Disciples come out of the closet…

Army, Chaplaincy

… and say, minister to everyone and own your theology.

This why I’m a disciple.

In the midst of all of the hullabaloo about who is going to minister to whom in the Army, I’m one of those guys that thinks the whole thing is just a little ridiculous. I mean, I’ve been an Army chaplain for 9 years and no one has ever told me who or what I can or cannot marry. No. One. Ever.

Essentially, we’re talking about a theological interpretation of a few passages of Scripture. A hundred years ago, substitute “divorce” for “same sex” and you get the picture.

Eventually, it’ll all blow over like it has is just about every other modern military. Chaplains who are uncomfortable or have theological differences will help the people they disagree with find a minister who is ok with helping them. Perform or provide. It’s what we do.

In the midst of all of this, it seems that endorsers are falling over themselves putting out dissertations dictating to their chaplains exactly who they can minister to and who they need to “pass along…” My denomination finally cleared the air and put out guidance for chaplains in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

I’ll Summarize: Historically, the denomination has never dictated to their chaplains how they should believe. Whatever you believe, serve all of God’s people with love, dignity, and respect. Own your theology and live your faith. Your denomination is behind you. There is room at the table.

Love. It.


Love and serve. Everyone.

This is why I’m a Disciple.

Why I’m not against “Gay Marriage”

Chaplaincy, Theology

The Supreme Court is looking at the validity of gay marriage. Huh. A friend of mine asked on Facebook what the theological arguments for gay marriage would be. I’m actually not going to give those here, I think one could google it and get a solid overview fairly quickly.

I will, however, tell whoever wants to read this, why – as a Christian and a pastor – I’m not against it.

When I first became a chaplain, the first marriage I was asked to do was between to Christians who had both been divorced previously. Having had a very conservative ministry training experience, my instinct was to refuse. However, since I had not really been presented with this situation in actuality before, I studied it. I read authors from both sides of the argument and reflected on what various thoughtful, godly, reasoned people believed about the issue.

I came away with the conclusion that it was an issue of theological interpretation and like all theological interpretation issues, I needed to “work out my own salvation” and act accordingly. Good people, who love God, Jesus, and the Bible are on both sides of that issue.

I certainly didn’t join some fight to get the Congress of the Land to ban marriage between divorced people since its a theological understanding of the Bible that even Christians disagree on. What the Bible says or does not say about divorced people has little to do with whether or not the state recognizes the contract between them called “marriage.”

To this day, a rule that I hold dear in marrying people is this: as an ordained minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I only marry those who BOTH declare Christ. I am helpful to those who are not Christians (or one is and the other isn’t) – I’ll help them find the courthouse or even recommend another minister who might be ok with that. However, I won’t do it. Both individuals need to be Christian for me to perform a Christian ceremony for them.

Again, not a rule I think that the Supreme Court of the United States should uphold for the entire nation.

So, am I for or against “gay marriage?” Doesn’t matter.

Not in the case of the supreme court. It’s a non issue. Whether the state should honor a contractual relationship between two people and call it marriage is not particularly important to me. In fact, I think that a couple that wants to marry should be able to. How I personally interpret the Bible and what federal, civil law –  that applies to every person that lives within our borders – says has little to do with each other.

I’ve read authors on both sides of this debate. In particular, the books “Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals” as well as “Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality” both convinced me that there are valid theological arguments (which are beyond the scope of this post to articulate) for the idea that homosexuality isn’t the “great evil” that it is often portrayed as.

Whether homosexuality is a sin or not is a theological issue that needs to be worked out in each Christians and churches worldview.

Like anything else.

Can we still be friends?



Postscript: Actually, if you were asking, I’m a fan of the model in which a couple that wants to contractually bind themselves to one another and receive the benefits the State doles out to that kind of stability can. They can go to the courthouse and sign a document that binds themselves to one another – gay, straight – it’s the same for everyone. If they want a Christian ceremony wherein they are married in the eyes of God, let them find a body of believers that has no issue with whatever baggage they bring to the alter. Lord knows – we all have baggage.

Chaplains and Gay Marriage

Army, Chaplaincy

I read an article this week about a bill being put forward that  would protect chaplains from having to perform marriage ceremonies they deem violate their conscience. A goal I’d be down with – if it needed to be done.

But it does not. Chaplains have always been able to perform or NOT perform marraiges on or off instalations. It has everything to do with their particular faith group, ordination, and endorser.

Army Regulation 165-1 lays it out clearly:  (5) Chaplains, at their discretion, may perform marriage ceremonies for authorized personnel upon request and in accordance with the laws of the State or country where the marriage is to take place. Chaplain participation in marriage preparations and ceremonies is in keeping with individual conscience and distinctive faith requirements. Chaplains may perform marriage ceremonies for DOD military personnel overseas in compliance with all applicable civil law requirements of the host nations, Army regulations, and any other military command directives.

That seems kind of clear to me.

The point I am making here is that this law is unnecessary. I won’t comment on DOMA, that seems to be a political issue and I’m not going to wade in those waters. I will however highlight that chaplains were not nor are not required to perform marriages (or services) outside of their tradition. Given some of the conversations I’ve had recently, I thought I’d point that out.

The role of the chaplain in layman’s terms is to “perform or provide.” By this we mean that we “perform” our particular faith’s rituals, ceremonys, and services while “providing” for the free exercise of religion for everyone else. This looks different for each chaplain but for me, I have generally kept a folder in my office of local major religious groups that I could point Soldiers and family members in their direction and even *gasp* make a coordinating phone call for them in the need arose. Downrange, I bent over backwards to ensure that my Soldiers had access to their particular faith group as they had need. Thats religious freedom. It’s why I get paid. I think sometimes this gets lost in all the posturing around these issues. There are many Soldiers in the Army who do not hold to Christian traditions. They have as much right to worship as any of us do. I’m all for laws that broaden our understanding of religious liberty, I just wonder about the intent of laws that seek to do what is most certainly already done.

As a rule, I believe the Pauline injunction that couples should not be “unequally yoked” – in other words, Christians should marry Christians. This means that I have, in fact, turned down opportunities to marry those who did not fit that criteria. I’ve never been corrected or guided differently in that. It is a part of my faith. However, this does not mean that I was unhelpful. I am fine helping anyone get their needs met in a way that makes sense to them. Incidentally, I also do not marry folks I don’t believe have a fighting chance to make it. (i.e. Soldier shows up in my office with soon to be spouse and wants me to marry them after a week of knowing each other…) Christian marriage is the only kind of marriage I perform and I take the responsibility seriously. That’s my ordination – my performance. My job as federal chaplain requires that I provide for everyone else. I have no issues with it. I do it happily.

As a side, there has been no negative impact of the repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. I guess after all that hullabaloo, it just wasn’t a big deal after all. But I’ll save that for another post.