SBC bans chaplains from “giving the appearance of accepting the homosexual lifestyle”

Timothy Kincaid

September 6th, 2013

We haven’t heard much from the Southern Baptist Convention lately. Onetime players in the Culture Wars, over the past year or so the SBC has pulled back from a political response to the changes in social acceptance of homosexuality and has refocused on its religious response. They decided to treat gay couples much like they would treat heterosexuals who are not living in agreement with the Convention’s sexual teachings.

This is both a pragmatic response to a shifting culture and a theologically sound position. It places the emphasis back where the Epistles held it, within the body, and reminds Southern Baptists that Scripture talks about one’s own failings, not that of one’s neighbor. (And as anyone who has lived in the Bible Belt can attest, Southern Baptists need all the reminding they can get).

But that is not to suggest that the denomination has changed its position. And new guidelines issued to SBC chaplains by the SBC’s North American Mission Board illustrate the extent to which Baptists still continue to theologically oppose homosexuality and gay marriage. (As an aside, I sincerely hope that NAMB does not have branch offices in Louisiana or Los Angeles).

In addition to direction on pastoral care in pluralistic setting, the NAMB placed some pretty severe restrictions on its chaplains, which make up about 15% of Military chaplains. (Baptist Press)

Restrictions — The guidelines state that “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.” Chaplains also are prohibited from participating in jointly-led worship services “with a chaplain, contractor or volunteer who personally practices a homosexual lifestyle or affirms a homosexual lifestyle or such conduct.”

No doubt the mission board thinks that these are reasonable restrictions, but in practice I think this will be hard to live by and increasingly so in upcoming months. I suspect that chaplains in the field will either come to ignore these rules or perhaps find other affiliation.

What this says, in effect, is that a chaplain is restricted from offering any relationship counseling to men and women whom they know and work with, and whom they respect and care about. It says that they cannot affirm monogamy, advise consideration for the other partner’s concerns, or present tips and tools for successful negotiation of a relationship. Further, it says that they cannot personally attend the celebrations of a chaplain’s friends.

These are personal restrictions that, while cumbersome, may be understood to be a sacrifice for their stance. However, there are also professional restrictions that may prove to be disastrous to a chaplain’s career, relationships with fellow chaplains, or even ability to perform their duties.

The new restrictions disallow a chaplain to conduct marriage retreats that include same-sex couples. As any such retreats sponsored by the US Military will not allow discrimination, these rules remove an SBC chaplain from conducting or participating in all group relationship training or retreats other than strictly sectarian retreats sponsored by outside groups.

And, though I suspect they did not intend it, the most difficult rule to observe will likely be the restriction on jointly-led worship services. Far far more chaplains – and denominations – “affirm a homosexual lifestyle” than the SBC may consider. If not at this exact moment, then quite soon the vast majority of United Methodist chaplains, United Church of Christ chaplains, Episcopal chaplains, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America chaplains, Presbyterian Church (USA) chaplains, as well as many others will encourage the establishment and maintenance of committed same-sex relationships. They will celebrate, or at least counsel, same-sex marriages. And the restrictions state that SBC chaplains cannot jointly lead worship with them.

This is probably more consequential than many readers realize. To refuse joint worship is to not “be in fellowship” with fellow believers. It is to say that this doctrinal difference is so severe that it severs the body of Christ. It’s a very big deal.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. A demand that SBC chaplains snub their fellow ministers may prove to be a fatal flaw in that denomination’s missionary effort.


September 6th, 2013

(As an aside, I sincerely hope that NAMB does not have branch offices in Louisiana or Los Angeles).

I was thinking the same thing. LOL!


September 6th, 2013

I’m not sure the rules are pragmatic in other senses either. When I think of chaplains, the scenarios that come to mind are restricted situations where the chaplain has little control over anything but the faith they profess. Take the SBC chaplain that recently had to change denominations because he was the person in charge of the chapel and therefore had to be present at a same-sex marriage. He had no choice, as I recall, and he certainly had no place to spoil the even simply because he had to be there. In short, these rules risk putting chaplains in scenarios where they have to defy the rules of the denomination or the orders/directions they receive. And, of course, it is heartless to risk making your chaplain choose between following the rules and showing compassion for a fellow human being (no matter how they feel about the other’s ‘sins’).

Most damning to me is how un-Baptist this is. I get that in a Baptist denomination, you might strongly emphasize certain doctrines, or use some basic doctrines as a distinguishing factor between yours and other denominations or associations. However, the Baptist emphasis on the priesthood of the believer is lost in commands to not even associate with those who are in disagreement. Debate is shut down, the Spirit is locked neatly away behind rules, and the believer is nothing more than an automaton for denominational creeds. I wonder if the NAMB will bend when they realize the rules are too strict, or if they will force all SBC chaplains to abandon that association.

Adrienne Critcher

September 6th, 2013

The SBC is not treating gay people the same way they treat heterosexuals who don’t conform to their doctrine unless they treat heterosexuals on their 2nd,etc. marriages like they treat gay people. Matt. 19:9 says to remarry is to commit adultery. So are the chaplains supposed to disallow remarried heterosexuals from attending retreats, receiving counseling, etc.?


September 6th, 2013

The problem with this is that the Southern Baptists absolutely *dominate* the chaplaincy. Easily one third and more of all chaplains are Southern Baptists. A figure that is completely out of whack with the number of soldiers who belong to that church. So many soldiers are stuck with one of these assholes.

They’ve already kicked out a chaplain who attended a same-sex wedding. He didn’t perform it, but got someone else to do it and then merely went there to make sure everything went ok:

And anyone who thinks this is just about weddings is a fool. Chaplains often function as counselors. That used to be unofficial, but these days they are fully and officially integrated into the military’s health care system. In addition that a lot of family services a run by the chaplains. Especially in the Army with its Strong Bonds program. This policy already explicitly excludes same-sex couples from that. And there are no non-chaplain alternatives to this!!

A truly vile church that also a problem with systematic sexual abuse and cover ups.


September 6th, 2013

Growing up in E. Texas I know full well how Southern Baptists and their preachers act. I remember years ago when my uncle remarried after my aunt’s death he married a divorcee’. I asked my mother, “I thought Baptist preachers wouldn’t marry someone that’s been divorced?” She dryly replied, “A Baptist preacher will do nearly anything for a 100 bucks.”

After reading the new restrictions, I have a feeling her observation still applies.


September 6th, 2013

If they put the chaplains in the position of being disruptive to the good order of a unit or having to disobey a lawful order, which is exactly what this has the capability to do…increasingly it will put these guys in a position of having to choose between doing their jobs and having that endorsement because in the military unlike the civilian world you don’t get to make your own rules to attract a like minded congregation and you are required to serve everyone equally even those of different denominations or religions if needed. You cannot politicize a chaplain’s position in such a way without violating military law. Thus, either these rules will have to be ignored or you will stop seeing so many SBC Chaplains after a bit.


September 6th, 2013

As a former Baptist myself I don’t see what is so Baptist about this at all. As a veteran I see a lot of problems with it…because they are asking chaplains to act in effect in a political capacity…which is not right.


September 6th, 2013

As someone who grew up “baptist” I have to stress there is a difference between the Southern Baptists and The Baptist Church, they are two similar denominations but they ate not the same. Southern Baptists are far more strict than are Baptists. Baptist kids and adults can dance, they can sing and do various other things that are forbidden by the Southern Baptist denomination.

But the Baptists aren’t too far from them on many issues, so they aren’t off the hook for their treatment of LGBT people.

But only the Southern Baptists will be affected by their churches decree, not ALL Baptists.

There is a need to remember they are the Southern Baptists, not the Baptists when we talk about this. They may be similar religions, but they are completely separate entities.

And this might violate their oath to the military, and even as chaplains they have a duty to uphold their orders. They don’t have to perform as combat but they do have to follow their oath to the military and the Country. They will cry religous freedom, but will be discharged or disciplined accordingly. And I think the general,public would completely agree with that. But we’ll see soon enough, they won’t be slow on this.


September 6th, 2013

The Southern Baptists split from the “normal” Baptists in order to defend slavery and segregation.


September 6th, 2013

Theologically, American/Northern Baptists and Southern Baptists do have a lot of similarities. In either case there is nothing particularly Baptist about this.

And, there is no “might” about this. This WILL run anyone who follows it right smack into the brick wall of military regulations, and I think, the purpose of the military in the first place. Public support for the military generally supports things as they stand. Certain conservatives though, seem to be big fans of right wing social engineering and trying to use the military for it. Nothing conservative about that at all.

This also shows how much just a simple thing can cause religious right people to lose their minds, and basically show that they don’t really give a damn about all that many of the things they say they stand for.

It seems damn foolish to base and bet their entire ideology on hatred of gays but that seems to be exactly what conservatives are doing at this point, and all their support for Russia shows this. I was taught Russia was the enemy, and at that time they didn’t like gays either. That didn’t cause conservatives to like the Soviet Union.

So why now?? Seems stupid to me.

Timothy Kincaid

September 6th, 2013


Good question. I am guessing that many SBC ministers and chaplains would refuse to conduct second marriages to divorcees. Many conservative ministers do not.

There is an exception to the no-divorce rule found in Matthew 19:9 – if the other spouse commits adultery.

I don’t believe that Catholics allow for second marriage, but many protestants will recognize and allow for a divorce and second marriage if the other spouse had been unfaithful or had moved on to someone else (i.e. the spouse’s second marriage justifies the parishioners).


September 6th, 2013

Chaplains in the military are members of the military endorsed by their religious body. The religious body has to review their credentials and approve them to be chaplains before they can serve in the military. That enables the military to assure that chaplains are qualified.

Generally, to be endorsed, a person must have graduate level theological education plus some focused education in counseling. That can vary some by religious body. The military has standards which chaplains must meet.

Military chaplains are active duty members of the armed services. They are accountable to both the military and to their religious body. The military can discharge a chaplain who does not meet the military’s standards.

The NAMB is the endorsing agency for Southern Baptist chaplains. Usually in Baptist life, a denominational agency has no particular authority over a clergyperson’s ministry. However, if the NAMB withdrew its endorsement for a military chaplain, the chaplain would no longer meet military requirements and would have to resign from the military, or find a new endorser.

Transferring one’s clergy status from one denomination to another is not a simple matter.

I think Southern Baptists have just made it virtually impossible for Southern Baptist clergy to serve as military chaplains.

I had no idea Southern Baptists no longer supported our fine men and women in uniform — really un-American of them!


September 6th, 2013

One quick point about United Methodist clergy. They are not currently allowed under the rules of the United Methodist Church to preside at same-sex weddings. Those who do are subject to disciplinary action that can lead to removal from the ministry.


September 6th, 2013

@Rob and Steve. All “Baptists” in the United States have a modifier of one kind or another. American Baptist, Southern Baptist, Cooperative Baptist, Alliance of Baptists, Seventh-Day Baptists, lots of different brands of Baptists in the US.

There is no “The Baptist Church” in the US.


September 6th, 2013

It’s been my understanding that the Southern Baptists consider the military a very important missionary field, and if true, may account for their apparently inordinate numbers in the chaplaincy.

I’d say they’re creating a dangerous game in several ways for their missionary efforts, if this backfires as it has the potential to do.

William Childress

September 7th, 2013

The SBC is being faithful to the Bible. What may be shocking to most secular minded individuals is that we believe what God has revealed. We are Christians first and foremost. If government demands acceptance of sexual sin and disobedience to God, then we choose to disobey that government.

Ben in Oakland

September 7th, 2013

William– except when its inconvenient, as in the matter of divorced people.

Ben in Oakland

September 7th, 2013

I’m still waiting for an answer to this question: why is it that as a Jew or a Buddhist or a hindu, I can reject the entirety of your religious beliefs, and you’ll be ever so happy to bake as many cakes for me as I can stomach, socialize with me, attend my wedding, even co-officiate it. But let me say that I’m gay, and wish to be treated the same as all of the other people your sincere religious beliefs say are going to burn in hell forever, courtesy of your loving god, and suddenly, your rights are in danger, you can disrupt military cohesion, you cannot even give the appearance of treating me like a human being lest my big gay cooties stain your Tighty Whiteys of Righteousness?

William Childress, do you have an answer for that? no one else has been able to provide one.


September 7th, 2013

The Bible also tells you to stone your disobedient children, stay away from menstruating women (something Ultra-Orthodox Jews actually follow), keep slaves, that raped women need to marry their rapists or be killed, and don’t eat shellfish. Why aren’t you faithful to those laws?


September 7th, 2013

William Childress, if you believe in the entire Bible, then it’s your obligation to follow the laws of your country, give to God what is Gods and render under to Ceaser (the government) what is Ceasers. And you need to re-read 1 Peter 2:12-20. Because if you REALLY believe in the Bible: 13 Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution,2 whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.
I know, it’s really difficult to understand, but God commands that we submit to our Governments, but I guess that literal acceptance of the Word is not as easy to deal with as you pretend it is. You ignore some Biblical edicts in favor of the ones that fit YOUR life and circumstances. For folks like you it’s always easy to say you believe in the literal word of God, until of course it conflicts with things you don’t care for.

Ben in Oakland

September 7th, 2013

Rob– as I said, it’s always the word o’ god.*

*void where inconvenient.

Richard Rush

September 7th, 2013

William Childress,

“The SBC is being faithful to the Bible. . . . we believe what God has revealed.” So says a member of a Christian denomination founded primarily to promote the belief that God condones slavery.

Southern Babtist History 101 by Edward T. Babinski:

Why is it that a large group of humans who know the Bible and claim to believe it, have missed the whisper of the Holy Spirit on all of the great American social issues of the last two centuries?

Let’s review. Southern Baptists favored slavery, Jim Crow laws, segregation, and fought against women’s suffrage, federal lynching laws, desegregation and civil rights. Now [in 1998] they call for women to submit to their husbands regardless of the talents, abilities or calling of the parties…

Baptists . . . should go back and read the pro-slavery sermons, tracts and treatises of the founders of their denomination. Their Biblical expositions of Negro inferiority were based on Noah’s curse of slavery upon Canaan, son of Ham, who was presumed to be the ancestor of the Black race; and also based on the patriarchal and Mosaic acceptance of slavery, and, also based on the New Testament commands of Peter and Paul regarding slave-master relationships. . .

In short, we Southern Baptists, more so than most any other American denomination, are a cultural tribe with such deeply ingrained cultural biases and prejudices that it is difficult for us to even recognize we have them.

The Southern Baptists, . . . [150 years after their founding in 1845], “apologized” in June 1995 for their pro-slavery, pro-racist, pro-segregationist past.

I expect the SBC’s apology to gay people no earlier than 2163.

Richard Rush

September 8th, 2013

William Childress,

Let’s take a somewhat different approach:

“The SBC is being faithful to the Bible. . . . we believe what God has revealed.”

If that is true, then why did the SBC apologize for their pro-slavery past? Your Bible and your Bible’s god actually do condone slavery, so why is the SBC now being unfaithful to the Bible, and rejecting what your god has revealed? Shouldn’t you be concerned about going to hell for that?

Isn’t the Bible absolute truth? Or did the SBC have a different Bible in the 1800s? Or did SBC members misinterpret the Bible in those days, and if so, did they all go to hell?

“We are Christians first and foremost.”

Considering the steadily accelerating gains by the forces of reason, logic, and scientific discovery, the day may come when you are embarrassed by having said that.


September 9th, 2013

Ugh. There goes another Christianist assuming that anybody who is gay or pro-gay cannot be a Christian (or even religious). I guess I am going to make a habit of reminding them that there are other Christians who wholeheartedly disagree with the anti-gay teachings of some denominations, like the SBC. These open and welcoming Christians rely on the Bible no less than the SBC, but, as others here are happily pointing out, they do recognize that such beliefs are a matter of interpretation. So please, Mr. Childress, stop assuming that you and the SBC have the final say on God’s word.

Also, I think Odie suggests an interesting possibility: this is a ploy to challenge LGBT-accepting rules in the military in the courts on the grounds of violation of religious freedom. Of course, they will happily ignore that they would trample on the religious freedoms of LGBT and ally military personnel. But at least such legal challenges would help them feel relevant on the issue for a few more years. And of course, there is the irony in his statement accusing conservative Christians of using the military for social engineering, considering that was exactly what our community was accused of in repealing DADT.


September 9th, 2013

You ask “why now”? The short answer is there is pending in Congress another “freedom of conscience” provision in the National Defense Autnhorization Act to protect “faithful believers” from any adverse discipline from following their sincerly held religious beliefs, including being bigoted anti-gay homophobes. This is trying to set up situations to show these provisions are necessary.

The SBC Chaplains need to be reminded they are there to serve the religious needs of the troops, not to be taxpayer subsidized missionaries for their sect.

Leave A Comment

All comments reflect the opinions of commenters only. They are not necessarily those of anyone associated with Box Turtle Bulletin. Comments are subject to our Comments Policy.

(Required, never shared)

PLEASE NOTE: All comments are subject to our Comments Policy.


Latest Posts

The Things You Learn from the Internet

"The Intel On This Wasn't 100 Percent"

From Fake News To Real Bullets: This Is The New Normal

NC Gov McCrory Throws In The Towel

Colorado Store Manager Verbally Attacks "Faggot That Voted For Hillary" In Front of 4-Year-Old Son

Associated Press Updates "Alt-Right" Usage Guide

A Challenge for Blue Bubble Democrats

Baptist Churches in Dallas, Austin Expelled Over LGBT-Affirming Stance

Featured Reports

What Are Little Boys Made Of?

In this original BTB Investigation, we unveil the tragic story of Kirk Murphy, a four-year-old boy who was treated for “cross-gender disturbance” in 1970 by a young grad student by the name of George Rekers. This story is a stark reminder that there are severe and damaging consequences when therapists try to ensure that boys will be boys.

Slouching Towards Kampala: Uganda’s Deadly Embrace of Hate

When we first reported on three American anti-gay activists traveling to Kampala for a three-day conference, we had no idea that it would be the first report of a long string of events leading to a proposal to institute the death penalty for LGBT people. But that is exactly what happened. In this report, we review our collection of more than 500 posts to tell the story of one nation’s embrace of hatred toward gay people. This report will be updated continuously as events continue to unfold. Check here for the latest updates.

Paul Cameron’s World

In 2005, the Southern Poverty Law Center wrote that “[Paul] Cameron’s ‘science’ echoes Nazi Germany.” What the SPLC didn”t know was Cameron doesn’t just “echo” Nazi Germany. He quoted extensively from one of the Final Solution’s architects. This puts his fascination with quarantines, mandatory tattoos, and extermination being a “plausible idea” in a whole new and deeply disturbing light.

From the Inside: Focus on the Family’s “Love Won Out”

On February 10, I attended an all-day “Love Won Out” ex-gay conference in Phoenix, put on by Focus on the Family and Exodus International. In this series of reports, I talk about what I learned there: the people who go to these conferences, the things that they hear, and what this all means for them, their families and for the rest of us.

Prologue: Why I Went To “Love Won Out”
Part 1: What’s Love Got To Do With It?
Part 2: Parents Struggle With “No Exceptions”
Part 3: A Whole New Dialect
Part 4: It Depends On How The Meaning of the Word "Change" Changes
Part 5: A Candid Explanation For "Change"

The Heterosexual Agenda: Exposing The Myths

At last, the truth can now be told.

Using the same research methods employed by most anti-gay political pressure groups, we examine the statistics and the case studies that dispel many of the myths about heterosexuality. Download your copy today!

And don‘t miss our companion report, How To Write An Anti-Gay Tract In Fifteen Easy Steps.

Testing The Premise: Are Gays A Threat To Our Children?

Anti-gay activists often charge that gay men and women pose a threat to children. In this report, we explore the supposed connection between homosexuality and child sexual abuse, the conclusions reached by the most knowledgeable professionals in the field, and how anti-gay activists continue to ignore their findings. This has tremendous consequences, not just for gay men and women, but more importantly for the safety of all our children.

Straight From The Source: What the “Dutch Study” Really Says About Gay Couples

Anti-gay activists often cite the “Dutch Study” to claim that gay unions last only about 1½ years and that the these men have an average of eight additional partners per year outside of their steady relationship. In this report, we will take you step by step into the study to see whether the claims are true.

The FRC’s Briefs Are Showing

Tony Perkins’ Family Research Council submitted an Amicus Brief to the Maryland Court of Appeals as that court prepared to consider the issue of gay marriage. We examine just one small section of that brief to reveal the junk science and fraudulent claims of the Family “Research” Council.

Daniel Fetty Doesn’t Count

Daniel FettyThe FBI’s annual Hate Crime Statistics aren’t as complete as they ought to be, and their report for 2004 was no exception. In fact, their most recent report has quite a few glaring holes. Holes big enough for Daniel Fetty to fall through.