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Chaplains barred from same-sex vows

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The Southern Baptist Convention, which provides the largest share of active-duty military chaplains, has barred members from taking part in weddings, counseling sessions, and couples retreats for same-sex couples.

The North American Mission Board, an arm of the Nashville-based convention, also prohibits chaplains from participating in any services that would appear to endorse or accept same-sex unions.

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The group issued the decision after the US Department of Defense recognized same-sex marriages and extended benefits to gay spouses.

‘‘Our chaplains want to uphold the authority and relevancy of Scripture while continuing to serve in a very diverse setting,’’ said Doug Carver, a retired Army major general who leads the mission board’s chaplaincy efforts. ‘‘We believe these updated guidelines will help them do that while still sharing the love and the hope of Christ with everyone.’’

Mike Ebert, a mission board spokesman, said that the Southern Baptist Convention spoke with US defense officials before issuing the guidelines.Last year, Congress approved protections for military members that allow them to express their personal beliefs without fear of punishment.

‘‘We were getting questions from our chaplains — can you please clarify what we can and cannot do. We wanted to provide clarity,’’ Ebert said.

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