Christian leaders reaffirmed their conservative stances on abortion, same-sex marriage, and religious liberty with a 4,700-word declaration released Friday.
Signed initially by 125 evangelical, Catholic, and Orthodox leaders, the Manhattan Declaration calls Christians to adhere to three primary convictions, even if this requires civil disobedience. Charles Colson, who helped draft the declaration, said the statement brings Christian leaders together on the issues of abortion, marriage, and religious freedom in the face of growing pressure.
"There are three issues that are foundational to a Christian perspective and society," Colson told Christianity Today. "It was important for us to ground all of our moral concerns in the three foundational truths."
Christian leaders realized they needed to come together and reaffirm their positions as a group, Princeton University professor Robert George said.
"We have all three levels of government committed to pro-choice views," George said. "[President] Obama has pledged he'll expand access to abortion, the Congress is now firmly in the hands of those who support legal abortion, and then of course in the Supreme Court there is still a 5-to-4 majority in favor of constitutional rights to abortion."
President Obama has also pledged to abolish the Defense of Marriage Act, and in his first year in office, he signed a bill expanding the federal hate crimes law to include homosexuality and lifted bans on the federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.
Drafters of the declaration met informally last January with about 150 Christians concerned with biblical orthodoxy. The statement was completed in September and signed over the last few weeks.
"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," the declaration states. "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."
George and Colson said other issues more recently embraced by Christians — such as care for the environment — are secondary to the Big Three of abortion, traditional marriage, and religious freedom.
"What's different about these areas is that they're foundational," George said. "They are basic principles as Christians understand them."
Signers include Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family, and Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. Names of Sojourners founder Jim Wallis and California megachurch pastor Rick Warren do not appear on the list of signers, but their spokespeople said they were out of the country on Friday. Florida megachurch pastor Joel Hunter was also absent from the list, but he was out of the office and did not return requests for comment on Friday.
On Tuesday, U.S. Catholic Bishops announced a new document emphasizing that marriage is an institution that can't be defined by the state.
Catholic leaders wanted to focus their message on marriage, explaining it as a natural partnership that existed before the Bible was written, George said.
"For the first time in history, we're talking about redefining marriage," he said. "So the bishops now in this new challenge are making the point that marriage is not something the state creates. Not only does marriage predate the state, marriage predates the church."
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