December 2010

Submit nominations for Convention committees

December 13 2010 by BSC Communications

North Carolina Baptists still have time to submit recommendations of people to serve on the Baptist State Convention’s (BSC) Board of Directors, the boards of the Convention’s agencies and institutions, and Convention committees.

The Convention’s Committee on Nominations seeks diversity among the recommendations that will represent churches of various sizes, various professional and educational backgrounds, ethnic and racial diversity, geographical areas, different age groups, and lay persons as well as ministers.

BSC bylaws require the Committee on Nominations to recommend to the Convention nominees from both small and large churches (over/under 400 members), limit churches to no more than six individuals from a single church serving on all Convention boards and committees, and limit BSC Board of Director membership to one member from any church.  An individual may only serve on a single committee, whereas in the past individuals could serve in more than one place at one time.

Therefore, it is essential for North Carolina Baptists to recommend more individuals to serve on the Board of Directors and Convention committees. Nominations are due January 31, 2011.

For questions related to the recommendation process, contact Cynthia King at (800) 395-5102, ext. 5501 or
12/13/2010 5:58:00 AM by BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Religious people happier with friends in pews

December 10 2010 by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service

Close friendships among congregants, rather than theology seem to be the key to happiness among religious people, according to a new study.

One-third of Americans who attend religious services weekly and have three to five close friends in the congregation said they are “extremely satisfied” with their lives.

In comparison, only one in five Americans who attend services weekly but have no close friends in the congregation say they are extremely satisfied.

“In short, ‘sitting alone in the pew’ does not enhance one’s life satisfaction,” conclude authors Chaeyoon Lim of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Robert D. Putnam of Harvard University in a December article in the American Sociological Review.

“Only when one forms social networks in a congregation does religious service attendance lead to a higher level of life satisfaction.”

Researchers found that 23 percent of people who attend religious services several times a year and have three to five close friends in the congregation are extremely satisfied. About a fifth of people who never attend services say they are extremely satisfied with their lives.

The findings are from the Faith Matters Survey of U.S. adults, which included 3,108 people in 2006 and 1,915 in 2007.
12/10/2010 2:41:00 PM by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

NAMB retirees include 3 vice presidents

December 9 2010 by Adam Miller, Baptist Press

ALPHARETTA, Ga. — Two longtime North American Mission Board (NAMB) vice presidents have announced they will take the voluntary retirement offer NAMB has extended to all staff members age 54 and older who have at least five years of service.

Richard Harris, vice president of the Sending Missionaries Group and NAMB’s interim president from August 2009 until mid-September 2010, and Harry Lewis, vice president of partnership missions and mobilization, will retire Dec. 31. David Meacham, NAMB’s vice president of associational strategies, retired Oct. 31.

The three will leave the mission board with legacies that span decades and with plans to continue their ministries in other areas for years to come.

“NAMB and Southern Baptists owe each of these men a debt of gratitude for all of their faithful years of service,” NAMB President Kevin Ezell said. “They have served in many capacities over the years and each leaves a legacy that will continue far beyond their last day of service to NAMB.”

Harris began work with the Home Mission Board (NAMB’s predecessor) in 1981 in the area of mass evangelism. In addition to serving in pastorates in Kentucky and Texas, Harris served in more than 25 interim pastorates in the Atlanta area before and during his work with HMB/NAMB.

During his 29-year tenure with NAMB, Harris also served as national chairman of four national evangelism emphases, including “Good News America” and “Here’s Hope” as well as vice president of church planting from 1997-2007.

“Get yourself where God can use you and He’ll wear you out,” said Harris, paraphrasing a favorite preacher, Vance Havner.

In his early years, Harris said he sensed God’s call to national ministry, which was fulfilled with his arrival at the Home Mission Board. There God used Him to help lead Southern Baptists in evangelism efforts, in providing language resources for cross-cultural church planting and in raising the standards for missionary applicants.

“I’m excited about the future,” Harris said. “When I started out in ministry I committed to be in the center of God’s will. As long as I’m there I know I’m in the right place.”

Harris will continue to work with NAMB in the entity’s relationships with Baptist state conventions. He and his wife Nancy have two sons and five grandchildren. They plan to stay in the Atlanta area.

Lewis served as a pastor for nearly 20 years. During that time, he also filled several denominational leadership posts, including serving as a member of the SBC Executive Committee, president of the California Southern Baptist Convention and on the board of trustees for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He came to NAMB in 1997 to serve as a regional coordinator to develop missions and evangelism strategies for associations and state conventions in the Midwest and Canada. Lewis was promoted to NAMB’s vice president of missions and mobilization in 2007.

“I’m not retiring,” Lewis said. “I’m moving on from NAMB but when God puts a call on your life, that doesn’t end with a specific assignment.” He and his wife Shirley will return home to Texas and pursue other ministry opportunities, particularly in the areas of church health and spiritual awakening.

“I have a real heart for spiritual awakening,” Lewis said. “I believe it’s the only hope for Southern Baptists. We’ve lost the passion for making disciples as instructed in Matthew 28:19-20. (Southern Baptists) know what to do but we just don’t do it, and spiritual awakening will renew the passion to do what we know we need to do.”

Meacham began work with HMB/NAMB as a church planter and resort missionary in 1975, following five years as a pastor near Riverside, Calif. Before coming to NAMB in 2008, Meacham served as executive director of the Nevada Baptist Convention and as an associational missionary in Las Vegas. He joined NAMB following his tenure as director of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s Leavell Center for Evangelism and Church Health.

“The basic mission to impact lostness has not changed since I started in church planting 35 years ago,” Meacham said. “I think that at all levels of our denomination the key is for us to help churches be successful in their mission work, and partnership is something I believe will continue to be important in the future.”

Meacham and wife Sue will stay in Cumming, Ga., and serve in teaching and service roles at Castleberry Road Baptist Church, making frequent visits to their children and 12 grandchildren in California, Kansas and Tennessee.

46-year legacy
Brenda Hendrickson, an accounting associate at NAMB, started working on the HMB’s bookkeeping staff at age 18, right out of business college in Knoxville, Tenn.

“I had borrowed the money to go to school and my loan was due,” Hendrickson said. “I really needed a job.”

She was hired in 1964 by B.M. Crane and has seen many changes.

Hendrickson reimbursed field personnel, sent money to state conventions and handled other duties — using manual typewriters, 10-key adding machines, paper filing systems and an office calculator that required a wheel cart of its own to move from desk to desk.

“It’s been constant change ever since I’ve been here,” said Hendrickson, who experiences yet more change this December as one of more than 80 staff retiring from NAMB as part of a voluntary retirement offer extended to all staff members age 54 and older with at least five years’ service.

Other NAMB staff retiring with more than three decades of service are Cheryl Williams, Candy Elliot, Marilyn Taylor and Kendale Moore.

“Brenda is one of the most dedicated, loyal and committed employees I’ve ever worked with,” said NAMB CFO Carlos Ferrer, who has worked with Hendrickson since 1992. “She pretty much took me by the ears when I got here and started teaching me. She’s mentored and taught a lot of people on how we do our work in financial areas. She will be greatly missed.”

With 46 years with HMB/NAMB, Hendrickson is the longest-serving staff member retiring this month.

“I’m glad I had the opportunity to work at the HMB and NAMB. I think I would have missed a lot if I hadn’t had that opportunity,” Hendrickson said.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Miller is a writer for the North American Mission Board.)
12/9/2010 6:27:00 AM by Adam Miller, Baptist Press | with 3 comments

NAMB trustee resigns over Ezell’s actions

December 9 2010 by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press

CUMMING, Ga. — A trustee has resigned from the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) North American Mission Board (NAMB) saying he does not share the vision of the agency’s new president.

“I believe that throughout my life, and particularly as I’ve gotten older, that it’s very important to take your body where your heart is,” Lester Cooper, pastor of Concord Baptist Church in Cumming, Ga., told church members Nov. 28. “If you’ve got your body somewhere where your heart’s not, that just not where it ought to be.”

“I just wanted to share with you this morning — for whatever it’s worth to anybody — that this past week I resigned as trustee of the North American Mission Board,” he said. Cooper added, in an interview with Associated Baptist Press, “My heart is not with the North American Mission Board.” 

Cooper, former director of missions for the Atlanta Association of Southern Baptist Churches, was elected as a NAMB trustee in 2008. He said watching changes made since the election Sept. 14 of Kevin Ezell as the agency’s president “is not what I signed on for.”

On Sept. 30 Ezell announced an early-retirement incentive for employees age 54 and over. The goal is to reduce staff by a net 25 percent by the end of the year — including new people brought in by Ezell.

Cooper said he agrees with the strategy of focusing on church planting in urban areas with large populations, but doesn’t think the way to do it is by losing senior staff members recognized as leading experts in the field.

“I can’t imagine how you can see 80 people leave an organization that has 260 people in it and have any idea of how you are going to function or come to the conclusion of who is going to go before you have been there two months,” Cooper said. “It’s not reasonable, and I cannot get a satisfactory answer from anybody where we are going.”

He also said that since a Great Commission Task Force report adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention calls for a restructuring of NAMB within seven years, he doesn’t understand why decisions are being handed down so quickly and without vote by the board of trustees.

Cooper, 64, said if he were to serve out his term and be re-elected he would be a NAMB trustee until he was 70 and that at that age, “I don’t need any more stress in my life.”

“I do not really see the direction I see it going in as being something that I think is helpful,” he said. “I don’t think that I should stay and stand in the way of what others think need to be done.” Cooper said three NAMB staff members taking the early-retirement option are members of his church.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Cooper, a pastor for more than 30 years with a long record of denominational service. “It’s a new day for Southern Baptists, and I really don’t know what it looks like.”

Ezell said in a statement Dec. 8 that he admires Cooper and appreciates the service he has given as a member of the board of trustees. Ezell said the timing of the voluntary retirement incentive package was driven primarily by changes being implemented by Guidestone Financial Resources.

“The package we offered was as generous as we could make it, and we are also providing employment assistance for those who are seeking work after leaving NAMB,” Ezell said. “These reductions are driven by my firm belief that we need to send more resources to the North American mission field.”

Ezell said just over two months on the job he is moving forward as quickly as he can.

“We haven’t shared details of a new direction yet because we are still in the important phase of meeting with and listening to our state partners,” he said. “We will have a clearer direction to share after NAMB’s next board of trustees meeting in February.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.)
12/9/2010 6:25:00 AM by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press | with 4 comments

Clergy’s reputation hovers in the middle

December 8 2010 by Daniel Burke, Religion News Service

What do nurses, soldiers, pharmacists, elementary school teachers, doctors, and police officers have in common?

Americans say they are all more ethical and honest than members of the clergy, according to a Gallup survey released Dec. 3.

Slightly more than half of Americans (53 percent) rate the moral values of priests, ministers and other clerics as “very high” or “high.” That percentage is a slight bump from 2009, when only 50 percent of Americans said men and women of the cloth are ethical paragons, the lowest number in Gallup’s 32 years of measuring professional reputations.

Before the Roman Catholic clergy sexual abuse scandal erupted in 2002, two-thirds of Americans had regularly approved of ministers’ morals, according to Gallup.

“Stability is generally the norm in Americans’ ratings of the honesty and ethics of professions, but Americans’ opinions do shift in response to real-world events, mostly scandals, that reflect poorly on a profession,” Gallup said.

A third of Americans this year said the clergy’s morals are ‘average,” and 8 percent rated them “poor,” according to the survey.     

Bringing up the bottom of the professional ethics list were lobbyists, car salesmen, and members of Congress.

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Nov. 19-21, 2010, with a random sample of 1,037 adults, aged 18 and older. The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.   
12/8/2010 8:08:00 AM by Daniel Burke, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Typical atheist: white son of religious parents

December 8 2010 by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service

WASHINGTON — The typical member of a fast-growing atheist association is a highly educated, married white male who grew up with religious parents.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation, which grew from 5,500 in 2004 to about 16,000 members this year, announced results of a survey of its members Dec. 1.

The Wisconsin-based organization received nearly 4,000 responses to its survey, which was mailed to all its members in May. Respondents replied to the nonscientific survey by mail or online.

Asked about their primary reason for being “deconverted from religion to freethought,” about a third of respondents said “religion doesn’t make sense.” Seventeen percent said religious hypocrisy or bigotry was the cause; 9 percent said reading skeptical authors; 5 percent cited reading the Bible.

Most respondents said the religious denomination they left behind was Protestant (42 percent), but 30 percent said they were raised Catholic and 27 percent were raised Jewish. The overwhelming majority of atheist respondents — 95 percent — are white, but foundation officials hope that statistic will change.

“We’ve started to do more outreach to the African-American and freethought communities of color, and clearly, this is a great untapped source for new members who support reason and secularism in this country,” said foundation co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor.

She said the group’s membership grew by 1,000 within a few weeks of an April decision by a federal judge who sided with the foundation and declared the law creating the National Day of Prayer unconstitutional.

Other findings from survey respondents include:
  • 88 percent describe themselves as atheist, and 12 percent as agnostic
  • 43 percent are retired
  • 30 percent volunteer regularly
  • 24 percent are veterans
  • 11 percent are vegetarians
  • 9 percent are gay, lesbian, bisexual or trangender.  
12/8/2010 8:06:00 AM by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service | with 2 comments

Spiritual happiness better than holiday cheer

December 7 2010 by Daniel Burke, Religion News Service

’Tis the season ... for Black Friday, Cyber Monday, consumer spending reports, and large doses of Christmas spirits — often of the alcoholic, not good-cheer variety.

But before you rush off to the mall or join the office holiday party, some A-list religious leaders want you to know one thing: The happiness derived from tearing open a coveted gift or downing a tasty beverage will fade before the final stanza of “Auld Lang Syne.”

And all you’ll be left with in the New Year is an empty wallet and a hangover. In fact, the consumer-driven culture whose engine revs this time of year is likely “the most efficient system yet devised for the manufacture and distribution of un-happiness,” says Lord Jonathan Sacks, Britain’s chief rabbi.

“The consumer society is constantly tempting us to spend money we don’t have, to buy things we don’t need, for the sake of a happiness that won’t last,” warns Sacks.

So, if iPods and eggnog won’t do the trick, what will make us happy?

Sacks was one of four prominent religious leaders invited by Emory University in Atlanta earlier this year to answer that eternal question. “The Pursuit of Happiness Conference,” organized by Emory’s Center for the Study of Law and Religion, also included the Dalai Lama, Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, and Seyyed Hossein Nasr, a noted Muslim scholar at George Washington University.

As might be expected, the four religious leaders disagreed about how to define happiness. Buddhism, after all, doesn’t even posit an all-controlling God who guides the way to a presumably blissful afterlife.

But they concurred in warning that the heedless pursuit of pleasure leads down a spiritual dead end.

In a nutshell, their common advice might be dubbed the “happiness paradox”: the more you give, the happier you get. In that way, Sacks said, spiritual happiness is the “greatest source of renewable energy we have.”

“If I have a certain amount of money and I give some to you, I have less,” Sacks said.

“But if I have a certain amount of friendship or love or trust and I give it to you, I don’t have less, I have more.”

There are two basic levels of happiness, the Dalai Lama said: mental and physical. In recent centuries, humans have become expert at satisfying our physical desires, but our spiritual skills have not kept pace, he said.

“A rich family, their physical comforts reach a very high standard,” said the exiled Tibetan Buddhist leader. “But that is no guarantee of reaching the same standards in peace of mind.” Instead, material wealth often leads to “more worry, more anxiety, perhaps more jealousy and more fear.”

The Dalai Lama, forced from his Tibetan homeland by Chinese forces in 1959, held himself up as an example of how lasting happiness can be found — even in spite of hardship — by cultivating inner resources such as compassion and equanimity.

Jefferts Schori agreed that “we find much greater happiness when we are not in the center of things.” The first woman in the nearly 400-year history of Anglicanism to lead a national church, Jefferts Schori presides over one of the wealthiest denominations in the U.S. But while worldly goods are an element of happiness, the presiding bishop warned against the temptation to put Mammon before God.

“If we equate happiness solely with external or material goods, we lapse into hedonism, and in a biblical sense, commit idolatry,” she said. “In the Christian understanding, locating human happiness in anything which does not include and acknowledge the divine represents major error.”

Nasr, a prominent Islamic philosopher, said Muslims believe in a “hierarchy of happiness,” from the quenching satisfaction of a cool glass of water on a hot day, to the spiritual high of realizing a divine truth.

All too often, consumer culture fools people into trading the higher forms of pleasure for the lower, said the Iranian-born intellectual. But the fact that physical happiness doesn’t last is proof that our souls are made to reach for loftier goals, Nasr said.

In fact, he said, the highest wisdom may be to stop desiring anything at all. “Once it was asked of a great Sufi master: What do you want?,” Nasr recalled. “I want not to want,” the master replied.

Sacks agreed that sometimes the best way to find happiness is to stop pursuing it. In the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses says living in the Promised Land will prove a more difficult test of faith for the Jews than any trial faced during 40 years of wandering the desert.

“The difficult part is affluence, because that’s when you forget where you came from, and you forget why you are here,” the rabbi said. “Affluence makes you forget to give thanks, and when a society forgets to give thanks it loses the art of happiness.”
12/7/2010 2:38:00 AM by Daniel Burke, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Christian charity warns about holiday debt

December 7 2010 by Bob Allen, Associated Baptits Press

BRADFORD, England — A Christian debt-counseling charity in the United Kingdom is calling on people to avoid using credit cards and loans to pay for their Christmas shopping this year.

Christians Against Poverty, a ministry that advocates poverty relief through debt counseling advice and practical help, warned Nov. 25 that poor Christmas shopping habits can burden families with significant debt.

Matt Barlow, the charity’s chief executive officer, said tough economic times can tempt shoppers to rationalize “at least we’ll have a great Christmas” and use that as an excuse to overspend.

“If you’ve already caught yourself saying this, we want your alarm bells to be ringing loud and clear,” Barlow said in a press release.

The charity’s research has found that half of homes with out-of-control debt have at some time taken out a loan to cover the cost of Christmas. That’s likely to get worse, Barlow said, as economic uncertainties continue into the New Year.

“We’re not party poopers,” he said. “We just want people to enjoy Christmas and not be anxious about whether they will be able to pay it all back.”

CNBC has reported research finding that a record 43 percent of American shoppers plan to spend less for Christmas this year than they spent in 2009, compared to 11 percent who plan to spend more. 

Christians Against Poverty suggested 10 ideas for avoiding holiday debt:
  • Decide what you have to spend. Make a list and be realistic. Paying in cash may help you keep control.
  • Manage expectations early. If things are tight, don’t be afraid to say so to family members. They are probably in the same boat.
  • Suggest that relatives pool expenses to buy children gifts they want instead of overindulging them individually.
  • Substitute expensive decorations with things like paper chains and cookies that add to the fun without costing much.
  • Never take out a Christmas loan. The consequences could be disastrous in terms of family debt.
  • Give homemade gifts, such as vouchers for services like ironing and babysitting or cookies and fudge.
  • Don’t feel guilty if you can’t afford the latest present for your children. You can’t buy love, and it lasts longer in the memory than any toy.
  • Avoid the trap of reciprocal gift-giving and buying out of obligation.
  • Don’t overspend in the January sales, no matter how good a bargain you might see. Make a budget and stick with it. If possible, leave the credit cards at home.
  • Enjoy low-cost entertainment like lights in town, family board games and holiday programs at churches and schools.
Sam Brink, minister of church resources and mission support for American Baptist Churches of Wisconsin, proposed another checklist of questions to ask one’s self after the holiday season is over.
  • “Was my Christmas experience one of good news for me and for those around me?”
  • “Do I feel comfortable today with the amount of money that I/we spent over the Christmas holidays?”
  • “What of myself did I give away this Christmas?”
  • “Did I/we have a Christmas spending plan and did I/we stick to it?”
  • “Did it really feel more blessed to give than to receive?”
  • “What do I/we need to do this year to make sure (next) Christmas will be different?”
  • “How did my/our church help me/us to celebrate Christmas in a financial healthy way?”
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.)
12/7/2010 2:35:00 AM by Bob Allen, Associated Baptits Press | with 0 comments

Public school students more likely to hit

December 7 2010 by Julie Mack, Religion News Service

A recent survey of 43,000 high school students found that public school students were more likely to participate in physical violence, while private school students were more likely to have teased or taunted someone, and more likely to have felt bullied themselves.

Fifty-two percent of public school students say they have hit someone in anger in the past year, according to the study by the Josephson Institute Center for Youth Ethics, compared to 47 percent of students in private religious high schools and 41 percent of students in secular private high schools.

The study found that 60 percent of boys at religious school have “bullied, teased or taunted” someone at least once in the past year, compared to 55 percent of boys in public or secular private schools.

Girls in religious schools also were more likely to have verbally bullied someone than girls in the other two categories.

About a quarter (23 percent) of religious-school students have “mistreated someone because he or she belonged to a different group,” compared to 21 percent of public school students and 15 percent of secular private students.

A major conclusion that can be drawn from the survey is that girls from all types of schools are nicer to their schoolmates than boys — or perhaps the boys are more honest.

Overall, boys were more likely than girls to agree with these statements: “I’m prejudice against certain groups,” “It’s sometimes OK to hit or threaten someone when I am very angry,” “I have bullied, teased or taunted someone,” “I have used racial slurs or insults,” and “I have been under the influence of illegal drugs or alcohol at school.”

Boys were three times more likely than girls to “strongly agree” with the question on prejudice. Boys also were 50 percent more likely to have bullied or teased someone twice or more in the past year, or hit someone because they were angry.

The survey did not detect much difference in civility — or lack of it — when comparing different regions of the country. Seniors are more civil than freshmen, but not by a huge margin.

Student leaders, college-bound students, honor students, female athletes and those in youth activities reported more civil behavior than others. Male athletes, however, were slightly more likely to have bullied than male non-athletes.

Officials at the Los Angeles-based Josephson Institute said the real take-away of the survey is not the demographic differences, but the fact that bullying is so pervasive in American high schools.  “If the saying, Sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never harm me,’ was ever true, it certainly is not so today,” Michael Josephson, founder and president of the Institute, said in a statement.

“Insults, name calling, relentless teasing and malicious gossip often inflict deep and enduring pain,” he said. “It’s not only the prevalence of bullying behavior and victimization that’s troublesome. The Internet has intensified the injury. What’s posted on the Internet is permanent, and it spreads like a virus — there is no refuge.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Mack writes for The Kalamazoo Gazette.)  
12/7/2010 2:31:00 AM by Julie Mack, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Chaplains voice ‘intense’ views on gay ban

December 3 2010 by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service

WASHINGTON — A long-awaited report on the possible repeal of the military’s ban on openly gay members says the chaplains corps has “some of the most intense and sharpest divergence of views” on the issue.

The comprehensive review, issued Nov. 30, concluded that “special attention” should be given to the concerns among the approximately 3,000 chaplains in the military services when and if a repeal is implemented.

The report said some chaplains condemned homosexuality as a sin and said they could not support homosexuals, while others said “we are all sinners” and chaplains should care for everyone.

Nevertheless, the report concluded that existing regulations protecting chaplains’ First Amendment rights are “adequate” for the ban’s repeal.

“Service members will not be required to change their personal views and religious beliefs,” the report said. “They must, however, continue to respect and co-exist with others who may hold different views and beliefs.”

Some retired chaplains and leaders of agencies that endorse chaplains have been outspoken against a repeal, with some predicting it could prompt an exodus of chaplains from the military.

The report said the military heard from 77 of 200 endorsing agencies, and none said they would withdraw endorsements of chaplains if a repeal occurred. It said just three of about 145 chaplains who took part in focus groups said they would seek to leave the military if there was a repeal.

Officials of some chaplains’ organizations that have opposed the repeal questioned the report’s claims of sufficient protections for chaplains who oppose homosexuality.

“I do not expect that anyone who holds fast with the truth as it is in the word of God ... to be allowed to continue on and to advance in their career as I did,” said James Poe, a retired Navy captain and former secretary of the International Conference of Evangelical Chaplain Endorsers.

Other retired chaplains seem unwilling to suggest that chaplains should walk out on the troops if the ban is repealed.

“I have said, ‘Before you consider resigning and leaving, recognize that you are there for your people in the positive and the negative,’” said Paul Vicalvi, a retired Army chaplain who directs the Chaplains Commission for the National Association of Evangelicals.

“I’m telling them not to retire. ... Now some of them may say, ‘I just can’t operate in this environment,’ but that’s not coming from me.”

But with the release of the report, Vicalvi remains concerned that chaplains will be prevented from counseling military members about their biblical interpretations on homosexuality.

As the Senate began hearings Dec. 2 to consider the repeal, other chaplains’ endorsers voiced skepticism.

Ron Crews, a retired Army chaplain and an endorser for Grace Churches International, an evangelical network based in Fayetteville, hopes Congress will consider language to ensure that the religious rights of all military members — not just chaplains — are protected.

“There needs to be a strengthening, some addition to the code that would provide a religious exemption clause,” he said.

Other religious leaders say they will wait until a repeal is enacted — which is far from a certainty — to determine their next steps.

“We’re all going to wait to see what actually transpires,” said retired Chaplain Douglas Lee, a retired U.S. Army brigadier general, who endorses chaplains for several denominations, including the Presbyterian Church in America.

“Will there be able to be open and free pluralism?”  
12/3/2010 7:30:00 AM by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

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