An Improbable Alliance
The most recent meeting of Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT) witnessed not just another theological discus-sion, but the birth of an alliance that only two decades ago would have seemed improbable. Here were Catholic and evangelical theologians seeking common ground on religious liberty, an issue that has caused frequent strife between the two groups.
Now, we are standing together to defend the religious liberty of all believers, which is under assault around the world and in the U.S. Consider the Proposition 8 case, the proposed ban on gay marriage in California. In striking down the referendum, U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker wrote that Christian beliefs "harm gays and lesbians." Just months later, tech trendsetter Apple picked up the same refrain in removing a Manhattan Declaration app from its iTunes store.
If Christian teaching is degraded in this way, either in the courts or in corporate culture, Christians, as well as Muslims and Jews with similar views on this subject, could soon be charged with "hate speech" for simply stating what their religious traditions have held for millennia.
ECT continues to study the serious theological differences between Catholics and evangelicals. (The last statement was on the Virgin Mary.) Such theological work is an important part of our shared witness. It allows us to make common cause on the great moral issues facing our culture, including the sanctity of life, the dignity of marriage, and religious freedom.
The Manhattan Declaration addresses these three. While not directly a part of ECT, the statement has been endorsed by 57 Catholic bishops in the U.S., numerous evangelical leaders, and the metropolitan of the Orthodox Church in America.
When we released the Manhattan Declaration in November 2009, many called it just another salvo in the culture war. But we sensed it was part of a movement. In the months after the document's release, activity began popping up around the country. Just before Christmas, for example, a network of men's Bible studies proposed a citywide rally in Mobile, Alabama. They enlisted the support of all the major Christian leaders—the Catholic archbishop and Protestant pastors, including whites and African Americans. With no advertising and only ten days to promote the rally by word of mouth, they turned out an excited crowd of 2,500 people—at 6 A.M.!
The same kind of grass-roots activity has appeared in other areas, including Oakland, Phoenix, and Albuquerque. One of the most moving expressions of Christian unity was two pro-life/pro-marriage worship services held simultaneously in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Before the services, Protestants and Catholics gathered at a school to hear rousing messages from Catholic and Protestant clergy. Catholics then went across the street to celebrate Mass, while Protestants worshiped at the school. After the services, the worshipers marched together to the state capitol. There they signed the Manhattan Declaration. Their signatures were presented to the governor. Soon after, the New Mexico legislature passed a resolution endorsing the Manhattan Declaration.
In the same spirit of unity, 2,000 New Mexico Christians attended an extraordinary conference on Christian worldview and the Manhattan Declaration in Albuquerque. An evangelical graduate of our Centurions Program organized the event alongside the Catholic archbishop of the state. Pastors from nearly every denomination were present.
- Our Francis, Too
- Catholics and Baptists Together
- The Man Who Birthed Evangelicalism
- Sacrilege Is Real
- Against the Stream