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Verbatim: Statement from Shepherds United

The Shepherds United coalition issued this statement today:

FORT WAYNE, IND. -- Today, area pastors, priests and ministers of varying denominations announced they have started a new coalition called Shepherds United. The members of this coalition are dedicated to working together to reclaim humanity's inherent worth by defending innocent human life, traditional marriage and religious liberty. Shepherds United announced their coalition at a press conference at the Allen County Courthouse. They also released a statement, signed by more than 120 area clergy members, about their shared values.

Shepherds United was the idea of area clergy after witnessing a degrading of life, marriage and religious liberty in culture and by the government. While recognizing that theological differences exist among members of Shepherds United, the coalition is united on their shared values.

"Shepherds United came together after some local pastors recognized the necessity of creating a medium through which their voices could be heard," Rev. Jason Freiburger, Vice Chancellor of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. "As individuals, they might appear scattered and disconnected while in reality the beliefs and values they hold in common are a source of great unity. In order to speak the truth more effectively they came together to show that a better option is available than the sometimes deceptive voice of the culture."

"I support Shepherds United's statement on the right to life, the most precious gift, and I encourage all to adopt the same position," said Pastor Otha Aden of Southern Heights Baptist Church in Fort Wayne. "I also support traditional marriage as God-ordained it in Scripture to be between a man and a woman."

"These are enormously challenging times, and these issues aren't going away any time soon," stated Dr. Peter J. Scaer, Associate Professor of Exegetical Theology at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne. "In the meantime, we are here, and we will speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves. And, we hope to continue to encourage people to stand with us, and know that they are not alone in their convictions."

Signed by more than 120 area clergy members, Shepherds United released the following statement on their shared values:

Shepherds United: Reclaiming Humanity's Inherent Worth

We are witnessing a societal assault upon the sanctity of human life, the dignity of marriage and the right to religious liberty. As Christian shepherds of the Fort Wayne area, we unite to reclaim human dignity.

Nowhere do we see this societal assault more clearly than in the tragedy of abortion. Since the Supreme Court legalized abortion on demand throughout the United States in 1973, more than 55 million innocent little children have had their lives taken from them. Tragically, many children are aborted for the sake of convenience and their bodies dismembered and discarded with medical waste. Children with Down syndrome or other disabilities are often the victims of abortion. Some children are targeted for abortion after their gender is discovered.

What does it say about our society that some children among us are tragically labeled as unwanted or that some pregnancies are spoken of as if they are a punishment? Too often children are valued not according to their inherent worth, but by how they will affect our lives and pocketbooks or whether they measure up to our standards of health and intelligence. Our land is further stained by the exploitation of human life through embryonic stem cell research. Truly, a great darkness has fallen over this land.

Even as the youngest are endangered, so also the culture of death shadows the elderly and infirm. Those who receive a difficult or terminal medical diagnosis are encouraged to end their own lives in a growing number of states that have legalized assisted suicide. As society attempts to cheapen our humanity and medical costs rise, euthanasia is becoming far too common and is a threat to all of us. As life is judged by its quality instead of its inherent worth, there's nothing to protect us from cost-cutting measures that treat life as a mere commodity. The frailest among us stand in danger of being marginalized. We must stand against a culture of death that attempts to reduce the care given to the prematurely born, the disabled, the elderly or any other individual considered expendable by society.

In the midst of this societal decay, the institution of marriage is also at grave risk. God, who is the author of life, is also the author of marriage. From the beginning, God designed marriage to be a communion of lifelong love between a man and a woman. Marriage is more than negotiating a legal contract or establishing a business arrangement with which we may tinker. No government has the authority to alter its fundamental meaning. It is the foundation of the family, which is the basic cell of society. A society that denies the fundamental reality of God-ordained marriage cannot flourish or long endure.

Today, our societal situation is worsened by laws that take aim at our religious liberty. The healthcare mandate from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services strikes at the heart of Christian conscience by limiting our free exercise of religion in the public sphere. Christian charities, schools and hospitals are required to choose between helping their neighbor and violating their conscience. Adoption agencies are forced to close because of their refusal to facilitate adoptions for same-sex couples.

So, as Christian shepherds of the Fort Wayne area, we unite in support of life, marriage and religious liberty. For all of our differences, we come together to celebrate the common dignity of our shared humanity. Together as pastors, priests and ministers, we exercise our right of free speech in defense of our God-given right to life. Together we say that every human being, from the moment of conception, deserves to be treated as a human person, endowed by our Creator with the right to life and religious liberty. Every unborn child is precious in the eyes of the One who became an embryonic child in the womb of Mary. Every suffering person is priceless in the eyes of the One who suffered and died for our sake.

We know that we live in a fallen world and that we are all in this together. We all suffer from the effects of sin, even as we are all sinners. But we also know that our heavenly Father heals the broken hearted and salvages difficult situations. Christ loves the mother who has had the abortion and all those who are struggling with sinful desires. Our society must be a place of forgiveness and reconciliation. Therefore, we come together in a spirit of gentleness and boldness, in firm resolve and humble recognition of our own faults and frailties. But even as we recognize our weakness, Christ calls us to be strong and to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.

These are momentous times. We call upon our fellow Christians in the City of Churches to stand with us and join us in defending these foundational principles. The blessings of our God-given liberty are at stake. We urge all good people to act in concert for the sake of life, marriage and religious liberty so that the legacy of our great land might be handed down to the generations that follow.

A list of the more than 120 signers of the Shepherds United statement is available at The list will be regularly updated as clergy sign the statement.

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