July 30th, 2012
Those who opposed the repeal of Don’t Ask – Don’t Tell, the anti-gay military policy, warned that lifting the ban on openly gay servicemembers would result in chaplains having to choose between their denomination and The Homosexual Agenda! They predicted that chaplains would be forced into positions in which the orders of their superiors would contradict the mandates of their faith.
And they were right.
On June 23rd, Tech. Sgt. Erwynn Umali and Will Behrens stood before God and Country and pledged to love each other and trust in each other and in God. Kay Reeb, a Navy chaplain with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, presided. Joyously. And as the ELCA supports same sex couples, Reeb did so with no conflict whatsoever.
But, as it turns out, Reeb was not the only chaplain present. Air Force Col. Timothy Wagoner, a Southern Baptist, is the presiding chaplain at that chapel, and he was there as well. (Army Times)
“I wouldn’t miss it,” Wagoner said at the chapel at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, days later. “I don’t feel I’m compromising my beliefs … I’m supporting the community.”
Even though he was not willing to conduct the union, he could be there as a sign of support for all of the service members, including Umali (“a comrade in arms”) and Reeb (“she gave a beautiful ceremony”). The article that quoted Wagoner went on to say that the lifting of the ban was a non-issue.
In fact, there’s been no significant exodus — perhaps two or three departures of active-duty chaplains linked to the repeal. Moreover, chaplains or their civilian coordinators from a range of conservative faiths told The Associated Press they knew of virtually no serious problems thus far involving infringement of chaplains’ religious freedom or rights of conscience.
It seems that, unlike their civilian counterparts, chaplains are quite willing to respect each others’ views and to support their service even if their theology differs.
Well that just wouldn’t do. If chaplains are not feeling infringement then they certainly were going to. So the North American Mission Board (the branch of the Southern Baptists that oversees SBC chaplains) called in Col. Wagoner to explain himself. (Baptist Press)
Wagoner assured the SBC that he does not support same-sex marriage or unions. Nor have his theological views changed from the teachings of his denomination. But that just wasn’t good enough.
Carver said, “Our expectations are that military chaplains will continue to uphold the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, which makes it crystal-clear that marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman.”
After the AP article appeared, Carver said NAMB’s chaplaincy office immediately emailed a letter to all its chaplains, reinforcing the Southern Baptist position on same-sex civil unions. A videoconference session for all senior SBC military chaplains also is planned to emphasize NAMB’s expectations for ministry to members of the armed forces.
There won’t be any of this “getting along with others” crap. We have conflict to uphold. We have discord to sow. We have the infringement of religious liberties to fabricate.
“Our chaplains need the assurance of our prayerful support as they fight the good fight of faith with the uncompromising truthfulness and love of Jesus Christ,” Carver said. “We’re going to protect our chaplains and, as they take their stand, they need to remember they’re not alone. We are here to love, defend and support them.”
Kinda like they loved, defended and supported Col. Wagoner.
But I’m happy to report that Col. Wagoner has withstood the pressures placed on him by the lifting of Don’t Ask – Don’t Tell. He faced an infringement on his religious freedom but his faith was strong enough to weather the pressure of the post-DADT military and come out victorious. Col. Wagoner looked religious oppression in the face and fought back. (Christian Post)
Col. Timothy Wagoner, who serves at an Air Force base in New Jersey, left the Southern Baptist Convention and joined the more progressive Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. The long-time chaplain confirmed his switch to The Associated Press on Friday.
“I find very little that is more important and nothing that is more exhilarating than providing for the religious freedoms and spiritual care of all service members and their families – and will joyfully continue to do so,” Wagoner, senior chaplain at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, said to AP.
Yes, indeed. The lifting of Don’t Ask – Don’t Tell certainly has resulted in restrictions on a chaplain’s religious freedom. By the Southern Baptist Convention. But happily, he rose above.
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Part 5: A Candid Explanation For "Change"
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