The U.S. Supreme Court can rule the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as between one man and one woman, unconstitutional. But that doesn’t change what the Bible says and won’t alter what chaplains endorsed by the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant organization in America, teach.
That’s the word in an announcement from the North American Mission Board of the SBC.
The group has issued guidelines responding to the June 26 decision from the Supreme Court that had had a domino effect across federal operations including the military.
There, officials have instituted benefits for same-sex partners and launched other changes that specifically benefit homosexuals and lesbians, leading to questions about what chaplains would be required to do regarding the newly acknowledged “marriages” between duos of the same sex.
The SBC went ahead and made all of those decisions for its chaplains.
“All religious ministry and pastoral care conducted by military chaplains endorsed by the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention will fully reflect the doctrine and practices of Southern Baptists as set forth in Holy Scripture, the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 and The Southern Baptist Endorsement Manual for Chaplains and Counselors in Ministry. 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 guidelines state.
It continues, “Southern Baptists believe that ‘all forms of sexual immorality, including adultery, homosexuality and pornography’ are condemned by Holy Scripture as sin. Such practices violate God’s biblical standards for sexual purity and are equally destructive to healthy marital relations and Christian social order. 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.”
According to the Stars and Stripes, which serves the U.S. military, the military had been asking the SBC what it would be telling chaplains about the campaign under President Obama to expand “marriage” to alternative sexual lifestyles.
The newspaper reported a Department of Defense official declined to respond to the denomination’s guidelines.
Instead, a statement was released, saying, “The Department of Defense respects, places a high value on, and supports by policy the rights of members of the military services to observe the tenets of their respective religions or to have no religious beliefs. The Department does not endorse religion or any one religion or religious organization, and provides to the maximum extent possible for the free exercise of religion by all members of the military services who choose to do so.”
Doug Carver, who leads the SBC’s chaplains program, confirmed chaplains will work with all members of the services, regardless of their sexual orientation. But he said they may refer them to other counselors in certain circumstances.
Of the military’s 2,884 active duty chaplains, about 440 are members of the SBC. Of the 2,375 reserve chaplains, 286 are SBC members.
There are an estimated 13,000 active duty members of the military who are part of the SBC, the report said.
The SBC guidelines explain that the denomination’s 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 relationship 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.”
Further, the guidelines confront the military hierarchy, the president and the Supreme Court directly.
“This biblical prohibition remains in effect irrespective of any civil law authorizing same sex marriage or benefits to the contrary. Chaplains in violation of these restrictions will be subject to removal of their endorsement… Southern Baptist chaplains are free to lead or participate in a worship service conducted on any military installation or location designated for worship. This excludes conducting a service jointly with a chaplain, contractor or volunteer who personally practices or affirms a homosexual lifestyle or such conduct.”
The officials asked chaplains who may “experience undue prejudice or irreparable harm as a result of following these expectations” to contact the missions board.
Mike Ebert reported on the organization’s website that chaplains will treat all service members with honor and respect.
Carver, in the online posting, said, “Our chaplains want to uphold the authority and relevancy of Scripture while continuing to serve in a very diverse setting. We believe these updated guidelines will help them to that while still sharing the love and the hope of Christ with everyone.”