Chaplain who refused marriage retreat to same-sex couple is up against elite culture enforcers


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ARMY CHAPLAIN INVESTIGATED FOR TRADITIONAL MARRIAGE RETREAT

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, I want to take you to an article out of The Fayetteville Observer. That’s the local paper in Fayetteville, North Carolina, which is the home of the Fort Bragg Army Base. It is there that a Fort Bragg chaplain, Major J. Scott Squires, is facing a challenge: Does he follow the tenets of his faith or does he follow the Army’s equal opportunity policy?

In this particular case, Squires faces a potentially career-hobbling reprimand after an investigating officer found that he discriminated against an unnamed sergeant who sought to attend a Strong Bonds marriage retreat sponsored by the First Special Warfare Training Group. This sergeant, a female, happens to be married to another female.

DR. REEDER: Yes, it’s a same-sex marriage and they wanted to go on the retreat, Strong Bonds, which is going to address a husband’s role to his wife, a wife’s role to the husband, and then, of course, they’re going to look at the matters of the intimacy relationship within marriage, all of which is impossible in today’s fabricated notion of a same-sex marriage.

Why do I say fabricated? Let me remind us that the historic definition of marriage, and that which is revealed in the Word of God and that which is affirmed in creation is it’s one man, one woman for one life and, that is, it is a covenantal relationship that is a monogamous, heterosexual, procreative relationship of which the same sex cannot do.

When he establishes a marriage retreat built on the historic Biblical view of marriage, it is clear that the same-sex attendees are not going to be addressed in terms of whatever professed needs that that so-called marriage relationship actually has and so he explained to them that they would not be attending that because it was designed for the Christian view of marriage.

The chaplain is being faithful to his confessional vows and the Army has stated that chaplains are not required to violate their ordination vows, which would include a confessional statement concerning the sanctity of marriage and the sanctity of sexuality within marriage. And though the Army may accommodate sex outside of marriage, may accommodate this fabricated view of marriage, the chaplain does not have to.

Well, now the interpretation of the Equal Opportunity Regulations in the Army, a lower echelon investigative officer is now bringing charges against him and this decorated chaplain is about to lose his livelihood and be discharged unless the appeals process vindicates him.

THIS ADMINISTRATION BRINGS HOPE THAT RELIGIOUS LIBERTY WILL BE UPHELD

Now let me just say, up until now, the appeals process has vindicated chaplains when they have attempted to be faithful to their ordination vows in carrying out their assigned oaths and duties as officers and chaplains in the armed forces. It has particularly been noteworthy that they have been affirmed on all of these areas of debate such as transgender, same-sex marriages — particularly under this administration — but there are cultural elite who are in the Army like everyone else who want to focus the army as a social instrument to promote the new definitions of marriage and sexuality and the Army would be used to propagate that. They exist within the Army within the bureaucracy of the Army and at various officer levels within the Army. That is what Chaplain Squires is now facing.

TOM LAMPRECHT: Do you think that the precedent of these previous situations where chaplains have been upheld, will that carry today in this particular case?

DR. REEDER: Tom, I think it will. I’m praying it will. I believe it will. If we were in the previous administration, I don’t think so, but I think the people who have been appointed by this administration will affirm the affirmed liberties of chaplains to be faithful to their confessional vows and not have to violate them in areas of life and faith such as marriage and sexuality, Tom. I think that’ll happen.

DOES THIS DERAIL THE MISSION OF THE ARMY, ITSELF?

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, we haven’t even talked about the fact that, when you bring in a situation like this, it has serious ramifications on the effectiveness of the armed services.

DR. REEDER: The armed services has always rightly been a leveling place. There’s a reason why, when you get off the bus at Parris Island, they take you into a place and shave your hair: all these ways that we used to declare our uniqueness are pretty well wiped out when you go into the Army. You are individual parts of a cohesive unit and that unit is designed to carry out violence against those who would seek to destroy the nation or the citizens of the nation.

On the one hand, it ought to be a place where our Declaration of Independence is constantly seen that all men — “male and female” — are created equal in terms of rights, but it is not a place to experiment with a cultural notion that equality is interchangeability and that there’s no difference between a man or a woman. There is a difference between a man and a woman in light of their biological makeup, their DNA, and how they think, and how they live and how they function. That’s not a matter of superiority and inferiority or of oppression or servitude — that’s a matter of difference and it ought to be taken advantage of.

MALES AND FEMALES STRENGTHEN THE ARMY, BUT ARE NOT UNIVERSALLY INTERCHANGEABLE

There’s certain ways in which male and female leadership are absolutely overlapping and identical, but there are other ways that women bring something to leadership men can’t do and there’s another thing that men bring to leadership that women can’t do and that’s not a matter of inferiority or superiority — that’s just difference.

The Army has historically said, “Our end is not to rewrite creation and declare that everybody is interchangeable. Our end is to treat everyone with dignity, but then to realize there are certain parameters of conduct.”

And that’s why it was a death knell of officers in terms of sexual activity outside of marriage. Adultery would get you dismissed because it broke down cohesion in the military, it broke down authority, it broke down respectability, it broke down the trust factor — all of that would have been broken by adultery and we’ve recognized the value of marriage.

UNFORTUNATELY, THE ARMY IS NOW A TOOL FOR ACHIEVING AGENDA

However, now there are those who would take the military and use it as an instrument to rewrite the mores of a culture instead of affirm the Constitutional rights and the way they ought to be applied within the Army and maintain the mission of the Army. The mission of the Army is to be an instrument of violence in order to protect against those who would do violence against a country and its citizens and it is only used under the authority of the Constitution — its delegated authority to the president as commander-in-chief and then its affirmed authority if a war is ever to be brought upon a nation through an act of Congress.

Therefore, we need commanders who are focused upon the mission of the Army, the Navy, the Marine Corps and the Coast Guard. They’re focused upon the mission to make these units cohesive while protecting constitutional rights for each of its participants yet staying on the mission.

STRIVE TO STAY FOCUSED ON THE MISSION

This is another example, whether it’s the church, the state, the family, an army, a business — you’ve got to keep the main thing the main thing. What is happening is the armed forces have been seen as an instrument to marginalize Christianity, to rewrite society, to eradicate the differences between male and female and, the cultural elite, who have now worked their way into certain positions of the bureaucracy and command structure of our military services and here is just one incident.

And we’re going to see: will the Constitution prevail; the First Amendment prevail and will the mission of the Army be maintained? And that mission is to be a cohesive, well-trained unit to defend the citizens of this country in times of aggression.

THE CHURCH “ARMY” HAS A MISSION, TOO

Tom, whenever I think about that, I also think about how the Lord calls the church of Jesus, except our weapons are not for death — our weapons are for life. And we need cohesion where every person in the church of Christ is treated with dignity and the uniqueness that each Christian has a very special gift. Our weapons are the divinely fashioned weapons of the proclamation of the Word, prayer, fellowship and the love of Christ displayed to one another and to the lost who do not yet know Christ as we seek them out to tell them of the Savior.

I love being in this Army. Let’s take captive the souls of men that they might be set free from the bondage of sin.

Dr. Harry L. Reeder III is the Senior Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.

This podcast was transcribed by Jessica Havin, editorial assistant for Yellowhammer News, who has transcribed some of the top podcasts in the country and whose work has been featured in a New York Times Bestseller.

 

53 mins ago

Watch: Bicentennial video tells the stories of Alabama’s great people

The finale of the ALABAMA 200 bicentennial celebration is on Saturday, with the public celebrating with elected officials, celebrities and dignitaries in the state’s capital.

However, even if you cannot make the festivities in person, you can still take time remotely to honor Alabama becoming a state 200 years ago to the day.

A video put together by WBRC and posted by Governor Kay Ivey is a great way to relive the state’s vibrant history.

Entitled, “Alabama Bicentennial: The Stories of Our People,” the approximately 50-minute special looks back on the state’s past 200 years, hearing from some of its most memorable voices in the process.

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In an introduction to that video, Ivey says, “As we celebrate our state’s bicentennial, I want to recognize my fellow Alabamians. As governor, I’m proud to be from a state that has remained steadfast through good times and bad.”

“Our resiliency and southern spirit have allowed us to grow and become the great state we are today,” she continues. “To put it simply, Alabama is defined by its people, and we have some of the best. I look forward to the future generations of Alabamians who will help take us to even greater heights. Happy birthday, Alabama!”

Watch:

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 hours ago

Alabama’s ‘white gold’ draws worldwide interest

Ruth Beaumont Cook’s latest book started 10 years ago as a brochure request from Sylacauga‘s B.B. Comer Memorial Library in advance of the city’s first marble festival.

“They asked me to put together a brochure about the history of the marble,” Cook said. “It was overwhelmingly successful, so the next year they asked to me write a book.”

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New book celebrates Sylacauga’s marble legacy from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Nearly nine years and dozens of interviews later, Cook celebrates the natural resource that nurtures both the economy and the cultural heritage of Alabama’s “Marble City” in her new book, “Magic in Stone: The Sylacauga Marble Story.”

“Whenever you start working on a book, you have all of this information but you look for a story thread through it,” Cook said. “I had no clue when I started what that was going to be.”

Cook said the clues starting coming together as she started talking to people who grew up mining marble.

“There are so many people who grew up in Gantts Quarry,” Cook said. “Most people have good memories of growing up there and work they are proud of. Telling those stories was the most interesting part of it.”

Commercial marble quarries began in Sylacauga in the late 1800s. Cook said the marble was initially used by sculptors such as Giuseppe Moretti, the Italian who created the Vulcan statue on Red Mountain in Birmingham.

“His Vulcan won gold prize at the 1904 World’s Fair, but what most people don’t know is he also took another piece with him, ‘The Head of Christ,’ which he had carved from Sylacauga marble,” Cook said. “It won a silver medal.”

The notoriety caught the attention of construction managers around the world who were seeking dimension marble for their projects. By the 1930s, Sylacauga’s creamy white marble had been used in hundreds of buildings, including the U.S. Supreme Court building and the ceiling of the Lincoln Memorial.

“It was chosen for the Lincoln Memorial because it can be cut very thin and still be strong,” Cook said. “They cut it thin enough to be translucent and then rubbed it with beeswax and put it in the ceiling.”

Despite the marble’s beauty and strength, Cook said the demand for dimension marble in construction dropped dramatically by the 1950s.

“It became obvious that granite was much easier to withstand pollution than marble,” Cook said. “Marble is still great if it’s thick enough, but if you make a facade of it on a building, it’s probably not going to last because it deteriorates from the pollution.”

Instead of closing the mines and laying off employees, Cook said the Sylacauga marble companies survived and thrived thanks to a growing need for calcium extracted from marble deposits and used in hundreds of products, such as cosmetics, paints and glue.

“They turned to industry and began to grind up the marble into fine powder – called GCC, ground calcium carbonate – which industry had a strong demand for,” Cook said.

Cook said Sylacauga continues to be a rich marble resource more than 70 years later.

“I’ve been told there’s enough marble there for sculpture and industry for at least another 200 years,” Cook said. “The vein of marble is 35 miles long, a mile and a half wide and goes down quite a ways — 300 or 400 feet I believe. It’s a very valuable resource.”

Sylacauga Marble Festival

Since 2009, the city has celebrated its heritage through the Sylacauga Marble Festival, a 10-day event drawing sculptors from around the world to work alongside an Italian master sculptor. Visitors can watch, tour local quarries and purchase sculptures. Cook said the festival brings Sylacauga’s rich heritage full circle.

“It came from art, up through all of these others, and now you have this wonderful balance,” Cook said. “You still have major industry but you also have major art appreciation. It’s a great story.”

The 12th annual Marble Festival will be March 31 to April 11, 2020.

The 2019 Marble Festival, which was one of several events highlighted by the Alabama Bicentennial Commission as part of the state’s 200th birthday celebration, was sponsored by the Alabama Power FoundationAlabama State Council on the ArtsAlabama Tourism DepartmentAmerican Legion Post 45 SylacaugaArchitectural Stone ImportsB.B. Comer Memorial LibraryBlue Bell CreameriesBlue Horizon TravelCity of Sylacauga, Conn Equipment, Coosa Valley Medical CenterCurtis and Son Funeral HomeImerysIsabel Anderson Comer Museum and Arts CenterJ. Craig Smith Community CenterMiller Lumber CompanyMorris Custom Marble & GraniteNemakOmya, Inc.Pizza & Pint, Representative Ron Johnson, SouthFirst BankSylacauga Arts CouncilSylacauga Chamber of CommerceSylacauga Housing Authority, Sylacauga Marble Quarry, Towne Inn, 21st Century Signs and Utilities Board of Sylacauga.

To learn more about “Magic in Stone: The Sylacauga Marble Story,” visit newsouthbooks.com/magicinstone.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

5 hours ago

Birmingham Business Alliance reveals new mission, economic development approach

The Birmingham Business Alliance revealed a new mission and a new approach to economic development as it heads into 2020.

The BBA’s 2019 Chairwoman’s Annual Meeting was at the Lyric Theatre in Birmingham Dec. 11. Chairwoman Nancy Goedecke passed the gavel to Jim Gorrie, president and CEO of Brasfield & Gorrie.

Gone is Blueprint Birmingham, which guided the BBA through its first 10 years. In its place is a strategy that keys in life sciences, advanced manufacturing and technology. Those are some of the main industries the Alabama Department of Commerce is expected to emphasize in its revision of Accelerate Alabama, the state’s economic development plan.

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“Those are the three areas that we’re going to focus on,” said Fred McCallum, interim CEO of the BBA. “I will tell you that when you look at our state plan, there are a lot of similarities.”

Birmingham Business Alliance announces new direction from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

A main component to Blueprint Birmingham was a set of metrics that measured Birmingham’s success against a cluster of peer cities. Doing so often looked too broadly, McCallum said.

“Blueprint was a good plan at the time,” he said. “It was very wide and in some ways it was successful and in other ways it wasn’t so successful. I think what we’ve come to now is a point in time where we’ve got to focus in on jobs and economic growth.”

There will be a new set of metrics created and benchmarked in a new BBA strategic plan, McCallum said.

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin did highlight one comparison between Birmingham and other cities.

“Since the great recession around 2008, 60% of all jobs have only gone to 25 cities in America,” Woodfin said. “You need to know that Birmingham is not on that list.”

Woodfin feels Birmingham should measure itself against its own potential instead of comparing itself to others.

“We don’t have to be like Nashville or Chattanooga or Atlanta or Austin,” he said. “We need to be the best version of ourselves. But that is going to require us to shake off the way we’ve always done things.”

Woodfin said the companies and organizations that make up the BBA should be prepared to take greater risks and push boundaries.

“Being risk-averse at this time as we move into 2020 … will not work for us – as an organization or for our city,” he said. “So the question becomes when you walk out of this room, are we prepared to invest in our competitiveness? Do we want to compete? Do we want to set ourselves apart, not be like any other city in America?”

A primary goal for the BBA is to find a new CEO. McCallum has led the organization on an interim basis after former CEO Brian Hilson stepped down at the end of March. Hilson now works on rural economic development initiatives in the state.

Other changes will include aligning the BBA’s internal strategy to execute the new strategic plan, updating its governance structure to be more effective and efficient and aligning the funding model to support the BBA’s new strategic plan.

“I think the organization will be more focused on specific strategies and focused on doing what we do well,” McCallum said.

McCallum believes Birmingham leaders and economic developers can tell the region’s story more forcefully and proactively.

“We’re on a good trajectory. I feel good about where we are as a community,” McCallum said. “Our leadership is strong. Our public leadership is strong. Our private leadership is strong. I feel good about where the BBA is focused.”

This year’s annual meeting was more a call to action than the rah-rah sessions of the past.

“Usually I would get up here and give you all some stats about what we’ve done and what we’ve accomplished,” Woodfin said. “I think it is fair to say that 2019 has been a good year for many of your organizations individually and collectively for our Birmingham Business Alliance.”

It was a good 2019 in the Birmingham metro area. Halfway through the year, the region reached and surpassed its pre-recession height of employment. There were 32 projects with 1,180 jobs and $492.2 million in capital investment announced in the region in 2019.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

The biggest birthday party in Alabama history is TODAY!

The biggest birthday party in Alabama’s history is taking place today, December 14, and you are invited! Join us in Montgomery for the grand finale celebration of our state’s 200th birthday.

Watch the parade, listen to concerts and performances, visit open houses and much more.

This is sure to be a day you don’t want to miss. The event is free to the public and lasts all day starting with an elaborate parade at 10:00 a.m. The parade will travel from Court Square Fountain in downtown Montgomery up Dexter Avenue to the State Capitol. There will be marching bands, city floats and unique displays of Alabama history on wheels, such as the USS Alabama and U.S. Space and Rocket Center.

The parade is a great opportunity for families to enjoy the celebration together – and it’s only the beginning of a packed day. Following the parade, Governor Kay Ivey will dedicate Bicentennial Park. The afternoon will offer performances, exhibitions and open houses throughout downtown Montgomery. The day will conclude with a concert featuring popular musicians from Alabama and the history of Alabama presented in a never-before-seen way.

Visit Alabama 200 Finale for a complete rundown of the day’s events.

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7 hours ago

ADCNR officers help spread Christmas cheer at Academy Sports

Imagine elves filling baskets with goodies to load on Santa’s sleigh and you get a snapshot of what it looked like last week when Academy Sports + Outdoors provided Christmas cheer for numerous youngsters who needed that encouragement the most.

At Academy stores across Alabama, youngsters were chosen to go on shopping sprees with a budget of $150 each, assisted by first responders from the local area. In two locations, Huntsville and Foley, Alabama Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) enforcement officers assisted the kids in choosing the items that were loaded into the shopping carts.

Into the baskets went bows and arrows, footballs, basketballs, soccer balls, clothing, athletic shoes, candy canes and more. The youngsters proved more than adept at keeping track of just how far that gift card would go, counting down until the funding was exhausted.

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“Academy Sports + Outdoors is excited to partner with first responders across the state of Alabama to help 150 children enjoy more sports and outdoor fun this holiday season,” said Rick Burleson, Academy’s Regional Marketing Specialist. “As the shopping destination with the most fun gifts and gear, we look forward to making the holidays merry for our local communities across Alabama.”

Chris Blankenship, ADCNR’s Commissioner, said the shopping events presented a special opportunity for outreach to the younger generation.

“I appreciate Academy Sports + Outdoors for sponsoring this program,” Commissioner Blankenship said. “Opportunities like this where enforcement officers can interact positively with citizens, especially youth, are so valuable for building trust on both sides. Our Conservation Enforcement Officers participate in many programs to promote hunting and fishing for youth. This is just another example of the good people we have in the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

“In the photos, you can really see the joy in the faces of the kids, the officers and the employees of Academy Sports + Outdoors. The giving spirit of Academy, our officers and the community is evident in the outpouring of support for this program. With this scene replicated at hundreds of Academy stores all over the country, good relations with law enforcement are being built nationwide and will pay dividends for many years to come. My desire to work in conservation came from encounters such as this with Marine Resources conservation officers when I was a kid. You cannot underestimate what effects the little things like this will have on a person and a community.”

At the Foley event, Conservation Enforcement Officers from the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division and the Marine Resources Division aided 10 youngsters from the afterschool program at the John McClure Snook Family YMCA in Foley.

Melissa McGhee, associate branch director of the Foley YMCA, said the youngsters ranged in age from 5 to 13.

“All the kids we chose are highly scholarshipped kids,” McGhee said. “They just don’t have a lot. For three of them, this is their Christmas. This was such an honor to be picked for this. When I talked to some of the parents, they just started crying because this is what their kids are doing for Christmas.”

Jason Ford, Academy Store Director in Foley, said providing a venue for officers and youngsters to interact in a positive way during the holiday season was well worth the effort from Academy and the associates who also assisted during the shopping sprees.

“We love that we can reach out to people in our community who are less fortunate,” Ford said. “But it also strengthens the bonds between our first responders and our community. Right now, we can use that unity more than ever. To be able to impact the community in such a positive way really goes a long way in warming my heart, and hopefully seeing the kids gets some good Christmas presents and develop some goodwill with our law enforcement.”

WFF Conservation Officer Steve Schrader wore a perpetual smile while he helped a young lady fill her basket with gifts from shoes to candy cane-shaped containers filled with M&Ms.

“This has been great,” Schrader said. “My shopper has been very generous and has bought more for her family than herself. I hope she now sees us (enforcement officers) more friendly than the other side of the fence. They can see us as real people, too. I think it went really well.”

At the event in Huntsville, Beth Morring with the Boys and Girls Clubs of North Alabama echoed the need for the sponsored kids to find out more about the ADCNR enforcement officers and what those officers actually do.

“Before they started shopping, we asked the Conservation guys to explain what they do every day,” Morring said. “The officers told them how they protected the wildlife and help those who fish and hunt and enjoy the outdoors. It was neat because our kids probably never knew these men and women existed. It was a learning experience just to meet these officers, which was great.”

Morring said 10 kids from the Seminole Boys and Girls Clubs in Huntsville were chosen for the event.

“These were the kids who needed it the most,” she said. “With $150 to shop, we did kind of steer them during their shopping, as did the officers. We started with shoes first and then went to get some essential clothing. They were able to get a goodie or two as well. It was a great time, and everybody wanted new shoes. These kids were predominantly from the public housing area where the club is located, and they were thrilled to get some new, shiny tennis shoes. In fact, some of them wore them out of the store that day, which was fabulous.”

Morring said the event was much more than just a shopping spree for the kids.

“To watch them interact with the officers and for our children to see men and women who serve and protect us, that they are good people,” she said. “Many of our children don’t have as positive an exposure with first responders sometimes. For them to be able to meet these first responders who can talk to them and realize these are dads and moms and husbands and wives – just regular people even though they might be in a uniform. So that positive interaction was so important. That was really impactful for our children.”

Morring said it was great to see the officers meet the kids on the same level.

“I loved watching these big grown-ups with these little children and them kneeling down on the floor to help them try on shoes,” she said. “Not to mention for our children, it was the first time they were able to walk into a store and have a budget for gifts where they got to make the decisions and choices. To watch these kids whose families struggle financially, for them to have $150 and then think about family members before themselves is admirable and amazing in light of their circumstances.”

David Rainer is an award-winning writer who has covered Alabama’s great outdoors for 25 years. The former outdoors editor at the Mobile Press-Register, he writes for Outdoor Alabama, the website of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.