Southern Baptist Denies Signing 'The Evangelical Manifesto'
Wednesday, May 28, 2008 12:00 am
A Southern Baptist listed as a charter signer of "An Evangelical Manifesto" statement released May 7 says he was asked the review the document but never consented to include his signature.
Ergun Caner, president of the Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, said in a statement on his Web site that he never signed the document. Caner said he disagreed with a number of theological assumptions in the statement and criticized it for sounding "like an extended apology."
"I do not apologize for the stance we have taken for decades: evangelicals are unapologetically and unabashedly pro-life, pro-marriage and pro-prayer," Caner said. "We believe that Christianity has been pushed out of the public square, and I do not believe such a 'manifesto' will accomplish the aim of bringing prayer back in schools or rescuing the unborn."
The manifesto criticized Christians on both the right and left for allowing their faith to become too political, warning that Christians should not become "useful idiots" for any political party.
But Caner said simple logic "states that standing for something requires standing against something else."
"This was the genius of men such as Dr. Jerry Falwell, D. James Kennedy, Tim LaHaye, James Dobson, Pat Robertson, Adrian Rogers and others," Caner said. "They accepted the challenge of an unabashedly secular society without hesitation and without reservation. We are not 'owned' by any political party, but we will stand with and for candidates that are for our values, and against those values that we see as unbiblical, such as homosexuality and abortion."
Caner said he also objected to the tone of the National Press Club meeting where the manifesto was announced "that seemed to distance itself" from Religious Right leaders like James Dobson and Jerry Falwell.
Those men, Caner said, "stood for truth and righteousness."
"I not only thank God for these men, I believe we must carry on this fight," he said. "It is our duty to continue their stance, not run from it when criticism makes us unpopular."
"Popularity is not the goal of an evangelical," he said. "Converted souls in heaven are the ultimate goal. You do not change a culture by surrender. This is precisely what the document seems to do."
David Neff, editor-in-chief of Christianity Today and a member of the committee that drafted the manifesto, said including Caner's name was a mistake and it has since been removed, The News & Advance in Lynchburg, Va., reported May 21.
Jerry Falwell Jr., chancellor of Liberty University, told the newspaper his father would never sign anything that would discourage political involvement. "Anyone who knew Dad knew that's not what he believed," Falwell said.
Mathew Staver, dean of Liberty University School of Law, said the manifesto does not represent the views of Falwell, Caner, Liberty University or "the majority of evangelicals."
"While some might shy away from the public square, most evangelicals do not," Staver said in a press release. "Life and marriage are nonnegotiable. While our discourse must be civil and our compassion must be genuine, our resolve must never waiver."
Newsweek labeled the statement "The Milquetoast Manifesto" in a headline about the document's perceived lack of impact. The article also pointed out that while Rick Warren helped draft the document and was rumored to be a signer, he also was not.
"Dr. Warren felt more input was needed from all segments of evangelicals," the article quoted a spokesman. "His role, consistent with his calling and leadership style, is to bridge different groups."
Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary and one of the driving forces behind The Evangelical Manifesto, told Newsweek he was frustrated with how little the effort yielded.
"I do not support gay marriage. I do not support the ordination of gays. I am a right-to-lifer," he said. "Does that make me a lefty?"
Robert Parham of the Baptist Center for Ethics said some of the signers were guilty of some of the political involvement they now condemn. "It's hard to take seriously generic confessions about vague wrongdoings," Parham said. "Surely evangelicals can do better than that."
Bruce Prescott of Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists said the manifesto came only because evangelicals had lost credibility by being too closely tied to the Religious Right.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.
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