25 November 2009

The Manhattan Declaration

What do you think of this for clergy involvement in the Kingdom of the Left?

The Manhattan Declaration


The Rev. BT Ball said...

I say, not bad. And note that #45 of the list of religious leader signatories is Rev. Joel Elowsky of the LCMS.

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

As a layman, there is so much in this statement that I could give my unconditional amen to. I leave the two kingdom question to you pastors to discuss. However, before I could personally decide to sign this document and thereby "stand together" with those who composed it, I would need to figure out the specific theological meanings some of the statements were intended to convey - for example, in this paragraph:

"We acknowledge that there are those who are disposed towards homosexual and polyamorous conduct and relationships, just as there are those who are disposed towards other forms of immoral conduct. We have compassion for those so disposed; we respect them as human beings possessing profound, inherent, and equal dignity; and we pay tribute to the men and women who strive, often with little assistance, to resist the temptation to yield to desires that they, no less than we, regard as wayward. We stand with them, even when they falter. We, no less than they, are sinners who have fallen short of God’s intention for our lives. We, no less than they, are in constant need of God’s patience, love and forgiveness. We call on the entire Christian community to resist sexual immorality, and at the same time refrain from disdainful condemnation of those who yield to it. Our rejection of sin, though resolute, must never become the rejection of sinners. For every sinner, regardless of the sin, is loved by God, who seeks not our destruction but rather the conversion of our hearts. Jesus calls all who wander from the path of virtue to 'a more excellent way.' As his disciples we will reach out in love to assist all who hear the call and wish to answer it."

I can interpret those sentences I have highlighted in bold in a way that is consistent with what I believe. However, I believe they are sufficiently vague as to allow others to interpret them in a way that is NOT consistent with what I believe. When agreeing with a document, one must consider the meaning intended by the authors rather than the meaning one would like it to have.

Specifically, I wonder how the authors and others who are signing this document understand the first two highlighted statements in light of First Corinthians 5 and 6:9-11.

Secondly, I wonder exactly what theological meaning the third highlighted sentence is intended to convey. It has a "theology of glory" ring to it in my opinion, especially when combined with other statements in this document that speak of "rebuilding the culture."

I am glad that the authors connect marriage and procreation, but I am disappointed (though certainly not surprised) that they do not connect contraception and abortion. Furthermore, I am concerned with what is meant by the phrase: "fulfilling together the behavioral conditions of procreation." I fear the authors and signers would overwhelmingly say that this can be fulfilled even if the procreative intent inherent in these "behavioral conditions" is intentionally frustrated.

You may want to know before you take a stand with those who have authored and signed this if you will be agreeing with a statement that would include intentionally childless marriages as God pleasing.

I need to read the statement over a couple times again more carefully to see if I have any other reservations about the language of this statement. Nevertheless, I agree that this statement is a bold step in the right direction. I'm just not sure I could give it my unconditional approval.

Pastor Hemmer said...

Maybe I read the Declaration with rose-colored glasses, but I found it remarkably thorough in its treatment of life and marriage issues, including the link between marriage and procreation, which was used as a foundational argument against homosexual marriage. It's not often that Christians make that (albeit Biblical) connection, which I found encouraging. The fact that it makes this connection makes the Declaration decidedly more pro-marriage that most pro-life/anti-abortion groups we put in a favorable light in our parishes' narthexes any given "life Sunday."

I agree with Erich that there is some ambiguity that I probably chose to interpret as close to what I believe as possible, but I'm certainly not the only one. The Declaration is being pushed and defended by the editors of Touchstone, an ecumenical magazine in the pages of which you will find zealous, scholarly defenses of Biblical marriage and family, including opposition to intentionally childless marriages and "family planning."

As far as stepping into the left-hand kingdom, churches are already there. The marriages we bless straddle the line between left- and right-hand kingdoms. The hospitals we run and the doctors and pharmacists in our pews are obviously affected by left-hand government.

The Declaration concludes by distinguishing between these two realms:

"Because we honor justice and the common good, 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 marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family. 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."

The Church can and should have a voice in the public square to oppose vice and defend virtue. But her goal is and always will be to call sinners to repentance so as to deliver to them forgiveness.

Pastor Hemmer said...

Rev. Al Mohler describes the blurring of the lines between left- and right-hand kingdoms that prompted him to sign:




Carl Vehse said...

In addition to concerns raised by others, the Manhattan Declaration is simply a wishy-washy statement.

In the first line, the Declaration claims a Christian tradition of "seeking justice."

Yet, other than occasionally waving this flag as a cliche, the Declaration offers no real commitment to justice when claiming to be "untiring in our efforts to roll back the license to kill that began with the abandonment of the unborn to abortion." There is nothing in the Manhattan Declaration about the obligation and the commitment of Christians to pursue and demand justice and as citizens to work so that our form of government will bring the political, business, social, and medical leaders of abortion to trial, conviction, and punishment for crimes against humanity, genocidal murder, and treason.

Without such a commitment, the Declaration's objections amount to treating abortion as little more than an inappropriate and unacceptable wearing the wrong color of socks. Once changed to something appropriate and acceptable, the faux paux is perceived as now gone away. That is NOT justice!

Concerning the Manhattan Declaration's objection to oxymoronic same-sex marriages, there is no advocacy and commitment seeking legislation to criminalize the perversion of same-sex marriages, just as we criminalize polygamy and human-animal sex partners, even in a claimed monogamous relationship.

As for the Manhattan Declaration signees' promise to take action – other than posing for a feel-good photo op – what action defending unborn children against genocidal slaughter has been taken that has not already been done previously? What action of civil disobedience has been carried out so far against any edicts compelling (physical or financial) participation in abortion? Where have the signees refused to bend to any rule that forces them to recognized same-sex marriages?

And if I read another document that caveats "there are sincere people who disagree with us," I don't know if I can keep from puking.

The Rev. BT Ball said...

Sorry for my sloppy blogging. I didnt' actually read the thing. I thought the declaration was what is on the frontpage of the site. I like brevity, hence the "not bad". Still haven't read the whole thing yet.

Pr. Georg Williams said...

The Spiritual Father should keep his fingers out of the Governmental Father's mess until the Governmental Father trespasses into the jurisdiction of the Spiritual Father.

So likewise the Familial Father. Let the government do its job, the family its job and the pastor his job.

This particular document seems to be so eclectic it has a multiple personality disorder

If on tries to meddle outside of his God-given area, we have even a greater mess,


Pastor Hemmer said...

I just don't think the lines are that clear.

Pastors and fathers (ideally) do many of the same things, catechesis not being the least of them. For that matter, pastors and princes want the same things, too, at least to a degree.

Even if the lines are clear cut, princes are clearly threatening to influence the realm of pastors. The Church or her institutions perform marriages, provide health care, coordinate adoptions, pay for health insurance, etc. All of these are areas the State wants a say in. Thus, the Manhattan Declaration is a statement intended to make the line between God and Caesar clearer than it currently is.

Carl Vehse said...

The discussion on this thread about Lutheran participation in ecumenical political statements brings up previous Lutheran (and specifically Missouri Synod) political involvements before and during World War I. From Fred W. Meuser, "Facing the Twentieth Century," (in E. Clifford Nelson, ed., The Lutherans in North America, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1975, pp. 396-7):

"When American "neutrality" turned out to be in the Allies' favor, Lutherans began publicly to criticize the government in a fashion not at all typical of their church in the past... Strange, in view of the Missouri Synod's traditional social and political quietism, was the extent and vigor of its denunciations of the 'atrocious trade in arms' and its charge that America's lust for profit had turned it into a hypocritical murderer. [16] Even more astounding was the theological justification for this new critical attitude voiced by Missouri's president [F. Pfotenhauer] that 'anything that touches moral issues is within the sphere of the church.' [17] Attacks on both American and German manufacturers, favorable reviews of books which laid the blame for the war on England, defenses against the charge of hyphenism, and synodical resolutions against arms exports which were causing loss of American lives were other expressions of the German sympathies of Lutherans. Allied defeats were interpreted as punishment for its national sins, such as the opium trade in China; German suffering as divine retribution for its spiritual decline. Only the more extreme Germanophiles went so far as to praise the Kaiser and General von Hindenburg as Christians worthy of emulation." [18]

16. Friedrich Bente of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, spoke frequently at neutrality conferences and editorialized regularly against American policy in Der Lutheraner, as did Theodore Graebner in the Lutheran Witness. Bente's appearance before the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate in 1915 caused Henry Cabot Lodge to comment in a letter to Theodore Roosevelt in 1915 that Bente's accent was "so strong you could stumble over it... [as he] lectured us on Americanism, patriotism... [and] the opinions of George Washington... Some of us are not hyphenates - we are just plain Americans - and the wrath of the members of the Committee, Democrats and Republicans, was pleasing to witness. I think they have overdone it." Quoted in Carl S. Meyer, ed., Moving Frontiers: Readings in the History of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1964), p. 236.

17. Der Lutheraner, February 15, 1916, p.63. When the issues became emotional enough, Lutherans could appeal to the very same oversimplified principle which they had criticized repeatedly when used by other Protestants to justify concern and action on social or political issues,

18. Lutheran Witness, December 15, 1914, p.207; August 10, 1915, p.253.

Carl Vehse said...

Here’s more from Fred W. Meuser, "Facing the Twentieth Century," (in E. Clifford Nelson, ed., The Lutherans in North America, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1975, pp. 399-400):

“An even greater change was the growing awareness among all foreign-heritage Lutherans of the need to adjust church and individual life quickly to American ways. While language was undoubtedly the most drastic change for the average member of the immigrant synods, it was by no means the only one. At least as significant was the insight that in outlook and loyalty Lutheranism from now on would have to be American. Theologically, one editor after another saw that Lutherans were free to make any adjustment, put up with any inconvenience, yield to any of the needs of the government and society so long as the Word of God or the ‘free preaching of the Law and Gospel and the administration of the sacraments’ were not violated.” [33]

33. Theodore Graebner, "Stop, Look, and Listen!" Lutheran Witness, December 25, 1917, p. 406. A seminary colleague told Graebner that this editorial had brought more shame on Lutheranism than the unionists (A.N. Graebner, "Acculturation," p.67) It meant a drastic change in spirit for the Missouri Synod. The aggressive and articulate Theodore Graebner became Missouri's champion of an actively pro-American spirit. He saw that the old neutral attitude as reflected in Der Lutheraner's silence about the war had to be overcome. "When a new situation arises," he wrote, "the majority can almost absolutely be counted upon to be dead in the wrong" (letter to M. Graebner, March 4, 1919, Theodore Graebner File, Concordia Historical Institute, St. Louis). See also Johnson, "Patriotism and Anti-Prussianism," pp. 99-118.

Carl Vehse said...

More from Fred W. Meuser, "Facing the Twentieth Century," (in E. Clifford Nelson, ed., The Lutherans in North America, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1975, p. 400):

“In carrying out this culturally liberating principle, the most difficult area of application was the government effort to enlist the aid of churches in wartime programs. Early in the war most Lutherans had been hesitant about using worship services to publicize Liberty Bond drives, Red Cross appeals, food and coal conservation announcements, or even the Navy's appeal for binoculars, partly because the government's publicity for some of these programs frequently included outlines for sermons. [34] And on the content of sermons Lutherans would yield to no one.”

“Even the appointment by the President of a day of national prayer was criticized by some as an intrusion on the sphere of the church. The trend, however, quickly swung away from the idea that ‘whatever is not religious, but merely social or political, does not concern the church’ to ever greater church and clerical support of the war effort, including the reading of governmental announcements during the service (but not from the pulpit), honor rolls and service flags in the churches, enlistment of volunteers for the Red Cross, and other service functions.”

34. "So well recognized is the helplessness of preachers who have discarded the Gospel of Jesus Christ that the Federal Government is now stepping in and is supplying the preachers with text, topics, and sermon outlines" (Lutheran Witness, June 12, 1917, p. 182). "The less the people hear of war when they come to the sanctuary and the more they confess their sins and plead for peace, the nearer will the Church come to fulfilling the mission which Christ has charged her with. The newspapers are keeping hell before us seven days of the week: let the church speak of heaven on Sunday" (Theodore Graebner, "Lutheran Loyalty," ibid., August 7, 1917, p. 238).

Paul McCain said...

Here is why I signed it and would concur with Pastor Petersen's decision to sign. I must admit Mr. Strickert's penchant for comment bombing on this or any other subject on Lutheran blog sites grows wearisome. He makes even me look quiet, by comparison!! Grin.


Carl Vehse said...

To Rev. Frahm's question, “What do you think of this [the Manhattan Declaration] for clergy involvement in the Kingdom of the Left?”, posters have responded.

Dr. Heidenreich notes ecumenical equivocations in the Declaration, including a "theology of glory" ring of one phrase, and asks if the Declaration's meaning of a “fulfilling together the behavioral conditions of procreation” includes intentionally childless marriages.

Rev. Hemmer, referring to his “rose-colored glasses,” puts the best construction on the questioned phrases, especially noting that some ecumenical groups pushing the Declaration have written against intentionally childless marriages; he also makes a positive comparison of the Declaration's pro-marriage position with that of most pro-life groups [does this include Lutherans for Life?] featured in his narthex.

Pastor Hemmer also noted, “The Church can and should have a voice in the public square to oppose vice and defend virtue.” And to Rev. Williams' view of the Declaration as a “multiple personality disorder,” Rev. Hemmer responds that “the Manhattan Declaration is a statement intended to make the line between God and Caesar clearer than it currently is.” It would be worthwhile to find out Rev. Hemmer's comparison on this and his public square comment with the CTCR's ”Render unto Caesar... and unto God”.

Rev. Ball's “not bad” was later clarified as referring to the Declaration's homepage, not the Declaration itself, which he is still reading.

In addition to explaining to my opposition to the Declaration as a wishy-washy document, I presented a quote, similar to another comment by Rev. Hemmer, from President Pfotenhauer, that "anything that touches moral issues is within the sphere of the church." and provided some historical background from Missouri Synod's strong objections (and surprisingly obeisant accommodations) to government actions a century ago.

And Rev. McCain talks about comment bombing, though not from the 13 comments of his advertized Cyberbrethren thread. Of course, there's also Dr. Gene Veith's Cranach thread with 67 comments, Dr. Heidenreich's Lutherans and Procreation blog thread with 6 comments, the Extra Nos thread with 19 comments, and the Luther Quest Declaration thread with 34 comments. Thankfully, despite his weariness, Rev. McCain seems dedicated to checking out every Lutheran blog for every topic anywhere on the internet looking for comments to comment on. Keep up the good work in this vocation of yours, Rev. McCain.

Paul McCain said...

Rick, you missed my point. I was referring to your, let us say, "penchant" for comment bombing blog posts. As you did here, and as you do most everywhere that lets you post comments.

Carl Vehse said...

"Rick, you missed my point."

Paul, your "point," if not penchant, is in complaining about your weariness over what you characterize as "comment bombing on this or any other subject on Lutheran blog sites." My comments on other blogs address the topics of those blog's particular threads and are not the issue here.

Your complaint is simply a red herring to this thread's discussion of whether the Manhattan Declaration was appropriate "for clergy involvement in the Kingdom of the Left." I addressed the Kingdom of the Left problems with the MD, and gave some historically similar instances of LCMS clergy involvement in the Kingdom of the Left. If you, or others don't agree with my comments I have made regarding the Manhattan Declaration, then I am willing to discuss them on this thread.

Fr. Timothy D. May said...

Signing this statement does not mean Lutherans become non-Lutherans. Rather, it simply means that Lutherans share similar views on moral issues with other Christians, especially when such issues of morality come under assault in the larger society. Lutherans do believe that morality is addressed in Scripture (?)

This is not advocating that pastors who signed it give up their ordination and call and the ministry of Word and Sacraments and the work of the Church and work full-time lobbying secular authorities on certain issues. Instead it is signing on to a public statement at a given time and place.

I signed it a while ago, knowing it as an imperfect statement, and went back to work. (It is obviously not a "Lutheran" production.) There are public moral issues and there is the life of the Church at her center. A greater danger is not that the statement has its flaws (if I had the time I am sure I could find some.) but that we may let it or other good will actions diminish overall time spent on the life given us at the center of the Church. (This is not addressing how pastors spend their times as individual citizens but as to what pertains to the work in their office.)

Anonymous said...

FWIW - I have been trying to learn about the Manhattan Declaration and was struggling with what to make of it. I kept being uncomfortable with it. When I read Dr. Michael Horton's assessment of the MD, things began to make sense why I was uncomfortable. May I recommend that ya'll take a few minutes to look at it? His assessment can be found here: http://tinyurl.com/ydjr52n