Monday, April 12, 2010

Westminster 2010 Declaration of Christian Conscience

The Westminster 2010 Declaration of Christian Conscience was issued on Easter Sunday, presciently anticipating Tuesday's announcement of the date of the General Election by Gordon Brown. The document sets out three areas of special concern for Christians, "protecting human life, protecting marriage, and protecting freedom of conscience". Key declaration signatories include various prominent Evangelical Christians and a leading Roman Catholic Cardinal. The document commits signatories to a brief Trinitarian statement of faith and details the traditional Christian teaching on human life, marriage and freedom of conscience.

The Westminster 2010 Declaration is the UK counterpart of the Manhattan Declaration, issued in the United States in November 2009. Both declarations concentrate on the same three ethical and social issues. Also, signatories of the Manhattan Declaration include leaders from Evangelical Protestant, Roman Catholic and Orthodox groupings. The Manhattan Declaration caused some controversy amongst Evangelicals in the States as the document seemed to imply that Evangelicals, Roman Catholics and the Orthodox proclaim the same gospel, skating over important theological differences. See here for my thoughts on this. However, the UK's Westminster 2010 Declaration is less problematic in this respect. Evangelicals and Roman Catholics can happily agree on its simple confession of Trinitarian faith. But there is no suggestion that both groupings preach the same gospel, implying that doctrines such as justification by faith alone are of little consequence for the proclamation of saving truth. The statement's main focus  is an expression of shared concern on the unique value of human life, the sanctity of marriage and freedom of conscience.

I believe that more than the Manhattan Declaration, the Westminster 2010 Declaration is a clear cut case of Evangelicals acting as principled co-belligerents with Roman Catholics and others who hold to historic Christians beliefs.  In the light of the many gospel-denying errors of the Roman Catholic Church, one might question whether it is appropriate to designate all supporters as "Christians" in the full New Testament sense of the word. But in this declaration signatories from Roman Catholic and Evangelical Protestant traditions speak with one voice on some of the key issues of the day. This is the declaration in full:
Our beliefs and values

As Christians we reaffirm historic belief in God the Father (who created us and gave us the blueprint for our lives together); in God the Son Jesus Christ our Saviour (accepting his incarnation, teaching, claims, miracles, death, resurrection and return in judgment); and in God the Holy Spirit (who lives within us, guides us and gives us strength). We commit ourselves to worship, honour and obey God.

As UK citizens we affirm our Christian commitment both to exercise social responsibility in working for the common good and also to be subject to all governing authorities and obey them except when they require us to act unjustly.

Human life
We believe that being made in the image of God, all human life has intrinsic and equal dignity and worth and that it is the duty of the state to protect the vulnerable. We will support, protect, and be advocates for such people – including children born and unborn, and all those who are sick, disabled, addicted, elderly, in single parent families, poor, exploited, trafficked, appropriately seeking asylum, threatened by environmental change, or exploited by unjust trade, aid or debt policies. We pledge to work to protect the life of every human being from conception to its natural end and we refuse to comply with any directive that compels us to participate in or facilitate abortion, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide, euthanasia, or any other act that involves intentionally taking innocent human life. We will support those who take the same stand.
Marriage
We pledge to support marriage – the lifelong covenantal union of one man and one woman as husband and wife. We believe it is divinely ordained, the only context for sexual intercourse, and the most important unit for sustaining the health, education, and welfare of all. We call on government to honour, promote and protect marriage and we refuse to submit to any edict forcing us to equate any other form of sexual partnership with marriage. We commit ourselves to continue affirming what we believe as Christians about sexual morality, marriage, and the family.
Conscience
We count it a special privilege to live in a democratic society where all citizens have the right to participate in the political process. We pledge to do what we can to ensure our laws are just and fair, particularly in protecting vulnerable people. We will seek to ensure that religious liberty and freedom of conscience are unequivocally protected against interference by the state and other threats, not only to individuals but also to institutions including families, charities, schools and religious communities. We will not be intimidated by any cultural or political power into silence or acquiescence and we will reject measures that seek to over-rule our Christian consciences or to restrict our freedoms to express Christian beliefs, or to worship and obey God.

Commitment
We call upon all those in UK positions of leadership, responsibility and influence to pledge to respect, uphold and protect the right of Christians to hold these beliefs and to act according to Christian conscience.
Visit the Westminster 2010 Declaration of Christian Conscience website.

Time for Action

Why not email the candidates from the main political parties in your constituency and ask them where they stand on areas of special Christian concern like human life, marriage and freedom of conscience? Make their responses publicly available to help other Christians make an informed choice at the ballot box. I did this before I became aware of the Westminster Declaration, but my questionnaires mainly reflect the issues highlighted in the document.

Candidate Questionnaire for South West Wiltshire Constituency: Rebecca Rennison, Labour here, Trevor Carbin, Liberal Democrat here, and Andrew Murrison, Conservative MP here

4 comments:

王麗玲 said...

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Gary said...

Guy - two things.

1. You seem to have changed your blog style, and my laptop now 'freezes' everytime I visit it. Eventually it sorts itself out (a couple of minutes) - but thought you should know in case others are having the same problem.

2. The Westminster Declaration. It is indeed an improvement on the Overpond version in the way you suggest. I particularly like the strong 'we refuse...' terminology. And I've got a high regard for (some of) its signatories. BUT it still makes the implicit point that Roman Catholics and Evangelicals are fellow Christians - doesn't it? And as such has to be unacceptable?

Exiled Preacher said...

Hi Gary,

1. Sorry about the "freezing" issue. I don't what what's happening there.

2. As you say, WD is better than MD. Unlike MD there is no suggestion that all groupings preach the same gospel. The UK declaration is more a clear cut case of co-belligerence. But I'm not comfortable with the suggestion that all supporters are "Christians", certainly not in the NT sense of the word.

D. Singh said...

Forward Judaeo-Christians!