Why I didn't sign the Manhattan Declaration...

(David) Unlike R.C. Sproul Sr. or Douglas Wilson I can't claim to have declined to add my signature to the Manhattan Declaration as a matter of principle. The truth is, I wasn't asked.

At least, I wasn't asked to join the group of 184 "religious leader signatories" to this "call of Christian conscience" on issues of life, marriage and religious freedom.

I suppose I'm now invited to sign along with the rest of rank-and-file American Christianity. But I probably would not have signed even had I been asked in the initial go-round. Why? For two reasons:

First, Tim's and my father was frequently asked to join in such statements. On several occasions he did so to his subsequent regret. One such statement on Jewish and Christian mutual respect morphed into a tool for Jewish criticism of Evangelical proselytization of Jews. In the end, out of humility or simple pessimism, Dad declined to join such statements.

There is always the question of whether the real audience for such statements is the ego of the signers. Praise God I've not risen to a level of prominence that would afford my ego such tempting gratification.

Certainly this is not the case with every signer, but I suspect this motivation plays a greater role in the number of signatures a statement attracts than any signer would like to admit.

Which brings me to the second reason I would not sign such a statement, and that's this: there are signers and there are doers and seldom the twain shall meet. Yes, among the Manhattan Declaration's signers is a man who deserves the respect of every American who appreciates courage in protection of the unborn--Randy Alcorn who lost his home and savings to the corrupt RICO prosecutions of the Clinton administration--but the majority have shown little inclination to stand courageously against the progress of the culture of death in America.

I'm happy to pastor a church whose elders sent me to oppose the government-mandated killing of Terri Schaivo. I was happy to stand in Pinellas Park at the side of many simple Roman Catholics and Protestants who were willing to disrupt their lives and face arrest in opposition to actual governmental murder. But I didn't notice any of the signatories to the Manhattan Declaration standing there during the weeks that Terri Schiavo was starved to death.

Many fundamentalist Protestants and simple Roman Catholics stood outside those gates--enraged by the failure of their spiritual leaders to join them. 

I was proud to be allied there with a pastor named David Currell who willingly went to his arrest for seeking to take water to Terri Schiavo.  But, to the best of my knowledge, David hasn't been approached to sign the Manhattan Declaration. Simple believers, doers, seldom are.

But they're the ones who are out there. They shame me even today. It's 15 degrees out, the wind is blowing, and I know that right here in Toledo there are Protestants and Catholics who are out facing the enemy, opposing abortion, standing for righteousness.

Praise God for the courageous little people. While those with fame and fortune are deliberating whether to add their names to a document, God's men of faith but little renown are busy gathering five smooth stones from a brook and nailing theses to the Wittenburg cathedral door. God has such men in His Kingdom today. They will lead us to His victory.


"there are signers and there are doers and seldom the twain shall meet."

Well said. It's too easy to sign (digitally-speaking) a statement like this and think we have done our job. It's much harder to actually mobilize ourselves and take action.

If signing such a document poses no personal risk to those doing so, then the the document itself is of little value.

well said, david.


You've really disturbed my peace today. Good men developed this document, and more have signed it. I am proud to stand with them.

Then you had to mention Terri Schiavo and Pastor Dave's courage. And you know what, you're right. I know we are not all called to the same work - few of us can do the work of a Robby George or Peter Kreeft. But of all those men and women privileged to have their names up on top of the list of signatories - how many of them have gotten their hands dirty in the work they speak of? How many of them have risked arrest? Risked the rigours of a day in the hot sun or the bitter cold in front of an abortuary? And, as you point out, not a single one of them stood with you outside of Terri Schiavo's death chamber. Not a single one.

If they were serious about point #8 on civil disobedience, you all would have had some company down there in Florida.

I did sign it, but I have now just written them asking my name be removed. I'm sure among the quarter of a million names, no one will notice my absence.


>>how many of them have gotten their hands dirty in the work they speak of?

Well, John Piper got busted opposing abortion up in the Twin Cities. And that was when I first came to have affection for John--back years ago when I listened to his sermon given the Lord's Day before the bust in which he explained the Biblical commitments that led him to take the coming step.

But then, did John sign this statement? Haven't kept track but maybe someone else knows?

Then too, there's David Wegener who also got busted. And Dave Curell. What wonderful brothers God has given to my brother and me to work with!

Praise God!

PS: Good words, dear bro!

At least one declaration signer, WORLD Magazine founder Joel Belz, went to Florida to protest Schiavo's murder (and he covered it extensively for the magazine). Here's the column he wrote, citing the influence of Joe Bayly on his decision to go:


I don't think this necessarily undermines your overall point, but I'd submit there are at least a couple of doers among the signatories.

> They shame me even today. It's 15 degrees
> out, the wind is blowing, and I know that
> right here in Toledo there are Protestants
> and Catholics who are out facing the enemy,
> opposing abortion, standing for righteousness.

Indeed, David. Praise God for the people, right here in Bloomington, who faithfully protest at Planned Parenthood and have for years. Standing outside in the bitter cold is never easy, especially when confronting this evil.

I did sign it, but then, I'm obscure enough that there's no ego gratification to be had. :)

Maybe it's of benefit to sign that declaration precisely because I'm not of much consequence. I didn't have the resources to go to Florida nor can I claim a history of activism. Then, too, I supposer I may be a coward. I've never been put to the test when my livelihood or my family was on the oline for my faith. (I did sign the petition to put Washington's domestic partnership law on the ballot, when homobigots were threatening to publish the signers' names. But I live in a part of the state with few homosexuals, so I was still pretty safe.)

For those of us who don't represent congregations or get much chance to step onto the front lines, the Manhattan Declaration may be as much as we can do. It's not much, but it's something, and it forces us to confront the reality of our beliefs head-on. And it may be that our sheer numbers will at least cause our elected officials to think twice when they make despicable policies.

I signed not because some original signers are
greater or lesser saints than I am, nor because
I have done so much or only so little for God's will
being honored, but because this is one way to
stand up and be counted for the family's well-
functioning according to God's design. I am also grateful for whosoever will go public and be tested for convictions in line with: Hallowed Be THY Name.


Thank you for the link, and for the correction. I didn't realize Belz was there as a protestor as well as a journalist - I'm grateful to know he was.


That reminds me of something I heard at a Christian faculty lunch lately. A young professor said that she is in a very liberal department, full of social activists. They would never come to church, and in effect believe evangelicals have horns (having never met one) but if she invites them to a church-sponsored help-the-poor event (soup kitchen day, etc.), "they have to put put their money where their mouth is" and come.

One thing signing a petition does is to make a signer vulnerable to that kind of invitation. Save that Manhattan list for the next time a Schiavo incident comes up!

I frequently get forwards about one thing or another that involves adding your name to a list to protest this or that good christian thing. And some lists of signers you even see published in World Magazine (I'm recalling the endorsement of the ESV bible years ago and hoping my memory is correct.) I remember being impressed with those who were listed as supporters of the new translation. There are other similar lists where I have been impressed with the signers, "it must be a good document..."

I never thought about who didn't sign. Never even considered the idea that some could have been asked to sign and chose not to. This article (and links) makes me wish there was a "list" of those who were asked to sign but didn't. I'm sure it would be 1,000 times more interesting and telling than those who did.

Also, I need clarification as I'm curious (although if I never know, my day will still go on...) Did Joel Belz go to FL? His post here makes me think he didn't go.

They didn't ask me either, David.

Weird, huh?



Had I been invited to sign, I would have declined (I pray I would) because such an invitation to join the Big Dogs at the head of the pack would have nourished something evil in my soul.

On the other hand, I can (and did) sign it as a forgetful face in a faceless crowd, offered an opportunity to participate in the "awful authority of a mob" as GKC put it.

Again, with microscopic paraphrase, Chesterton rightly observes, "The only fun of being a Christian is that a man is not left alone with the Inner Light, but definitely recognizes

an outer light, fair as the sun, clear as the moon, terrible as an army with banners."

So, in those rare times when I am offered a place in that awful mob, when my face is hidden by the flying banners, when no one would even think to look in my direction because there is another Face, looking down with blazing eyes, a sword coming out of His mouth, Who sits astride a white horse, and on His thigh is written King of King and Lord of Lords ... if I'm offered a place to stand among such a company led by such a King, I'll jump at it with joy that borders on madness.

All is well in the world when my brother writes and Bill Mouser adds something. Priceless.

I just signed the Manhattan Declaration, with basically the same motivation that the other people in this thread who are also signers did.

But I already see ways that our parish do things that support the spirit of the declaration, even though they aren't flashy or in-your-face.

One example: One of our small groups is made up of married couples with young children. For the past few weeks, they have offered free child-care for any other couples with young children in the parish to give these couples an evening alone. The last 2 weeks this group even suggested that couples requesting child care to invite a couple friend or neighbor (particularly non-Christian) to bring their children and get a free night out themselves.

That's certainly pro-marriage in my book, along with low-key evangelism to boot.

I won't criticize your reasoning for not signing. It seems a reasonable one. I have criticized others who gave reasons which I thought specious. The reason why I signed is that I believe we are facing a real threat of soft persecution. By soft, I mean, we aren't facing what Christians from the first three centuries faced (the lion's mane and the pyre) nor what Christians in some parts of the world face even today, but we do face the real prospect that people will have to sacrifice careers, professions and businesses because they refuse to, for example, dispense morning after death pills in pharmacies, or to perform abortions in their hospitals, or to provide floral arrangements and tux for same-sex "wedding" ceremonies.

My wife is a pharmacist. Currently, she is a stay-at-home mother, but if and when the opportunity to return to her profession comes (probably only part-time and after our children are older), will she be able to find a position which she can morally accept? We are Presbyterians who believe that not only abortion and the use of abortifacient contraceptives is sinful, we believe the use of all contraceptives are sinful. She cannot accept a job where she would be forced (either by her employer or the state) to dispense them. In the past, she was always able to find such employment, but there is a real battle over this issue now.

I make a good income and we can do quite well without my wife working, but what of the man who is the primary breadwinner in his family and faces such a choice of his livelihood versus his faith. I signed the declaration because I want to add my voice in support of those people who face such choices. Certainly, I need to be prepared to support such people privately as well, but sometimes it also is important to stand with a group and say, "We will resist and we will stand with those who are resisting." I believe one can be a signer and a doer and that both have value.

Dear GL,

I am thankful for your willingness to stand for the Lord, both you and your wife. May our Lord bless you.


I didn't sign the Manhattan Declaration, mostly based on point 3 (inherent religious freedom). We're not promised that there will be no persecution for Christ's namesake, and to declare that we will use the power of our collective humanity to stop that from taking place is to usurp God and define the level of our own persecution based on the level of our perceived comfort and human-appointed ability to preach and live the gospel, whatever the cost. I don't believe Paul had the option or the nerve to claim an inherent right of religious freedom while he was writing most of the New Testament in prisons. To say that we can now guarantee that is lukewarm childish Christianity at best.

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