American Orthodox Institute | by Fr. Johannes Jacobse | Nov. 22, 2009
On November 22, 2009 group of Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant leaders unveiled a document called “The Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience” that affirms the traditional Christian teaching concerning abortion, homosexual marriage, and religious freedom. The Declaration asserts that these three issues (sanctity of life, the definition of marriage, and freedom of worship) are under assault in western Democracies and call Christians into non-violent resistance against the injustices and, if necessary, non-violent non-compliance with the laws that would require a Christian to violate his conscience. (Read full text.)
The Declaration opens:
We are Orthodox, Catholic, and evangelical Christians who have united at this hour to reaffirm fundamental truths about justice and the common good, and to call upon our fellow citizens, believers and non-believers alike, to join us in defending them. These truths are (1) the sanctity of human life, (2) the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife, and (3) the rights of conscience and religious liberty…We make this commitment not as partisans of any political group but as followers of Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Lord, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
The three issues that Declaration signers see as preeminent and the rationale for opposition:
The lives of the unborn, the disabled, and the elderly are ever more threatened. While public opinion has moved in a pro-life direction, powerful and determined forces are working to expand abortion, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide, and euthanasia…We pledge to work unceasingly for the equal protection of every innocent human being at every stage of development and in every condition. We will refuse to permit ourselves or our institutions to be implicated in the taking of human life and we will support in every possible way those who, in conscience, take the same stand.
The institution of marriage, already wounded by promiscuity, infidelity and divorce, is at risk of being redefined and thus subverted. Marriage is the original and most important institution for sustaining the health, education, and welfare of all. Where marriage erodes, social pathologies rise. The impulse to redefine marriage is a symptom, rather than the cause, of the erosion of the marriage culture. It reflects a loss of understanding of the meaning of marriage as embodied in our civil law as well as our religious traditions…Marriage is not a “social construction,” but is rather an objective reality—the covenantal union of husband and wife—that it is the duty of the law to recognize, honor, and protect.
Freedom of religion and the rights of conscience are gravely jeopardized…Attacks on religious liberty are dire threats not only to individuals, but also to the institutions of civil society including families, charities, and religious communities. The health and well-being of such institutions provide an indispensable buffer against the overweening power of government and is essential to the flourishing of every other institution—including government itself—on which society depends.
With these three issues in mind, and aware of the secularist undermining of tradition and culture, the signers resolved:
As Christians, we believe in law and we respect the authority of earthly rulers. We count it as a special privilege to live in a democratic society where the moral claims of the law on us are even stronger in virtue of the rights of all citizens to participate in the political process. Yet even in a democratic regime, laws can be unjust. And from the beginning, our faith has taught that civil disobedience is required in the face of gravely unjust laws or laws that purport to require us to do what is unjust or otherwise immoral. Such laws lack the power to bind in conscience because they can claim no authority beyond that of sheer human will.
Therefore, let it be known that we will not comply with any edict that compels us or the institutions we lead to participate in or facilitate abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide, euthanasia, or any other act that violates the principle of the profound, inherent, and equal dignity of every member of the human family.
Further, let it be known that we will not bend to any rule forcing us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality, marriage, and the family.
Further, let it be known that we will not be intimidated into silence or acquiescence or the violation of our consciences by any power on earth, be it cultural or political, regardless of the consequences to ourselves.
We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar’s. But under no circumstances will we render to Caesar what is God’s.
Orthodox signers of the original Declaration include:
- Metr. Jonah Paffhausen Primate, Orthodox Church in America (Syosset, NY)
- His Grace, The Right Reverend Bishop Basil Essey The Right Reverend Bishop of the Diocese of Wichita and Mid-America (Wichita, KS)
- Fr. Chad Hatfield Chancellor, CEO. And Archpriest, St Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary (Yonkers, NY)
- Fr. Johannes L. Jacobse President, American Orthodox Institute and Editor, OrthodoxyToday.org (Naples, FL)
- Fr. Patrick Reardon Pastor, All Saints’ Antiochian Orthodox Church (Chicago, IL)
- Fr. Alexander F. C. Webster, Ph.D. Archpriest, Orthodox Church in America; Professorial Lecturer, The George Washington University (Ashburn, Va.)
You can sign the declaration on the Manhattan Declaration website.
From OCA News:
NEW YORK, NY (OCA Communications) – His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah, Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, and the Very Rev. Chad Hatfield, Chancellor of Saint Vladimir’s Seminary, were among some 125 US religious leaders who signed a 4,700-word declaration addressing the sanctity of life, traditional marriage, and religious liberty here recently.
The statement, known as the “Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience,” issues “a clarion call” to Christians to adhere to their convictions and informs civil authorities that the signers will not “under any circumstance” abandon their Christian consciences. The text of the declaration, which already has generated considerable controversy, was released on Friday, November 20, 2009.
“The Manhattan Declaration is the result of several months of dialogue among Orthodox, Catholic, and evangelical Christian leaders culminating in a gathering of approximately 100 leaders in New York City on September 28, 2009,” Catholic News Agency [CNA] reports. “Attendees considered an early draft… but the document was entrusted to a drafting committee.”
“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,” the Declaration reads. “We pledge to each other, and to our fellow believers, that no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence.
“We recognize the duty to comply with laws whether we happen to like them or not, unless the laws are gravely unjust or require those subject to them to do something unjust or otherwise immoral,” the signatories explain.
But, CNA reports, they also made clear that “we will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia, or any other anti-life act; nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriage or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family.”
The signatories explained that they speak now because in order “to defend principles of justice and the common good that are now under assault.”
“We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, but we will under no circumstances render to Caesar what is God’s.”
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