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The Manhattan Declaration of 2009

Introduction: authors,
content, support, & preamble

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About the Manhattan Declaration:

A group of over 150 "Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical" Christian leaders released their Manhattan Declaration -- a call for people to resist changes to the culture. It advocates civil disobedience if necessary.

Authors:

Three conservative known Christian leaders drafted the declaration during the summer of 2009. They are:

bulletCharles Colson, an evangelical Christian, a former member of President Nixon's White House staff, a convicted felon, a holder of 15 honorary degrees, the recipient of the 1993 Templeton Prize, the founder of Prison Fellowship, the founder of The Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview, and a co-founder of Evangelicals and Catholics Together -- an inter-faith group that attempts to increase cooperation between conservative Protestants and Roman Catholics.
 
bulletRobert P. George, a Roman Catholic, the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University, director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions, recipient of numerous honorary doctorates in law, ethics, science, letters, civil law, humane letters, and juridical science, and recipient of many awards.
 
bulletTimothy George is a professor and founding dean oft Beeson Divinity School at Samford University and a senior editor of Christianity Today.

Although evangelical Christians and Roman Catholics differ greatly over theological beliefs and practices, they are united in their opposition to abortion access, to equal rights for lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender persons and transsexuals (LGBTs), same-sex marriage, comprehensive same-sex education, sexual behavior outside of marriage, and other topics. Some evangelicals and Catholics have been able to overcome their differences and work together to try to prevent changes to the culture that they disagree with.

The discussions leading to the preparation of the declaration started in New York City. That is the origin of "Manhattan" in the document's title.

Content and support:

On 2009-NOV-20, at a press conference to announce the declaration at the National Press Club, Chuck Colson said:

"The Manhattan Declaration is a wake-up call -- a call to conscience -- for the church. It is also a crystal-clear message to civil authorities that we will not, under any circumstances, stand idly by as our religious freedom comes under assault." 1

This may be a recipe for disaster and massive conflict, because many conflicts over religious freedom involve preventing women and sexual minorities from having certain rights. They are also not going to stand idly by as their quest for equal rights comes under assault.

The signatories promise that they will refuse to  take part in what they call "anti-life acts" or to marry loving, committed same-sex couples. If necessary, they will engage in civil disobedience.

The Washington Times stated:

"The first 148 signatures include Southern Baptists, Anglicans, the Orthodox Church of America (OCA), members of Reformed, evangelical, Hispanic Protestant, Church of God in Christ, Antiochian Orthodox and Evangelical Free Church traditions plus the executives of numerous parachurch ministries."

"There were only a handful of Presbyterians, United Methodists and Pentecostals, and no apparent signatories from Seventh-day Adventist, Messianic Jewish, and Episcopal churches." 2

The Times did not state whether there were signatures from leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- the Mormon Church.

Within two days, readers had added 58 comments to the Times article; the vast majority were quite positive. 2

Since the press conference, the declaration has been posted on the Internet so that interested individuals are able to sign it. 3 Within less than two days, over 20,000 signatures were collected from the public. Within six days, the number had grown to 150,000, one out of every 500 evangelicals in the U.S.

Preamble to the Declaration:

The preamble reads:

"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."

"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."

"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."

"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." 2

Next essay in this section.

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Mary Larmoyeux, "The Manhattan Declaration described as wake-up call for the church by Chuck Colson," Little Rock Evangelical Examiner, 2009-NOV-23, at: http://www.examiner.com/
  2. "Religious leaders vow civil disobedience on anti-life issues. Declaration opposes forced participation in any 'anti-life act'." The Washington Times, 2009-NOV-21, at: http://washingtontimes.com/
  3. "Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience," Text of the Manhattan Declaration, 2009-NOV-20, at: http://manhattandeclaration.org/ This is a PDF file.

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Copyright © 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
Originally written: 2009-NOV-22
Latest update: 2009-NOV-28
Author: B.A. Robinson

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