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Attendance At Civil Union Ceremony Results In A Change Of Denomination

W300-084248ff4c4af1192ea7b086bfae4101Col. Timothy Wagoner, a Christian chaplain with the United States Air Force, has departed the Southern Baptist Convention after complaints about his attendance at a same-sex civil union ceremony.

Col. Wagoner did not officiate at the ceremony -- he'd previously made clear that he would conduct no rituals that violate the teachings of his denomination. From The Oklahoman:

Wagoner had told the AP that he decided to attend as a show of support for the base community, for [Tech Sgt. Erwynn Umali, who was being joined in a civil union to civilian Will Behrens], and for the Evangelical Lutheran chaplain, Col. Kay Reeb, who presided over it.

“I wouldn’t miss it,” Wagoner said, describing the ceremony as beautiful.

The ceremony occurred in June, and Wagoner's conversation with the AP took place in either late June or early July. The resulting article, "Air Force chaplains adjust to gays serving openly," was blogged about here by Andrew Belonsky, under the title "No 'Mass Exodus' Of Military Chaplains Post DADT-Repeal." The article was also noticed by Col. Wagoner's co-religionists, who must hope that the DADT repeal will at least result in a mass exodus from the Southern Baptist Convention. The SBC Press got Col. Wagoner on-record against same-sex unions, explaining that he was in attendance at the civil union ceremony only as a sign of friendship and respect, and not because of any theological agreement. This wasn't satisfactory. It is not enough, in the Southern Baptist Convention, to object to same-sex unions; one must also boycott them, and treat those engaged in them with either hostility or indifference. The Southern Baptist Convention planned a videoconference with its chaplains to explain this point, and Col. Wagoner, after 20 years with the Convention, decided he'd had enough. The SBC Press announced his departure on the 20th. He will continue to serve as a chaplain under the imprimatur of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

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  1. Evolution happens slowly, imperceptibly, if at all. Mr. Wagoner still doesn't support marriage equality. This was just the typical internal squabble of the Southern Baptist cult. His "You can't make me!" in response to their "You must do it OUR way." Amusing, but insignificant.

    Posted by: Arbiter | Jul 28, 2012 11:52:15 AM

  2. It is encouraging to see a conservative evangelical with both a loving approach and the courage of his convictions. I am convinced that there are some in the evangelical tradition who are not as blind in their dogma as the Southern Baptist denomination seems to be as a whole. I don't agree with him theologically, but we can agree to disagree and still cooperate. The Southern Baptists, by losing him, are on the road to losing their most valuable asset: thinking clergy. Good for him and good for the U.S. Military that there are still clergy who can think.

    Posted by: Alex Parrish | Jul 28, 2012 11:52:41 AM

  3. This is the same church that preached to slaves to "obey master."

    Posted by: QJ201 | Jul 28, 2012 12:20:40 PM

  4. I thought the 'Southern Baptists' were now the 'Great Commission Baptists'.

    Posted by: Johnson | Jul 28, 2012 12:28:09 PM

  5. It all seems so much like "Junior High Clique" behavior to me. They're mad he didn't snub the couple he apparently knew and respected, in keeping with their ideology. "The friend of my imaginary enemy is my enemy." And it IS imaginary because their union has FA to do with anyone else's marriage.

    There's a good article at Slate about the on-base wedding of Sgt Umali and Mr Behrens, which is both touching and frustrating. Both were raised in rigidly, maybe even abusively religious homes and their rather conservative faith is central to their lives, so it's not surprising their paths crossed with Col. Wagner's. Their parents didn't attend but other family members did, and even though they clearly love the couple and were touched by the ceremony at the same time they were condemning them as sinners. That's what was frustrating for me.

    Even though I vehemently disagree with Col Wagner on the issue of marriage it's clear he's a better man than the ideologues of the SBC, willing to put aside his religious/political opposition out of respect for the couple, even describing the ceremony as "beautiful." It's a small step, but a step nonetheless, and for him it may be the first of many. I'm as angry with those I consider to be religious obsessives as anyone, but IMO it's a mistake to condemn even small steps as not enough, to insist that it must be all or nothing. Isn't that the same thing the SBC is doing?

    Posted by: Caliban | Jul 28, 2012 12:31:55 PM

  6. So now you cannot even ASSOCIATE with "Teh Gheys." Wow.

    Posted by: Rev. Verdon Coleman | Jul 28, 2012 12:32:18 PM

  7. @QJ201
    They still do. A Baptist church in Mississippi has just refused to marry a black couple

    Posted by: Steve | Jul 28, 2012 12:43:24 PM

  8. And THIS is why I advocate caution all the time. This minister's willingness to attend a gay marriage ceremony that he would never agree to perform himself shows that many SSM opponents are starting to realize their side is losing - and adapting to the new realities. At the very least people like him can influence others in the evangelical fold to take a more civil and respectful attitude toward gay married couples. If they are able to do this a lot of their will to fight on the issue may dissolve. This is better for gays - and better for the whole country.

    Posted by: Mary | Jul 28, 2012 12:47:30 PM

  9. Good points Caliban. Unfortunately some people on "our side" will bash this guy for his comments against gay marriage, but clearly he's a considerate, compassionate guy.

    Posted by: Joe in CT | Jul 28, 2012 1:01:52 PM

  10. For those of you who don't see this as a win for marriage equality, please look closer. Every significant change starts with one tiny step. This man has just turned his back on the denomination for which he ministered. That is not a tiny step, that's a leap of faith. Good for him for opening his mind, showing his respect, and questioning the unyielding nature of conviction.

    Posted by: Kenneth | Jul 28, 2012 1:45:43 PM

  11. It only took the Southern Baptist Convention 130 years to get around to finally apologizing for their promotion of slavery that marked the origins of their organization. I reckon in the year 2142, they'll finally get around to apologizing for their current hatred of gays.

    Posted by: bobbyjoe | Jul 28, 2012 1:48:17 PM

  12. I agree that this man should be commended for, at the very least, being respectful even though he disagrees personally with same-sex unions. With that being said, this war that these fundamentalists, such as the Southern Baptist Convention, are waging against our community is clearly not going to work out well for them in the end.

    Posted by: Francis | Jul 28, 2012 2:31:35 PM

  13. OK -- I'm confused.

    I thought military chaplins were required by the military to minister to the needs of any and all soldiers, regardless of that soldier's religion.

    So, the Southern Baptists had a conference call telling their military chaplins to show hostility and disdain to the troops that the military requires them to support.

    Seems that the Southern Baptist need to either remove their chaplins or else adhere to their agreement with the Department of Defense.

    Posted by: Continuum | Jul 28, 2012 3:36:04 PM

  14. A christian acting like Jesus. Hmm!

    Posted by: truthteller | Jul 28, 2012 4:01:35 PM

  15. The guy looks like a sap who is beginning to realize he's been played and can no longer look at himself in the mirror. What a way to make a living, but then, no heavy lifting involved. I guess they have to swallow their pride to get that easy pay check.

    Posted by: macadamia nut | Jul 28, 2012 4:12:42 PM

  16. I believe continuum is onto something. For the denomination to tell its chaplains to put their SBCs instructions above the rules of their jobs is interesting...

    Posted by: BobN | Jul 28, 2012 6:55:06 PM

  17. Continuum: You are forgetting about DOMA, which is still the law of the land that DoD must adhere to, as well as that no chaplain may be forced to perform a ceremony that contravenes the tenets of their faith. The First Amendment also applies in this too. So, for example, the Catholics would have to make space for Satanists in the base chapel, and may even provide counseling to adherents of that faith, but cannot be forced to perform Satanist ceremonies. Yeah, I'm using what may be an extreme example but given how the SBC (and Catholic Church for that matter) views SSM, perhaps not that much.

    Posted by: JohnAGJ | Jul 28, 2012 7:48:29 PM

  18. Golf clap to this guy.

    We need more thinking Chaplins. While I disagree with his stance on marriage (obviously) the SBC is being ridiculous here. His orders in the military are to minister to ::all:: not just some. Thankfully he's found a church that will allow him to continue to do that.

    Posted by: Eric | Jul 28, 2012 9:54:37 PM

  19. Having grown up in the South, I believe the SBC is one of the major reasons that the South remains so backward.

    Posted by: darkmoonman | Jul 29, 2012 1:28:25 PM

  20. This is what happens, Col. Wagoner, when you do the "Christian thing" by not judging and showing love and respect towards others: you get ravaged by all those other so-called "christians" who cannot see beyond their narrow, bigoted, petty political "christianity" and keep the larger view of Christ's teachings in their hearts.

    They lose, sir. However, you have won. Big time.

    Posted by: jamal49 | Jul 29, 2012 1:57:15 PM

  21. Who cares. All religion is myth. This is 2012. Rely only on reason and science.

    Posted by: andrew | Jul 30, 2012 9:53:15 AM

  22. Well, now he knows where he went wrong. Too bad he wasted his life.

    Posted by: wimsy | Aug 2, 2012 7:57:51 PM

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