Bob Edgar, general secretary of the National Council of Churches (NCC), fearing that his endorsement would hurt homosexuals, abruptly withdrew his support from "A Christian Declaration on Marriage" in November.

The declaration—heralded as a rare collaborative effort between the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), and the NCC—urges churches "to reduce the divorce rate and increase the marriage rate." The declaration defines marriage as a "holy union of one man and one woman to build a loving, life-giving, faithful relationship that will last for a lifetime."

Kevin Mannoia, the president of the NAE and the one who spearheaded the declaration, said the document was designed to help churches focus on strengthening marriages within their congregations.

"We felt that the culture and especially the church would want Christians to establish a clear statement on marriage and not assume that we would remain mute," Mannoia said.

But participants said they were disappointed when, at a November 14 news conference announcing the declaration, reporters' questions focused almost exclusively on homosexual marriages, which are not mentioned in the document.

Edgar, who was not present during the document's drafting, said he was disturbed by news accounts describing the statement as opposed to gay unions. He also criticized Richard Land, another signatory and president of the SBC's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, who was quoted in some news reports saying he believed marriage was a "covenantal, lifetime relationship between one man and one woman, not between two people of the same sex."

Land also referred to same-sex unions as "counterfeit alternative ...

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