The Southern Baptist Convention has consistently opposed the inclusion of gays and lesbians in the military. In 1993, Southern Baptists adopted a resolution titled “On Homosexuality, Military Service and Civil Rights.” That resolution resolved:
Be it further RESOLVED, That we oppose all effort to provide government endorsement, sanction, recognition, acceptance, or civil rights advantage on the basis of homosexuality; and
Be it further RESOLVED, That we oppose lifting the ban on homosexuals serving in the armed forces
Fast-forward to 2010. Richard Land, the SBC’s chief “ethicist,” penned a letter to members of Congress asking them to oppose legislation to repeal the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. Land wrote:
The admission of openly homosexual individuals into the military would engender sexual tension and thereby negatively impact troop morale, unit cohesion, and order.
A few months later, a group of retired military chaplains that included numerous Southern Baptists issued a letter warning that a repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell would curtail religious freedom and impact military readiness.
The next month, as the effort to repeal picked up steam in Congress, Richard Land urged a filibuster. He said, “I’ve never known of a better excuse for a filibuster than to stop the Congress of the United States from essentially destroying the greatest military force our nation has ever known.”
When a U.S. federal judge ordered the military to suspend enforcement of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy later in October, Col. Keith Travis, a Southern Baptist chaplain team leader, stated: “We are greatly concerned about the impact [the ruling] will have on religious liberty in the military.”
After the Senate finally passed the DADT repeal, Richard Land exclaimed, “This is a very, very sad day for America.” Land – who has often claimed over the years to have his “hand on the pulse beat of where Southern Baptists are” – stressed that he had “heard from privates and seamen all the way through generals and admirals that [the DADT repeal] will cause significant numbers of people to resign from the military — in the middle of two wars.”
18 months after the repeal, we get this AP headline: “As gays serve openly, few problems for chaplains.”
Here’s the opening paragraphs:
Wrightstown, N.J. • Col. Timothy Wagoner has been an Air Force chaplain for 20 years, serving a denomination — the Southern Baptists — that rejects same-sex relationships.
Yet here he was at the chapel he oversees, watching supportively as an airman and his male partner celebrated a civil union ceremony.
“I wouldn’t miss it,” Wagoner said at the McGuire Air Force Base chapel, days later. “I don’t feel I’m compromising my beliefs … I’m supporting the community.”
Wagoner didn’t officiate at the ceremony — he couldn’t go quite that far. But his very presence at the gathering was a marker of how things have changed for active-duty clergy in the nine months since the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was repealed and gays could serve openly.
Col. Wagoner oversees five other chaplains. Later in the article, Col. Wagoner explains his presence:
“As a Southern Baptist, why was I here? I was here to lend support,” Wagoner said. “I was here supporting Airman Umali. I’ve worked with him. He’s a comrade in arms.”
“I’m also supporting Chaplain Reeb,” he said. “She gave a beautiful ceremony.”
The Southern Baptist Convention has the most military chaplains of any faith group with 450 on active duty (just over 15% of all chaplains).
The SBC needs more Col. Wagoners.