LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The Southern Baptist Convention, which provides the largest share of active-duty military chaplains, has barred members from taking part in weddings, counseling sessions and couples retreats for same-sex couples.
The North American Mission Board, an arm of the Nashville, Tenn.-based SBC, also prohibits chaplains from participating in any services that would appear to endorse or accept same-sex unions.
The group issued the decision in the wake of the U.S. Department of Defense recognizing same-sex marriages and extending benefits to gay spouses.
“Our chaplains want to uphold the authority and relevancy of Scripture while continuing to serve in a very diverse setting,” Doug Carver, a retired Army major general who leads NAMB’s chaplaincy efforts, said in a statement. “We believe these updated guidelines will help them do that while still sharing the love and the hope of Christ with everyone.”
Defense Department spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen said chaplains may participate in private ceremonies on or off military installations as long as the ceremony is legal under state and local law.
“Further, a chaplain is not required to participate in or officiate a private ceremony if doing so would be in variance with the tenets of his or her religion or personal beliefs,” Christensen said.
The Pentagon, following a Supreme Court decision on the Defense of Marriage Act, said last month same-sex spouses of troops will be eligible for the same health care, housing and other benefits as heterosexual spouses. The policy went into effect earlier this month.