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November 16, 2000, ATLANTA, Ga. – National Council of Churches General Secretary, Dr. Bob Edgar, among signatories to "A Christian Declaration on Marriage" released Tuesday, today warned against inappropriate use of the declaration.

He expressed his concern in a letter to the NCC’s General Assembly, meeting here Nov. 14-17. The full text of his letter follows.

November 16, 2000
Dear General Assembly Delegate:

This week you have been part of a historic movement of the Christian churches of our nation to explore ways in which we can draw closer—as a witness to our faith and to make common cause for the common good. This is an exciting moment filled with promise.

We know that the goal we have set for ourselves is high and, after decades of careful work that has already yielded greater expression of Christian unity, we readily acknowledge that our journey will be a lively one. It will involve intense conversation on issues close to our hearts. I unreservedly embrace that conversation in a spirit of love and respect for all partners in dialogue and for all in our pews who may be listening closely to what is said.

I ask only, in such a moment as this, that our statements not be used in inappropriate ways, including extrapolations unwarranted by the content of our statements. A case in point, I believe, is the statement "A Christian Declaration on Marriage" that I signed this week along with representatives of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Southern Baptist Convention and the National Association of Evangelicals. A copy of the statement is attached to this letter.

I believe that churches must support Christian men and women in marriage—especially in our "disposable society," where marriage is often diminished and undermined, a practice contrary to Christian teaching and heritage. This statement signals that churches can do a better job of offering married couples the kind of support that helps them keep their commitments.

It is also important to understand that, as a council of 36 diverse Protestant and Orthodox communions, the National Council of Churches itself does not ordinarily take positions on doctrinal matters such as standards for ordination or sacraments and rites, including marriage. Such standards lie within the purview of each member communion.

I would not want this statement to be misconstrued as if it were an oblique comment on same-sex unions. Even more importantly, it would be unconscionable if support for married couples, so desperately needed today, were to be twisted into a weapon that can be used to attack gays and lesbians, their families and friends and all in our churches who love and care for them.

There is disagreement between and among our member communions on many issues related to sexuality and marriage. Currently, several of our member communions are in discussion and discernment regarding same-sex unions. Nonetheless, there is unanimity among us in our long-standing advocacy for full Civil Rights for gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgendered persons. Through our dialogues, we have come to celebrate the gifts and the challenges they present to us. We stand with them in our common battle against hatred and violence and the pain of exclusion.

In our dangerously fragmented society, I regret and will resist any attempt to interpret support for one beleaguered segment of society as an attack another. That is my appeal. Please help me in extending this call for mutual respect and love. Please pray for all who are today engaged in work that strengthens the one body of Christ.

Bob Edgar
General Secretary


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