The Southern Baptist Convention has announced its decision to bar military chaplains who identify as Southern Baptists from officiating over same-sex ‘wedding’ ceremonies and participating in other events promoting homosexuality.
The North American Mission Board (NAMB), an arm of the organization and commission center for chaplains, recently released guidelines outlining its expectations in light of the Pentagon’s affirmation of homosexual “marriage” following the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
“NAMB-endorsed chaplains will not conduct or attend a wedding ceremony for any same-sex couple, bless such a union or perform counseling in support of such a union, assist or support paid contractors or volunteers leading same-sex relational events, nor offer any kind of relationship training or retreat, on or off of a military installation, that would give the appearance of accepting the homosexual lifestyle or sexual wrongdoing,” the document outlines.
NAMB states that the “prohibition remains in effect irrespective of any civil law authorizing same-sex marriage or benefits to the contrary.”
“Our chaplains want to uphold the authority and relevancy of Scripture while continuing to serve in a very diverse setting,” Doug Carver of NAMB explained about the move in a recent statement. “We believe these updated guidelines will help them do that while still sharing the love and the hope of Christ with everyone.”
Pentagon spokesperson Lieutenant Commander Nate Christensen told reporters that chaplains are allowed to conduct ceremonies as long as the occasion is in compliance with state law. However, he also noted that no chaplain is mandated to participate in a ceremony if it violates their religious beliefs.
As previously reported, last year, Congress passed an amendment to the Defense Authorization Bill that sought to protect chaplains from violating their conscience.
“No member of the Armed Forces may direct, order, or require a chaplain to perform any duty, rite, ritual, ceremony, service, or function that is contrary to the conscience, moral principles, or religious beliefs of the chaplain, or contrary to the moral principles and religious beliefs of the endorsing faith group of the chaplain…” the amendment declares.
The White House initially opposed the measure, stating that it was “potentially harmful to good order and discipline,” but signed the Act into law with the amendment intact.
Soon afterward, one of the first homosexual ceremonies officiated at a military base took place at New York’s West Point, the nation’s oldest military academy. Penelope Gnesin and Brenda Sue Fulton, the latter of whom graduated from the academy, exchanged vows in a ceremony led by a senior Army chaplain.
However, as none of the chaplains at West Point were willing to officiate the event, a chaplain had to be commissioned from out of state. Colonel J. Wesley Smith of Dover Air Force in Delaware traveled to New York to preside over the occasion at the invitation of the two women. It is not known whether the West Point chaplains who refused were delegated by the NAMB.
“All ministries regarding human sexuality will reflect the historic, natural and biblical view of marriage as God’s lifelong gift of ‘the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime,’” the NAMB guidelines state. “Responsible pastoral care will seek to offer repentance and forgiveness, help and healing, and restoration through the mercy and grace of Jesus Christ’s sacrificial gift of love on the cross.”