Contact: Dane Rose, National Clergy Council, 202-546-8329, ext 106; Reverend Rob Schenck (pronounced SHANK) 703-447-7686 cell
To our beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
On behalf of the members of the National Clergy Council executive committee, representing Catholic, Evangelical, Orthodox and Protestant Christian traditions, I respond today to the open letter sent by members of Faithful Democrats to pastors across the country regarding our criticism of Pastor Rick Warren:
First, we are saddened that the signers who name themselves as Christians choose to use political labels to divide the Body of Christ. We reject the attempt to stereotype our members as "right-wing." Among us are Democrats, Independents, Republicans, Constitutionalists and those who claim no political affiliation at all.
Second, we reject the charge that we "exploit the Christian faith" to advance a "divisive agenda--an agenda that gives almost exclusive attention to a few wedge issues . . ." Our members are fully engaged in a plethora of ministries from prophetically declaring the Truth of God's Word, to evangelism and missions, to outreaches to the homeless, the hungry, the addicted, the sick, the persecuted and the imprisoned. It is unseemly and regrettable for Christians to point their fingers and beat their chests, competing for the top prize of "most compassionate" or "champion of justice." Jesus said when it comes to Godly acts of generosity we are not to let our right hand know what our left hand is doing. In other words, we are not to brag about the good things we do.
Notwithstanding this command, it may be useful to point out that several of our executive officers, including me, have spent the better part of their ministry careers developing and conducting ministries of Christian compassion. I began my work directing a home for troubled young men coming out of prison and drug addiction. I later founded and for ten years directed Operation Serve International that recruits and deploys volunteer medical and dental professionals to serve children who live in, on and off of the largest municipal garbage dumps in the world. In 1982, I successfully completed a 2000-mile walk from the border of
Rather than get into a spitting war over who better cares for the needy, let us focus on the real issue at the center of this controversy:
The HIV/AIDS epidemic is an enormous human tragedy that demands an immediate and unequivocal Christ-like response. It would seem to us that no one is doing that better than Rick and Kaye Warren and their new initiative. We are grateful to God for the articulate way in which Pastor Warren has explained the inseparable link between acts of compassion and the Gospel of salvation in Christ. We are equally grateful to God for the way in which Pastor Warren has been used to lead many souls to Christ and into Christian discipleship.
Our only criticism for Pastor Warren is related to his invitation to share his pulpit—what many of us call "the sacred desk"--with a politician who has a consistent record of advancing specific policies, legislation and spending that have resulted or will result in the willful killing of babies in the womb and birth canal.
The very first of all God-given human rights is the right to life. Our American Founders recognized this truth when they enshrined the Right to Life as the first of three such rights in our Declaration of Independence. Unless this right is protected and preserved for all, no other rights have meaning. How does healthcare matter to a dead child? How does food matter to a dead child? How does a bed and shelter matter to a dead child?
The respect for the dignity, inherent value and equality of all human beings at any stage or condition of life is the foundation to all biblically mandated acts of compassion. Without the fundamental recognition that only God determines when life begins and when it may end, all acts of human compassion are arbitrary preferences of one person or group over another.
There are plenty of pro-life Democrats that could have been called upon to join Rick Warren's noble mission; why one that holds the value of some lives as less than others? Sen. Barack Obama has lost credibility on the value of life by his compromise on the value of the smallest, weakest and voiceless among the human family, the yet-to-be-born.
We have no objection to Pastor Warren recognizing the contribution of many toward solving the HIV/AIDS scourge in
The result of Sen. Obama's appearance in this leading church, on its platform, specifically behind the pulpit (the place where the Truth of God's Word is, presumably, proclaimed without compromise) will be discord, division and confusion among Christians.
Now that the deed is done, we turn our plea in earnest toward an honest and public discussion about this episode among Christian leaders from all traditions and political affiliations. If we believe God can redeem even the worst of our mistakes, then He can certainly use this for the betterment of all His people. We pledge ourselves unreservedly to participate in such a redemptive exercise.
With prayers for those suffering from HIV/AIDS, those helping them, and for Pastor and Mrs. Warren, the people of
Very truly yours in Christ,
The Reverend Rob Schenck
On behalf of the executive committee of the National Clergy Council