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Voices Online Edition
Advent 2000
Volume XV, No. 4

Ecumenical initiative
A Christian Declaration on Marriage

An unusual coalition of Christian bodies issued a succinct declaration on Christian marriage November 14, 2000 in what promised to be a ground-breaking ecumenical effort. The declaration, which affirmed the Christian view of marriage, was signed by representatives of the Catholic Church, the National Council of Churches (NCC), the Southern Baptist Convention, and the National Association of Evangelicals.

But the ink was hardly dry before Dr. Robert Edgar, General Secretary of the ultra-liberal NCC, not only withdrew his signature, but repudiated the declaration, apologized for signing it, and proclaimed his own support for homosexual "marriages".

Edgar's reversal came on November 21. His problem? The declaration's affirmation that marriage is "a holy union between one man and one woman that will last a lifetime". Edgar encountered cries of outrage from the homosexual activist lobby within the NCC.

Ironically, though most observers were more surprised by news that the NCC signed the declaration than by Edgar's repudiating it, this ecumenical venture was reportedly initiated by Edgar himself.

In addition to Edgar, principal signers of the original declaration were Bishop Anthony O'Connell, chairman of the NCCB Committee on Marriage and Family Life; Dr. Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Southern Baptist Convention; Dr. Kevin Mannoia, president of the National Association of Evangelicals.

Coincidentally, on the same day Edgar repudiated the ecumenical statement, the Holy See issued a detailed teaching document on virtually the same subject.

The complete text of the declaration follows:

As we celebrate the 2000th anniversary of the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, entering the third millennium, we pledge together to honor the Lord by committing ourselves afresh to God's first institution -- marriage.

We believe that marriage is a holy union of one man and one woman in which they commit, with God's help, to build a loving, life-giving, faithful relationship that will last for a lifetime. God has established the married state, in the order of creation and redemption, for spouses to grow in love of one another and for the procreation, nurture, formation, and education of children.

We believe that in marriage many principles of the Kingdom of God are manifested. The interdependence of healthy Christian community is clearly exemplified in loving one another (John 13:34), forgiving one another (Ephesians 4:32), confessing to one another (James 5:16), and submitting to one another (Ephesians 5:21). These principles find unique fulfillment in marriage. Marriage is God's gift, a living image of the union between Christ and His Church.

We believe that when a marriage is true to God's loving design it brings spiritual, physical, emotional, economic, and social benefits not only to a couple and family but also to the Church and to the wider culture. Couples, churches, and the whole of society have a stake in the well being of marriages. Each, therefore, has its own obligations to prepare, strengthen, support and restore marriages.

Our nation is threatened by a high divorce rate, a rise in cohabitation, a rise in non-marital births, a decline in the marriage rate, and a diminishing interest in and readiness for marrying, especially among young people. The documented adverse impact of these trends on children, adults, and society is alarming. Therefore, as church leaders, we recognize an unprecedented need and responsibility to help couples begin, build, and sustain better marriages, and to restore those threatened by divorce.

Motivated by our common desire that God's Kingdom be manifested on earth as it is in heaven, we pledge to deepen our commitment to marriage. With three quarters of marriages performed by clergy, churches are uniquely positioned not only to call America to a stronger commitment to this holy union but to provide practical ministries and influence for reversing the course of our culture. It is evident in cities across the nation that where churches join in common commitment to restore a priority on marriage, divorces are reduced and communities are positively influenced.

Therefore, we call on churches throughout America to do their part to strengthen marriage in our nation by providing:

Prayer and spiritual support for stronger marriages
Encouragement for people to marry
Education for young people about the meaning and responsibility of marriage
Preparation for those engaged to be married
Pastoral care, including qualified mentor couples, for couples at all stages of their relationship
Help for couples experiencing marital difficulty and disruption
Influence within society and the culture to uphold the institution of marriage
Further, we urge churches in every community to join in developing policies and programs with concrete goals to reduce the divorce rate and increase the marriage rate.

By our commitment to marriage as instituted by God, the nature of His Kingdom will be more clearly revealed in our homes, our churches, and our culture. To that end we pray and labor with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

May the grace of God, the presence of Christ, and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit be abundant in all those who so commit and be a blessing to all whose marriages we seek to strengthen.

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