The release of The Manhattan Declaration (an ecumenical document addressing the issues of life, marriage, and religious liberty) has already generated significant discussion. Since I have been on the receiving end of many questions concerning it, I thought it best to address it directly. The declaration reads in part as follows:"We are Christians who have joined together across historical lines of ecclesial differences… …to speak and act in defense of these truths."
I was present at the meetings in Manhattan in October when the draft of this document was presented.I listened carefully and was stirred by the ensuing discussions.I share the concerns expressed in the document.
"Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints."It is quite common for people to view The Reformation as simply a disagreement between two groups of men. The protestant martyrs and their monuments testify to the fact that they died, not on account of ecclesial differences, but because the issue was the way of salvation. (Interestingly, exactly the same was true of the Roman Catholic martyrs!)Are we wise to lay aside crucial historical differences of eternal significance so as to secure temporal advantages? George Smeaton, in his classic work on the atonement observes, "To convert one sinner from his way is an event of greater importance than the deliverance of a whole kingdom from temporal evil."I do not believe it is possible to embrace the premises of ecumenical strategy and still draw the conclusions of evangelical orthodoxy.
In accord with others who have chosen not to sign, my reservation is not with the issues themselves, or in standing with others who share the same concerns, but it is in signing a declaration along with a group of leading churchmen, when I happen to believe that the teaching of some of their churches is in effect a denial of the biblical gospel. I wonder whether it might not have been more advantageous for evangelicals to unite on this matter, rather than seeking cooperation with segments from Rome, Eastern Orthodoxy and the Latter Day Saints. The necessary co-belligerence, as far as I'm concerned, can never be rooted in a Gospel other than that which has been given to us.
(updated and expanded November 25, 2009)