Thursday, May 7, 2015

Military Cracking Down on Christian Chaplains

News reports increasingly are telling stories of Christian military chaplains being disciplined for bringing the Bible and the Gospel to bear in their work of counseling or leading religious exercises. More and more, the Christian message is being labeled hate speech in the military, while at the same time, studies are showing that morale in the U.S. military has been declining during the past several years. These trends have implications for Greenville Seminary students who are contemplating service as chaplains, as a number of GPTS students and alumni have done.

Steve Walton working the obstacle course during chaplain training
2014 graduate Ross Fearing is working with the Presbyterian Church in America's Ministry to the Military International program within the San Antonio military community in Texas. Cornelius Johnson is an Orthodox Presbyterian Navy chaplain, and Mitch Haubert, assistant pastor at Providence PCA in Robinson Township, Penn. is a Pennsylvania Army National Guard chaplain candidate. Recent graduate Mike Myers served as a chaplain for his Army Reserve unit while attending GPTS. Navy Chaplain Stephen Scott graduated from GPTS in 2005. Kyle Brown, a training officer and chaplain in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard since 2013, was in the Army Chaplain Corps for six years prior. Steve Walton, an Army Reserve chaplain, is also the civilian pastor of Covenant Fellowship Church, a church he planted under the auspices of Ministry to the Military International near military installations in Stuttgart, Germany.

Greenville Seminary is a Qualifying Educational Institution (QEI) for the purpose of preparing clergy for application as chaplains for the military services in accordance with the Department of Defense requirements. On-campus students may use GI Bill benefits; students in our distance learning program are prohibited from using veterans' aid under current restrictions.

Ross Fearing
According to a Western Journalism report, Christian Chaplain Kenneth Reyes is being disciplined for speaking about Christianity.The ironically named Military Religious Freedom Foundation has descended upon Reyes for an article he wrote in which he quoted a phrase made famous by President Dwight D. Eisenhower:
“I am delighted that our veterans are sponsoring a movement to increase our awareness of God in our daily lives. In battle, they learned a great truth that there are no atheists in the foxholes.
OneNewsNow reports that former U.S. Navy Chaplain Gorden Klingenschmitt has labeled as outrageous that praying in the name of Jesus is increasingly considered bad for good discipline and maintaining unit cohesion in the military.

A new law funding the military calls for a survey to determine if restrictions on the prayers of chaplains outside of religious services are hindering their ministry, the ONN report said. Klingenschmitt runs the "Pray in Jesus Name Project." He says many conservative chaplains have already been weeded out of the U.S. military.

"Even the remaining conservative chaplains are going underground," Klingenschmitt told OneNewsNow.

Lieutenant Commander Wesley Modder has served as a chaplain in the U.S. Navy for 19 years and was once assigned to elite Navy SEAL units. The head of Naval Special Warfare Command has called him "the best of the best" and a "talented and inspirational leader." Now he may be discharged from the Navy and stands to lose his retirement benefits. According to reports, an assistant in Modder's office filed a five-page document containing grievances against the chaplain allegedly for counseling against homosexuality and premarital sex. In March, he was removed from his post.

Christians are leaving the U.S. military or are discouraged from joining in the first place because of a “hostile work environment” that doesn't let them express their beliefs openly, religious freedom advocates say, according to The Washington Times.

In December, a chaplain for a Ranger training battalion received an administrative letter of concern after a soldier complained that he advocated Christianity and used the Bible during a mandatory unit suicide-prevention training session. The Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers said the chaplain “used his official position to force his personal religious beliefs on a captive military audience” in an article the group posted on its website.

Michael Berry, senior counsel at the Liberty Institute, a Texas-based legal organization dedicated to defending religious liberty in America, said recent high-profile cases of military chaplains facing punishment for private counseling sessions that reflected the teachings of their religion could cause devout Americans who are qualified for military service to think twice about joining the military.

According to the Times article, Douglas Lee, president of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, whose job it is to find people who want to be chaplains and make sure they're also qualified to serve in the military, said growing religious hostility with the military is making it harder for him to find potential recruits and for the armed forces to maintain the chaplains it does have.

Ministry to the Military International may prove to be a unique alternative for men who desire to minister to service personnel without being hampered by the new restrictions being imposed within the military itself.

Under the leadership of retired Army Chaplain Doug Hudson, the PCA Presbytery of Southeast Alabama has developed and supports the MMI, which has four churches in Germany, one in Okinawa, and one under development in England. There is also a staff pastor in the Charleston, S.C. area, site of several military installations.

The vision of MMI includes: (1) Plant Presbyterian and Reformed churches near all the major bases overseas; (2) Encourage PCA presbyteries in the U.S. to plant churches near major bases that are without a Reformed witness; (3) Establish a Reformed Uniform Ministry (RUM) on all major bases in the U.S. and overseas; the primary focus of this ministry is evangelism and discipleship; and (4) RUM will help those who are reached with the Gospel with assimilation into local Reformed churches.

The following television interview features Retired Army Brigadier General Doug Lee, executive director of the Presbyterian and Reformed Commission on Chaplains and Military Personnel (PRCCMP, a.k.a. PRCC). "Please continue to pray for Doug and our chaplains as they try to be faithful in a very hostile environment," says Pastor Haubert.

2012 NPR Interview with Doug Lee. Listen here.
Related article: Crackdown on Christians Triggers Exodus from Military