Forum on the Military Chaplaincy

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CaptUSMC On November - 5 - 2012

L-R OutServe-SLDN Legal Director David McKeon, Tech. Sgt.Erwynn Umali-Behrens, Will Umali- Behrens, Rev. Sarah Lammert and Rev. Chris Copeland.

The Forum on the Military Chaplaincy was requested to provide a panel at the 2nd Annual OutServe International Leadership Conference on the subject of weddings at installation chapels. This conference was held at the military resort, Shades of Green, in Orlando Florida on October 27, 2012.

Earlier in the year, the Forum sent written requests to each of the services Chiefs of Chaplains asking them to send representative military chaplains to be part of this workshop. Through back channels the Forum was informed the Army and Air Force would not send a chaplain to support their troops. The Navy Chief of Chaplain on behalf of the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard responded in writing saying “they respectfully decline to participate.” No reason for this failure to “perform or provide” was forthcoming.

With this failure of the Chiefs to support their LGBT service members, the Forum provided an alternate panel. OutServe-SLDN Legal Director, David McKean, addressed the operative memoranda providing for these ceremonies.  Two civilian endorsers from the National Conference on Ministry to the Armed Forces(NCMAF) agreed to stand in for the AWOL chaplains. These panelists were Rev. Chris Copeland, endorser for the Alliance of Baptist and Minister for Leadership Formation, and Rev. Sarah Lammert endorser for the Unitarian Universalist Association and Director of Ministries and Faith Development. Since these endorsers had no recent experience with the issue of same gender weddings at installation chapels, the Forum arranged for the couple who were married at the chapel at JB McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst to participate in the panel.

The ceremony for Air Force Tech.Sgt. Erwynn Umali and Will Behrens was conducted by Navy Chaplain Kay Reeb on June 23, 2012. Chaplain Reed is endorsed by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, a denomination that permits same-gender religious rites. Beside being the first publicly announced same gender ceremony on a military installation, this ceremony was even more controversial when the command chaplain, USAF Colonel Tim Wagoner faced criticism from his civilian endorser, the Southern Baptists, for merely being present at the ceremony. Later Chaplain Wagoner, with over 20 year of service as a Southern Baptist minister, decided to change his endorser to the more progressive Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

The audio of this historic and informative panel can be found here:So You Want to Get Married at a Military Chapel?


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