Manhattan Declaration Calling: Stand Up Christians For Our Freedoms!
Manhattan Plan for this site
Special Proclamation Prayer for Today
Father, God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,
Your Word declares that if we, Your people, who are called by Your
name, will humble ourselves and pray and seek Your face and turn
from our wicked ways, then will You hear from heaven and You will
forgive our sin and will heal our land.
(2 Chronicles 7:14)
We bow before Your sacred throne and humbly ask Your
forgiveness for the sin of idolatry! Your word demands; “Thou shalt
have no other gods before Me”, yet we have, under the banner of
pluralism and hedonism, embraced and worshipped the gods of
this world. Take us back to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob!
Through moral and spiritual compromise and complacency, we have
allowed our nation to conform to the ways of the world by turning
away from our spiritual roots found in Your Word.
Our silence has produced a secular nation and all nations that forget
You, shall be forsaken. We ask that You hear our cry, for we need
You, in these desperate times, to lead us out of our politically correct
fog of constant confusion and take us back to Your moral clarity.
O Lord our God, King of the Universe, we confess that America
cannot survive without Your presence. Your statutes founded this
blessed land and we look to You, Father God, to preserve it, for
“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.”
As commanded in scripture, we pray for all who are in authority
who govern our nation; may their decisions be led by the perfect
compass of your Holy Word which clearly discerns right from wrong.
(I Timothy 2:1-3)
O Lord our God, You have promised to raise up righteous leaders
into high places and to remove those who have displayed unrighteous
authority. We earnestly pray that You will once again exalt the
righteous and expose the deeds of the ungodly.
America must have spiritual renewal for moral survival! In this
season of prayer, we unite in humble heartfelt hope and ask that You
forgive us and deliver us from the folly of our transgressions. Guide
and sustain our nation as we turn from our sin and return to You,
the God of our fathers. (Psalm 51:1-17)
The time has come to declare our trust in You to heal our land.
(2 Samuel 22:2-4; Psalm 5:11-12; Psalm 57:1-3)
We pledge to exercise our God given rights of “life, liberty and the
pursuit of happiness” in voting for future leaders from the county
courthouse to the White House who obey and honor Your Word.
(Deuteronomy 28:1-14; Psalm 119:44-48; Psalm5:11)
We pledge to vote the Bible in selecting those that will govern our
country. (Deuteronomy 16:18-20)
Blessed are you, O Lord our God, for You are good and Your mercy
endures forever. We petition heaven with our united prayers as we
seek Your blessing, Your peace and Your protection for America.
(I Chronicles 16:34; Numbers 6:22-26; Romans 15:13;
May the Lord our God, be with us, as He was with our forefathers;
may He not leave us or forsake us; so that He may incline our hearts
to Himself, to walk in all His ways... that all peoples of the earth may
know that the Lord is God and that there is no other.
(1 Kings 8:57-60)
Manhattan Pledge Follows
Manhattan Calling Reference Scripture
Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience
Galatians 3:28 "..There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus..."
Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience
Drafted October 20, 2009
Released November 20, 2009
Edited August 20, 2015
Christians are heirs of a 2,000-year tradition of proclaiming God’s word,
seeking justice in our societies, resisting tyranny, and reaching out with compassion
to the poor, oppressed and suffering, thus the need for the Manhattan Declaration.
While fully acknowledging the imperfections and shortcomings of Christian institutions
and communities in all ages, we claim the heritage of those Christians who defended
innocent life by rescuing discarded babies from trash heaps in Roman cities and publicly
denouncing the Empire’s sanctioning of infanticide. We remember with reverence those
believers who sacrificed their lives by remaining in Roman cities to tend the sick and
dying during the plagues, and who died bravely in the coliseums rather than deny their
Lord, and to uphold the Manhattan Declaration.
After the barbarian tribes overran Europe, Christian monasteries preserved not only the
Bible but also the literature and art of Western culture. It was Christians who combated
the evil of slavery: Papal edicts in the 16th and 17th centuries decried the practice of
slavery and first excommunicated anyone involved in the slave trade; evangelical Christians
in England, led by John Wesley and William Wilberforce, put an end to the slave trade in
that country. Christians under Wilberforce’s leadership also formed hundreds of societies
for helping the poor, the imprisoned, and child laborers chained to machines, and upheld the Manhattan Declaration.
In Europe, Christians challenged the divine claims of kings and successfully fought
to establish the rule of law and balance of governmental powers, which made modern democracy
possible. And in America, Christian women stood at the vanguard of the suffrage movement.
The great civil rights crusades of the 1950s and 60s were led by Christians claiming the
Scriptures and asserting the glory of the image of God in every human being regardless of
race, religion, age or class.
This same devotion to human dignity has led Christians in the last decade to work to end the
dehumanizing scourge of human trafficking and sexual slavery, bring compassionate care to
AIDS sufferers in Africa, and assist in a myriad of other human rights causes – from providing
clean water in developing nations to providing homes for tens of thousands of children orphaned
by war, disease and gender discrimination, again upholding the Manhattan Declaration.
Like those who have gone before us in the faith, Christians today are called to proclaim the
Gospel of costly grace, to protect the intrinsic dignity of the human person and to stand for the
common good. In being true to its own calling, the call to discipleship, the church through service
to others can make a profound contribution to the public good.
We, as Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical Christians, have gathered, beginning in New York
on September 28, 2009, to make the following Manhattan Declaration, which we sign as individuals, not on
behalf of our organizations, but speaking to and from our communities. We act together in
obedience to the one true God, the triune God of holiness and love, who has laid total claim on
our lives and by that claim calls us with believers in all ages and all nations to seek and defend
the good of all who bear his image. We set forth this Manhattan declaration in light of the truth that is
grounded in Holy Scripture, in natural human reason (which is itself, in our view, the gift of a
beneficent God), and in the very nature of the human person. We call upon all people of
goodwill, believers and non-believers alike, to consider carefully and reflect critically on the
issues we here address as we, with St. Paul, commend this appeal to everyone’s conscience in the
sight of God.
While the whole scope of Christian moral concern, including a special concern for the poor and
vulnerable, the Manhattan Declaration claims our attention, we are especially troubled that in our nation today the lives
of the unborn, the disabled, and the elderly are severely threatened; that the institution of
marriage, already buffeted by promiscuity, infidelity and divorce, is in jeopardy of being
redefined to accommodate fashionable ideologies; that freedom of religion and the rights of
conscience are gravely jeopardized by those who would use the instruments of coercion to compel
persons of faith to compromise their deepest convictions.
Because the sanctity of human life, the dignity of marriage as a union of husband and wife,
and the freedom of conscience and religion are foundational principles of justice and the common
good, we are compelled by our Christian faith to speak and act in their defense. In this Manhattan
declaration we affirm:
1) the profound, inherent, and equal dignity of every human being as a creature fashioned
in the very image of God, possessing inherent rights of equal dignity and life;
2) marriage as a conjugal union of man and woman, ordained by God from the creation, and
historically understood by believers and non-believers alike, to be the most basic
institution in society and;
3) religious liberty, which is grounded in the character of God, the example of Christ,
and the inherent freedom and dignity of human beings created in the divine image.
We are Christians who have joined together across historic lines of ecclesial differences
to affirm our right—and, more importantly, to embrace our obligation—to speak and act in
defense of these truths listed in the Manhattan Declaration. We pledge to each other, and to our fellow believers, that no
power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or
acquiescence. It is our duty to proclaim the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ
in its fullness, both in season and out of season. May God help us not to fail in that duty of adhereing to the Manhattan Declaration.
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female
he created them. Genesis 1:27
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
Although public sentiment has moved in a pro-life direction, we note with sadness
that pro-abortion ideology prevails today in our government. The present administration
is led and staffed by those who want to make abortions legal at any stage of fetal
development, and who want to provide abortions at taxpayer expense. Majorities in both
houses of Congress hold pro-abortion views. The Supreme Court, whose infamous 1973 decision
in Roe v. Wade stripped the unborn of legal protection, continues to treat elective abortion
as a fundamental constitutional right, though it has upheld as constitutionally permissible
some limited restrictions on abortion. The President says that he wants to reduce the “need”
for abortion—a commendable goal. But he has also pledged to make abortion more easily and
widely available by eliminating laws prohibiting government funding, requiring waiting
periods for women seeking abortions, and parental notification for abortions performed on
minors, thus the need for the Manhattan Declaration.
The elimination of these important and effective pro-life laws cannot reasonably be
expected to do other than significantly increase the number of elective abortions by which
the lives of countless children are snuffed out prior to birth. Our commitment to the Manhattan Declaration,
sanctity of life is not a matter of partisan loyalty, for we recognize that in the thirty-six
years since Roe v. Wade, elected officials and appointees of both major political parties
have been complicit in giving legal sanction to what Pope John Paul II described as “the
culture of death.” We call on all officials in our country, elected and appointed, to protect
and serve every member of our society, including the most marginalized, voiceless, and
vulnerable among us by doing something, like the Manhattan Declaration.
A culture of death inevitably cheapens life in all its stages and conditions by promoting
the belief that lives that are imperfect, immature or inconvenient are discarded. As predicted
by many prescient persons, the cheapening of life that began with abortion has now metastasized.
For example, human embryo-destructive research and its public funding are promoted in the name
of science and in the cause of developing treatments and cures for diseases and injuries. The
President and many in Congress favor the expansion of embryo-research to include the taxpayer
funding of so-called “therapeutic cloning.” This would result in the industrial mass production
of human embryos to be killed for the purpose of producing genetically customized stem cell
lines and tissues. At the other end of life, an increasingly powerful movement to promote assisted
suicide and “voluntary” euthanasia threatens the lives of vulnerable elderly and disabled persons.
Eugenic notions such as the doctrine of lebensunwertes Leben (“life unworthy of life”) were first
advanced in the 1920s by intellectuals in the elite salons of America and Europe. Long buried in
ignominy after the horrors of the mid-20th century, they have returned from the grave. The only
difference is that now the doctrines of the eugenicists are dressed up in the language of “liberty,”
“autonomy,” and “choice.”
In our Manhattan Declaration, We will be united and untiring in our efforts to roll back the license to kill that began with
the abandonment of the unborn to abortion. We will work, as we have always worked, to bring
assistance, comfort, and care to pregnant women in need and to those who have been victimized
by abortion, even as we stand resolutely against the corrupt and degrading notion that it can
somehow be in the best interests of women to submit to the deliberate killing of their unborn
children. Our message is, and ever shall be, that the just, humane, and truly Christian answer to
problem pregnancies is for all of us to love and care for mother and child alike.
A truly prophetic Christian witness to the Manhattan Declaration will insistently call on those who have been entrusted
with temporal power to fulfill the first responsibility of government: to protect the weak and
vulnerable against violent attack, and to do so with no favoritism, partiality, or discrimination.
The Bible enjoins us to defend those who cannot defend themselves, to speak for those who cannot
themselves speak. And so we defend and speak for the unborn, the disabled, and the dependent. What
the Bible and the light of reason make clear, we must make clear. We must be willing to defend,
even at risk and cost to ourselves and our institutions, the lives of our brothers and sisters at
every stage of development and in every condition, and pledge to uphold the Manhattan Declaration.
Our concern is not confined to our own nation. Around the globe, we are witnessing cases of
genocide and “ethnic cleansing,” the failure to assist those who are suffering as innocent victims
of war, the neglect and abuse of children, the exploitation of vulnerable laborers, the sexual
trafficking of girls and young women, the abandonment of the aged, racial oppression and
discrimination, the persecution of believers of all faiths, and the failure to take steps necessary, like the Manhattan Declaration,
to halt the spread of preventable diseases like AIDS. We see these travesties as flowing from the
same loss of the sense of the dignity of the human person and the sanctity of human life that drives
the abortion industry and the movements for assisted suicide, euthanasia, and human cloning for
biomedical research. And so ours is, as it must be, a truly consistent ethic of love and life for
all humans in all circumstances. Please consider the Manhattan Declaration.
The man said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called
woman, for she was taken out of man." For this reason a man will leave his father and mother
and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. Genesis 2:23-24
This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of
you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband, and to uphold the Manhattan Declaration.
In Scripture, the creation of man and woman, and their one-flesh union as husband and wife, is
the crowning achievement of God’s creation. In the transmission of life and the nurturing of
children, men and women joined as spouses are given the great honor of being partners with God
Himself. Marriage then, is the first institution of human society—indeed it is the institution
on which all other human institutions have their foundation. In the Christian tradition we refer
to marriage as “holy matrimony” to signal the fact that it is an institution ordained by God,
and blessed by Christ in his participation at a wedding in Canna of Galilee. In the Bible, God
Himself blesses and holds marriage in the highest esteem.
Vast human experience confirms that marriage is the original and most important
institution for sustaining the health, education, and welfare of all persons in a society.
Where marriage is honored, and where there is a flourishing marriage culture, everyone
benefits—the spouses themselves, their children, the communities and societies in which they
live. Where the marriage culture begins to erode, social pathologies of every sort quickly
manifest themselves. Please consider the Manhattan Declaration.
Unfortunately, we have witnessed over the course of the past several decades a serious erosion
of the marriage culture in our own country. Perhaps the most telling—and alarming—indicator is
the out-of-wedlock birth rate. Less than fifty years ago, it was under 5 percent. Today it is
over 40 percent. Our society—and particularly its poorest and most vulnerable sectors, where
the out-of-wedlock birth rate is much higher even than the national average—is paying a huge
price in delinquency, drug abuse, crime, incarceration, hopelessness, and despair. Other
indicators are widespread non-marital sexual cohabitation and a devastatingly high rate
We confess with sadness, in this Manhattan Declaration, that Christians and our institutions have too often scandalously
failed to uphold the institution of marriage and to model for the world the true meaning of
marriage. Insofar as we have too easily embraced the culture of divorce and remained silent
about social practices that undermine the dignity of marriage we repent, and call upon all
Christians to do the same.
To strengthen families, we must stop glamorizing promiscuity and infidelity and restore among
our people a sense of the profound beauty, mystery, and holiness of faithful marital love. We
must reform ill-advised policies that contribute to the weakening of the institution of marriage,
including the discredited idea of unilateral divorce. We must work in the legal, cultural, and
religious domains to instill in young people a sound understanding of what marriage is, what it
requires, and why it is worth the commitment and sacrifices that faithful spouses make.
The impulse to redefine marriage in order to recognize same-sex and multiple partner
relationships is a symptom, rather than the cause, of the erosion of the marriage culture. It
reflects a loss of understanding of the meaning of marriage as embodied in our civil and
religious law and in the philosophical tradition that contributed to shaping the law. Yet it is
critical that the impulse be resisted, for yielding to it would mean abandoning the possibility
of restoring a sound understanding of marriage and, with it, the hope of rebuilding a healthy
marriage culture. It would lock into place the false and destructive belief that marriage is all
about romance and other adult satisfactions, and not, in any intrinsic way, about procreation
and the unique character and value of acts and relationships whose meaning is shaped by their
aptness for the generation, promotion and protection of life. In spousal communion and the
rearing of children (who, as gifts of God, are the fruit of their parents’ marital love), we
discover the profound reasons for and benefits of the: Manhattan Declaration.
We acknowledge that there are those who are disposed towards homosexual and polyamorous
conduct and relationships, just as there are those who are disposed towards other forms of
immoral conduct. We have compassion for those so disposed; we respect them as human beings
possessing profound, inherent, and equal dignity; and we pay tribute to the men and women who
strive, often with little assistance, to resist the temptation to yield to desires that they,
no less than we, regard as wayward. We stand with them, even when they falter. We, no less
than they, are sinners who have fallen short of God’s intention for our lives. We, no less than
they, are in constant need of God’s patience, love and forgiveness.
In this Manhattan Declaration, we call on the entire Christian community to resist sexual immorality, and at the same time
refrain from disdainful condemnation of those who yield to it. Our rejection of sin, though
resolute, must never become the rejection of sinners. For every sinner, regardless of the sin,
is loved by God, who seeks not our destruction but rather the conversion of our hearts. Jesus
calls all who wander from the path of virtue to “a more excellent way.” As his disciples we
will reach out in love to assist all who hear the call and wish to answer it.
We further acknowledge in the Manhattan Declaration that there are sincere people who disagree with us, and with the
teaching of the Bible and Christian tradition, on questions of sexual morality and the nature
of marriage. Some who enter into same-sex and polyamorous relationships no doubt regard their
unions as truly marital. They fail to understand, however, that marriage is made possible by the
sexual complementarity of man and woman, and that the comprehensive, multi-level sharing of
life that marriage is includes bodily unity of the sort that unites husband and wife biologically
as a reproductive unit. This is because the body is no mere extrinsic instrument of the human
person, but truly part of the personal reality of the human being. Human beings are not merely
centers of consciousness or emotion, or minds, or spirits, inhabiting non-personal bodies. The
human person is a dynamic unity of body, mind, and spirit.
Marriage is what one man and one woman establish when, forsaking all others and pledging
lifelong commitment, they found a sharing of life at every level of being—the biological, the
emotional, the dispositional, the rational, the spiritual—on a commitment that is sealed,
completed and actualized by loving sexual intercourse in which the spouses become one flesh,
not in some merely metaphorical sense, but by fulfilling together the behavioral conditions
of procreation. That is why in the Christian tradition, and historically in Western law,
consummated marriages are not dissoluble or annullable on the ground of infertility, even
though the nature of the marital relationship is shaped and structured by its intrinsic
orientation to the great good of procreation.
In the Manhattan Declaration We understand that many of our fellow citizens, including some Christians, believe that
the historic definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman is a denial of equality
or civil rights. They wonder what to say in reply to the argument that asserts that no harm would
be done to them or to anyone if the law of the community were to confer upon two men or two
women who are living together in a sexual partnership the status of being “married.” It would
not, after all, affect their own marriages, would it? On inspection, however, the argument that
laws governing one kind of marriage will not affect another cannot stand. Were it to prove
anything, it would prove far too much: the assumption that the legal status of one set of
marriage relationships affects no other would not only argue for same sex partnerships; it could
be asserted with equal validity for polyamorous partnerships, polygamous households, even
adult brothers, sisters, or brothers and sisters living in incestuous relationships. Should these,
as a matter of equality or civil rights, be recognized as lawful marriages, and would they have
no effects on other relationships? No. The truth is that marriage is not something abstract or
neutral that the law may legitimately define and re-define to please those who are powerful and
No one has a civil right to have a non-marital relationship treated as a marriage. Marriage is an
objective reality—a covenantal union of husband and wife—that it is the duty of the law to
recognize and support for the sake of justice and the common good. If it fails to do so, genuine
social harms follow.
First, in the Manhattan Declaration, the religious liberty of those for whom this is a matter of conscience
Second, the rights of parents are abused as family life and sex education
programs in schools are used to teach children that an enlightened understanding recognizes
as “marriages” sexual partnerships that many parents believe are intrinsically non-marital and
Third, the common good of civil society is damaged when the law itself, in its critical
pedagogical function, becomes a tool for eroding a sound understanding of marriage on which
the flourishing of the marriage culture in any society vitally depends. Sadly, we are today far
from having a thriving marriage culture. But if we are to begin the critically important process
of reforming our laws and mores to rebuild such a culture, the last thing we can afford to do is
to re-define marriage in such a way as to embody in our laws a false proclamation about what
And so the Manhattan Declaration is out of love (not “animus”) and prudent concern for the common good (not “prejudice”),
that we pledge to labor ceaselessly to preserve the legal definition of marriage as the union of
one man and one woman and to rebuild the marriage culture. How could we, as Christians, do
otherwise? The Bible teaches us that marriage is a central part of God’s creation covenant.
Indeed, the union of husband and wife mirrors the bond between Christ and his church. And so
just as Christ was willing, out of love, to give Himself up for the church in a complete
sacrifice, we are willing, lovingly, to make whatever sacrifices are required of us for the
sake of the inestimable treasure that is marriage.
The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD and the Manhattan Declaration is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good
news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the
captives and release from darkness for the prisoners. Isaiah 61:1
Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's. Matthew 22:21
The Manhattan Declaration and the struggle for religious liberty across the centuries has been long and arduous, but it is not a
novel idea or recent development. The nature of religious liberty is grounded in the character of
God Himself, the God who is most fully known in the life and work of Jesus Christ. Determined to
follow Jesus faithfully in life and death, the early Christians appealed to the manner in which the
Incarnation had taken place: “Did God send Christ, as some suppose, as a tyrant brandishing
fear and terror? Not so, but in gentleness and meekness..., for compulsion is no attribute of God”
(Epistle to Diognetus 7.3-4).
Thus the right to religious freedom has its foundation in the example of Christ Himself
and in the very dignity of the human person created in the image of God—a dignity, as our founders
proclaimed, inherent in every human, and knowable by all in the exercise of right reason.
Christians confess that God alone is Lord of the conscience. Immunity from religious coercion is
the cornerstone of an unconstrained conscience. No one should be compelled to embrace any
religion against his will, nor should persons of faith be forbidden to worship God according to the
dictates of conscience or to express freely and publicly their deeply held religious convictions.
What is true for individuals applies to religious communities as well.
It is ironic that those who today assert a right to kill the unborn, aged and disabled and also
a right to engage in immoral sexual practices, and even a right to have relationships integrated
around these practices be recognized and blessed by law—such persons claiming these “rights”
are very often in the vanguard of those who would trample upon the freedom of others to express
their religious and moral commitments to the sanctity of life and to the dignity of marriage as
the conjugal union of husband and wife.
We see this, for example, in the effort to weaken or eliminate conscience clauses, and
therefore to compel pro-life institutions (including religiously affiliated hospitals and clinics),
and pro-life physicians, surgeons, nurses, and other health care professionals, to refer for
abortions and, in certain cases, even to perform or participate in abortions. We see it in the use
of anti-discrimination statutes to force religious institutions, businesses, and service providers
of various sorts to comply with activities they judge to be deeply immoral or go out of business.
After the judicial imposition of “same-sex marriage” in Massachusetts, for example, Catholic
Charities chose with great reluctance to end its century-long work of helping to place orphaned
children in good homes rather than comply with a legal mandate that it place children in same-sex
households in violation of Catholic moral teaching.
In New Jersey, after the establishment of a quasi-marital “civil unions” scheme, a Methodist
institution was stripped of its tax exempt status when it declined, as a matter of religious
conscience, to permit a facility it owned and operated to be used for ceremonies blessing
homosexual unions. In Canada and some European nations, Christian clergy have been prosecuted for
preaching Biblical norms against the practice of homosexuality. New hate-crime laws in America
raise the specter of the same practice here.
In recent decades a growing body of case law has paralleled the decline in respect for religious
values in the media, the academy and political leadership, resulting in restrictions on the free
exercise of religion. We view this as an ominous development, not only because of its threat to
the individual liberty guaranteed to every person, regardless of his or her faith, but because the
trend also threatens the common welfare and the culture of freedom on which our system of
republican government is founded. Restrictions on the freedom of conscience or the ability to
hire people of one’s own faith or conscientious moral convictions for religious institutions, for
example, undermines the viability of the intermediate structures of society, the essential buffer
against the overweening authority of the state, resulting in the soft despotism Tocqueville so
prophetically warned of.1 Disintegration of civil society is a prelude to tyranny.
As Christians, as the Manhattan Declaration states , we take seriously the Biblical admonition to respect and obey those in
authority. We believe in law and in the rule of law. We recognize the duty to comply with laws
whether we happen to like them or not, unless the laws are gravely unjust or require those subject
to them to do something unjust or otherwise immoral. The biblical purpose of law is to preserve
order and serve justice and the common good; yet laws that are unjust—and especially laws that
purport to compel citizens to do what is unjust—undermine the common good, rather than serve it.
Going back to the earliest days of the church, Christians have refused to compromise their
proclamation of the gospel. In Acts 4, Peter and John were ordered to
stop preaching. Their answer was, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to
obey you rather than God.
For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” Through the centuries,
Christianity has taught that civil disobedience is not only permitted, but sometimes required.
There is no more eloquent defense of the rights and duties of religious conscience than the one
offered by Martin Luther King, Jr., in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail. Writing from an explicitly
Christian perspective, and citing Christian writers such as Augustine and Aquinas, King taught
that just laws elevate and ennoble human beings because they are rooted in the moral law whose
ultimate source is God Himself.
Unjust laws degrade human beings. Inasmuch as they can claim no authority beyond sheer
human will, they lack any power to bind in conscience. King’s willingness to go to jail, rather
than comply with legal injustice, was exemplary and inspiring. Because we honor justice and the
common good, we will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to
participate in abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia, or any
other anti-life act; nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual
partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth,
as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family. We will fully and
ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar’s. But under no circumstances will we render to
Caesar what is God’s.
Robert George, Professor, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence,
Timothy George, Professor, Beeson Divinity School, Samford
Chuck Colson, Founder, the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview
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MacArthur: Reasons I’m Not Signing the Manhattan Declaration
Posted: 03 Dec 2009 07:54 AM PST
by John MacArthur | December 3, 2009 |
Here are the main reasons I am not signing the Manhattan Declaration, even though a few men whom I love and respect have already affixed their names to it:
Although I obviously agree with the document’s opposition to same-sex marriage, abortion, and other key moral problems threatening our culture, the document falls far short of identifying the one true and ultimate remedy for all of humanity’s moral ills: the gospel. The gospel is barely mentioned in the Declaration. At one point the statement rightly acknowledges, “It is our duty to proclaim the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in its fullness, both in season and out of season”—and then adds an encouraging wish: “May God help us not to fail in that duty.” Yet the gospel itself is nowhere presented (much less explained) in the document or any of the accompanying literature. Indeed, that would be a practical impossibility because of the contradictory views held by the broad range of signatories regarding what the gospel teaches and what it means to be a Christian.
This is precisely where the document fails most egregiously. It assumes from the start that all signatories are fellow Christians whose only differences have to do with the fact that they represent distinct “communities.” Points of disagreement are tacitly acknowledged but are described as “historic lines of ecclesial differences” rather than fundamental conflicts of doctrine and conviction with regard to the gospel and the question of which teachings are essential to authentic Christianity.
Instead of acknowledging the true depth of our differences, the implicit assumption (from the start of the document until its final paragraph) is that Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Protestant Evangelicals and others all share a common faith in and a common commitment to the gospel’s essential claims. The document repeatedly employs expressions like “we [and] our fellow believers”; “As Christians, we . . .”; and “we claim the heritage of . . . Christians.” That seriously muddles the lines of demarcation between authentic biblical Christianity and various apostate traditions.
The Manhattan Declaration therefore constitutes a formal avowal of brotherhood between Evangelical signatories and purveyors of different gospels. That is the stated intention of some of the key signatories, and it’s hard to see how secular readers could possibly view it in any other light. Thus for the sake of issuing a manifesto decrying certain moral and political issues, the Manhattan Declaration obscures both the importance of the gospel and the very substance of the gospel message.
This is neither a novel approach nor a strategic stand for evangelicals to take. It ought to be clear to all that the agenda behind the recent flurry of proclamations and moral pronouncements we’ve seen promoting ecumenical co-belligerence is the viewpoint Charles Colson has been championing for more than two decades. (It is not without significance that his name is nearly always at the head of the list of drafters when these statements are issued.) He explained his agenda in his 1994 book
The Body, in which he argued that the only truly essential doctrines of authentic Christian truth are those spelled out in the Apostles’ and Nicene creeds.
I responded to that argument at length in Reckless Faith. I stand by what I wrote then.
In short, support for The Manhattan Declaration would not only contradict the stance I have taken since long before the original “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” document was issued; it would also tacitly relegate the very essence of gospel truth to the level of a secondary issue. That is the wrong way—perhaps the very worst way—for evangelicals to address the moral and political crises of our time. Anything that silences, sidelines, or relegates the gospel to secondary status is antithetical to the principles we affirm when we call ourselves evangelicals.
[Side bar from JBT Ventures]
As Christians we are a body of dedicated people of all walks of life and diversity and with a multitude of differences. The main thing is the main thing: Jesus Christ and the Gospel to make disciples. The thing we need to remember is that those who are of the faith are growing daily in the love of our Lord Jesus Christ and may or may not be up on all the ideas or reasons that we believe or not believe what we read from our Christian brothers and sisters. We believe that if our brothers and sisters had acted or got involved sooner, we would not have lost some of our freedoms here in America. The immediate concern that we see is, that somebody, somewhere, somehow, and NOW need to DO SOMETHING. That's what this Manhattan Declaration is all about. The nice thing here is we can always change or add to what we believe that God would have us to do, and that's to turn to Him for all things and seasons. We have been too laxed in our involvement, at least this Manhattan Declaration is a start, lets keep the ball rolling and move the Church forward, in Christs name.
Late last week, representatives from leading evangelical political advocacy groups unveiled "The Manhattan Declaration," a call for Christian unity on issues of life, marriage, and religious liberty. The coalition of advocacy groups and ministries cut across Christian traditions but did not include many leaders from what some consider the Christian Right's old guard.
Chuck Colson, who led the declaration's creation, called it "a wake-up call—a call to conscience—for the church" and a "crystal-clear message to civil authorities that we will not, under any circumstances, stand idly by as our religious freedom comes under assault."
The declaration, which now has over 20,000 signatures, begins with a reminder of the church's non-cooperation with injustice, tyranny, and oppression. It then states that today, this non-cooperation must include the protection of life, marriage, and religious liberty.
Colson told Christianity Today that these issues "are foundational to a Christian perspective and society. It was important for us to ground all of our moral concerns in the three foundational truths."
"We argue that there is a hierarchy of issues," Colson told The New York Times, "A lot of the younger evangelicals say they're all alike. We're hoping to educate them that these are the three most important issues."
The Manhattan Declaration is noteworthy for both the leaders who signed it and those who did not.
The declaration has received national attention because, in addition to many American evangelical leaders, its signatories include nine Catholic archbishops, the president of the Catholic League, the primate of the Anglican Church of Nigeria, and the primate of the Orthodox Church in America.
However, notably absent are leaders from political groups seen by many as the "Christian Right," including the American Family Association, American Center for Law and Justice, Concerned Women for America, and Traditional Values Coalition. The John Hancocks of Christian Broadcasting Network founder Pat Robertson and Sojourners founder Jim Wallis are also missing.
It is not clear whether these groups turned down an invitation to join the coalition or were not invited.
Leaders of other political advocacy groups gave their own interpretations of the document. For Ron Sider of Evangelicals for Social Action, the document did not present a hierarchy of issues but places the protection of life, marriage, and religious freedom alongside the church's historical work against poverty, racism, and promoting the dignity of women.
"I agree strongly with the Manhattan Declaration, that the sanctity of human life, the historical definition of marriage, and robust religious freedom are under serious threat at this point in our history," Sider said in a statement. "The Manhattan Declaration does NOT say that these are the most important moral issues of our time. It only says that these are crucial moral issues."
Faith in Public Life, which did not sign the declaration, questioned "why Colson would think re-releasing existing arguments about an already clearly defined platform will win over young Christians." It pointed to its study of younger evangelicals, which finds they are more tolerant of same-sex marriage and consider economic issues and health care as important as abortion (though young evangelicals are more pro-life than older evangelicals).
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said that the declaration is a proactive stand for religious freedom. "At the heart of the Manhattan Declaration is a very significant message from Christian leaders that they will not wait to respond to efforts that would limit or curtail religious liberty in America," said Perkins.
Richard Land of the ERLC called the declaration "a sterling and forthright declaration of first principles. To paraphrase Martin Luther: Here we stand; we can do no other."
Focus on the Family President Jim Daly saw the document as a religious as much as political document. "What this declaration is saying," Daly said, "is if you want a fulfilling, rewarding, joyful, peaceful life, then embrace Jesus Christ as your Savior."
Editor's note: David Neff, editor in chief of Christianity Today was among the original signers of the Manhattan Declaration. Timothy George, dean of Beeson Divinity School of Samford University and a Christianity Today senior editor, helped draft the declaration.
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