Chaplain Leaves Southern Baptist Convention After Gay Ceremony Attendance

Following controversy over his attendance at a same-sex civil union ceremony, a Southern Baptist chaplain has severed ties with the conservative denomination.

Col. Timothy Wagoner, who serves at an Air Force base in New Jersey, left the Southern Baptist Convention and joined the more progressive Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. The long-time chaplain confirmed his switch to The Associated Press on Friday.

"I find very little that is more important and nothing that is more exhilarating than providing for the religious freedoms and spiritual care of all service members and their families – and will joyfully continue to do so," Wagoner, senior chaplain at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, said to AP.

Southern Baptists were apparently alerted to Wagoner's attendance at a same-sex ceremony through an AP story earlier this month.

Though he did not officiate, he wanted to be there for the two male service members.

Douglas Carver, executive director for chaplaincy for SBC's North American Mission Board, contacted Wagoner who said he was likely misinterpreted or quoted out of context in the AP story, as reported by Baptist Press.

Wagoner, who has served in the SBC for 30 years, then reaffirmed his belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.

"I am devoted to the Southern Baptist faith," he added, according to BP.

Following the Wagoner controversy, a letter was sent out to Southern Baptist chaplains, emphasizing the SBC stance on same-sex unions.

Just a week after Wagoner expressed commitment to the Southern Baptist faith, however, it was announced that he would be exiting the denomination.

The 1993 "don't ask, don't tell" policy was repealed last year, allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military.

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