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The Need for Military Chaplains

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Archives / 1966 / June

 

 

The Need for Military Chaplains

David E. Thomas

DAVIS A. THOMAS, LCDR, USN, Chaplain

 

Do you ever think that you would like to be a military chaplain? Well, there are some openings and they need to be filled as soon as possible. If we Seventh-day Adventists do not supply men for these, others will.

Before getting to the details of qualifications, let us talk about the military chaplaincy in general. It is a very old profession and one that requires a par­ticular type of minister. He must be unusu­ally strong physically, mentally, and spirit­ually to be able to cope with the many un­orthodox problems. Sometimes he will be the only person to represent right and, of course, be very unpopular. On the other hand, there are times when the chaplain is the last hope that people have and is a much sought after individual.

The Lonely One

Perhaps there is no other job in the world where the loneliness of the man is so noticeable. It is seen in young men with girl friends back home. It is reflected by husbands quenching the pangs of sepa­ration by buying toys and presents. Older men often try to handle their loneliness through drinking. The chaplain has the most difficult time of all because his ave­nues of release are so few. He knows the warmth and benefits of a church commu­nity where the Christian graces are preva­lent. In such an environment he isn't con­cerned with bracing himself against pro­fanity, cigarette and cigar smoke, immoral conversation, and being constantly con­cerned about the preparation of the food that he eats. He fights boredom perhaps for the first time in his life. In the civilian parish he was always busy, with need for more time. In the military there are times when study and reading seem to have no meaning. The desire to talk with a fellow believer is intense. Talking with others just isn't the same. During times of separation from his family he feels this need for fellow­ship with others of like faith. It is at such times that a chaplain realizes that the posi­tion of the chaplaincy is indeed a lonely one.

A Supreme Test

Yet, there are times of reward and the chaplain is spurred on to further service. No other place will he find the opportu­nities to serve "the least of these" as is de­scribed in Matthew 25:31-46 more than in the military. He will minister to the sick, wounded, and dying, or maybe commit the remains of some youth to the endless ex­panse of the sea. At such times he becomes the source of comfort to many who do not understand death and the resurrection. A chaplain feels particularly his need of di­vine help when he has to inform relatives of the death of a loved one. He finds in such duties the supreme test of his own be­liefs. There are no formulas for informing a young wife that her husband has been killed. He spends much time alone ponder­ing the theme of the great plan of salva­tion when this same wife who is now a widow requests him to return after school to help her break the news to the children. Even during these heartbreaking moments the chaplain finds his reward because he must exercise that which he has been preaching.

Before an Adventist minister seeks to be­come a chaplain he should know that some have reservations about the military chap­laincy, feeling that a minister supported by tax money can hardly be a genuine worker of our church. But our denomina­tion, through the Religious Liberty De­partment, has emphasized that a military chaplaincy does not threaten the institu­tion of separation of church and state. The work of a chaplain is no threat to their sound principles. A few seem to find it difficult to see any need to provide some degree of religious coverage for the mil­lions of youth who have been called away from their own church communities. Surely the Government has some responsi­bility to fulfill and is right in calling for all denominations to voluntarily permit a number of their ministers to serve in the military.

Oualifications

One who is ordained, who has a S.D. degree, and is not more than 34 years of age might qualify for the chaplaincy. If you have had military service, deduct each active year from your age. If you haven't been ordained or received your B.D. or its equivalent in credit hours, you may be able to get into a reserve situation until you qualify fully. There is much flexibil­ity in the qualification requirements. The National Service Organization at our de­nominational headquarters in Washing­ton, D.C., will be glad to furnish details.

A military chaplain serves on the front line of spiritual warfare and is truly a com­bat warrior in the struggles against evil. He must be in constant training through study, prayer, and meditation to be able to survive the daily battles and lead men to Christ. Such a calling demands the best of spiritual living and service. Pray for us, and if the Spirit of God is impressing you to take up this line of activity then re­member there is a place for your service. The church needs you.

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