "Book of the Year".
In 1992 we found out that Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, by a vote of readers, was chosen as Christianity Today “Book of the Year,” meaning the book that had had the most significant influence on the evangelical world in the previous year—once again, a surprising blessing from the Lord! (I heard later that there was some frustration on the part of some staff at Christianity Today as they counted the ballots that poured in by mail, because our book did not represent a viewpoint that most of them favored. I don’t know if there is a causal relationship, but it was that year that they decided to stop taking readers’ votes for “Book of the Year,” and that honor has since been decided by a committee of experts that they have selected.)
However, Grudem's explanation about "Book of the Year" is confusing because as you can see from the cover of Deb's copy, it received this award in 1993. What we found particularly interesting from Grudem's above explanation is that in subsequent years a committee of experts would determine which books to recognize for this prestigious award.
So the ballots voting for this tome poured in by mail? Sounds eerily similar to what took place in Dallas back in 1979 to bring about the Conservative Resurgence of the Southern Baptist Convention. You remember that Paige Patterson and Paul Pressler orchestrated that denominational takeover. Oh yeah, both Paige and Dorothy Patterson were involved with this movement and specifically the "Book of the Year".
We found it interesting that in his Personal Reflections on CBMW, Wayne Grudem brought up a competing organization called Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE), which was established around the same time as CBMW. CBE believes in gender equality when it comes to spiritual gifting.
Grudem explained that in 1994, around six years after both of these organizations were established, the egalitarian group (CBE) initiated a meeting with CBMW to discuss points upon which the two organizations could agree. Three members of CBMW met privately in Chicago with three members of Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE). Those representing CBMW were Wayne Grudem, Dr. Ray Ortlund (CBMW president at that time), and Mary Kassian. According to Wayne Grudem:
We overcame some misunderstandings on both sides, and the Lord gave a measure of blessing to that time.
Grudem went on to explain that one matter upon which both organizations could publicly agree is that abuse within marriage is wrong. At the conclusion of the meeting, they agreed to come up with a joint statement on abuse. Mary Kassian drafted the proposed statement, and it was reviewed by those involved with CBE. According to Grudem, they were just about to issue the statement jointly, however…
On October 10, 1994, we received a letter from them saying that their board had considered it, and they would not join with us in the joint statement opposing abuse. I was shocked and disappointed when the letter came. I wondered then if their highest goal in this issue was to be faithful to Scripture above all and stop the horrors of abuse, or was to promote the egalitarian agenda. We ended up publishing the statement ourselves in CBMW NEWS (later renamed The Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood).
Based on Grudem's historical account, it appears CBMW was taking the high road regarding not only abuse in marriage but the Gospel….
In our upcoming post, we will share the rest of the story about complementarianism and how this movement, which began almost thirty years ago, has now extended its tentacles far and wide throughout Christendom.