What’s Next for Military Chaplains if DOMA Is Rescinded?

The Obama administration’s push to normalize same-sex behavior in our Armed Forces may prove detrimental in many ways. But our military chaplains will likely be the first to face new hardships.

Within the next several months several critical marriage cases will come before the Supreme Court. The challenge to Proposition 8—the California constitutional amendment that states only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in that state—is one of the most important cases of recent times. The constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), enacted by Congress and signed into law by President Clinton in 1996, will also be examined.

If DOMA is overturned, chaplains in our Armed Forces will be the first to feel the negative effects. Because the military does not create its own religious ministries, the Armed Services depend on religious leadership from the churches and religious bodies of America. Chaplains are endorsed to serve through cooperative channels between the religious body, the Department of Defense’s Armed Forces Chaplains Board, and the respective service branch. Should the government normalize homosexual marriage, chaplains would be confronted with a difficult moral choice of choosing to serve their God or serve Caesar. Because of the high percentage of theologically conservative and biblically oriented chaplains within each military branch, the conflict will be real and a cause for great concern.

New Threats for Chaplains

Should our courts adopt a new policy of special protection of same-sex arrangements—as currently seems likely—the repercussions will threaten chaplains. The practice and expression of traditional religious beliefs in an “open setting” will be threatened under the loss of DOMA. This collision has not yet occurred but the scenario has been set. Recently the Department of Defense (under Secretary Panetta) released guidelines for all military commands to recognize same-sex domestic partner benefits including issuance of I.D. Cards, Exchange/Commissary privileges, as well as a number of other benefits. The current administration seems to assume that DOMA is inevitably doomed and is attempting to tip the scales in favor of abolishing it altogether.

As a former chaplain in the Navy and a current chaplain endorser, let me suggest several ways our chaplains will be adversely affected should DOMA be struck down.

Chaplains will be constrained in sharing their religious beliefs on marriage. Chaplains who teach and preach the truth of Scripture will inevitably be challenged when discussing the subject of marriage. If consistent and faithful to the Scriptures, chaplains will be pressured to either compromise or face conflict—and likely discipline by the military—at some point in their ministries.

Chaplains could face adverse discipline or have shortened careers if they remain true to their faith group’s teachings or personal convictions. Self-imposed limitations will be necessary regarding certain moral issues. Thus, exercise of full religious freedom (guaranteed in the First Amendment) might be sacrificed.

Chaplains will face challenges related to heterosexual marriage counseling. In an effort to promote and encourage heterosexual marriage, chaplains conducting couples’ retreat ministry will face serious challenges and restrictions on their counseling. The teachings of fidelity, commitment, love, and God-centered marriage will be in serious conflict with the amoralistic themes of the current mandates promulgated in the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Marriage enrichment programs funded by the military will be hard-pressed to find conscientious Christian chaplains willing to continue to lead them as they have in the past.

Chaplains will face challenges related to their refusal to endorse homosexual relationships. In counseling situations, chaplains who criticize same-sex conduct or decline to perform a homosexual marriage could face discrimination or censure. Similarly, in the conduct of religious services, chaplains cooperate with other chaplains. Conflicts will arise when a conservative is expected or requested to lead worship or religious rites alongside an openly homosexual chaplain. Such a scenario would require the chaplain to compromise deeply held religious beliefs or face charges of discrimination.

Cooperation Without Compromise?

We know that God is sovereign and that his work will not be thwarted, but the chaplain’s labor is going to be more challenging and precarious. The same will be true for all faithful believers in military leadership. In this imminent collision of cultural values, the effects of abolishing DOMA will be widespread and unleash serious threats to religious liberties. But chaplains will be the first to who decide whether their longtime Chaplains Corps motto of “cooperation without compromise” can stand the test of the impending court action.

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  • http://highplainsparson.wordpress.com Riley

    These are all serious concerns, and I don’t have much confidence that the military establishment will treat Christian chaplains fairly and respect their freedom of religion. But to be honest, I’m even more concerned about the impact this will have on the freedom of all of the other Christian servicemen and women to express their faith. It’s not just the Chaplains who have a right to express their faith, and at least they have the advantage of certain protections and an endorsing agency to back them up.

  • Jessica Grimes

    This really concerns me- what are your thoughts etc to his objections. This author was a former Navy Chaps and current endorser…

    • Jessica Grimes

      Sorry about previous comment! I thought I was forwarding this article to my husband.

      This really concerns me. My husband is a current reserve Chaps and we are thinking about going active duty – however, we are of a faith tradition that does not condone homosexual marriage and sees it as a sin. I am worried that he will be eventually pushed out of the military due to his religious beliefs. Ive wondered about marriage retreats and how he could be true to his faith in this setting – in an age of so many painting those that see homosexuality as a sin as bigots…

      My heart is torn and Im not sure how to process this. My husband has such a heart for military members and their families. I do to.I know his endorser will always stand strong for the tennants of our faith, which provides some comfort.

  • http://www.rmpca.org Brad Edwards

    CH Bebee,

    I’m a chaplain in the US Army National Guard, and an MP before that. I have handled this issue (and especially the repeal of DADT) the same way I would if the soldier is of a different faith background and does not want Gospel/Christian-based religious support. We’re duty-bound to either “perform or provide,” and that no doubt goes the same for soldiers requesting a chaplain to officiate same sex marriage. I’ve counseled gay soldiers, and EVERY single time I have, they actually requested or asked the question, “what does the bible say about homosexuality?” This is a HUGE opportunity to witness that I NEVER had under DADT… Gay soldiers couldn’t even share their secret with a Chaplain for fear of legal reprisal (whether that was accurate or not). How can we be Christ in their midst if they do not have the assurance that the cross we wear on our uniform is a symbol of grace, and not one of judgment.

    To be frank, this problem is a gross exaggeration. Ethically and biblically, is this a good thing for our country and our armed forces? Surely not. Will it be a challenge? Absolutely, but we Chaplains have more than a few! It sure as hell is not going to hamstring chaplains, especially (as you say) since the vast majority come from a conservative theological background. If a Chaplain is worth his salt and can actually navigate the challenges of ministry in a pluralistic environment, this should not be a problem at all, but an opportunity to be even more starkly “salt and light” in a dark world.

    • Lane

      What he said.

    • http://simplyxian.com T.C. Judd

      Well said.

    • NT

      What you say is fine and dandy, but do you honestly think we are not in short order headed to a time when Chaplains must, in order to maintain their position, be silent on homosexuality or not discriminate against marrying homosexuals? What you say is fine for now, but don’t you see that is where we are headed? Unless your head is in the sand you cannot argue this.

    • NT

      To reiterate or clarify, I think what you fail to see is we are very quickly headed to a time when the Chaplain is not allowed by law to be “salt and light”. When the solider asks what the Bible says about homosexuality, you will not be allowed by law to answer. What then?

      • http://www.rmpca.org Brad Edwards


        First, could you give me some background? Are you currently, or have you served as a Chaplain? I ask because there are certain assumptions and common understandings among chaplains that I don’t want to assume, nor explain if it’s something you’re already familiar with.

        Second, my head is certainly not in the sand. These questions are wrestled with by every chaplain – not just homosexuality. How about heterosexual premarital sex? It’s an assumed cultural norm (even more so that homosexuality), and yet our disagreement with it does not inhibit our careers or our ability to preach the Gospel. I have NEVER been disallowed from speaking my views, publically or privately, so long as I did so with respect and without the expectation that those who believe differently than I to agree. So no, I do not ever expect to be forced to compromise because that’s the only way the Chaplaincy can effectively “provide for the free exercise of religion” for U.S. service men and women. If we are not free, we certainly cannot provide for the free exercise of religion.

        The bottom line for me as a Chaplain is that I do not expect non-Christians to act like Christians. How can they, without the help of the Holy Spirit (I have enough difficulty doing so WITH His help!). My mission is to preach the Gospel in word and deed, to not shirk from the truth contained in Scripture, but to communicate it with genuine love and respect for fellow image-bearers, and expect God to change their hearts (and if necessary, through my ministry).

        • NT

          But what CH Bebee and myself are trying to say is that very soon you will not be free, nor have a free expression of religion. Your talk is of what has been, and ours is of what will be. (Or I should say that’s how I read him, don’t mean to put words in his mouth). We are very close now. Your last paragraph is wonderful. The point is that soon you will not be allowed to do so as a Chaplain.

          I guess agree or disagree on that, but things have shifted dramatically in the last 2-3 years.

          • http://www.rmpca.org Brad Edwards


            I answered your questions and based it on both scripture and our nation’s laws. You’re arguing with assertion and, no matter how strongly and convincingly you state it, you don’t engage with the legal and historical facts.

            I ask again, are you a Chaplain, and what basis do you seem to be able to so prophetically predict the future? Yes, things have shifted dramatically, but not a single one of those shifts have even remotely changed the Chaplain’s ability to provide for the free exercise of religion. The burden of proof lies with those who would claim otherwise (and especially those who lack direct experience with it).

            • NT

              Brad, my point isn’t to engage with legal or historical facts. Those are facts, but my point is to say they are not relevant. And again, I don’t disagree with your overall attitude here, and I most certainly don’t think these things we are discussion are going to somehow “hurt” the Church. Far from it.

              But I do think the Chaplaincy as we know it in the US Military will be a thing of the past shortly. At the end of the day what you say is true; we’re just talking. There is no burden of proof for prophetic ideas. They are just ideas. But I do think they have quite a bit of basis if we’re observing events around. That’s a subjective thing.

              The whole point in this whole discussion, I believe, is to state that these things may be coming, and what are we going to do about it when they do. That was the vibe I got from CH Bebee, and I agree it is a question that needs to be asked.

              Your and T.C.’s responses concern me because it doesn’t seem you think these alarmist statements are valid, and I’m so certain sure they are.

            • http://www.rmpca.org Brad Edwards

              “Those are facts, but my point is to say they are not relevant.”

              Seriously? How on earth can you claim to be seeing a trend (btw, based on historical fact) if they are not relevant?

              “Your and T.C.’s responses concern me because it doesn’t seem you think these alarmist statements are valid, and I’m so certain sure they are.”

              I don’t think they are invalid, just exaggerated and not constructive (i.e. “alarmist”). Certainty does not reality make.

            • Melody

              You are ignoring the fact that people are not allowed to own a corporation without having to go against their faith.
              You are ignoring the fact that more and more are claiming to be practicing homosexuals AND Christians.
              You are ignoring the fact that more and more businesses that have anything to do with weddings are not being allowed to chose which weddings they want to do.
              You are ignoring the fact that the White House allowed Louie Giglio to be labeled intolerant and bigoted.

              I can understand if you were trying to give hope through the Holy Spirit but you are trying to reassure everyone based on laws in this progressively horrid government. The only people that is going to reassure are the ones that think this government really does have our best interest at heart.

    • Moondog

      BE, I suspect your view is very limited as a young chaplain. You have not been around long enough, nor trained and schooled long enough to see a strategic view of this entire situation. There are serious implications for many chaplains in this issue, and there are long term implications for all chaplains in this issue. It will effect all that is done as a chaplain in the military…and I suspect that there are long term implication for the churches that our chaplains come from.

      • Brad Edwards

        I suspect all our views are limited, lacking God’s omniscience, but I would hope that my almost 10 years in the military (enlisted, line officer and chaplain) is hardly narrow. Are there long-term implications? Absolutely. Is the culture changing? Yeah. Will it prevent Chaplains from providing religious support according the scripture, conscience and their denominational endorser? NO. Our laws are set up to protect exactly that. If they weren’t, the entire chaplaincy would collapse in on itself.

        My point is that, maybe rather than be so concerned about our rights and mourning the loss of a Judeo-Christian ethic in a culture the church has largely abandoned, we might be a bit more focused on being salt and light for the sake of heart transformation. It’s a lot more effective (and biblical) than expecting behavior modification.

        • NT

          Brad, my whole intention in engaging you here was to maybe by chance open your eyes to the notion that US laws absolutely cannot be and should not be trusted.

          And the reason it is good to know that is not because anyone is mourning the loss of Judeo-Christian ethic or our rights. I think anyone reading TGC blogs is well over that.

          These issues matter so that we can be prepared and react faithfully in the face of an oppressive and untrustworthy government. Be prepared, that’s all we’re talking about here. What do we do when Chaplains cannot legally “provide religious support according to Scripture, their conscience and their denominational endorser?”

          Asking that question is not hopelessness – surely there is an answer. That is a completely valid question that you are unwilling to entertain because you have such odd faith in the government.

          We’re just trying to have a strategic game plan discussion here, and you and a few others come in and basically say “ah, you all are crazy, that’ll never happen.” OK then.

          • Brad Edwards

            NT,there is nothing wrong with being prepared, watching trends and girding our loins with the armor of faith. I’m all for it.

            What I strongly advocate against (out of love, truly) is not “crying wolf” until there actually is one, otherwise we’ll have created so much white noise that we’re no longer heard when the real threats come, and we truly NEED to “cry wolf” over oppression. There are a LOT bigger problems out there to “cry wolf” over. I don’t think many of us realize how good we have it… myself included.

  • http://simplyxian.com T.C. Judd

    I respectfully disagree with your assessment, Ch Bebee, and find the tone of your post a bit alarmist. As a current Air Force chaplain, the potential demise of DOMA essentially places same-sex marriage on the same playing field as the multitude of other culturally-acceptable behaviors that go against Christian teachings…none of which chaplains are required or pressured (in my experience) to accept or agree with. The environment may be significantly different in the Navy, but in my Air Force experience, I’ve yet to see any chaplain disciplined or ostracized for refusing to participate in any event / observance / counsel / etc. based upon their religious beliefs. I’m optimistic that, should DOMA go away, none of your threats will come to pass.

    • NT

      T.C., can you give some examples of comparable cultural issues, specifically? I don’t think there is anything comparable. If you are aware, our culture is increasingly treating homosexuality as it treats race. In other words, in short time as a Chaplain you will no more be able to not participate in condoning homosexuality as he would be able to not participate in condoning equal treatment of different races. Our culture is headed here much more quickly than perhaps you realize, and the Chaplaincy will be a front line of the battle.

      • http://www.rmpca.org Brad Edwards


        The difference between sexuality and race, particularly as it pertains to the chaplaincy, is that racial discrimination is a illegal by constitutional amendment. Until same sex marriage has the same authority, we will not ever need to worry.

        That, and our own authority (scripture) pretty clearly denounces and precludes racial discrimination, so I would hope we wouldn’t even remotely try to compare the two… that’s incredibly thin ice at best.

        • NT

          Brad, I don’t mean to be brash, but your comment here re: race and homosexuality proves you are unaware of the current cultural climate on this issue. I’m not the one comparing the two, our culture at large is. The Commander-in-chief is, and all of the media. The shift there is not simply beginning to happen, it is nearly complete.

          • http://www.rmpca.org Brad Edwards

            I’m not unaware of the current cultural climate. I’m very aware that this is a comparison some make, but that many (Christian and non-Christian) find offensive because it equivocates sexuality (which is psychologically rooted with probable genetic predispositions) with race (genetically rooted). Many civil rights leaders in the African American community are outraged.

            My point is that we Christians should hold ourselves to a higher standard and not base our arguments (or their validity) on what non-Christians are arguing. You’re not being brash, but your response is awfully simplistic.

      • http://simplyxian.com T.C. Judd

        NT, there are a ton of culturally-acceptable issues that I as a chaplain speak out against routinely. To list a few: drunkenness, adultery, premarital sex, lying/cheating/dishonesty, racism, immoral acts of violence during war…should I go on? Some of these are illegal but not all. Every one of these is also tolerated to some extent in the military while some are even encouraged or nurtured. Chaplains go against the prevailing culture in speaking out against these and other similar things all the time.

        I do not expect the US military (or the larger US government) to act as though it were Christian. It is not. It is an irreligious entity and many of the decisions made in it / by it are immoral according to Christian standards. As Brad pointed out, we shouldn’t expect non-Christians to act like Christians.

    • Jessica Grimes

      I too, would like these current Chaps to speak to the fact that homosexuals are becoming a protected class. So… to even preach about marriage between one man and woman would be similar to hate speech. Not to mention the pressure to push out chaps that cause issues / problems- especially if have an administration .

      Do you current chaps not think that will come to pass? I seriously as this, as a wife of a current chap. If homosexuality is looked on as similar to a persons race, would that not lead to issues related to chaplain duties and / or chaplain promotions?

      Think beyond current day- look into the future and what has already come down the pipe in a few short years….

      • http://www.rmpca.org Brad Edwards


        Are homosexuals becoming a protected class? I sure hope so! I hope every human being is protected and given dignity regardless of race, sexual orientation, creed, gender or otherwise. Does my preaching against premarital sex mean I am infringing on the rights of a heterosexual couple? No, because they don’t have to attend my worship service. Within a Chaplain’s chapel/worship service/Bible study, nobody has authority over what is taught or preached besides that Chaplain’s endorser. Period. To do otherwise is a flagrant violation of the separation of church and state, and constitutionally illegal. You’d see 90% of the Chaplain corps resign en masse if that ever happened, which also breaks the government’s constitutional responsibility to provide for the “free exercise of religion.”

        You can read the Office of the Chief of Chaplain’s guidance regarding the repeal of DADT here: http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&ved=0CDsQFjAB&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.massresistance.org%2Fdocs%2Fgen%2F11a%2FDADT_chaplains_0321%2FArmyChaplainsLGBTTraining.pdf&ei=5RctUbeHOIq6qgHM1oDgAQ&usg=AFQjCNF6NT65PWRBIHHHAI0h2OGv5vFPnQ&sig2=4P0AmmTfXrFnwRNJa4PGaA&bvm=bv.42965579,d.aWM&cad=rja

        You’ll notice that it says quite explicitly that, “You are NOT expected to change your personal, religious, or moral beliefs; however, we ARE expected to treat all others with dignity and respect, consistent with the core values that already exist within your Service.” Who can find any biblical issue with that?

        If, for whatever reason (to include conscience) a Chaplain cannot PERFORM a wedding ceremony for GLBT soldiers, they are obligated by their oath to PROVIDE access to a Chaplain who can/will (i.e., simply giving them their name and number). If the latter half of that obligation (to “provide”) counters good conscience, then that Chaplain likely won’t find much room to minister in that kind of pluralistic environment outside of this issue anyway…

        Preaching that homosexuality is a sin in a worship/religious/chapel service of any kind will always be protected. Period. If it doesn’t, then the Chaplaincy will cease to have legal grounds to exist at all, and I can’t imagine that ever happening in the U.S. Military. That’s what makes this country great, and exceedingly unique among the world’s democracies.

        • NT

          Brad, all I can say is your eyes are going to be shocked open in the coming decade. You and other Chaplains will be forced out of the US Military, and then perhaps you’ll see the country you think you know has not existed for some time now. You keep talking about how things currently are when the discussion is about how they will be. Yes, free exercise of religion will be violated. The process is already well under way.

          Your own words even betray you. To force a Chaplain to provide access to another Chaplain that would perform a GLBT wedding IS a violation of free expression – you are just blind to it. And to do is fearing man more than God, and already a compromise on the part of any Chaplain who would do so. This is all very sad.

          I couldn’t agree more with your attitude spiritually, but you seem to be so blinded to the state of freedom in our country. You will see soon.

          • http://www.rmpca.org Brad Edwards

            “Brad, all I can say is your eyes are going to be shocked open in the coming decade. You and other Chaplains will be forced out of the US Military, and then perhaps you’ll see the country you think you know has not existed for some time now. You keep talking about how things currently are when the discussion is about how they will be.”

            A very reasonable conclusion if you don’t believe history, constitutional law, or direct experience are credible evidence to the contrary…

            “Yes, free exercise of religion will be violated. The process is already well under way.”

            Again, I suppose you’re drawing this from your years as a military chaplain?

            “Your own words even betray you. To force a Chaplain to provide access to another Chaplain that would perform a GLBT wedding IS a violation of free expression – you are just blind to it. And to do is fearing man more than God, and already a compromise on the part of any Chaplain who would do so. This is all very sad.”

            The Pharisees said essentially the same thing when Christ asked a samaritan adulteress to pull water from a well for him to drink (Luke 4), and He was Himself accused of being a drunkard and glutton because He kept inviting Himself over for dinner with the drunkards and gluttons. I’m just glad He didn’t hesitate to be born as a Man because He was worried about enabling us! Could you imagine the scandal?!?! And by the way, unless your ethic is so consistent that you don’t pay taxes either (since that would also pay for the a chaplain to either “perform or provide” for a gay wedding ceremony), I’d be careful how quickly you throw those stones…

            I’m also really glad that you can determine the state of my heart through the internet. If indeed I did fear man more than God, my distrust of God would lead me to 1) make absolute black and white statements (i.e. “this evil government”), 2) make blind assertions despite contrary legal, historical and biblical evidence, and 3) then accuse those who don’t agree with me of being “blind” or having their “head in the sand.” All of the above is a hell of a lot safer than slugging it out in the trenches where the Gospel is most needed. My conscience before God (not to mention my church, my endorser, my denomination and the vast majority of Chaplains wrestling with the same issue) is clear. Thanks for your concern.

            At least we can agree on one thing (though we might mean it differently): “This is all very sad.”

        • JohnM

          “Preaching that homosexuality is a sin in a worship/religious/chapel service of any kind will always be protected. Period. If it doesn’t, then the Chaplaincy will cease to have legal grounds to exist at all, and I can’t imagine that ever happening in the U.S. Military.”

          Chaplain, you must not have much of imagination :) Ever is a long time, and looking at current trends I can imagine all kinds of unlovely things.

          Homosexuality is in fact treated as different from pre-marital sex. You won’t be condemed as a fornicator-phobe if you speak against it. Or an adulterophobe (or whatever it would be)if you preach what scripture teaches on adultery. By the way, is adultery still a violation of the UCMJ? I doubt there are any serving-openly-with-pride events for adulterers in any case.

          The point is, comparison of the way homosexuality is viewed with the way fornication or adultery is viewed is just not a very apt comparison. For the former we make up terms like “sexual orientation” and “GLBT” and apply the same kind of protection (and celebration) to the category (as opposed to individuals) as we do race and gender. You may rightly “hope every human being is protected and given dignity” but if you believe what scripture says about homosexuality and say so that is taken as a denial of the homosexuals humanity and dignity.

          I don’t know all that chaplains experience, but then there’s also everyone else to think about. I do know, by my own direct experince, the military’s penchant for informing it’s members what their opinions are. Not all preaching in the military is done by chaplains :)

          • http://thenface2face.wordpress.com Karen Butler

            “I don’t know all that chaplains experience, but then there’s also everyone else to think about. I do know, by my own direct experince, the military’s penchant for informing it’s members what their opinions are.”

            You seem to get it, JohnM. What this means for the boots on the ground. I am able as well to imagine all kinds of unlovely things. Would you recommend the service to a Christ-following young man? My son wants to join the Marines, and I am doing everything I can to delay and dissuade him. Hagel and DOMA and women in combat spells disaster to me. Very, very unlovely things.

            I am not anti-military. I was born on an Air Force Base. I have great respect for the armed forces. But I grieve for all the social engineering that is weakening morale and readiness.

            • JohnM

              Karen, Would I recommend the service to a Christ-following young man? I would have a harder time doing that right now. Of course not only are circumstances different but my perspective is also naturally different than it was when I first joined, which was over thirty years ago. It’s hard to say what I would be able to see if I were young and just starting out.

              Why does he say he wants to join? Obviously if it’s the Marines he is interested in he is a motivated young man, but different people may have different motives.

              I do suspect, though I can’t know for sure, that the Marines will be the last to succumb to the social engineering for which you rightly grieve.

            • RevNawny

              Christ-following young man joining any branch of the armed services is an oxy-moron in and of itself. Christ preached peace and forgiveness…how does serving in the military achieve Christ’s mission? The mission of the military is to protect and defend its country and has nothing to do with Christ. Let’s not confuse the two, which most folks on this thread seem to want to do. Chaplains are trained to be a resource for soldiers’ spiritual life. They are not there to proslytize or impose their views, opinions, or world views; rather to help persons gain clarity about their own spiritual, theological understandings.

        • Jessica Grimes

          To clarify: with regards to protected class.. I wasn’t speaking about human rights. More about the rights for people of faith to disagree w the homosexual life style chaps and not be punished or ( more likely) passed over for promotions due to not rowing the line.

          Respect of a persons rights doesn’t equal= adopting belief that homosexuality is legitimate. Just like I don’t believe adultery is legitimate.

          However- out govt and society has a whole isn’t championing the rights of adulterous couple….people don’t call you a bigot for being against adultery. They sure do w regards to any opposition to homosexuality.

          Surely you can appreciate the differences Brad…

        • Jessica Grimes

          BTW- I do appreciate you insight & experience Brad. While some issues w this bring up concerns- your thoughts and ideas throughout this comment thread are worth chewing on. Thanks for sharing!

          • Brad Edwards


            I appreciate the disclaimer and appreciation. :-)

            We should really be careful to specify what we mean about “rights” or disagreement. No one can legally be charged for believing something. That’s the very basis for repealing DADT in the first place! But if that belief causes them to infringe on the rights of others (i.e. not promoting a gay soldier because you believe homosexuality is a sin), you will rightfully face UCMJ action. If Christians expect otherwise, I challenge them to justify it with scripture.

            P.S. I’m not at all saying that you believe this, just wanting to make sure that we get concrete with this all!

            • JohnM

              Brad, could you clarify what you mean by “No one can legally be charged for believing something. That’s the very basis for repealing DADT in the first place!” I don’t think that’s the basis for repealing DADT at all.

              As a matter of fact in the military you could potentially be charged, or at least otherwise disciplined, for believing something – if you express that belief. And the military expends a great amount of effort assuring members that they DO in fact fully accept the party line.

              I’m curious – given homosexuality was a basis for involuntary discharge, never mind denying promotion, until very recently – why do you think someone should rightfully face UCMJ action for not promoting a “gay” soldier, believing homosexualty is a sin? Is it because: 1) That would be an inherently unwarranted and unfair basis for denying promotion? 2) Because, while it might have been okay at one time, under old policy, it goes against current policy, and you can’t do that 3) Because you really think there is nothing wrong with homosexuality anyway 4) Some other reason? Just wondering.

            • Brad Edwards


              It is the basis (at least in principle) in the sense that, GLBT service men and women under DADT were denied even their ability to express their convictions (however sinful we believe). That very clear fact was a legal and philosophical argument for repealing DADT.

              As for your question about not promoting… Let me answer it by way of question: Given the choice to promote one of two soldiers who are equal in qualification in every way, yet one is gay and has one more day time in grade, and the other is straight, who would you promote?

              The answer to that question also answers many assumptions under-girding this entire conversation. Do I believe homosexuality is a sin? Yeah, absolutely. I fail to understand how believing the sinfulness of homosexuality is somehow incompatible with also believing they can contribute as much to the mission as any other soldier/airmen/sailor/marine.

              Bottom line: They are people, image-bearers of the God we worship and joyfully kneel before as Lord and Savior. Thank God that He did not treat us as our sin deserves, and God have mercy on we who deny that every time we neglect to love any other human being the same way (for whatever reason, including homosexuality). If God gave up His divine “rights” and constrained Himself to (also) become Man, why the hell are we more concerned with our rights than the opportunities we have to minister to those who were as lost as we before Christ’s work in our lives?

  • JVC

    My only thought would be that Chaplains should focus on the gospel as much as possible and, as far as is within their power, try not to broach the gay topic. It isn’t central to the gospel.

  • http://thesidos.blogspot.com/ Arthur Sido

    It is interesting that as the church in America we have no qualms about putting on the uniform of Caesar until it means making hard choices about homosexual “marriage”. Perhaps the question we should be asking is why the church is not only accepting but enthusiastic about embracing American militarism. That is far more troubling than hypothetical situations regarding solemnizing homosexual unions among military personnel.

    • http://simplyxian.com T.C. Judd

      This is a brilliant point, Arthur. The church in America’s unhesitating support for American militarism is a MUCH bigger issue than the topic of this post. The former happens everyday, while the latter honestly isn’t an issue (yet) in my experience. Thank you for pointing out the plank in our eyes!

  • http://www.rmpca.org Brad Edwards

    I very much agree with CH Judd on this…

  • NT

    I am alarmed that the faithful men who will be shot in the back first seem to be completely naive about the true nature and intentions of our increasingly evil government. Wake up!

    • http://www.rmpca.org Brad Edwards

      Hey just a thought, Chaplains swear to “protect and defend the constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic.” If this is an “evil government,” we’ve got bigger ethical contradictions than this one. I would encourage you not to paint with such a broad brush, since God said through Paul in Romans 13: 1-3 to…

      “Let every person pbe subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you rwill receive his approval…”

      Demonizing government, however much you may disagree, is far from being “salt and light.”

      • NT

        Over the last 40 years, the US government has sanctioned the killing of 50 million babies of my generation. 50 million. I’m not sure what your definition of the world evil is, or how you can justify legally sanctioning (that is different than permitting) such actions. And this only ONE issue.

        Unless we’re going to refrain from using strong and accurate language, it is very hard to make the case that there are any modern world governments that are not evil. Saying so is just matter of fact, it does not contract Romans 13 or our call to be “salt and light.” I also don’t find that it contradicts the oath of service to the constitution or country. I think we can separate the government from those things. Calling a government that sanctions the killing of 50 million children “evil” is accurate, plain and simple. What semantical cartwheels you could do to arrive at a different conclusion I cannot imagine.

        • NT

          I meant “word evil” above, not “world evil”

  • Patrick

    Well for one thing marriage retreats will look different and if the government funds any activities the government will have a say in who can participate.

    • Jessica Grimes

      Patrick- I think they will have a harder time finding chaps to do them- which = less marital support for already strained marriages … PLUS I also think that chaps that DO decide NOT to take part in things such as this will be punished or pushed out.

      Can current chaps speak to this particular issue?

      • http://www.rmpca.org Brad Edwards

        In the National Guard, marriage retreats (like “Strong Bonds” or “Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage”) are funded by Family Programs, but led and directed by Chaplains. My state generally has at least 2 annual events for this, where one is explicitly Christian and the other is non-religious (although we Chaplains absolutely include principles of common grace as a foundation throughout). The latter provides unbelievably fruitful opportunity to still have Gospel conversations with soldiers who are open to it, and is a really really good thing.

        No one is going to be punished for their religious convictions, only held to the standard that Christ even more bluntly does in treating others with dignity and respect: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

        • Patrick

          Is everyone talking past each other here? I’m not making the point that people need to be mean to non-christians. But as the Louie Griglio event taught us, and as the Tim Tebow event taught (no matter whatever you think of Jeffries), there is a price to pay for holding orthodox Christian beliefs. No amount “Love your neighbor” will change that. I am not saying that you don’t love your neighbor, but that admonition isn’t going to change the fact that the operating space for confessing Christians in the public sphere is getting smaller. That’s never a good thing.

          • Patrick

            That’s never a good thing for the PEOPLE that God wants us to reach.

  • http://www.rmpca.org Brad Edwards

    I know I’ve been commenting a lot, but can I just say that perhaps the biggest difficulty we (the Church) have with this is not that we are being persecuted, but that we have been way too comfortably resting in our place of cultural majority. Now that we are losing influence within our culture (arguably, due to our own complacency), we mistakenly believe that this is persecution.

    It’s not. Chinese Christians experience persecution. Ugandan Christians experience persecution. Reformation Christians burnt at the stake experienced persecution. This stuff is junior varsity at best, and if we cannot humbly and selflessly love the lost because we are so concerned about losing our “rights,” we are hardly “picking up our cross” and following Jesus. It could be a hell of a lot more painful.

    And if it is already painful, perhaps we’re just out of practice.

    • http://simplyxian.com T.C. Judd

      Great thoughts, through and through, Brad. I appreciate your thoughtfulness and candor on a very emotionally charged subject.

      Keep being salt and light, my brother.

      • http://www.rmpca.org Brad Edwards

        Much appreciated bro, and likewise on all counts!

  • http://highplainsparson.wordpress.com Riley

    Servicemen and women who oppose homosexuality will be blacklisted and churned out just as they previously were if they opposed feminism, which was my experience as a military officer. Dissent from the official agenda will not be tolerated, for chaplains or any other soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines.

  • Randy

    Ditto to what Brad has been saying. I’m a retired Navy chaplain (retired in 2010) and I honestly don’t see anything new here. We’ve always had the tension between serving Ceasar and God.

    I was never forced to marry, baptize or give communion to anyone who did not meet my denomination’s requirements for such.

    I was never forced to participate in worship with anyone who did not meet the standards of ordination in my denominationl (women, non-Trinitarians etc…)and I always enjoyed freedom of speech.

    We are called to be wise as serpents and gentle as doves.

  • Randy

    OBTW The Navy Chaplain Corps motto was changed a few years ago from “Cooperation Without Compromise” to “Called to Serve.”

  • http://www.espn.com Genesis Guerrero

    I agree with what Brad has been saying. I’m an USAFR chaplain candidate and in my limited experience and training, I have always been told to honor the tenants of my faith.

  • John

    I believe that what people may be most concerned about is the current administration’s relentless efforts to separate an individual from their corporation and force their corporation to do something that is opposed to their current religious disposition. As a veteran, I can easily see this bleeding into other areas. Particularly, what Chap. Bebee is alluding to.

    Yes, donning the uniform of Caesar is an interesting theological question. Yes, the current climate in the military allows Chaplains to operate freely and subversively when necessary… however, the increasing nature of totalitarian force is slightly alarming. It certainly is not something that flies in the face of God’s sovereignty but neither was communism in Russia and it was still alarming.

    Secular humanism is evolving into a totalitarian state (and has been for some time)

  • Lori

    I am so heartened by the comments that Brad Edwards and T.C. Judd have made on this thread. The men and women under your care are no doubt greatly impacted by your service and love.

  • Colin Mattoon

    I’m not as familiar with military chaplaincy as hospital chaplaincy but if military chaplaincy follows APC (Association of Professional Chaplains) standards there is a solid argument to be made from the association’s standards and practices documents against having to perform any duty that violates your/your denomination’s beliefs. There are some liberal chaplains who look down on chaplains who make this argument and will argue back that chaplains shouldn’t deny care to any faith if it disagrees with their own. While this argument is made the official ethics policy states that a chaplain may not be coerced to give care that violates the care of his belief system. If I had any problems I just said “I can’t do X (paedobaptism for example)because my sponsoring church would have issues with an ordained minister in our tradition doing this” and there was no problem. While there will no doubt be pressures placed on all chaplains if this policy changes there is a safe way to refuse to give “pastoral care” in a way that violates conscience within APC standards. The real questions, from my perspective, are 1- how long will it be til APC decides to change their standards. 2- how long will chaplains who belong to denominations holding to traditional marriage continue to be hired? will they be blacklisted?

  • Jay

    I sense the urgency and the importance of what this law protect. I write to encourage you that there is no need to fear. Of your four points, I estimate this is going on already. It is not official policy, but as a protestant chaplain you would probably already serve along side an “openly” gay chaplain. Additionally, you certainly serve alongside an “openly” Mormon one – and I contend their theology is more perverted.
    I fear you have bifurcated the issue. Serving Caesar or serving the Lord? Aren’t you serving the soldiers under the commissioning of Caesar, in the authority of the Lord? Are you afraid this will affect rank? promotions? salary?
    What truly is your point? That chaplains will suffer for the gospel? Then I will commit to praying for them all the more.

    • http://highplainsparson.wordpress.com Riley

      Andy, exactly. In the military, unlike other occupations, there is no the right to privately disagree, practically speaking. You spend so much time, including off duty time, with comrades that they actually get to know what your beliefs are. And if you’re not fitting the mold or personally and actively agreeing with the stated policies, you will not be considered leadership potential, and you will be drummed out eventually. I am a former military officer, and I experienced this kind of thing regarding my convictions that conflict with feminism. “Gay rights” will now be viewed much the same way as “mysogyny” or racism. Regardless of the way you conduct yourself in official duties, you will not be considered to be in line with the values of the organization if you do not personally espouse them. Therefore, you will not be given leadership opportunities. Unlike you, I do not believe that Christians serving in the military should have less freedom of religious expression if they are not Chaplains.

  • Andy

    I can’t speak for Chaplains, but I can speak from almost 2 decades of active service and from the current position of an active duty Naval officer who follows Christ. Non-chaplain Christians serving in the military, specifically in leadership positions, are certainly being pressured to conform to the dictates of our culture-led government, period. The pressure is coming from many different angles, both by overt and less obvious ways. If this is disputed, someone is being naive. Yes, I’ve always had to “be careful” with when I share gospel truth to subordinates, peers, and even my superiors, because of the accepted belief in church and state; but within the last few years that pressure has grown tremendously. The culture of tolerance that America has so happily embraced has, at least on the issue of homosexuality in the military, become a culture of forced acceptance. One in which if you disagree from the inside, you will be corrected in some form or fashion. If I verbalized my belief that homosexuality is a sin in front of my sailors and/or peers right now, I have no doubt I would have a complaint filed against me and face reprimand of some type to include being removed from my position. Chaplains have more freedom to express their faith, and rightfully so; but in my opinion, that is likely at risk as well if things continue to progress as they have in recent years. Either way, if Christians concede the battlefield that is the ranks of the U.S. military to the enemy, darkness will have prevailed. I’m not ready to give up just yet.

  • Rick

    Thank you Bad Edwards (and the other chaplains) for your comments and for your ministry to the troops.

    Maybe Christians need to worry less about what might happen and deal with today. I heard so much of this kind of fear in the last election.

    for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, (2 Timothy 1:7-8 ESV)

    • Rick

      Brad, sorry about that

      • Brad Edwards

        Thanks Rick… what a powerful thing it would be if a critical mass of Christians in our military (and country) were more driven to their advocacy by grace than fear? Very well said.

  • Brad Edwards

    And with that last comment, I think I need to turn the email notifications “off” on this post. There’s entirely too much work to be done, too many hurting and broken people in need of Christ’s love to spend all our time on a blog, and I’m too limited to foolishly believe I can do both well. I appreciate the lively discussion and apologize if my impassioned pleas have ruffled any feathers.

    Godspeed to all the Chaplains and saints in the military. “Give to caesar what is caesar’s, and give to God what is God’s.” Peace.

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  • NT

    History will prove the ignorance of those who doubted CH Bebee’s prophetic words in this post.

    An update to the conversation: http://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/tgc/2013/05/01/will-the-pentagon-prohibit-the-great-commission/

  • NT

    Yet more updates. Much sooner than any of us thought, we are being proven correct: http://www.albertmohler.com/2013/09/17/can-evangelical-chaplains-serve-god-and-country-the-crisis-arrives/