Word from the Center: Friday, September 28, 2018

Welcome to “Word from The Center” FRIDAY, a Two-Kingdom, practical reflection on the issues of the day from the Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty. I’m Gregory Seltz. Today’s topic/issue….

They Say It Won’t Happen Here, Right? Wrong!

One of the privileges of working in Washington D.C. is to be involved with the Chaplaincy program of our Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, to watch LCMS pastors serve their country by serving the men and women who wear the uniforms of our nation. One of the great struggles of my work in D.C., though, is to also see the pain that our government is inflicting on many of those chaplains, ours and others, as they strive to be faithful to their calling and to the people they serve.

For instance, just this past month, an army Chaplain, Scott Squires, and his assistant have come under fire for compassionately doing their duty. That’s right. They did everything correctly, and are still under fire. Now who is Chaplain Squires? He is a decorated soldier of 25 years, having seen multiple tours in Afghanistan, Africa, and the Middle East, and is now stationed at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. He is an honorable, dedicated chaplain to all whom he serves.

What has him in trouble at the moment is the fact that he, according to proper Army protocol, declined to conduct a “Strong Bonds” marriage retreat that was to include a same-sex couple. Since this violated his religious beliefs and the beliefs of his “endorsing agency,” the Southern Baptist Convention, he followed protocol and did what his orders would have him do. He rescheduled the event and arranged for another chaplain, who had no conflict of interest, to do the retreat. But this was not good enough for the couple. They filed a discrimination complaint against him and his assistance. [For more, see https://www.toddstarnes.com/show/army-chaplain-assistant-accused-of-discriminating-against-same-sex-couple/.]

He followed protocol. He honored the same-sex couple’s right to attend a rescheduled seminar at their convenience. He arranged for leadership to conduct that seminar for them according to proscribed procedure. And, though his overseeing officer judged that he had done all things correctly, the couple demanded an appeal that now has this Chaplain under investigation with court-marshal and jail as potential outcomes (Thankfully, the final verdict was in the Chaplain’s favor, though it should never have gotten to the point it did). Ironically, the couple didn’t even attend the re-scheduled seminar after all!

Our LCMS chaplains, like this Southern Baptist Chaplain, need your prayers. They provide a tremendous service to those who are in the midst of the ugliness of war and battle, who need spiritual guidance and protection as they face life and death decisions that affect them and many others as well. Spiritual leadership and support in these cases is not something to be trifled with. Social experimentation here can have far-reaching consequences, especially when those who need spiritual support don’t get it…or when those who are faithful to their callings and to their orders are unjustly accused for the sake of political expediency.

This is the world we live in today. That’s why religious liberty is so important, not only to our culture, but to our Church. The freedom to be Christ’s people for others so that they might know Him as their Lord and Savior too, is the most  wonderful gift. In these times, it’s going to take more effort just to be God’s people in this world for others. But, thank God, He has still provided us the ability to put our temporal liberties and our religious liberties to work for the sake of the Gospel ministry of Christ for others. Things happening with Chaplains, if not properly dealt with, will soon become issues for our schools and universities, and, eventually, our Churches and people. It’s already happening right here in America, but, prayerfully, it can and it should be stopped here and now.