Can Evangelical Chaplains Serve God and Country?—The Crisis Arrives

Tuesday • September 17, 2013

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Can chaplains committed to historic biblical Christianity serve in the United States military? That question, though inconceivable to our nation’s founders, is now front and center. And the answer to that question will answer another, even more important question: Can religious liberty survive under America’s new moral order?

The repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, coupled with the Supreme Court’s ruling that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, set the stage for this crisis. The full normalization of same-sex relationships within the U.S. military is part of the unprecedented moral revolution that is now reshaping American culture at virtually every level.

The crisis in the chaplaincy arrived with these developments. The presenting issue is clear: Can a chaplain committed to historic biblical Christianity remain in military service? Does the normalization of homosexuality require that all members of the military, including chaplains, join the moral revolution, even if doing so requires them to abandon their biblical convictions?

The answer, at least from the advocates of the moral revolution, is that evangelical Christian chaplains must go—and Southern Baptist chaplains must go first.

In recent weeks, the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, the endorsing agency for SBC chaplains, formulated a set of policies on these issues. These policies are required of all SBC-endorsed chaplains, and the guidelines are clear. SBC chaplains are to minister in line with the biblical convictions of the SBC and its churches as made clear in our denomination’s confession of faith, The Baptist Faith & Message. Chaplains are to offer respect to all, respect for the religious liberty of all, and respect for the religious diversity represented within the armed forces. But evangelical chaplains cannot deny or compromise the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As the document states:  ”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.”

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