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Religion Today Blog Christian Blog and Commentary

Chaplaincy Crisis Tests Religious Freedom

  • Thomas Kidd
    Religious persecution, missions, Christianity around the world
  • 2013 Oct 07
  • Comments

(WNS) -- The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has nearly 1,500 chaplains serving in the U.S. military. But the future of those chaplains seems uncertain, given the federal government’s growing affirmation of homosexuality and gay marriage. The SBC’s North American Mission Board recently published guidelines stating that SBC 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.” This clarification follows a 2012 controversy in which a chaplain resigned his SBC affiliation after attending a same-sex wedding. The Catholic Archdiocese for the Military Services issued a similar policy in September.

Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, sees the chaplaincy crisis as testing whether religious freedom can “survive under America’s new moral order.” Numerous chaplains have already encountered pressure to stop expressing exclusive Christian beliefs.

In light of the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, and the Supreme Court striking down the Defense of Marriage Act, some liberal critics are asking whether traditional Christian chaplains should be in the military, where they must agree to serve all personnel, regardless of faith or sexual practices.

Tom Carpenter, co-chair of the Forum on the Military Chaplaincy (a gay advocacy group), says that the North American Mission Board’s policy has put SBC chaplains “into the untenable position of either serving God or country.” He contends that for SBC chaplains who support the denomination’s guidelines, the “only honorable course is to resign.”

c. 2013 WORLD News Service. Used with permission.

Publication date: October 7, 2013