Before the Manhattan Declaration: ‘A Letter from America’s Religious Leaders in Defense of Marriage’

Given the vitriol, smug arrogance, and sectarian sentiment with which some Orthodox Christians have greeted Orthodox Christian participation in the Manhattan Declaration, let us review the 2006 letter below which was signed by Archbishop Demetrios and Metropolitan Herman. In fact — and this may be upsetting to some readers so brace yourself — Archbishop Demetrios was bookended on this list by Chuck Colson and James Dobson.

Let us also revisit SCOBA’s 2003 “Statement on Moral Crisis in Our Nation” which defended traditional marriage. “The Orthodox Christian teaching on marriage and sexuality, firmly grounded in Holy Scripture, 2000 years of church tradition, and canon law, holds that marriage consists in the conjugal union of a man and a woman, and that authentic marriage is blessed by God as a sacrament of the Church,” SCOBA said. This statement, in many quarters today, would likely be described as hate speech.

Note that the following statement calls for a constitutional amendment “to establish a uniform national definition of marriage as the exclusive union of one man and one woman.” It’s all so … religious right, isn’t it?

Sign the Manhattan Declaration here.

A Letter from America’s Religious Leaders in Defense of Marriage
Source: Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
Apr 25, 2006

Throughout America, the institution of marriage is suffering. As leaders in our nation’s religious communities, we cannot sit idly by. It is our duty to speak. And so across the lines of theological division, we have united to affirm, in one voice, the following:

For millennia our societies have recognized the union of a man and a woman in the bond of marriage. Cross-culturally virtually every known human society understands marriage as a union of male and female. As such marriage is a universal, natural, covenantal union of a man and a woman intended for personal love, support and fulfillment, and the bearing and rearing of children. Sanctioned by and ordained of God, marriage both precedes and sustains civil society.

Marriage is particularly important for the rearing of children as they flourish best under the long term care and nurture of their father and mother. For this and other reasons, when marriage is entered into and gotten out of lightly, when it is no longer the boundary of sexual activity, or when it is allowed to be radically redefined, a host of personal and civic ills can be expected to follow. Such a point has always been stressed by the world’s great monotheistic religious traditions and is, today, increasingly confirmed by impeccable social science research.

Long concerned with rates of divorce, out-of-wedlock births, and absentee fathers, we have recently watched with extreme alarm the growing trend of some courts to make marriage something it is not: an elastic concept able to accommodate almost any individual preference. This does not so much modify or even weaken marriage as abolish it. The danger this betokens for family life and a general condition of social justice and ordered liberty is hard to overestimate.

Therefore, we take the unprecedented stand of uniting to call for a constitutional amendment to establish a uniform national definition of marriage as the exclusive union of one man and one woman. We are convinced that this is the only measure that will adequately protect marriage from those who would circumvent the legislative process and force a redefinition of it on the whole of our society. We encourage all citizens of good will across the country to step forward boldly and exercise their right to work through our constitutionally established democratic procedures to amend the Constitution to include a national definition of marriage. We hereby announce our support for S.J. Res.1, the Marriage Protection Amendment.

May God bless all marriages and all those who labor to protect the sanctity and promote the goodness of marriage throughout this nation.


The Right Reverend Keith L. Ackerman, SSC
Episcopal Bishop of Quincy, IL

Daniel Akin, Ph.D.
President, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

The Right Reverend Peter H. Beckwith
Episcopal Bishop of Springfield, IL

Bishop Charles E. Blake
First Assistant Presiding Bishop, Church of God in Christ (COGIC)

The Most Reverend Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.
Roman Catholic Archbishop of Denver, CO

Charles W. Colson
Founder and Chairman, Prison Fellowship

His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America
Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America

James C. Dobson, Ph.D.
Founder and Chairman, Focus on the Family

David Dockery, Ph.D.
President, Union University, Jackson, Tennessee
Chairman, Board of Directors, Council for Christian Colleges and Universities

The Right Reverend Robert Duncan
Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, PA
Moderator of the Anglican Communion Network

His Eminence Francis Cardinal George, OMI
Roman Catholic Archbishop of Chicago, IL

Timothy George, Th.D.
Dean, Beeson Divinity School of Samford University
Executive Editor of Christianity Today

The Most Reverend Jose H. Gomez
Roman Catholic Archbishop of San Antonio, TX

The Reverend Ted Haggard
President, National Association of Evangelicals

The Reverend Dr. Jack W. Hayford
President, The International Church of the Foursquare Gospel
Founder/Chancellor, The King’s College and Seminary
Pastor Emeritus, The Church On The Way

The Most Blessed Herman
Archbishop of Washington and New York
Primate, The Orthodox Church in America

The Right Reverend John W. Howe
Episcopal Bishop of Central Florida

Bishop Harry R. Jackson
Senior Pastor, Hope Christian Church, Lanham, MD
President, High Impact Leadership Coalition

His Eminence William Cardinal Keeler
Roman Catholic Archbishop of Baltimore, MD

The Reverend Dr. D. James Kennedy
Chancellor, Knox Theological Seminary, Fort Lauderdale, FL

The Reverend Dr. Gerald B. Kieschnick
President, The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod

Dr. Richard Land
President, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, Southern Baptist Convention

Rabbi Daniel Lapin
President, Toward Tradition

Steve W. Lemke, Ph.D.
Provost, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary

The Reverend Dr. Peter A. Lillback
Senior Pastor, Proclamation Presbyterian Church, Bryn Mawr, PA
President, Westminster Theological Seminary

The Reverend Herbert H. Lusk, II
Senior Pastor, Greater Exodus Baptist Church
President & CEO, People For People, Inc

The Most Reverend Robert C. Morlino
Roman Catholic Bishop of Madison, WI

The Most Reverend John Myers
Roman Catholic Archbishop of Newark, NJ

The Most Reverend Joseph F. Naumann
Roman Catholic Archbishop of Kansas City, KS

Elder Russell M. Nelson
Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

The Reverend Richard John Neuhaus
Editor in chief of FIRST THINGS

The Most Reverend John C. Nienstedt
Roman Catholic Bishop of New Ulm, MN

Rabbi David Novak
J. Richard and Dorothy Shiff Chair of Jewish Studies,
Professor of the Study of Religion and Professor of Philosophy, University of Toronto
Visiting Professor of Religion, Princeton University (2006)

The Most Reverend Thomas J. Olmsted
Roman Catholic Bishop of Phoenix, AZ

His Eminence Sean Patrick Cardinal O’Malley, O.F.M., Cap.
Roman Catholic Archbishop of Boston, MA

Dr. Paige Patterson
President, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

His Eminence Justin Cardinal Rigali
Roman Catholic Archbishop of Philadelphia, PA

The Reverend Eugene F. Rivers, III
Founder and President, The Seymour Institute for Advanced Christian Studies

The Reverend Samuel Rodriguez, Jr.
President, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference
National Hispanic Association of Evangelicals

Rabbi Meir Soloveichik
Associate Rabbi, Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun of Manhattan, NY

The Most Reverend John G. Vlazny
Roman Catholic Archbishop of Portland, OR

The Reverend Dr. Rick Warren
Founding Pastor, The Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA
Author, The Purpose-Driven Life

Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb
Executive Vice President, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America

The Reverend David Welch
Executive Director, U.S. Pastor Council

The Most Reverend John W. Yanta
Roman Catholic Bishop of Amarillo, TX

Malcolm B. Yarnell, III, Ph.D.
Director, Center for Theological Research
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Institutional affiliations are provided for purposes of identification only.


  1. And then there is that strange review by Fr. Anthony Hughes of Frank Schaeffer’s latest book in The Word magizine which praised highly the “tolerant” approach to faith while at the same time lambasting the “fundamentalist converts” and the “God-haunted GOP”. Yes, he actually used the phrase “God-haunted GOP”. I got the distinct impression that the author want all the folks who actually expect the faith to impact our lives and the life of the culture to be silent and/or leave. We are certainly not supposed to be Republican. I wonder, will we now have a political test in order to receive the Holy Mysteries?

  2. George Michalopulos :

    You see Michael, that’s what I love about “liberals.” They’re so tolerant. If you don’t agree with them, you’re the one that’s intolerant.

    • I do wonder how it is possible to be tolerant of sin if one actually believes salvation is necessary and desireable?

      How can we proclaim that we are the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church with the fullness of the faith and be ‘tolerant’ in the liberal sense of heresy, apostasy and down right blasphemy? Whatever happened to the idea that the way is narrow?

      How can one repent and be saved unless one is confronted with one’s sinfulness? I know I sure don’t unless I get some kind of 2X4 between the eyes.

      There is a hatred here, it is a self-hatred that is founded upon a denial of our need for God’s grace and the reality of the fact that “only by me can you come to the Father”

      Our Lord’s mercy permeates us and sustains our life, but if we are to have real life and have it abundantly, we must acknowledge our need of His grace and submit to His love.

      “Tolerance” is a poor substitute for acquiring the Holy Spirit and entering into the joy of our Lord. “Tolerance” is the mirror image of ‘fundamentalism’ that seems to be the latest excuse for not living the life of the Church. That is easily seen from the epithets that the tolerant ones hurl at anyone who challenges their idea of tolerance.

  3. George Michalopulos :

    Or there is no faith in Christ and His Gospel.

  4. Often times I am highly critical of the GOA/Phanar view on moral issues and the subsequent buffoonery. Make no mistake I believe this criticism is completely well deserved and in order. However, when a bishop stands up and addresses the hard issues facing the Church we should all take note and thank him.

    So today, I want to point out Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver’s (GOA) September 2009 Protocol on Homosexuality and Same Sex Marriage. I am surprised it did not get more attention when it was issued.
    Today we should take note.

    It is posted here:

    The Metropolitan’s candid words are most welcome. He should be commended for taking the incident he describes and making it an issue of concern for his faithful.

    • Michael Bauman :

      It is a good message, however I wonder if the parish whose behavior prompted it ever saw the message? At the bottom it says “may” be printed and put in parish bulletins. It does not say it should be.

      That fact that he felt compelled to issue such a communication as he alludes to is really sad.

      • George Michalopulos :

        I’ve always said, that within the GOA, +Isaiah is problably the only “stand up kind of guy.” After all, he was a Marine.

    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

      I applaud Met. Isaiah for his faithfulness to Orthodox teaching, and especially for clarifying it through this protocol when he was challenged by a Greek Orthodox parishioner.

      However, is he aware that it puts him at odds with his immediate hierarch, the Ecumenical Patriarch, who has a more libertine view of Orthodox moral teaching?

      Secondly, why the apologetic tone? Why the overstatement about not condemning people? Clearly, the parishioner challenging him was seriously confused on two issues: 1) same-sex marriage, and 2) moral relativism. Clarify both in the message. Teach the person that drawing moral distinctions and condemning people are two different things, and say so in unequivocal and unapologetic terms.

  5. Christ is Born!

    A wonderful post by Fr. Stephen Freeman:

    Glorify Him!

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