Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The Affirmation Declaration


Yesterday I signed, as executive coordinator of the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities (CPCSM), the Affirmation Declaration.

This declaration was written to counter the Manhattan Declaration, a manifesto written by an assortment of fundamentalist Christians, including restorationist-minded Roman Catholics. Andrew Gerns notes that the Manhattan Declaration “links the preservation of religious freedom to the need for a government ban on all abortions and any sort of same sex marriage.”

The Affirmation Declaration aims “to correct egregious errors” contained in the Manhattan Declaration, “errors that have been preached in the pulpits of many local churches for far too long.” In short, the Affirmation Declaration seeks to “serve Christ, defend love, and build bridges.” The official website of the Affirmation Declaration also contains a “Rebuttal to the Manhattan Declaration in Relation to Same-Sex Marriage” written by Romell D. Weekly, Pastor of New Revelation Christian Church (Saint Louis, Missouri), and founder of the Gay Christian Fellowship.

Outlining further the purpose of the Affirmation Declaration, the website states:

With the growing notoriety and support for the Manhattan Declaration, our Affirmation Declaration reflects an urgent need to respond to the portion of the Manhattan Declaration dealing with issues related to sexual orientation—specifically, homosexuality and same-sex marriage. We strongly disagree with the contention that same-sex attractions and the oft-resulting romantic activities are immoral.

Because of the large number of people affected by this serious issue one way or the other, we felt it expedient to respond formally, both by submitting our Declaration to the drafters of the Manhattan Declaration, as well as by releasing our Declaration to the public, allowing Christians to show their support for love and affirmation, just as so many have shown their support for the propagation of false doctrines of oppression and inequality against the GLBTI (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgered, and Intersex) community.

We also desire to let the world know that not all Christians are locked in what we believe to be an ancient worldview regarding homosexuality. We want to give people hope — hope to know that God loves them just as they are; hope to know that their gay loved ones are not destined for Hell; hope to know that although some Christian churches will never accept them or their same-sex unions, a great many will.

May the signatures we garner serve as a fire that will never burn out, lighting the way through the darkness of bad theology, and setting Christ's Church back on the right track as it relates to matters of sexual and gender orientation, and gender identity.

Following is the main part of the text of the Affirmation Declaration.


First and foremost [we] emphatically state that God does affirm homosexuality as a natural state, and homosexuals as His beloved.

We reject the theological abuse of antigay doctrine, which has resulted in the spiritual and physical harm of countless people. Human beings, made in the image and likeness of God, have been made to feel lower than low because of the fear of diversity within our human family, and because of theology founded not upon rightly interpreted Scripture, but upon traditionalism with no substantial basis in sound hermeneutics.

Historically, humans have always had an aversion to diversity. That which is not like the norm has always frightened or offended, and we acknowledge with great regret that the Christian body is not innocent of this charge. But, we also readily acknowledge that God is calling us in this generation to be restorers of the breach — to identify and correct the errors that so many Christians have accepted as foregone conclusions, and to reconcile those who have been ostracized and rejected back to the loving arms of their holy God.

Jesus was well acquainted with the great harm that “spiritual leaders” so easily dispense in the name of God. Our own Holy Scriptures tell us that He was “despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” He knew what it was to be around people who claimed to love God, but couldn’t stand to look upon people who were created in God’s image. He knew what it was like to be held in low esteem just because He did not toe the line that the religious leaders demanded.

We take heart in the knowledge that Christ has been where so many in the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (GLBTI) community are. He has gone through the pain of rejection — particularly, the pain of being rejected by the very ones who should have been a wellspring of living water. We are thankful that the God of all comfort has been a keeping power to countless GLBTI Christians, who could, at many times, turn to no one but Him for love, affirmation, and support. We proclaim that He has been enough; but we also unwaveringly declare that He has more in mind for His children than spiritual and emotional isolation — that He desires all of His body of believers to be in fellowship one with the other.

We assert that the pain brought upon our GLBTI brethren in the name of God is not an expression of love. It is not love to bring shame and self-loathing upon people. It is not love to tell parents not to accept their gay children because their affirmation will supposedly make their children not want to change. It certainly is not love to teach the damnable heresy that GLBTI people cannot be saved or go to Heaven until they have been delivered from their natural orientation.

We also call attention to the horrible spiritual effect that antigay theology has had on the secular world. We are deeply troubled by the number of people who have been made to despise Christianity because of the oppressive and tyrannical acts of our Christian brethren. However well intentioned they may believe themselves to be, they continue to short-circuit the gospel of Jesus Christ by imposing their religious beliefs upon the general population. Whether homosexuality is sinful or not, opposing same-sex marriage is not only counterproductive to evangelistic ministry, but it is diametrically opposed to the concept of religious freedom — something that the proponents of the Manhattan Declaration claim to cherish. It appears that what they, instead, champion is their freedom to impose their religious beliefs on others. We reject this hypocritical opposition to same-sex marriage, and stand for true religious liberty in the United States of America and the world.

These ever present sins against the GLBTI community are not faithful expressions of God’s love, as is so often claimed. The attestation to the contrary expressed in the Manhattan Declaration only demonstrates the blind religious fervor that so many of our brethren are lost in. Like the Pharisees of old, they continue to believe that such cruelties actually serve the God who is love. But, this is not the type of love that Scripture defines for us.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast,
it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily
angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil
but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts,
always hopes, always perseveres.

- 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Although opponents to affirming theology would likely point to verse 6 [“Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth”] as justification for their treatment of GLBTI people, we stress that love necessarily requires hesitancy before accusing someone based upon face value readings of texts that were never meant to be interpreted in such a haphazard way. 2 Timothy 2:15 commands us to diligently approach Scripture in order to “rightly divide the word of truth.” Face value and diligence are not faithful friends; and we rejoice in this fact, lest we be contented to force women to adhere to a strict dress code (1 Timothy 2:9-10) and keep their mouths shut in church (1 Corinthians 14:34-35; 1 Timothy 2:11-12), or men to keep their hair a certain length (1Corinthians 11:14).

Times change, and with them biblical pronouncements about acts that were, themselves, perceived through a culturally subjective lens. This fact does not make Scripture wrong; but it does make certain passages obsolete, and their application to modern Christians inappropriate and unfaithful to the intent of the text. It is time for the Church to stop acknowledging this only when it suits a given purpose (as in the case with women’s rights or what makes for a “manly” appearance). Love requires an honest examination of this principle’s application to the issue of homosexuality. Such an examination has led many people, both gay and straight, to affirm the GLBTI community.

Finally, we assert that no godly end is served by the cruel treatment of GLBTI people. While we are certain that some among our opponents are bigots and cannot be changed or reasoned with, we humbly challenge those who sincerely disagree with homosexuality for theological reasons to reexamine this most serious issue. For the love of Christ, and the GLBTI population that He so dearly loves, give this issue the due diligence that it is deserving of. Expose yourselves to the other point of view and see, if perchance, Scripture actually does not say what you always believed it to say. If you engage in such an effort sincerely, and emerge with your existing beliefs affirmed, we will bid you Godspeed and pray that Christian fellowship can be maintained while we agree to disagree.

In closing, we humbly beseech God for the strength to stand against the theological oppression of those who wish to keep His Church in the past, as they, aforetime, did to women, to Blacks, and — looking back into the early history of the Church — even to Gentiles. It took the experience of Spirit-baptism to convince many Jewish Christians that the way of salvation was, indeed, open to the Gentiles. That God has granted our generation so great a cloud of witnesses of GLBTI people who love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength, it stands as a strong rebuke that we find ourselves still doubting the place of redeemed people in the body of Christ.

As Christians stood against other Christians in appealing to the conscience of man in the liberation of slaves, of women, and of other groups throughout the history of the Church, we who now affix our signatures to this emphatic declaration of affirmation stand against those Christians who refuse to love without precondition. We oppose not with hearts of hatred or ill will, but with the very love that we demand of those who continue to sin against us. We commit ourselves to the virtues of humility and forgiveness, and anxiously await the time when one of the last prayers of our Lord and Christ may be fulfilled at last.

Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also
which shall believe on me through their word;
That they all may be one;
as thou, Father, art in me,
and I in thee, that they also may be one in us:

that the world may believe that thou hast sent me . . .
And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it:
that the love wherewith thou hast loved me
may be in them, and I in them.

- John 17:20-26

To sign the Affirmation Declaration, click here.

Recommended Off-site Links:
The Affirmation Declaration
The Manhattan Declaration
– Full text and commentary at GoodAsYou.org.
The Manhattan Declaration and 500 Year Cycles of Energy - Colleen Kochivar-Baker (Enlightened Catholicism, December 7, 2009).
Manhattan Declaration of Religious Traditionalism
– Andrew Gern (Episcopal Café, November 20, 2009).
Statement of Conscience: Just Give Us the Money
- Bruce Garrett (TruthWinsOut.org, November 20, 2009).
Can a Culture War Manifesto Reach a New Generation of Evangelicals and Catholics?
- Dan Gilgoff (U.S. News and World Report, November 20, 2009).
A “Hierarchy of Issues”?
- Thom Curnutte (Ad Dominum, November 20, 2009).
Two Catholic Bishops, Conscience, and the Common Good
- Paula Ruddy (The Progressive Catholic Voice, June 14, 2009).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
First They Take Manhattan
Timothy Kincaid Reviews the “Manhattan Declaration”
America’s New Civil Rights Battle


William D. Lindsey said...

Michael, thanks for valuable commentary on this important statement. I've just linked a posing on my Bilgrimage blog to this statement about the Affirmation Declaration.

Mareczku said...

Thanks for posting this. It is very good. I signed the Affirmation Declaration.

Anonymous said...

This declaration was written to counter the Manhattan Declaration, a manifesto written by an assortment of fundamentalist Christians, including restorationist-minded Roman Catholics

Michael, what do you mean by "fundamentalist Christians"? WIthout a substantial definition of this term, its just an ad hominem attack. Could someone believe that homosexual relations were not moral and not be "fundamentalist"?

Michael J. Bayly said...

Hi Anonymous,

I wonder: what would they be basing their belief on?

It seems to me that all who believe that "homosexual relations" are immoral base such belief on a literal (i.e., fundamentalist) reading of scripture. So, yeah, despite the fact that they're highly selective in such reading (the "abominable" eating of shrimp, after all, is ignored), I'd consider them Christian fundamentalists. Or better still, intellectually dishonest Christian fundamentalists.