No Gay Weddings for Southern Baptist Chaplains


The North American Mission Board, which certifies chaplains for the Southern Baptist Convention, has released a set of guidelines for their chaplains forbidding them from performing any same-sex weddings. Fair enough, that’s certainly expected and acceptable. But those guidelines seem to go much further than that and help reveal the importance of having humanist chaplains available to those in the military. For instance:

Southern Baptists believe that “all forms of sexual immorality, including adultery, homosexuality and pornography” … are condemned by Holy Scripture as sin…. 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.

But is “pastoral care” really the job of a chaplain? It is in some circumstances, of course, when a soldier shares their faith. But there are going to be many people in their units that do not share their faith and they are still expected to counsel those people. If the only thing they have to say to an atheist, Jew, Muslim, Hindu or anyone other than a Christian is “you need to get right with Jesus,” then at least for those soldiers who are not Christians their counsel may do more harm than good. At best, it’s useless; at worst, it’s divisive and damaging.

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. This biblical prohibition remains in effect irrespective of any civil law authorizing same-sex marriage or benefits to the contrary….

[NAMB-endorsed chaplains may not conduct] a service jointly with a chaplain, contractor or volunteer who personally practices a homosexual lifestyle or affirms a homosexual lifestyle or such conduct.

This goes far beyond merely saying that their chaplains can’t officiate at a same-sex wedding. They have to refuse to counsel a soldier in a same-sex marriage. A straight soldier can, and many of them undoubtedly do, come to the chaplain for counsel when they have marital problems, but the chaplain under these guidelines must refuse to counsel a gay soldier. And they can’t even conduct a service, not a wedding, with anyone who is gay or who thinks it’s okay to be gay. That’s more than a bit of an overreaction.

This all goes back to two very different conceptions of a chaplain’s job. For chaplains who are endorsed by the more fundamentalist denominations and organizations, they tend to view their job as being the same as a minister with a congregation. They think their job is to convert the people in their unit to their religion and to impose their theology upon them in everything they do. Chaplains from the more liberal denominations will tend to view their job as one of a counselor, a confidant and a sounding board. They think their job is to help meet the needs of all the people in their unit who come to them for counsel, regardless of their religious beliefs.

Imagine being an atheist in a unit with a fundamentalist chaplain. You have problems in your marriage, a moral dilemma to face, or any of the innumerable things that may cause a soldier to be troubled and seek counseling (without going to a psychologist, which will go on their official record and could prevent them from moving up in rank), but if you go to the chaplain he’s just going to tell you that you need to give your life to Christ and pray about it.

These new guidelines inadvertently provide more support for allowing humanist chaplains. Not in every unit, of course, but they should at least be available at the base or garrison level for those soldiers whose needs are not being met — cannot be met — by their unit chaplain. And when Rep. John Fleming and the other Republicans who voted to prohibit the military from allowing humanist chaplains say they support the troops, they’re lying. They only support the troops who agree with them religiously.

Comments

  1. says

    “…North American Mission Board…”

    What’s the acronym for the Los Angeles chapter?
     

    “But is ‘pastoral care’ really the job of a chaplain?”

    Yes. Who else is going to care for the pastorals?
     

    [NAMB-endorsed chaplains may not conduct] a service jointly with a chaplain, contractor or volunteer who personally practices a homosexual lifestyle or affirms a homosexual lifestyle or such conduct.

    What if they’re an expert and no longer have to practice it? What if they’re emotionally distant, and practice it impersonally?
     

    “Imagine being an atheist…”

    Okay.
    [pause]
    Oh. Oh my. Oh! The darkness! The moral vacuum! I believe in nothing! Nothing! Aaah! Aaah!
    [pause]
    Well, I’m never doing that again.

  2. Ellie says

    My Republican Representative (Chris Collins) is one of those who is lying. My letter to him about humanist chaplains is the only letter of mine that he has answered since he took office. He explained that they didn’t need anything like that and it would somehow take away from the position of “chaplain.” I explained that i am a Christian and I wanted all our troops to have resources, not just a chosen few. He has not responded to me again, and I don’t expect he will. I didn’t think much of him before, and less now.

  3. calladus says

    Matthew 5:32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”

    Jesus is pretty clear. Most of today’s divorcees are adulterers.

    I’m assuming that the SBC will refuse to officiate or counsel any members who are starting their second marriage, except for those who finished their first marriage due to the death of a partner?

    Oh, wait… second, and third marriages are quite common among Christians.

  4. oualawouzou says

    (without going to a psychologist, which will go on their official record and could prevent them from moving up in rank)

    It annoys me that the simple fact of going to a health professionnal could count against someone in any circumstances. I’m not American and I may be underestimating religion’s importance in your armed forces, but it seems to me that if soldiers were free to seek help from psychologists without the fear of *any* kind of negative circumstances, chaplains’ power (for lack of a better word) over soldiers would be much diminished.

  5. gshelley says

    At least this clarifies the thinking on a “Well, an atheist chaplain would just go in and tell a dying soldier that there is nothing more and they are worm food” The question in my mind was is that because they think atheists are terrible people with no empathy, or that they would expect a chaplain who shares their belief to abuse the position in such a manner.
    Clearly the latter.

  6. says

    While it may be an argument for humanist chaplains, I think it is more an argument that NAMB should no longer be allowed to certify chaplains. Any chaplain that agrees to follow these rules should immediately lose their commission. No one that signs on to these rules should get a commission.

    I think the chaplains corps should be abolished, and the rules changed so that medical personnel in the services have the same confidentiality requirements, including requests for medical care not being accessible by the chain of command, as civilian medical personnel.

  7. says

    For chaplains who are endorsed by the more fundamentalist denominations and organizations, they tend to view their job as being the same as a minister with a congregation. They think their job is to convert the people in their unit to their religion and to impose their theology upon them in everything they do. Chaplains from the more liberal denominations will tend to view their job as one of a counselor, a confidant and a sounding board. They think their job is to help meet the needs of all the people in their unit who come to them for counsel, regardless of their religious beliefs.

    I think I have a way to shorten that:
    Fundies believe chaplains are there to serve the church.
    Liberals believe chaplains are there to serve the soldiers.

  8. hunter says

    From what I’ve read from various other sources, this is going a lot farther than limiting the effectiveness of SBC chaplains — it stands a good chance of putting them in direct conflict with military regs and their oaths as chaplains and officers.

    Any guesses on whether this is, at least in part, an attempt to garner more fodder for the martyr mill?

  9. zero6ix says

    Further on down the list, the NAMB states that chaplains are forbidden to say the word gay, may only interact with colors that are not part of a pride flag, walk on the opposite side of the street for any out or potentially closeted gay person, cannot purchase anything from a gay store clerk, forbidden from watching the LOGO network, and, oddly enough, refuse any gays that may show up at their gay cure camps.

  10. cptdoom says

    Wouldn’t this policy also prevent any SBC chaplains from consoling the widow or widower of a lesbian or gay military member? That’s pretty sick right there.

  11. raven says

    There is a bright side.

    The Southern Wingnut Baptists have been losing members for 5 or 6 years in a row. Their own projections have them cut in half in a few decades.

    They have been trying to reduce their downtrend any way they can think of.

    Which seems to be by becoming more extreme and even uglier. It is a smart strategy. Do more of what is causing their decline.

  12. carlie says

    [NAMB-endorsed chaplains may not conduct] a service jointly with a chaplain, contractor or volunteer who personally practices a homosexual lifestyle or affirms a homosexual lifestyle or such conduct.

    I wonder if they had to restrain themselves from adding in that their chaplains may not share bathrooms, water fountains, or diner counters with people who affirm homosexual lifestyles.

  13. magistramarla says

    Avenel @12
    Bingo! You have the correct answer, right there!
    As a military spouse, I’ve been to many military functions. I’m always uncomfortable when there is a fundi giving the invocation at a dining out, and I’m standing there thinking about how the other non-xtian officers and guests are feeling about it. We’ve been stationed with quite a few foreign officers, as well as American officers who are Muslims, Jews, Hindus, etc.
    The worst that I’ve ever sat through was the funeral of a dear friend. The chaplains conducting the funeral got all worked up into a fundi sermon and were requesting that anyone there who “wasn’t right with Jesus” just come up to them now to receive a blessing. My husband and I were appalled, since we knew that there were many officers sitting there who came from foreign countries and practiced many different religions, as well as others like us, who practiced no religion at all. We attended that funeral to honor a great man whom we all cared about, not to be preached at by the fundi chaplains.
    We didn’t say anything, out of respect and love for the widow and family, but I thought that it was sad to make people who cared about this family feel so uncomfortable.

  14. says

    Ellie:

    This:

    “My Republican Representative”

    has to be wrong.

    You’re female, I think, and prolly a decent human being. There is no way that he represents you or any other decent human being.

  15. Ellie says

    @21

    You are correct. I should have said the Republican representing the district in which I live, because no, he doesn’t represent me and I didn’t vote for him. I have him as the result of redistricting. My former Rep. (Dem) is still around in another district and actually does things for the people whom he represents. Collins does things for the people who put him in office, and I don’t mean the voters.

  16. says

    “At least this clarifies the thinking on a “Well, an atheist chaplain would just go in and tell a dying soldier that there is nothing more and they are worm food”

    Thanks for clearing that up for me. I was under the impression that atheist chaplains (who are all gaypeaedoslamicommies, anyway) were telling them that they would spend eternity worshipping nothing–not that it would be more boring than spending eternity worshipping GOD.

  17. davideriksen says

    Imagine being an atheist in a unit with a fundamentalist chaplain.

    I don’t have to imagine this at all. It’s precisely what I had to deal with during my year down range. According to the people who had been with the unit longer, there was also a Catholic chaplain that was much better about dealing with people as individuals rather than as sinners needing a savior. Unfortunately, he was in the rear detachment.

    OT: @magistramarla, you and your spouse must live very close to me and mine. Do you ever go to any of the atheist meetups around here?

Leave a Reply