« U.N. Passes Religious Freedom Resolution | Main | Poll Finds Religious Split in GOP Presidential Primaries »

March 25, 2011

Chaplains Offered Exit Plan as Gay Training Starts

The Army has started training chaplains on the repeal of the ban on openly gay military members, saying those who are unable to follow the forthcoming policy can seek a voluntary departure.

"The Chaplains Corps' First Amendment freedoms and its duty to care for all will not change," reads a slide in the PowerPoint presentation, released to Religion News Service Thursday. "Soldiers will continue to respect and serve with others who may hold different views
and beliefs."

Critics familiar with the Army presentation, however, say the military is essentially telling chaplains who are theologically conservative that they are not welcome.

"U.S. Army now warning chaplains: If you don't like the homosexual agenda, get out!" reads a headline on the website of Mass Resistance, an anti-gay group based in Waltham, Mass.

President Obama signed a law repealing Don't Ask/Don't Tell last December, but the new policy will not take effect until 60 days after Obama and military leaders are assured that it will not harm military readiness.

Lt. Col. Carleton Birch, a spokesman for the Army chief of chaplains, said about half of the military service's 2,900 chaplains have received the training, which started in February and is likely to
conclude in April.

"Our training is an opportunity for our senior chaplains to have an honest and open conversation about the repeal policy, its effects on them and their ministry," Birch said. "And it's going very well. ... In no way are we giving the message, shape up or ship out."

Birch said only one Army chaplain has left the service over the pending repeal of Don't Ask/Don't Tell.


Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness, an independent group that strongly opposes gays serving openly in the military, predicts more departures when the policy is lifted.

"The training is engaging in a form of strategic deception," she said. "I think active-duty people are being reassured nothing will change. That is an unrealistic expectation."

Donnelly, whose center received the presentation from a source and has distributed it among supporters, hopes an upcoming House subcommittee hearing will address questions about the effects of the policy change on chaplains.

"Many may be saying that now they will not leave voluntarily," she said, "but that doesn't account for those who would be forced out involuntarily when all of these conflicts become more apparent."

The Army slides include various vignettes, including a soldier who complains after a chaplain calls homosexuality a sin during a chapel service. Notes that accompany the presentation specify that sermons cannot be restricted "even with regard to socially controversial topics."

Birch said the vignette does not represent any change in policy.

"In my 23 years as a soldier in the Army, I've never heard a sermon specifically on homosexuality," he said. "So even though they have the right to do that, that doesn't mean that it's going on every Sunday in our chapels."

The other military services also have begun training of chaplains, with the Navy starting in February and planning to complete it by June. The Air Force started its training in March and hopes to finish by May.

Maj. Joel Harper, a spokesman for the Air Force, said none of that military service's 520 active-duty chaplains has asked to leave over the expected repeal. He called the training "informative in nature" about how the policy changes will affect them.

"It is not an attempt to change anyone's opinion about the subject," he said.

Comments

Army chaplains are very different than civilian clergymen and always have been. While civilian clergy can choose to only welcome certain populations, it seems that an army chaplain is duty-bound to serve all soldiers. This does not mean calling sin good, but it does mean hearing them out and offering the most honest pastoring they can.

I honestly don't see how the repeal changes anything. Chaplains before were obligated to serve all soldiers. Maybe now they know they're gay. But they were gay before, and if a pastor couldn't minister to their situation even before the ban, I personally think they are failing as both a pastor and a chaplain. That failing is just more obvious now.

Well now! What are they going to do and where are they going to hide, those who though the Military is some sort of special "branch" of Christendom?

How many preachers and how many churches, are going to continue lending their pulpits to the local Military recruiters?

There were and there have always been Homosexuals in the Military. As there were and are Adulterers, Fornicators, Idolaters, murderers, drunkards, thieves, blasphemers and whatever have you.

In spite of that or in ignorance of the facts. Many so called "pastors" and "churches" allowed these recruiters to use their pulpits for years to entice and mislead young "christian" men and women into joining the Military.

I don't think that's going to change now just because one more sinful behaviour is allowed. If they did allow it in the past, they'll continue to allow in the future.


.

I cannot imagine a true pastor would resign from the chaplincy because of this. Years ago I read this short poem in a short biography of Jonathan Goforth, a Canadian missionary to China. It illustrate the heart of a pastor:
"Some want to live
within the sound of church or chapel bell;
I want to run a rescue shop
within a yard of hell."
The military is just another mission field to be called to. Some will answer the call.

Hey! Salero21. Long time no hear from.

For what it’s worth, I really don’t care if any soldier, Gay OR Straight, is disciplined or booted out of the military because of inappropriate conduct when on-duty. That’s not what’s at issue here. A qualified soldier should not be at risk for losing his career simply because of who he’s dating on his own time.

Hold all soldiers to the same standards of professional behavior, regardless of their sexual orientation, and the military will be able to do its job just fine. We don’t need DADT to accomplish that goal.

As for the fears of a few chaplains, they are in a unique situation, in that they are SUPPOSED to provide spiritual comfort and support to soldiers of ANY faith, not just their own. I would fully expect a Jewish chaplain to have enough understanding of the Christian or Muslims faiths that he would be able to provide a mortally wounded Christian or Muslim soldier spiritual comfort, without necessarily compromising his own beliefs. It would not be appropriate for a Christian chaplain to tell a mortally-wounded Jewish or Hindu soldier, “You’re going to HELL if you don’t accept Jesus as your Savior!”

Chaplains are supposed to be ecumenical than that. Frankly I wouldn’t want any chaplain, whose position is funded by taxpayers, to be preaching against Gay soldiers any more than they should be preaching against Muslim soldiers.

Should I surmise that people consider homosexuals as sinners?
I know that Jesus defines ALL sin (like theft, murder etc.) as demonstrations of love lacking and people being hurt...or worse! So please explain to me how loving someone of your own gender is considered sinful. Is this the only sin that is committed out of love?

Many Presidents have had the awful responsibility of sending soldiers to their death, but Obama seems to wanna make sure their souls are as dead as their bodies

What is missing in every article or comment about this issue is the recognition of the homosexual community political agenda in the past. Will it suddenly become silent once DADT is removed? They claim nothing will change. But when it is removed homoerotic behavior becomes protected just as any minority has civil rights. The protection they will demand is to be MORE EQUAL than heterosexuals. There will not be any hate speech protection for heterosexuals, but there will be for the homosexual community. A chaplain need not preach on the subject, but any chapel attender can pick up the Bible in the pew and read what the homosexual community considers hate speech and the chaplain and other Christians consider to be the authoritative Word of God. How soon will they demand that those Bibles be amended or removed? When the Chaplain is asked directly by a soldier what he, or God, or the Bible teaches about the practice of homosexuality, will the chaplain be charged with a civil rights complaint if the answer is not what the homosexual expects as the ONLY acceptable answer? The pollyannas who expect smooth sailing haven't been observing the culture very well, and are blowing smoke when they say nothing is going to change!

I foresee disaster coming donw the road for America. Every group wants to be cominant and in control, This is just s true for the Gays as for democrats and the republicans. A peaceful model for power was worked out before the two major parties appeared, and that is why they functioned so well. this model has not considered that the Gays wi9ll use ever means at their disposal to expand their power. Like the one who treatened me one time. He later murdered an elderly man with his fists. The state of our prisons is well known. Soon our military will be, and the end will be horrendous!

That sounds pretty dire, Dr JW. But I don't think you have to worry. What some call the gay agenda is simply a minority group who have been marginalised and maligned for many decades now seeking the recognition they deserve and which others take for granted. Yes, there are winds of change blowing briskly. But homosexuality is not contagious and you do not have to worry about them making it compulsory. Blessings.

"What some call the gay agenda is simply a minority group who have been marginalised and maligned for many decades now seeking the recognition they deserve and which others take for granted."

Yes, gays want recognition as in affirmation. We must approve of them and tell them they are OK. But gay behavior is most obviously disordered and not OK. Basic anatomy screams against it. Desire does not define identity, never has, never will.

Certainly there are other sins allowed in the military, but homosexual is something that is unconditionally wrong according to the Scriptures, unlike heterosexual relations which are sanctified by marriage, which Jesus Himself stated is between a man and a women. And though we are all sinners, and there is room at the cross for all who repent and believe on the Lord Jesus to save them, to sanction sin is to invite ruin.

General Washington would not allow even swearing, and dismissed a homosexual soldier, while as a country we are fighting God in many more ways. Thus how can we as a country hope in Divine assistance when we are at war with God?