ALPHARETTA, Ga. – The North American Mission Board's executive director for chaplaincy, Douglas Carver, is reiterating that Southern Baptist military chaplains endorsed by NAMB on behalf of the convention do not support same-sex civil unions that might take place on some military installations.
Carver's statement follows a news article published by the Associated Press implying that Air Force Chaplain (Col.) Timothy Wagoner condoned a same-sex ceremony that took place on his base. The 20-year NAMB-endorsed chaplain strongly refutes the news story.
“When the AP story first came out, we contacted Chaplain Wagoner and he assured us he was either misinterpreted or quoted out of context in the story,” Carver said.
The Baptist Faith and Message 2000, which serves as the SBC's guiding doctrinal statement, clearly lists one man, one woman marriage as the only biblical standard for marriage. Several resolutions approved by SBC messengers in recent annual meetings — including one this year at the New Orleans meeting — also affirm support for one man, one woman marriage.
Wagoner supervises chaplains of lower rank and other faiths at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in Wrightstown, N.J. He clarified to NAMB his position on civil unions and his responsibilities as a supervising chaplain.
“The (AP) article does not accurately reflect why I attended a civil union,” Wagoner said. “The general tone of the article has led many to conclude incorrectly that I personally support same-sex civil unions, with statements such as 'he was watching supportively.'”
Wagoner said he told the AP reporter in the interview that “while I support our service members as an installation chaplain and member of the Armed Forces, both my conscience and adherence to historic Baptist principles would not allow me to personally officiate at a same-sex civil union. I steadfastly adhere to the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 … that marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman in a covenant commitment for a lifetime.
“I am devoted to the Southern Baptist faith,” Wagoner said. “My intention was never to embarrass or misrepresent the Southern Baptists whom I have faithfully served for 30 years as a pastor and military chaplain.”
Some 1,450 NAMB-endorsed chaplains serve in the various branches of the U.S. military.
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.
Carver, himself a former military chaplain who became the Army's 22nd Chief of Chaplains before his retirement last summer and appointment at NAMB, said today's military chaplains are in a challenging situation because of changing cultural values in American society.
“I believe military chaplaincy — and chaplaincy at large — is one of the toughest ministries in the Kingdom of God,” Carver said. “Southern Baptist pastors who respond to a vocational calling as military chaplains enter a multi-faith, multi-cultural environment where diversity is expected, promoted and applauded, and where the intrinsic values of our nation are tested in a combat environment.
“Pastors who volunteer for the military chaplaincy agree to accommodate the religious beliefs of all they serve without violating the religious beliefs and practices of their own faith group,” Carver continued. “Our Southern Baptist military chaplains have the complete freedom to proclaim Jesus Christ to our troops as the only way of salvation and to promote God's Word as the foundational truth for a significant, moral and ethical life.”
Carver acknowledged, “It's a vague environment out there, especially as our chaplains promote and defend the whole counsel of God in a post-'Don't Ask-Don't Tell' military environment. Our chaplains are navigating through unchartered waters, where the cultural values of the military increasingly conflict with the traditional values and beliefs of Southern Baptists.”
Carver said such an environment requires NAMB to protect SBC chaplains' religious liberties.
“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.”
Mickey Noah writes for the North American Mission Board