Military Chaplainscomment (0)
July 17, 2003
Thank you for your recent article on military chaplains. I’m glad this issue is finally getting the attention it deserves. As an active duty chaplain I actually “pastor” larger congregations than most Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) churches. I alone currently have oversight for more than 3,000 active duty sailors and their families.
The point I want to make is that it really doesn’t matter whether SBC people want their chaplains to be clergy or not. The fact is that in the military a chaplain is expected to preach, administer the ordinances on a regular basis and perform weddings and funeral/memorial services. One of the reasons the Supreme Court still allows chaplains on active duty and paid by the military (it’s been challenged many times on the basis of separation of church and state) is because we are the only ones who can provide what our constitution guarantees — freedom of religion — to our service members.
To offer a separate class of chaplains — i.e. non-ordained to provide only spiritual counsel — I feel would put the whole idea of military chaplains in jeopardy from a legal standpoint. We must provide more than what a social worker would.
I was once endorsed by the then-Home Mission Board (am still a member of a SBC church) but changed endorsers over the very issue of endorsed women. Back then, the SBC endorsed more women than any other denomination. It seemed inconceivable to me and at best inconsistent with the heart and soul of our churches.
I might have never changed my endorsement if it had been settled earlier.
Randy E. Williams
Grand Bay, Ala.