- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 19, 2015

Catholic and evangelical Protestant leaders issued a declaration Wednesday aimed at shoring up Christians who are buckling under social pressure to change their views of marriage.

“A society that seeks to erase the difference between male and female in marriage is asking us to believe something we know is not true and cannot be true,” said the statement by Evangelicals and Catholics Together, an ecumenical group founded in 1994 by Richard John Neuhaus and Chuck Colson.

“We must say, as clearly as possible, that same-sex unions, even when sanctioned by the state, are not marriages,” said the statement, which was posted at First Things on Wednesday afternoon.

“Christians who wish to remain faithful to the Scriptures and Christian tradition cannot embrace this falsification of reality, irrespective of its status in law,” said the statement titled “The Two Shall Become One Flesh: Reclaiming Marriage,” which warned Christians that they are likely to “suffer abuse” for standing for marriage or refusing to participate in same-sex marriages.

The statement was written during two years of discussions by nine Catholic authors, including the Rev. Thomas Guarino of Seton Hall University, and eight evangelical Protestants, including Beeson Divinity School Dean Timothy George.

Another 32 religious leaders, including the Rev. Rick Warren of Saddleback Church and World Evangelical Alliance global ambassador Brian C. Stiller, endorsed the statement.

The statement decries other social ills, such as widespread divorce, out-of-wedlock births, acceptance of premarital sex and cohabitation, and a “contraceptive mentality which insists that sex has an arbitrary relation to procreation.”

Many of these subjects required the authors to discern where the theological common ground was — and wasn’t, First Things editor Russell Reno said Wednesday. However, there was mutual agreement that, when faced with the sexual revolution and its related trends, “families fragment, the poor suffer, and children are especially vulnerable and at risk.”

The statement did not take aim at anyone or any group by name, but drew a line against comments like those made this week to Oprah Winfrey by former megachurch pastor Rob Bell and his wife, Kristen.

“Marriage, gay and straight, is a gift to the world because the world needs more not less love fidelity, commitment, devotion and sacrifice,” Mrs. Bell said, reading out of the couple’s new book, “The ZimZum of Love: A New Way of Understanding Marriage,” according to Christian Post.

When Ms. Winfrey queried them about including gay marriages in their book, Mr. Bell, who is pastor emeritus of the church he founded, Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, Mich., said he believed church acceptance of same-sex marriage is “inevitable” and “we’re moments away” from that acceptance.

If the church continues to resist gay nuptials, he added, it will “continue to be even more irrelevant.”

Numerous religious organizations, churches and coalitions support gay marriage, and there is even a group called Not All Like That that offers Christians a place to say that they, unlike other Christians, believe in gay marriage.

The new statement, which Mr. Reno said could be called a manifesto, says such confusions cannot be allowed to obscure Christian witness.

Gay unions are a “parody of marriage,” and results in “a deceptive pseudo-freedom that degrades our humanity,” the statement said. “Keeping in mind the obligation to speak truth in love,” it concluded, “we must find ways to distinguish true marriage from its distortion, and we must do so without abandoning the public square.”

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story associated Pastor Rob Bell with the wrong church. He founded the Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, Mich., and is not associated with the now-disbanded Mars Hill Church in Seattle. The Times regrets the error.

• Cheryl Wetzstein can be reached at cwetzstein@washingtontimes.com.

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