After reading crevis_05
's post about the Manhattan Declaration
(which I have artfully linked so you can read the entire document), I've been thinking about what the document implies. Don't get me wrong, I am in no way opposed to the unity of Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant siblings. I am not even opposed to signing religious statements. I am, however, concerned about the message of the document.
The Manhattan Declaration proclaims of the drafters and signers, "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." Great. Christians joined together to speak truth! They further state: "It is our duty to proclaim the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in its fullness, both in season and out of season." Even better! These people are dedicated to spreading the Gospel in all its fullness.
Or are they?
The three foundational principles that they call the body of Christ to affirm are these:
1) The profound, inherent, and equal dignity of every human being as a creature fashioned in the very image of God, possessing inherent rights of equal dignity and life.
2) Marriage as a conjugal union of man and woman, ordained by God from the creation, and historically understood by believers and non-believers alike, to be the most basic institution in society and;
3) Religious liberty, which is grounded in the character of God, the example of Christ, and the inherent freedom and dignity of human beings created in the divine image.
Granted, their concern for these issues is grounded in scripture and seeks to honor God, but I hardly feel that these three issues sum up the most important ideas the Church as a whole needs to hear. When Christians cross "historic lines of ecclesial differences," I expect to hear more than a great big: "We hold these truths to be self-evident - that above all other Kingdom priorities are the sanctity of life, marriage, and the pursuit of happiness." (A mash-up with another declaration
. Who could resist the opportunity?)
Further, I don't believe that these principles, biblical though they may be, sum up "the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in its fullness," as the document would appear to imply. The Declaration reads more like a political manifesto than an ecumenical statement of faith.
Here's a few ideas that I think better express the Gospel:3
Principles that sum up what God requires (Micah 6:8) : He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.2
Commandments that sum up the whole teaching of God (Matthew 22:37-40 MSG):Jesus said, "'Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.' This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: 'Love others as well as you love yourself.' These two commands are pegs; everything in God's Law and the Prophets hangs from them." 1
Savior with a message of reconciliation and new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17-21 CJB): Therefore, if anyone is united with the Messiah, he is a new creation - the old has passed; look, what has come is fresh and new! And it is all from God, who through the Messiah has reconciled us to himself and has given us the work of that reconciliation, which is that God in the Messiah was reconciling mankind to himself, not counting their sins against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore we are ambassadors of the Messiah; in effect, God is making his appeal through us. What we do is appeal on behalf of the Messiah, "Be reconciled to God! God made this sinless man be a sin offering on our behalf, so that in union with him we might fully share in God's righteousness."
In my opinion, these are the beliefs we should unify around. These are the "issues" that should drive our actions.
Does the Manhattan Declaration express your highest values? Given the opportunity the Manhattan drafters had, what would you have said?