Mainline Churches Urged to Sign Manhattan Declaration

( [email protected] ) Dec 05, 2009 01:18 PM EST

Leaders and members of mainline denominations are being called to add their signatures to the Manhattan Declaration and stand for the "sanctity of human life, the dignity of marriage and the rights of conscience and religious liberty."

The Association for Church Renewal, an alliance of leaders representing conservative ministries within mainline Protestant churches, made the appeal Wednesday.

"[M]ake this public commitment as followers of Jesus Christ on behalf of the historic churches which once established the spiritual foundation of our nation," Association for Church Renewal President the Rev. David Runnion-Bareford urged.

"The Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience" was released last month by evangelical, Orthodox and Catholic leaders who came together to stand firm on what they consider the three most foundational issues in society – the sanctity of life, the historic understanding of marriage, and religious liberty.

Signers of the document, which now number over 250,000, vow to not abandon or compromise their conscience on the three issues and to commit to uphold the truths as followers of Jesus Christ.

In calling those from such mainline churches as The Episcopal Church, the Disciples of Christ, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to affix their signatures to the declaration, Runnion-Bareford acknowledges that supporters will be doing so at a personal cost.

"We recognize that in the name of 'affirming diversity' and 'extravagant welcome,' our denominational structures have created cultures of intolerance in which those who publicly sign this Manhattan Declaration risk our future promotion, placement, and collegial affirmation," he said. "In these times the cost of discipleship is real.

"Now is the hour to speak our conviction in defense of the least of these who are the victims when life and marriage are no longer sacred and our Christian witness is coerced into silence."

Runnion-Bareford, who is ordained in the United Church of Christ, and renewal leaders who are part of the alliance believe many Protestant churches have "compromised with culture" and drifted from the evangelical faith on such issues as scriptural authority, the Trinity and human sexuality.

Most recently, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's chief legislative body approved a resolution in August allowing gays and lesbians in "life-long, monogamous, same gender relationships" to be ordained. Also this past summer, The Episcopal Church adopted resolutions that declare the ordination process open to all individuals and that grant bishops – particularly those in dioceses within civil jurisdictions where same-gender marriage and civil unions are legal – permission to provide generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members. Many believe the resolutions gave the green light to ordain practicing homosexuals and bless same-sex unions.

The votes have forced some congregations to sever ties with the national denominations and join more conservative ones. Meanwhile, renewal groups within the denominations are trying to encourage renewal and reform.

Amid what conservatives describe as an increasing drift away from the orthodox Christian faith, the Association for Church Renewal invites clergy and members of mainline groups to stand together on the three issues outlined in the Manhattan Declaration.

"Let us stand together in the courage of conviction as followers of Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Lord who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life," said Runnion-Bareford.

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