In April 2000 Bishop Kevin W. Mannoia, President of the National Association of Evangelicals convened a group of national church leaders to consider the role of churches in strengthening marriage and preventing divorce. The group included representatives from the National Council of Churches, the Southern Baptist Convention, and the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Reflecting the beliefs and concerns of four major Christian religious groupings in the U.S, these leaders found it fairly easy to agree that their churches shared an important interest in the viability and stability of marriage and a serious responsibility to do their part in strengthening marriages at all stages of the lifecycle.
In order to express their common agreement and resolve, the group drafted a short, principled statement about the significance of marriage as a holy union and as a foundational social institution. Entitled A Christian Declaration on Marriage, this statement identifies certain core values in marriage and then urges churches at local levels to work together on behalf of better marriages and fewer divorces.
Bishop Anthony J. O'Connell, chairman of the U.S. Catholic Bishops Committee on Marriage and Family Life, was a member of the group drafting and signing the statement. Bishop O'Connell reflected on the significance of the statement in remarks prepared for a press conference on November 14 when the Declaration was released to the news media.
Some media coverage interpreted the Declaration as a statement AGAINST same-sex unions rather than – as it was intended – a statement IN FAVOR of marriage commonly understood and accepted. This is unfortunate but, in today's climate, probably inevitable.
In various other places the Catholic Church has spoken against granting the equivalency of marriage to same-sex or other sexually cohabiting unions. In July 1996 the U.S. Bishops' Committees on Marriage and Family Life and on Domestic Social Policy issued a statement opposing "same-sex marriage". In July 2000 the Pontifical Council for the Family published an extensive document on Family, Marriage and "De Facto" Unions.