Religious Clergy Call for Strengthening Institution of Marriage

November 15, 2000

Source: The Washington Post

On November 15, 2000, the Washington Post reported that "Leaders of several major Christian organizations called on churches yesterday to do more to strengthen marriage, 'God's first institution,' by developing programs that help keep couples together. Citing the 'alarming' effect of a high divorce rate on American society, the religious leaders said the nation is threatened by 'a high divorce rate, a rise in cohabitation, a rise in non-marital births, a decline in the marriage rate, and a diminishing interest in and readiness for marrying, especially among young people.' The 'Christian Declaration on Marriage' was the outcome of an ecumenical dialogue initiated earlier this year by Bishop Kevin Mannoia, president of the National Association of Evangelicals. Noteworthy for its ecumenical flavor, the declaration was signed by senior leaders of the Roman Catholic Church, the Southern Baptist Convention and the evangelical National Council of Churches of Christ...At a news conference yesterday, Mannoia called the declaration "a first step" in raising marriage as a pastoral priority and encouraging partnerships among denominations to preserve marriage. A 'marriage summit' will be held in the near future, he said, to stimulate further action by churches. Marriage, the declaration stated, is 'a holy union of one man and one woman in which they commit, with God's help, to build a loving, life-giving, faithful relationship that will last for a lifetime.' Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's ethics and religious liberty commission, said during the news conference that such 'counterfeit alternative relationships' as same-sex unions and cohabitation cannot replace marriage, which he called an institution founded by God...Where churches 'join in common commitment to restore a priority on marriage, divorces are reduced and communities are positively influenced,' the declaration added. This perception, Mannoia said, is based on figures provided by Marriage Savers, a Potomac-based nonprofit organization promoting active church involvement to save marriages. The organization says that divorce has decreased--sometimes as much as 30 percent--in 25 of 28 cities where churches have implemented its program. The religious leaders yesterday cited such programs as True Love Waits, which promotes sexual abstinence before marriage, the covenant marriage movement and 'mentoring couples' as examples of successful efforts to support married couples."