'Wounded' chaplain leaves SBC for CBF

A Cooperative Baptist Fellowship official says while the organization doesn't recruit chaplains from other groups, there may be other Southern Baptists looking for new endorsement after recent controversy over an Air Force chaplain questioned for attending a same-sex civil union.

By Jeff Brumley

The Air Force chaplain who ran afoul of the Southern Baptist Convention by attending a same-sex civil union remains “deeply wounded” by the fallout that included his leaving the denomination for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, a CBF official said.

chaplain wagonerIt became official on July 23 when CBF’s chaplaincy endorsement committee voted to approve Col. Timothy Wagoner as a chaplain, said Jim Pope, the associate for military chaplaincy for CBF.

Ministers must be endorsed by a recognized religious body in order to serve as chaplains in the military. Pope said Wagoner expressed concern that the SBC would remove his endorsement, thus disqualifying him from service.

“Tim is just wounded,” Pope said. “He thought he had done the appropriate thing.”

According to news reports, Wagoner had been consistently clear that he would not officiate at same-sex marriage ceremonies or other events, which would be in keeping with SBC doctrine.

He attended the June 23 ceremony as a show of support for the officers he commanded as the top chaplain at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, in New Jersey.

“I am devoted to the Southern Baptist faith,” Wagoner told Baptist Press shortly after the ceremony. “My intention was never to embarrass or misrepresent the Southern Baptists whom I have faithfully served for 30 years as a pastor and a military chaplain.”

jim-popeBut by late July he notified the SBC’s North American Mission Board he was leaving the denomination.

Prior to that announcement, he had reached out to Pope through a mutual friend. Several phone calls, and a very good application packet, convinced Pope that Wagoner would be a good fit with CBF.

“His narratives, biographical sketch and understanding of CBF and its values were just spot on,” Pope said.

Pope said he also agreed with how Wagoner handled himself at the June 23 ceremony. In fact, after reading news reports about it, Pope said he notified all CBF military chaplains they should attend such ceremonies even if they aren’t officiating at them.

Pope added that he has become aware, through third parties, of a handful of other Southern Baptist chaplains interested in seeking endorsement from CBF.

Pope said CBF never recruits or encourages chaplains from other denominations. They must reach out to him, and so far none others have officially done so, he said.