More than a month after the release of the Manhattan Declaration, it remains unknown if any United Methodist bishops or board/agency leaders have signed the document. The declaration, now carrying more than 300,000 signatures, analyzes the dehumanizing forces at work in the world and affirms three general principles:
1. The sanctity of human life;
2. The dignity of human marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife;
3. The rights of conscience and religious liberty.
The Manhattan Declaration (executive summary here) was largely drafted by Robert P. George of Princeton University, Timothy George of Beeson Divinity School, and Chuck Colson of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, with input from a wide range of Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant leaders.
In a column released Dec. 21, Riley B. Case, associate director of the Confessing Movement Within the United Methodist Church, wonders why United Methodist leaders seem reluctant to support and promote the declaration.
The [Manhattan Declaration, so called because its original signers met in Manhattan] was released Nov. 20, and is intended to be a declaration of Christian moral and theological principles in response to forces, national and global, that are leading to the breakdown of civil society….
The [document’s] analysis [of these forces] is extensive. For example, the section on the sanctity of human life addresses “ethnic cleansing,” war, sexual trafficking of girls and young women, the exploitation of vulnerable laborers, the abandonment of the aged, racial oppression and discrimination, the persecution of believers of all faiths, and the failure to address and halt the spread of preventable diseases like AIDS.
It also — and at this point, the document becomes more controversial — addresses the loss of the sense of dignity of persons that drives the abortion industry and movements for assisted suicide, euthanasia, and human cloning for biomedical research….
The declaration has been widely reported and discussed in the secular and most Christian media. However, acknowledgment of the declaration among United Methodist institutional leaders is conspicuous by its absence. United Methodist News Service has carried no articles on the declaration. The United Methodist Reporter printed one small paragraph acknowledging the declaration and commenting that the declaration called for the possibility of civil disobedience. This is disappointing.
The declaration basically is a reflection of traditional Christianity. It would be supported by the vast majority of United Methodists in the pews. It has been supported by many United Methodist pastors and laypersons (at least among those who know about it).
More importantly, it is basically in agreement with the Social Principles of the United Methodist Church. Not only do our Social Principles and our Book of Resolutions support almost every issue raised by the declaration, they would not be in conflict even with the more controversial ones, including the dignity of human marriage as the conjugal union of a man and a woman, the importance of the family, and the sanctity of human life.
However, the Manhattan Declaration obviously is an expression of traditional and evangelical Christianity and, as one seminary person related to me once, “We choose not to be identified with that form of Christianity.”…
So, if mainline leaders are not interested in declarations like the Manhattan Declaration what are they interested in? Well, for one, the bishops issued a statement on “God’s Renewed Creation: Call to Hope and Action.” This statement, which was to be read aloud in every United Methodist Church, would direct the church’s energy toward reversing global warming and concern for carbon footprints.
Following this there is a commitment of church resources toward seeking to influence the events at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. The World Council of Churches wanted churches to sound bells, drums, gongs, or other instruments on Dec. 13, to call attention to the importance of this event. At this moment United Methodist apportionment money is paying the way of at least six and probably more UM agency staff and board members to go to Copenhagen and lobby or demonstrate or do whatever at the conference….
Whatever is occupying the time and energies of church leaders it does not seem to be on issues relating to marriage, family, dignity of the individual, and religious liberty. These are the issues addressed by the Manhattan Declaration.
Although Riley Case concedes that it’s “possible there have been bishops or church agency staff persons who have signed onto the declaration,” thus far apparently none has made a public pronouncement about becoming a signatory.
“We at The Confessing Movement would be most pleased if names of such persons or their comments could be passed on to us,” Dr. Case writes.
One of the Manhattan Declaration’s original signatories is Thomas C. Oden, the UM Confessing Movement’s honorary chairman. Dr. Oden is the author of Turning Around the Mainline: How Renewal Movements are Changing the Church (Baker) and is the general editor of InterVarsity Press’s 29-volume Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture.
Riley B. Case, a retired clergy member of the Indiana Conference, is associate executive director of the Confessing Movement and a member of the Good News board of directors. He also serves as president of the board of the Kokomo (Ind.) Rescue Mission.
|•||Manhattan Declaration: List of religious leaders signatories|
|•||The Manhattan Declaration: A call to mainline leaders, clergy, members | Association for Church Renewal|
|•||Manhattan Declaration and mainstream values | Janice Shaw Crouse, American Thinker (Dec. 6, 2009)|
|•||The Manhattan Declaration: Where I stand | Scot McKnight, Beliefnet.com|
|•||Why I signed the Manhattan Declaration | Albert Mohler|