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Six volunteer CMPD police chaplains resign their posts

No official reason cited, but chaplain says they left after CMPD added a gay clergy member.

CHARLOTTE, N.C.-- Six Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department chaplains have resigned from their volunteer positions since August, police say.

Officials didn't give a reason for the departures, but one chaplain said the sudden resignations are a result of the department admitting a new chaplain who is gay.

The chaplain said those who departed felt they had no choice but to leave because of their churches' teachings about homosexuality.

It's very difficult, said the chaplain, who spoke to the Observer on the condition of anonymity. All the chaplains have really developed relationships with the police officers on the beat. Relationships that have been built over the years have stopped.

In a letter to all the chaplains, CMPD Chief Rodney Monroe expressed disappointment that some members decided to leave the program.

I respect the decisions and convictions of those who have decided to resign, as I would never ask anyone to compromise their beliefs, he said.

But I do hope that those of us who remain ... continue to embrace our goal of being an inclusive organization that respects the differences of all of our employees.

Police officials said no chaplain was asked to resign. Eight members remain.

The female chaplain, whose name is not being released, was asked to come on board in August, said Maj. John Diggs, who leads the department's Community Service Bureau. Diggs said the six chaplains submitted their resignations soon after.

A local blog listed the names of several chaplains who allegedly resigned. Calls to their offices, churches or homes were not returned.

Diggs said the police department's chaplain program is about 15 years old. It is designed to give emotional and spiritual support to any of CMPD's 2,200 employees who seek it. Chaplains have been called upon to help officers and sometimes their families deal with difficult emotions after dramatic cases, such as the 2007 slayings of officers Jeff Shelton and Sean Clark

Other agencies are confronting similar issues. In September, dozens of retired military chaplains appealed to President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates to keep the Pentagon's don't ask, don't tell ban on gays in the military.

The group of retired chaplains argued in a letter that allowing gays to serve openly in the military would discriminate against some Christian chaplains.

Many (if not most) chaplains will confront a profoundly difficult moral choice: whether they are to obey God or to obey men, they wrote in the Sept. 16 letter.

The Rev. Nancy Allison, pastor of Holy Covenant United Church of Christ in University City, said two members of her congregation are gay police officers. She applauded the department's leadership for practicing true equality.

If the woman is a qualified clergy member and a gifted chaplain then she will minister well to both straight and gay officers, Allison said. At least 10 percent of our population is gay and lesbian and every aspect of our work life needs to reflect that reality - every aspect of our worship life.

The CMPD chaplain program is nondenominational. The remaining chaplains include men and women, three of whom are African American. CMPD seeks volunteers with a diversity of backgrounds.

Diggs described the new chaplain as exceptionally qualified. He said she was never asked about her sexual orientation.

It doesn't matter to us, Diggs said. She's an impressive lady.