Tom Gilson

Why I Signed The Manhattan Declaration

Series: Manhattan Declaration

Maybe it’s the Yorktown effect. I live just a few miles from the battlefield where America won its independence from Britain, and my commute to work actually takes me through that battlefield. Just a few blocks from there is the home of a patriot named Thomas Nelson, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, who “gave most of his fortune to purchase supplies for the Patriots and died in debt, but as an American citizen” ( He was one of those who agreed to “pledge our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor” to the cause of independence.

I do not mean to over-state the Manhattan Declaration’s parallels with the Declaration of Independence; yet there are similarities, in their common call to stand in unity for true liberty under God and in the solemn commitment signers make to stand with that truth even if current law denies it. I have made that solemn commitment, and I am grateful and humbled to have my signature under it. I am also grateful that as of this writing almost one-quarter million others have signed it. I urge you to join us with your signature as well.

As for the Yorktown effect, I’m quite sure I would have signed the Declaration regardless of where I lived, because it’s really about the truth. The Manhattan Declaration rests firmly and solidly on biblical principles of life, marriage, and liberty. If these matters are not of God, then what anyone believes about them is of no consequence. But I believe God has spoken on them, and we have no option but to accept his word as true. Thankfully it is a good truth; and the Manhattan Declaration makes a positive stand for that truth.

The Declaration makes a positive statement for life and human dignity. Its stand against abortion is accompanied by its call to help innocent victims of war and its stand against

the neglect and abuse of children, the exploitation of vulnerable laborers, the sexual trafficking of girls and young women, the abandonment of the aged, racial oppression and discrimination, the persecution of believers of all faiths, and the failure to take steps necessary to halt the spread of preventable diseases like AIDS.

… all of which is rooted in God’s own loving regard for us whom he created in his own image.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10)

The Declaration makes a positive statement for marriage. Its strong stand against same-sex “marriage” is prefaced by its biblical definition of marriage’s intent:

The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, for she was taken out of man.” For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh (Genesis 2:23-24).

This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband (Ephesians 5:32-33).

And it is also balanced by a call to

stop glamorizing promiscuity and infidelity and restore among our people a sense of the profound beauty, mystery, and holiness of faithful marital love. We must reform ill-advised policies that contribute to the weakening of the institution of marriage, including the discredited idea of unilateral divorce. We must work in the legal, cultural, and religious domains to instill in young people a sound understanding of what marriage is, what it requires, and why it is worth the commitment and sacrifices that faithful spouses make.

In other words, it is about strengthening marriage in all ways. It’s not just about “gay rights,” but about all that God says about this one most crucial institution of all societies.

It is an uncompromising call to truth, yet wrapped round with grace:

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.

The Declaration makes a positive statement for religious liberty. Laws regarding “hate crimes” and conscience clauses, and “political correctness” in general, threaten one of the Western world’s (and especially America’s) most basic, bedrock principles: that a person’s religious conscience is not to be coerced by law. As the Declaration says,

Immunity from religious coercion is the cornerstone of an unconstrained conscience. No one should be compelled to embrace any religion against his will, nor should persons of faith be forbidden to worship God according to the dictates of conscience or to express freely and publicly their deeply held religious convictions. What is true for individuals applies to religious communities as well.

The roots of this are deeply biblical:

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners (Isaiah 61:1).

Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s (Matthew 22:21).

Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard (Acts 4:19-20).

Yet it is not some strange new theocratic threat; its civil foundations go back at least to George Mason and the 1776 Virginia Declaration of Rights, not to mention the already-mentioned Declaration of Independence. It is not only biblical, it is also thoroughly democratic and American.

But if it were merely democratic and American, that would not make it worth attaching my name to it so publicly. I support the Manhattan Declaration because I am convinced its call is based in the truth, and because I am convinced that its truth is founded in the God of truth.

Series Navigation (Manhattan Declaration):The Manhattan Declaration and the “Culture Wars” >>>
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18 thoughts on “Why I Signed The Manhattan Declaration

  1. Footnote:
    Three Questions

    Are these three principles—life, marriage, and liberty—Christians’ only priorities in today’s world? No, and the Declaration does not say that they are. They are certainly high priorities, however, for they involve the strength and structure of all of society.

    Is it wrong for Protestants such as myself to cooperate with Roman Catholics and Orthodox believers in a statement of this nature? The answer seems obvious to me: the Declaration affirms important matters on which members of all these groups can heartily agree, and on which a unified stand is more effective than a divided one.

    Is this a statement I am making on behalf of Campus Crusade for Christ, the mission agency with which I work? No. The Declaration says,

    We, as Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical Christians, have gathered, beginning in New York on September 28, 2009, to make the following declaration, which we sign as individuals, not on behalf of our organizations, but speaking to and from our communities.

  2. Tom:

    For some reason the link is including the closing parenthesis at the end. Could you please remove it? Thanks.

  3. I may be missing Holo’s point about him being disgusted. I haven’t read much from the links, but is the disgust directed at those who chose to not sign it on the basis of theological differences rather than sign it on the basis of common ground?

  4. SteveK, like most Christians I have my own views about some particulars other Christians do not share but every Christian should hold to core beliefs like the divinity of Christ and the resurrection. These are minimal doctrinal beliefs. The link, unnecessarily in my view, emphasized differences when the real compelling differences are evidenced by the distinctly unchristian direction our society is moving in.

  5. Bradford,
    So, if the particulars that are being debated really don’t change the intent/message of the declaration, I would have to agree with Holo. It should not have happened. It’s like refusing to sign because it used informal grammar and less than perfect sentence structure. So what?

  6. The link, unnecessarily in my view, emphasized differences when the real compelling differences are evidenced by the distinctly unchristian direction our society is moving in.

    Hear, hear.

  7. I wish there was something of a like sentiment to the Declaration for we Jews to sign. In its absence, let me add my name to the list of signers in support.

  8. I think our western culture Christianity has its differences. But As I look at history just far as abortion is concerned, the Catholic church took the lead and us protestants hung back until it was too late. It is well that we look to the the things we can agree on and get passionate about. Our Culture is in the toilet w/o Jesus Christ. Let us come together on these three basics and begin to turn our culture back to Christianity. I’m in.

    We have thought for years that “maybe” our congress was on our side. Corporately they oppose Christianity, and have for many years.


  9. The link is the second time recently that I have read posts where Catholics and Protestants are arguing about the relative validity of their respective faiths. I find it appalling.

    I’m not naive about those differences nor do I think they are insignificant. However, to start with, “good” theology never saved anyone. Second, to take differences in theological understanding so far as to use them reject a document like the Manhattan Declaration is sickening.

    People who would use differences in biblical understanding to refuse to join together in their common interests may, I think, find that their “good” theology is what, when all is said and done, separates them God as well as those they perceive fail their particular standards.

  10. When people agree it may be because of different motivations, but if they can accomplish a common goal, why not. We decided to highlight why people signed the document and you can see interviews that include more than just talking points on our website,

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