The North American Mission Board, the domestic arm of the Southern Baptist Convention's mission outreach programs, has issued guidelines ordering the religion's military chaplains not to perform, attend or participate in same sex weddings in any way. According to the Baptist Press, the guidelines were issued Friday and go into effect immediately.

In addition to ordering Baptist chaplains to adhere to the church's "marriage is for one man and one woman" line doctrinally and pastorally, the guidelines say, "NAMB-endorsed chaplains will not conduct or attend a wedding ceremony for any same-sex couple, bless such a union or perform counseling in support of such a union, assist or support paid contractors or volunteers leading same-sex relational events, nor offer any kind of relationship training or retreat, on or off of a military installation, that would give the appearance of accepting the homosexual lifestyle or sexual wrongdoing. This biblical prohibition remains in effect irrespective of any civil law authorizing same-sex marriage or benefits to the contrary."

They are also forbidden from attending any worship service that is presided over by any LGBT member of the clergy.

NAMB President Kevin Ezell told the Baptist Press, "For many members of our military -- especially those deployed around the globe -- our chaplains are the only pastors they have. That's why it is so important that they uphold sound doctrine while showing everyone the love and forgiveness Jesus offers. We all need to be committed to praying for them in these challenging days."

The guidelines also state that Baptist chaplains shall not be infringed upon by the U.S. Department of Defense if they choose to promote anti-LGBT views and call same sex relationships a sin and a moral degradation. Their pastors should be free to "preach, teach and counsel in accordance with the tenets of their denominational faith group and their own religious conscience," said the board.

Such measures, said the board, are necessary to "protect" Christians from "discrimination."

"These guidelines simply provide clarification on specific issues and give our chaplains the freedom and protection for their ministry," said retired Army Baptist chaplain Douglas Carver, director of NAMB's chaplaincy wing.

Jason Torpy at the Military Association for Atheists and Freethinkers (MAAF) wrote on Tuesday that by refusing chaplaincy services to same sex couples or LGBT military, the Southern Baptist chaplains are placing themselves in violation of the military chaplain code, which guarantees equal service for all.

The new NAMB guidelines, wrote Torpy, will place Southern Baptist chaplains in a position of having to obey the new edicts or align themselves with another faith.

"For those chaplains who disagree with the new and clarified SBC policy," he said, "there are a number of welcoming Baptist denominations who I’m sure stand ready to affirm their faith and endorse their continued Baptist chaplain work outside the SBC and within the military. Chaplain (Colonel) Timothy Wagoner left the Southern Baptists after he was excoriated publicly for simply attending a same-gender wedding (before this policy was in explicit). Other SBC chaplains should prepare to walk that same road. Whatever the DoD decides, the SBC policy is clear and discriminatory and may run off some of its own chaplains."

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