The Catholic Church has joined Southern Baptists in directing its military chaplains not to witness or bless same-sex marriages nor offer marriage counseling to gay couples.
The rules issued last week by the Archdiocese of Military Services also prohibit chaplains from acknowledging a spouse of the same gender at a retirement or promotion ceremony, or from assisting at a funeral if it would "give the impression that the Church approves of same-sex 'marital' relationships."
The guidelines also give direction on how to comply with implementing federal employee benefits for same-sex couples under their command.
Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio said the new federal policy on gay marriage and gay rights for military personnel “makes it necessary to reiterate with clarity the teaching of the Catholic Church regarding homosexuality,” Religion News Service reported.
The Southern Baptist Convention issued similar rules to its military chaplains in August.
According to the Associated Baptist Press, Russell Moore, president of the SBC's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said the guidelines are intended to send a message to the government that their military chaplains cannot be forced to do something that violates the tenets of their sponsoring faith.
“We’re calling for separation of church and state to be able to say chaplaincy isn’t a subset of the military,” Moore said. “Instead, what the military is doing by having chaplains is to enable people who are in the military to freely exercise their religion. It’s not just a post of some kind of American civil religion.”
Guidelines for chaplains are among the latest moves by Christian denominations reacting to the growing acceptance of same-sex marriage.
The RNS reported Tuesday that the top court of the United Methodist Church will convene next month to consider local challenges to church teaching on homosexuality.
"The United Methodist Judicial Council will decide whether church ministries can advocate for the acceptance of homosexuality, whether ministers can officiate at same-sex ceremonies and whether a regional conference can urge members to ignore portions of Methodist law," the story stated.
At least four United Methodist ministers are facing trial for officiating at same-sex weddings, RNS reported, and more than 1,500 clergy have signed a statement offering to marry gay couples.
And what about individual Christians who feel torn between following their church's teaching against homosexuality and attending a marriage ceremony of a gay friend or family member?
Pastor and author Stephen Arterburn writes in his Huffington Post blog that the question has been asked frequently by conservative believers calling into his "New Life Live" radio program.
He explains the political and personal perspectives of the question and recommends they should go to the ceremony.
"By attending, we are supporting real people who are of tremendous value to God. By attending, we are imitating Christ and allowing his love and grace to flow through us — rather than worrying what is right and proper in the sight of our religious buddies."
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