Shepherding Goats: The Paradox of the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps

Foreward – Many Christians are aware of recent cases like that of Lt. Gordon Klingenschmitt that have highlighted the increasing pressure in the Armed Forces on Christian chaplains to pray and preach in a “non-sectarian” way (i.e. without praying in the name of Jesus Christ or preaching that salvation is only possible through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ). However, most people are unaware of the other difficulties and struggles that chaplains of strong Reformed and Evangelical convictions are having in the modern military. I will freely admit that I was one of them, until I came to Fayetteville and began speaking with some of the chaplains posted to Ft. Bragg. One of those chaplains who helped me immensely to understand those difficulties and the conflicts they can cause was Peter Dietsch. When I first met Peter he was serving as a chaplain with the 82nd Airborne here in Fayetteville/Ft. Bragg. After several conversations with him I not only gained a deep sympathy for men like him, but I became extremely thankful that I had not decided to become a chaplain myself. Conversations with other chaplains have since confirmed everything he shared with me.

Peter wrote the following paper examining the fundamental problems with ministry in the Chaplain corps while he was still serving as a Chaplain here at Bragg, his decision to publish it caused him no end of trouble and eventually led to his leaving the military altogether. I don’t think it would be much of an exaggeration to say that Peter became about as popular with his superiors in the Chaplain corps as Jeremiah was with the government of King Zedekiah. I should stress that Peter is by no stretch of the imagination an angry hyper-conservative reactionary. In my experience he is a an extremely gracious, kind, and thoughtful man with a pastor’s heart. I asked him for permission to publish his paper because I think that men of Old School Presbyterian (OSP) convictions should be aware of the ministerial challenges they will face if they choose to become chaplains. I will also freely state that it is my conviction that if an OSP man feels led to minister to military families – and I hope that many will – that the best place to do it is not as a Chaplain, but as the pastor of a church or a church plant in one of America’s many military communities. Peter has since left the Chaplain Corps and gone on to pastor a PCA church in Macon, GA.

Shepherding Goats: The Paradox of the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps

By CH (CPT) Peter M. Dietsch

31 October 2002



I have written and published this document for the sole purpose of making chaplains think about how they carry out their ministry. I have in mind here Christian chaplains because that is what I am. I do not write to condemn any one individual chaplain, but to perhaps reform the chaplain corps as a system, for somewhere along the way, we have lost our calling and replaced it with a career. We have decided that success, as defined by the military, is more important than faithfulness as defined by our God, His Word, and His church. This is the main point of this entire document (fleshed out in the pages that follow): The Army chaplain corps was initially created in order to provide for the free exercise of religion of our soldiers. To help meet that need, ordained clergy were brought into the service to minister to soldiers according to the doctrines of their – the chaplain’s – church (perform) and to allow others to worship according theirs (or provide). The Army chain of command, however, has grown to see the chaplain as a means toward better accomplishment of the mission. The chaplain corps realized that they might begin to be marginalized unless they could show that they are somehow relevant to the Army’s mission. So, instead of resisting, the chaplain corps acquiesced and decided to make itself relevant in the eyes of the chain of command. In so doing, the chaplain corps has become a tool of a religiously pluralistic society bent on not offending anyone and making everyone feel better about themselves.

Before continuing, perhaps I ought to tell you a little about myself. I grew up in a Christian home in a Christian church. My parents were missionaries and my father a pastor. I have been a Christian from a very young age. I have spent my entire adult life in the Army (about 14 years now). I enlisted in the Army Reserves at the age of seventeen, fresh out of high school. I was on active Army Reserve status as a Carpentry/Masonry Specialist (51B) for the four years which followed during college. Simultaneously, I participated in R.O.T.C. Upon graduation from college and completion of R.O.T.C., I was commissioned a Regular Army Officer in the Infantry. I was part of the branch-detail program, so I spent 2 ½ years as an infantry officer and then 2 years as a quartermaster officer. At this point, I resigned my commission and attended seminary. For those three years in seminary, I was in the Inactive Ready Reserve as a Chaplain Candidate and spent my summers training or serving in that capacity. Upon graduation from seminary, I spent a year as an associate pastor of a non-denominational church. After one year in the pastorate, I was commissioned a chaplain, back on Active Duty again. This was in November 2000.

My reason for telling you this is to say that I am not new to the Church or the Army. I love both. Yes, they have their problems, but as organizations go, they have their purposes. One is God’s divine purpose of furthering His kingdom. The other is the government’s purpose of furthering the freedoms of its people. God may ordain both, but only one was instituted by Christ and has eternal purposes. In seeking to be a hybrid of these two organizations, the Army chaplain corps has not found the benefits of heterosis (the whole is greater than the sum of the parts), but rather has taken the worst of both (the whole is less than the sum of the parts).


I grew up on a farm. It was a small family farm with just about every kind of animal that you could imagine (or might not even imagine, but is useful for food). Because of our limited space, we would pasture the sheep and the goats in the same field. It worked out OK, but there were some very interesting things that occurred due to the commingling of two very different species. I learned that there is definitely a difference between sheep and goats.

Sheep are placid animals, they flock together for security, they come when you call them; they don’t try to break out of the fences. Yes, they are not too bright, but they are good creatures, and pretty easy to take care of. Goats, however, are another deal altogether. I can remember throwing the grain down in the trough for the nightly feeding. The sheep would push in side by side and begin to eat. The goats would jump on top of the sheep, walk on their backs, and steal food from between the sheep’s heads. If you turned your back on sheep, they would come up and nuzzle at your knees. Goats would rear up on their hind legs and try to implant their horns on your backside. Goats were always doing dumb things, getting themselves in trouble. Often, at feeding time it was not uncommon to hear a braying from one of the fences. Sure enough, there would be a goat with his head stuck between the wire mesh. He had pushed his head through, but he couldn’t get it back. We had one goat, a buck, which continually jumped the fence or found a way through. He’d be out on the road dodging cars, trying to implant his horns into their grill. So, we thought we might try to slow him down, keep him from jumping fences, so we tied a cinder block to an eight foot chain, and tied the other end around his neck thinking that this would at least slow him down. That night, we heard bleating from the fence, and there he was outside the fence with the cinder block still inside the fence (apparently the buck had learned the art of the standing vertical jump).

Why do I mention all this? Well, as pastors, ordained ministers, we are called to shepherd sheep. I learned at a young age, that it is impossible to shepherd goats. It can’t be done. Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me” (John 10:14). There is an established bond between the shepherd and the sheep; no bond exists between the shepherd and the goats. In fact, the goats like to do their own thing and in the end, they will be separated from the sheep and “go away into eternal punishment” (Matthew 25:46). Therefore, as pastors, or shepherds, we serve one Shepherd, seeking to care for sheep that are of the same fold. Furthermore, as shepherds commissioned by the Good Shepherd, pastors are called to tend and shepherd His sheep (John 21:15-17), to protect them, guarding the true doctrines of the Church, exhorting our sheep and refuting the goats (Titus 1:9).

I submit that the Army chaplain corps in all its pluralistic glory is the antithesis to this calling. It contradicts every Christian ordinate’s vow. Pastors are ordained to guard objective truth and protect their people from heresy; chaplains are commissioned to guard pluralism and protect people from objective truth. The chaplain is to plan, implement, and execute his commander’s religious support plan. In order to do this, the chaplain is bound by regulation to promote and encourage each individual in his own belief system. The fold is not defined by the shepherd, but by the sheep, or rather in most instances, by the goats. For that is exactly what the military chaplain corps is all about, seeking to do that which is impossible: shepherding goats. As I already stated, you can’t shepherd goats. God can change the goats into sheep, and then you can shepherd them, but you can only shepherd sheep.

This idea of God changing goats into sheep is a good one: our part in it is called evangelism or missionary work. The souls of men are converted through the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is a good thing, a noble calling. Some might even say, “Well, a chaplain may not be pastor, but he is definitely a missionary.” A Christian missionary is one who, like Philip, preaches the good news about the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 8:12). In the military, the chaplain’s role is two-fold: minister to the personnel of the unit and facilitate the ‘free-exercise’ rights of all personnel, regardless of religious affiliation of either the chaplain or the unit member (AR 165-1, 4-4, b). In addition (and less formally enforced), the chaplain is not encouraged to be the best minister of his particular faith group, as would be the case in a true pluralistic society. Rather, he is encouraged to ‘be generic’ in the public forum, and only speak the specific tenets of his faith to people of his own faith. That’s not being a pastor or a missionary; that’s being schizophrenic.

Also, the Great Commission of any missionary is to make disciples, by baptizing and teaching (Matthew 28:19-20), thereby growing Christ’s Church. The chaplain may baptize and he may aid in the growth of the chapel ministry on a post, but this does not make him a missionary fulfilling the Great Commission. The Army chapel is the not ‘the’, or even ‘a’ Church. The chaplain operates in a work place as a lone ranger for the gospel. Even if he gets away with faithfully proclaiming the Gospel, he certainly won’t be planting or growing any churches, any more than any other Christian in the military might.

Rather than doing the work of the pastor (or missionary) that his church has called him to do in a military environment, the nature of the chaplain’s role, in practice, is to boost morale and provide diversions for soldiers so they feel good about themselves. The highest good of the chaplain is for his soldiers to feel good about themselves. Goats aren’t supposed to feel good about themselves; goats are supposed to envy the sheep who have a Good Shepherd. This is a topic that I will take up later under counseling in the military environment, but for now, suffice it to say that because the highest good that a chaplain is expected to do is to increase morale in his soldiers, then his time is consumed with innovating, planning, and executing events which ought to be the function of the Morale, Welfare, and Recreations (MWR) department. Trips to amusement parks or climbing walls may be good for morale or even good training, but they are not the calling of a minister, no matter how you dress it up in religious language.

One last note concerning the military chaplain corps as the antithesis to the work of the pastor: because a chaplain’s usefulness is measured by success, rather than by his faithfulness (and that by his military chain of command), he must continually try to find ways to justify his existence in ways that his superiors will understand. In other words, if the chaplain’s accomplishments do not aid in the accomplishment of the military mission, then they are dismissed. What’s a chaplain to do? In order to maintain his viability in the eyes of his commander, he has to show that what he is doing makes the soldier feel better about himself and thus is more effective at completing his mission. And we are right back to the problem of trying to make goats feel good about themselves.

Some may think that I am making this stuff up (the stuff about how the chaplain must operate in a military environment). However, I continue to hear from my chaplain peers that they dare not speak about Christ in a public format (in fact, I have been given this direct order myself by a senior chaplain). The idea is proposed that chaplains must learn to view themselves in two ways: minister and chaplain. The trick is to know when to wear which hat. Bologna! That’s how an abused child learns to cope with circumstances he cannot control, he creates one personality that receives the abuse, and lives the rest of his life through another [Over here, I will be a chaplain and only talk about faith, spirituality, god, the spirit, and the lord; but, over here, I will be a Christian and talk about sin, forgiveness, the Gospel, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit].

According to the Westminster Larger Catechism, question #159 asks, “How is the word of God to be preached by those that are called thereunto? Answer: They that are called to labour in the ministry of the word, are to preach sound doctrine, diligently, in season and out of season; plainly, not in the enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit, and of power; faithfully, making known the whole counsel of God; wisely, applying themselves to the necessities and capacities of the hearers; zealously, with fervent love to God and the souls of his people; sincerely, aiming at his glory, and their conversion, edification, and salvation.”

The Ministry of the Army Chaplain

Still, you might say, there are a lot of good things that a chaplain may do, and still remain faithful to his ordination vows. While this may be true on paper – and I am not willing to admit that it is – it is definitely not true in practice. With that in mind, I would like to proceed with a discussion on a number of different aspects of what an Army chaplain does, and how the chaplain corps system actually works against the work of the chaplain as minister.


When I re-entered the Army as a chaplain, I assumed that I would be doing more counseling than preaching or teaching. In fact, I looked forward to learning and growing in the role of a counselor. So, as soon as it was made available, I received the training through the Family Life Center on Fort Bragg for counseling called the Family Ministry Training Program. I looked forward to learning the art of counseling from other chaplains with experience and knowledge.

What I was exposed to was disheartening to say the least. It seems that the Army Family Life chaplains have swallowed a certain program – hook, line, and sinker. This program of counseling is called Solution-Focused Brief Therapy. It operates under the assumption that the counselee (or client) is the expert. My teachers proclaimed with a proud lilt in their collective voices, “Gone are the days when the counselor is the expert. You must learn the art of not knowing. You must learn to allow the client to figure out the behavioral modifications that worked in the past, and encourage them to do that again.”

In fact, we were told not even to discuss the presenting problem: that just makes things worse. We should only focus on solutions, hence the name. In addition, the Solution-Focused Brief Therapy’s ‘success’ is defined by the client through ‘scaling questions,’ “On a scale of one to ten, how are things right now?” Then, the counselor proceeds with complimenting the client no matter what the number and follows up with, “How can we raise that number.” When the client returns, having tried some form of behavior modification of his own choosing, he is asked the same question. Inevitably, the number is higher and success is achieved. I submit that there is nothing therapeutic going on here, it is known as the Hawthorne Effect: those who are being studied tend to perform better because they know that they are being studied. This form of client self-evaluation serves as a microcosmic example of what occurs in the Army chaplain’s work in general. The role of the military chaplain is to defend and support each individual’s right to worship and believe what he wishes. That is, except the chaplain’s right. He is not allowed to be an ‘expert’ or an ‘authority,’ both dirty words in the corps.

Finally, in the realm of Solution-Focused Brief Therapy, there is the ‘Miracle Question.” It goes something like this, “If you were to go to bed tonight and while you were sleeping, a miracle happened so that your problem was fixed – gone. When you woke up in the morning, how would you know? How would you act differently? How would others act?” Then, the client is encouraged to take one day during the coming week and pretend that the miracle has occurred, acting as if the problem were cured. The idea is that if the client begins to act like the problem is gone, others will begin to follow, and soon the problem will be gone – solution found! The problem is with this approach is: the reality of sin? Why do we as counselors feel the need to gloss over problems, learn the art of not knowing the answers, and hope for the best? As if the answer to everyone’s problems can be found within themselves. That’s not therapy, that’s humanism. That’s applying a band-aide to a sucking chest wound!

While attending a two-day training course at the Family Life Center designed to help chaplains deal with suicidal people, the senior instructor made a surprising statement. We had been discussing the necessity of taking a counselee to a psychiatrist, once we had determined that they were suicidal. This is required as a chaplain, to protect your career. I raised the point that as a pastor, this would not necessarily be a requirement. The trainer, a lieutenant colonel chaplain, responded, “Pastors who are in the preaching ministry, who preach the Gospel from the pulpit, should not and cannot do therapy. They can do pastoral counseling, but they must get the help of a professional expert for therapy.” My jaw almost fell on the ground. In other words, the preaching of the Gospel (the announcement of the good news of salvation in the death, resurrection, ascension, and session of Jesus Christ) is irrelevant for people with real problems.

Money (Budgets)

There are two types of budgets upon which an Army chaplain may draw to aid in his ministry. Appropriated Funds (AF) are those moneys which are set apart by congress to be used for ‘spiritual ministry’ for soldiers. Non-Appropriated Funds (NAF) are those moneys which come from chapel offerings and are denominationally specific. I mention this only to say that the chaplain gets money both from the federal government (tax-payers’ money) and from chapel attendees. The really interesting thing is that chaplains typically use this money for what some of us affectionately call ‘Barney’ programs. These are programs that, like the big purple dinosaur, distract soldiers from their worries, maybe teach them a good lesson about how to be nice to others, and make them feel good about the big happy family called the Army.

Also, it is a cardinal sin for a chaplain to not spend money that he has sitting in his account. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard, “You have $2,000 left in your budget that you must use by the first of next month. If you don’t spend it, you’re going to lose it.” So, chaplains scramble to put together a program that will exhaust their budget. Why not let that the money be given to someone else, or returned from whence it came? The budget drives the ministry in the worst of ways, and the chaplain dare not leave money unspent. Otherwise, it might look like he is unnecessary, and the money will go to some training program, or back to the taxpayer. The tail is wagging the dog.

Chaplain Officer Evaluation Reports

As I have noted in Preface above, I have been a commissioned officer in three branches now (Infantry, Quartermaster, and the Chaplain Corps). In no other branch have I seen such an infatuation with the Officer Evaluation Report (OER) system. How many times do we really need someone from the Personnel Office in the Chief’s Office to come and give us a briefing about how to get promoted? In other branches, there was (and usually still is) an unwritten rule that you don’t talk about your OER with your peers. One of the marks of a professional officer or leader is that he is not ‘in it’ for self gain. Through training and mentoring, this tradition of selfless service is encouraged and honed.

If any branch in the Army ought to esteem the virtue of selfless service, it should be the Chaplain Corps. Jesus teaches that we should humble ourselves and not seek places of honor (Luke 14:7-11). Yet, it is the chaplains who shamelessly extol their own work so as to esteem themselves in the eyes of their commanders. Chaplains are constantly encouraged to prove their worth to the Army and the chain of command. Programs and quantifiable attendance have become nothing more than means towards creating ‘dash-one’ comments. [‘Dash-one’ refers to the OER Support Form, DA Form 67-9-1]. The goal of bringing glory to God and conversion, edification, and salvation to men has been replaced by bringing glory to self and a one-block to the chaplain’s OER.

Suicide Awareness

According to AR 165-1 (4-3.e.), “Commanders will detail or assign chaplains only to duties related to their profession. Chaplains may perform unrelated duties in a temporary military emergency. Chaplains may volunteer to participate or cooperate in nonreligious functions that contribute to the welfare of the command. Commanders will not…detail a chaplain as…suicide prevention, or survivor assistance officer.” Even though the regulations explicitly states that commanders will not detail or assign chaplains as suicide prevention officers, chaplains continually volunteer for this duty. While this is their right according to the regulation, chaplains would be better served to let the local mental health office do its job by providing the suicide prevention classes for the units.

Chaplains should be trained and experienced in the realm of suicide awareness. They should know how to react and help those struggling with suicide and depression. However, conducting suicide awareness and prevention training for the unit does not fit into the realm of performing or providing for the religious needs of soldiers. Here is the perfect of example of chaplains seeking to make themselves an integral part of the unit by doing something that they were never meant to do. Yes, chaplains may volunteer for and perform this task, should they so desire, but it has become an accepted norm that this is the role of the chaplain. It is not. In the words of AR 165-1, it is not a duty related to the profession of the chaplain. This applies to many other roles that are explicitly listed in paragraph 4-3 of this regulation. It’s time for chaplains to read their own regulations.

Social Work

There are a lot of agencies in the Army that do social work: Army Community Service, Social Services, etc. It is interesting to me that the chaplain is always lumped in with these organizations. As a minister of God’s Word, I am called to preach and teach His Word. And, yes, as a chaplain, I have accepted the fact that I must also provide for the free exercise of religion for people of other faiths. I don’t agree with the other faiths, but this is America, and I don’t think any religion ought to be forced on people. What I can’t understand is why a lot, if not a majority, of the chaplain’s time is spent in doing social work. I mention to my pastor friends some of the things that a chaplain does for soldiers and their families, and they call us ‘overpaid social workers.’

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for helping people. I think that we should have organizations and people in place to help people – financially and physically. I’m just not convinced that it is the role of the chaplain. It certainly is not the role according to regulation. But, again, in order to justify our existence because you can’t quantify Kingdom values on an Officer Evaluation Report (OER), the chaplain corps has taken on the role of social worker. For example, chaplains provide food vouchers at the commissary for soldiers and their families who can’t make ends meet. We are the first stop for financial counseling and loan approval from the Army Emergency Relief (AER). We provide a food locker for those who have fallen on hard times. While these are viable services that truly help soldiers, again, I question whether they are truly supposed to be the role of the chaplain.


The chapel ministry is not the church. The church is defined as consisting of three elements: (1) The right preaching of the Gospel, (2) The right administration of the sacraments (Baptism and the Lord’s Supper), (3) The right administration of church discipline. I borrow this distinction from the Reformers. Let me just say up front that it is my contention that the Army and the Chaplain Corps would be best served by shutting down all of the chapels on post, save one or two that would be for those who are in transition or not able to get off post to the local churches in the community.

Why do we continue a program that is poorly attended and try to make it something that it is not? Because it justifies the existence of the chapel ministry and the chaplain in general. The senior chaplains want to be equitable in their distribution of responsibilities; therefore they rotate chaplains through a ‘preaching schedule’ in the chapels. Thus, the attendees (for there is no such thing as membership in a chapel) never know what they are in for from one week to the next. One week you’re hearing from a Baptist chaplain, the next from a Methodist chaplain, the next from a Church of God chaplain, Presbyterian chaplain, Church of Christ chaplain, Disciples of Christ chaplain, non-denominational chaplain, etc., etc., etc.

If we were to close down the chapels and send the chaplains downtown to their respective denominational churches a number of benefits would occur. We would not be fooling people into thinking that if they go to chapel, then they are members of a Christian church. The chaplains would maintain their distinctiveness and gain experience and continued development in their own denominations. And, the chaplains would better serve the greater Army and civilian community. It would help to put an end to the syncretism that occurs in the Army chaplain corps between the Christian faith and the Army values.


One of the main reasons that Christians could not join the Roman Army in the early church was not because Christians were pacifists, but because Roman soldiers were expected to adopt the belief system of the Roman religion. Emperor worship was par for the course. Oh, you could be a Christian, but you also had to bow to Caesar. The same thing has occurred today – maybe not in the rank and file, but it is evident in the chaplain corps.

(1) A Religion of the Lowest Common Denominator

Whether it is official doctrine or not, I have been explicitly told that when preaching in a ‘General Protestant’ (GP) service on post that I should not and could not be denominationally-specific. I could only say those things that are common to all Christian denominations. Also, when speaking or preaching at a Memorial Ceremony, I was commanded by a senior chaplain (a lieutenant colonel) to change my message because it was too ‘Christian’. These are two separate events and issues, but they serve as evidence that the chaplain corps is not trying to maintain a freedom ‘of’ religion, but a freedom ‘from’ religion. It is not allowed for the chaplain to say anything that someone in the congregation or attending a service would disagree with because they come from a different religious background. However, the constitution gives us freedom to practice religion, not freedom to not be offended.

I have attended prayer breakfasts where chaplains prayed and read Scripture, however the only person to preach the Gospel or even mention Jesus Christ was the guest speaker who happened to be a Korean War veteran who earned the Congressional Medal of Honor. He concluded every vignette from his life with, “Praise and thanks be to God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord who saved me from my sin.” It was a powerful testimony presented by a veteran, encased in chaplain corps pluralistic relativism.

Other chaplains have told me that when they preach in a chapel, they make sure that their message would be one that they would preach in the motor pool to their soldiers. I submit that this kind of thinking has the wrong frame of reference. We should preach in the chapels and in the motor pool as we would preach in our churches. The chaplain’s ministry ought to be defined by His role as shepherd, acting on behalf of the Great Shepherd.

2) The characteristics, roles, and work of Christ are subsumed as military leadership ideals.

This is evident in messages that portray Christ as a man on a mission. He accomplished His mission by dying on the cross for you, now go and be like Christ pushing and striving to accomplish yours. As anecdotal evidence, devotional talks by chaplains usually focus on ‘Leadership Principles of Jesus’ or how following Biblical principles will make you a more successful soldier. Rarely will you hear a Christian chaplain quote the New Testament. And, if he does, it is devoid of the Gospel. By worldly standards, these are good principles and if applied would serve a leader well. However, as Christians, this ought to cause us to raise our eyebrows – we fail in our mission to proclaim the Gospel, when we give our hearers the wisdom for which they search, rather than the foolishness of Christ crucified (see 1 Corinthians 1:22-31).

3) OT messianic prophecies are viewed as being fulfilled by soldiers.

Old Testament prophesies and the Old Testament in general is applied to the soldiers and to the United States of America. This is evident in the stained-glass windows of the chapels on post. The windows have messianic prophecies concerning the work of Christ and how He sets the captives free. In the window, there are pictures of soldiers in Granada liberating college students. Need I say more?

4) “God helps those who help themselves” has become the theology of the soldier.

Bootstrap theology is alive and well in the chaplain corps. I know that it is alive and well in the Church, but it is almost a cliché in the Army chaplain corps. Whether preaching from the Old Testament or the New, the message is always Nietzschian: the Christian life is one of empowerment; God makes you a Superman, so that you can accomplish great things and be successful in this world. You want to be a good husband? Jesus can make you a great husband. You want to be a successful soldier? Jesus is the answer. Trust in Him, follow His principles of leadership, and someday, you too can be a great leader like Him.


If you have made it thus far, I thank you for sticking with the ramblings of a disappointed chaplain. I have said above that I believe we ought to shut down the chapels on post and send our chaplains into the local churches to minister and become involved with their own denominations in order to maintain their own distinctiveness. I also believe that we ought to just do away with the chaplain corps as a branch, for you don’t need an ordained minister to defend the religious rights of soldiers, do social work, and put together MWR programs. The Army could replace the chaplain corps with another branch: Religious Specialists. These officers would receive their commissions just like any other branch, and at their Officer Basic Course, would learn how to meet the logistical needs of all faiths. They would also learn how to be social workers – specializing in meeting the physical needs of soldiers and their families. Finally, they would be the morale officers of the battalion (kind of like the social coordinators) – planning trips and retreats, handing out candy, etc. Finally, the Army would have what they want – Religious Specialists / Morale Officers, and what occurs in practice already, would match the new doctrine. You may ask, “Who would meet the spiritual needs of the soldiers then?” Why the local pastors of their own churches, of course. And, when soldiers deploy, the Army could contract with denominations to bring in pastors to minister to soldiers (kind of like the USO). I imagine that there are a number of pastors who would volunteer and it would cost the Army very little to do this.

This document will probably make some people mad and others will just pass it off as the ravings of an uptight, hypersensitive man. However, my hope is that some will read this and consider their calling and become a little more discerning in how they fulfill their ordination vows. Alas, I know that my suggestions about doing away with the chapels or the chaplain corps will never come to pass. But maybe, just maybe, some chaplains will take a stand and perform their duties according to their ordination vows and the Army Regulations. I have begun to do so. I have one more year left on my initial term of commitment as a chaplain and I will be getting out in November 2003. Frankly, I am getting out because I don’t believe the chaplain corps is worth saving. The Church is of much greater importance and eternal value than the chaplain corps. She is a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, the people of God who have received mercy (1 Peter 2:9-10). May God bless His Church and His ministers as they seek to shepherd His sheep.


About Andrew Webb

I was converted out of paganism and the occult in 1993 and while I was initially Charismatic/Arminian in my theology, I became Reformed and Presbyterian through bible study and the influence of ministries like RC Sproul's. After teaching in local bible studies, and taking seminary courses part time, I began to feel called to the ministry in 1997. I was Ordained as an RE at Christ Covenant PCA in Hatboro, PA in 2000 and as a TE by Central Carolina Presbytery in 2001 when I was called to be the Organizing Pastor/Church Planter for Providence PCA Mission, Cross Creek PCA's church plant in Fayetteville, NC (home to Ft. Bragg and Pope Airforce Base). In 2005 when the Providence PCA Particularized I was blessed to be called by the congregation to be their Pastor
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19 Responses to Shepherding Goats: The Paradox of the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps

  1. Tim Bailey says:

    I met Peter as he transitioned to Macon–he is a great guy with some amazing stories (I’ve since been transferred by the military away from Georgia).

    I didn’t know the reasons why he left the Army. Thanks for posting it.

  2. For the very reasons Peter outlined I did not transition to Active Duty Army chaplaincy; I left the ARNG in ’98.

    One minor correction: his senior chaplain may have thought he was issuing a command; in fact, he is incapable of issuing a lawful order. Chaplains have rank, but no command in the Army. We had no power even to promote our own enlisted assistants; we had to recommend that to their company-level chain of command.

    They cannot assume command at any place in the rank structure. His senior chaplain was in a supervisory role in his technical chain. He can issue technical advice, etc., but has no power to command. But as a senior technical rater (ref the OER mess Peter mentions) he can make life miserable for him if he doesn’t kow-tow to his “command.”

  3. Kenneth Conklin says:

    As a chaplain candidate in Missouri, I’m appreciative of what a former chaplain and brother in Christ has written. Yet, these are not my experiences. Does Peter completely understand the mission, risks, and challenges of the chaplaincy? Did he have a mentor to show him how to glorify, extol and preach Christ even in the military environment? And did he take advantage of the opportunities around him to present the Gospel?
    Over and over from other (PCA) chaplains I’ve heard of ways and opportunities to winsomely present the Gospel to troops. Jerram Barrs’ book, “The Heart of Evangelism” is a great tool, especially in the pluralistic environment of the military, as is almost anything by Tim Keller.
    I’m truly sorry for what Peter has experienced, but this just doesn’t ring true with what other chaplains have told me about what we can do as chaplains.

  4. Andrew Webb says:

    Dear Kenneth et al,

    First off let me say that I expected that Peter’s essay would elicit many strong negative reactions, especially from members of the chaplain corps, it did when it was first published in 2002 as well. But then again, I expect that many of the articles here on pastoral theology will produce outraged reactions from the Pastors of churches who do not subscribe to an Old School Philosophy.

    First Kenneth, before we get to ad hom attacks, let me say that Peter is RTS trained and certainly knows how to share the gospel and has done so. It is not an inability to share his faith or a failure to do so that he found frustrating. He was well liked by the troops he worked with, and if he had problems they were with the Chaplain corps and its philosophy rather than military. I can testify to the fact that the events he writes about actually happened, as most of them occurred after I got to Fayetteville. I have spoken with many other Chaplains who have shared their frustrations with the same things Peter speaks about (though none of them would be comfortable publishing them.)

    Peter’s problems with the Chaplaincy were not situational, they were principial and stemmed from his high view of the church, strong ecclesiology, and belief that Pastors are far more than simply people who “present the gospel” (which is the calling of ALL Christians – 1 Peter 3:15) in the context of the modern military, and who can learn ways to work around the road blocks that are thrown up by forces like political correctness. Peter understands that a man ordained to the officer of Teaching Elder is called to be far more than an evangelist, he is called to be A SHEPHERD and he outlines the duties of a shepherd in his article very well:

    “Why do I mention all this? Well, as pastors, ordained ministers, we are called to shepherd sheep. … Therefore, as pastors, or shepherds, we serve one Shepherd, seeking to care for sheep that are of the same fold. Furthermore, as shepherds commissioned by the Good Shepherd, pastors are called to tend and shepherd His sheep (John 21:15-17), to protect them, guarding the true doctrines of the Church, exhorting our sheep and refuting the goats (Titus 1:9).”

    The Shepherds are called to maintain the marks of the true church – 1) the right preaching of the word, 2) the right administration of the sacraments, and 3) the right use of church discipline and I would maintain that as Peter has demonstrated the military makes marks 1 & 2 very difficult and mark 3 absolutely impossible.

    Additionally, having been in a military town now for 5 years I strongly concur with Peter that the Chapel system is more of a bane than a boon. I would have no problem saying Christian military families should go to strong churches in the area rather than attending services at chapel where there is no real membership, no session oversight, generally spotty and haphazard preaching (OPC minister this week, UCC next week, UMC after that, etc.), and no ability to exercise discipline. In areas where no orthodox protestant churches are present, they may be necessary, but generally the off-post churches are always superior.

    Kenneth, Peter’s point is that being a full-orbed teaching elder – a true shepherd – has become nearly impossible in the military, and if all you want to do is share the gospel with soldiers, hold bible-studies with them and give them advice, you don’t have to be an ordained TE. Those are all things that parachurch ministries like CADENCE and the Navigators already perform. I think, however, part of our problem may be that we tend to think of the Pastor in terms of the definitions of the modern parachurch “gospel sharer and equipper” rather than the bible’s “overseer and elder and shepherd of Christ’s flock.”

    In any event, I’d ask that you reserve judgment of Peter until you yourself have spent several years trying to be a biblical elder and the shepherd in the context of the modern chaplaincy.

    Your Servant in Christ,

    Andy Webb

  5. BJ McDonald says:

    I recieved a link to this through Covienet. I am a military spouse (USAF) and have seen many of the things mentioned in the article. My husband and I have attended a total of 2 “chapel” services both were when we first PCSed to new locations. The lack of anything of substance at both of these services forced us to search out a local church to attend. (even forcing us to drive over an hour to church when stationed in Germany) I would gladly drive any distance to get a message that was worth listening to than sit through half a “chapel” service that was trying not to offend anyone. My husband has met a few people who were chaplains in the AF that have had similar complaints as Peter. I don’t know that closing the chapels is the answer as I know a lot of people who wouldn’t bother to find a church and therefore would miss out on the fellowship they find at the chapel. (not the same as a good church family but in a community that moves a lot the fellowship at the chapel is important to some) I am greatful that our family has been able to find a church (even overseas) to attend. As a side note the pastor at our overseas church was an army reserves chaplin, who was called to active duty for a while, but prefered his work at the church over his military work. Thank you for this article I plan to forward the link to my husband who is overseas still.

  6. Joseph W. Ivory says:

    I believe that he is right on. I have served in the Army since ’92 both in an enlisted and commissioned status and have never been overly impressed by the chaplain corps. Before I was converted, I disdained chapel services as weak and anemic, because I had sat under strong Gospel preaching before I joined the Army.

    Even the chaplains who are good are pressured to provide a service that gives people what they want rather than what they need. I have never felt very convicted (even when I really needed it) sitting under preaching in an Army chapel. A case in point, one of my friends who is a reformed chaplain often feels it necessary to speak in hushed tones whenever matters of important or controversial theology are brought up in conversation. The reason why is obvious enough, he has had it pounded into his head over and over that if he offends anyone, he is not doing his job (and I consider him to be a good brother in Christ).

    It is not the individuals as much as it is the system which forces mediocrity upon our chaplains, and seeks to castrate the power of Scripture through pluralistic ideals. This is why when I was re-entering active duty and was asked by a former chaplain if I was going to support the on-post chapel, I said no. He looked somewhat wounded and asked why and I explained that 1) it is not a real church. There is no membership, no church discipline and no real accountability. And 2) even if the chaplain wants to be faithful to the Gospel and Jesus Christ, the chaplain corps would likely put so much pressure on him that he would either cave in or get out (or be forced out). I want my wife and children (and me!) to sit under godly, faithful and consistent preaching (not the flavor of the week). And so I would always look off-post for a local church to become a member of.

    I do not deny that chaplains have many opportunities to share the gospel with troops (I should hope so). I attend chapel services while deployed, and as I said, I consider my chaplain to be one of the good ones. But my point is that the chapel is not a church, and the chaplain corps does not exist to fuflill the Great Commission. Therefore, for those who are thinking of going into the chaplaincy, I don’t think anyone is saying that you not be able to do any good at all, it is just that the system itself is designed to discourage the kind of strong gospel-preaching that our soldiers really need.

  7. Peter M. Dietsch says:

    I generally don’t like to comment on blogs and enter into internet debates of this sort, so when Andy asked me for my permission to publish the article on this site, I was a bit hesitant – now I remember why. Part of my reasoning stems from what happened when I originally wrote this document. But, Andy thought that it might help some people who feel the same way, but cannot speak out, so I agreed. At this point, I should probably just defer to Andy’s comments above, or Joe Ivory’s comments over on the BB Warfield message board, as they seem to summarize and encapsulate the main point of the essay.

    However, now I find myself in the position of having to respond to personal attacks. Whether some of the comments were intended that way or not, that’s what they were. I’ll address those comments. However, first I would like to give any and all who read the “Shepherding Goats” article, the rest of the story (a little more context and detail; maybe even more than anyone wants). By the way, I will refer to some of my experiences and commendations as a chaplain solely because my ability as a minister in a military environment, among other things, has been called into question. Please understand, normally I would not speak about an officer evaluation (as per my comments in the original article, but (1) those days are long past and for me, the ratings are no longer of consequence; and (2) some people seem to think that because I question the chaplain corps, I must have been an incompetent chaplain and so my commentary is nothing but a bunch of sour grapes).

    First, for the rest of the story. I refered to an incident in the article in which a chaplain lieutenant colonel chaplain gave me a direct order to change my message for a Memorial Ceremony because it was ‘too Christian.’ Here’s the details. I had spent 1 ½ years within the 82d Airborne Division as a battalion chaplain for a support battalion. Almost immediately upon transferring to an infantry battalion (also in the 82d), I was called to the local hospital – one of our soldiers had been in a motorcycle accident, suffered brain trauma and was in a coma. For four days, I ministered to his parents, family, and friends as they came to terms with the fact that their 19 year old son was brain dead. After those four days, upon the advice of the doctors, they determined to take him off of life support.

    In preparations for the memorial ceremony, my brigade chaplain was on leave, so the division chaplain (the lieutenant colonel) took a very hands on, micro-managerial role. When he saw the text that I was going to preach on (a passage from 2 Timothy), he remarked, “That seems to be a very Christian passage, what do you intend to say.” This led to a 2-hour discussion on the day before the ceremony which concluded with him saying, “Go home and think about what we discussed. In the morning, I want to see what you plan on saying.”

    I went to my office in the battalion. I prayed and I wrestled – “Should I preach the message that the Lord had for these grieving parents? Or, should I change my message and make it more generic, as per the division chaplain’s instructions?” As I was thinking and praying about this, the phone rang. It was a lieutenant from another unit whom I knew. His wife was in the army, and deployed; he was struggling with the temptation to have an affair with another woman. So, he called my office at that late hour on the off chance that I might be there. As I said, I knew this man; he was a Christian. The only thing that I could offer him at that moment was the counsel that he remember his position in Christ, and that Christ had died for his sins, in order that he might die to sin and live to righteousness.

    As I hung up the phone, I realized – the gospel was the only thing of substance that I could offer this man and it was the only thing that I could offer my dead soldier’s family. [By the way, being brand new to the unit, I never met the soldier who had died. His dog-tags read “Christian;” as I got to know his family, I learned that they had a relationship with Christ]. So, I finished preparing my message (really only about a 10 minute sermon), e-mailed it to the senior chaplain, went home and slept well.

    After the rehearsal for the ceremony, the senior chaplain called me to his office. He said, “This will not do. There may be soldiers there from other faiths. Your remarks are a Christian sermon on salvation and not focused on honoring your fallen soldier. Since you refused to change your message, I have done so.” At this point, he handed me a revised copy of what I had prepared. Many of the personal stories and vignettes that I had from my interactions with the family were there, but he changed the message to basically say. “King David was a great warrior and God loved him. This fallen soldier was a warrior, too. God loves the warrior.”

    My response was, “Sir, before I would not change my message because I have no other hope to offer than faith in Jesus Christ. Now, I cannot read what you have written as a matter of conscience – they are not my words.” He was unequivocal, “Let me get this straight, you are saying that you will not do this.” I said, “Yes, sir, you are correct. I will not do this.” He said, “Go back to your unit. Reprint the bulletin and wherever it has your name, replace it with my name. This isn’t over!” I said, “Yes, sir,” left his office, and literally called my wife to tell her that she might want to start packing because I think I just ended my career.

    The funeral ceremony proceeded as planned with the division chaplain presiding. The family was none the wiser – they actually considered it an honor to have the division chaplain speak, and I wasn’t going to tell them any different. By the way, in his message, this chaplain presented the accounts of my peronal interactions with the grieving family, as if they were his own experiences – though, he had virtually no interaction with them. As soon as the ceremony was over, I went to my battalion commander and executive officer (both infantry officers), and I told them what had just happened with the division chaplain. I thought it a professional courtesy to give them a ‘heads up’ about what they would hear from the division chaplain. Both of them said to me, “Chaplain, don’t worry about it. You did the right thing. That was an unlawful order. You were right to say no. We wouldn’t expect anything less. In fact, what kind of chaplain would you be, if you had gone along? Not one that we would want in our unit!”

    [Aside: someone commented that a chaplain cannot give an order, saying that a chaplain does not have command authority. It is true that a chaplain is a ‘technical officer’ and thus cannot ever have command authority. However, command authority refers to the authority which an officer has when he is in command of a unit. It means that he can enforce the Uniform Code of Military Justice. As a commissioned officer, a chaplain can give an order to anyone whom he outranks, and especially to those chaplains whom he supervises. The supervisory chaplain is the one who determines the ministry support plan for any operation, thus he gives order to his subordinate chaplains all the time. Whether they are lawful orders or not is based on the context and the order itself].

    Providentially, immediately following the incident of the funeral ceremony, the division chaplain deployed to Afghanistan, so nothing came of that incident. Three months later, I e-mailed the essay, “Shepherding Goats” to my fellow Christian chaplains in the 82d Airborne Division. Truth be told, I wrote that essay over the course of two years, and only published it after I had already made the decision to leave the chaplaincy. In fact, I didn’t really ‘publish’ it; I e-mailed it to my peers in my division. In hindsight, that may have been unwise. No one responded to my e-mail, as I had hoped. Instead, it was e-mailed all over the world!

    A week later, my battalion commander asked me about the essay (apparently, it had made it to the Chief of Chaplain’s office in the Pentagon, as well as to the division chaplain in Afghanistan). What ensued was a battle between my chain of command who loved and respected me as the unit chaplain and the division chaplain’s office. Our unit was scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan, and the division chaplain wanted to replace me, and remove me from the division altogether. My battalion commander fought for me, like you wouldn’t believe. He got the brigade commander (a full colonel) to fight for me. Yet, it was not enough to convince the division commander of the 82d Airborne Division to not listen to his division chaplain.

    The reasoning of the division chaplain was two-fold (as per an e-mail he sent to my battalion commander): (1) Peter might speak to the imbedded media while deployed and cause embarrassment (FYI, I dislike talking to the media more than I dislike posting things on the internet); (2) Peter will not minister to all the soldiers of the battalion, only those he considers to be sheep. What’s most hilarious about this second point is that he included my battalion commander as someone I thought would be a goat (my battalion commander was a devout Roman Catholic). I find that funny because my battalion commander knew my views, and we had even discussed our disagreements concerning the practice of our faiths, yet I still provided Roman Catholic services for him and all our Roman Catholic soldiers by coordinating to have a priest come and minister to them while in the field.

    Let me just insert something here about pluralism. I am all for pluralism in America, properly understood where each person retains the right to hold to their particular views. And, as I stated in the essay, I understood my role as chaplain to perform services for Christian soldiers, and provide services for those not of my particular faith. Unfortunately, for many – especially for the chaplain corps as a system – pluralism means that we, as a culture are a soup. In the end, we all really believe the same thing, don’t we? But in true pluralism, it is much more like a stew. Each one retains their right to be distinctive and hold to their views (including, and especially, the chaplain).

    As I said, despite the fact that my chain of command knew my views and were fighting to keep me as the chaplain with whom they would deploy, six weeks before the deployment I was replaced and “transferred for the needs of the Army” to a Corps level unit. There, I ministered for the remaining eleven months of my commitment to the Army.

    That’s the ‘rest of the story.’ As to the comments (posted both on this blog, as well as on the BB Warfield message board). Basically, they seem to fall into two categories: (1) Peter was unprepared to minister in the military environment; (2) Peter is unable to get along with those who don’t agree with him.

    (1) Concerning the comments that stated or implied that I was unprepared to minister in the military environment (most of which came from Kenneth Conklin who is chaplain candidate from Missouri). Kenneth, I must say, your comments seem a bit condescending. For the record, I do not believe that all chaplains are evil. Nor do I believe that individual chaplains may not do good things – including preaching the Gospel and ministering to soldiers. My intent in the paper was to critique the systemic problems of the Army chaplain corps. You seem to think that maybe things have gotten better in the last four years since I got out. From what I hear from chaplains and others still in the Army, it has only gotten worse.

    And, for the record, I loved the Army. All tolled, I spent eight years in the reserves and eight years on active duty. In fact, I never ran into any problems in my unit, or with my chain of command. The problems that I stressed in the essay were either directly or indirectly dealing with other chaplains (of all faiths). From where I sit, the problem isn’t with the military, although it can sometimes be used as the guinea pig for social change; the problem is with the chaplain corps, as a system.

    As a chaplain, I visited and counseled with my soldiers – in the workplace, in the hospital, and in the prison. I held weekly Bible studies in my home. I conducted “chaplain runs” where I preached the gospel to any and every person who came. I preached in the chapel, I preached in the field, I gave devotionals at staff meetings. The list goes on. My point is: I did my job as minister of the gospel as one who serves on a mission field. And, I never caught any flack from those in my unit. Even the Muslims, Buddhists, Wiccans, general non-religious unbelievers, all of them respected the fact that I was a Christian chaplain there to minister Christ’s message, in Christ’s name. They understood that I would care for them regardless, but I wasn’t going to change my message.

    As evidence, and again, I only bring this up since it seems that my character or at least qualifications to speak on this subject have been impugned. When I left my first unit, my battalion commander rated me in the top zone, saying, “the best chaplain with whom I’ve had the pleasure to serve with in my 17 years of service.” My executive officer was aghast that I received one of the coveted “top-blocks” on the rating scheme as a chaplain. However, my battalion commander told me as I left to go to another unit, “I fought to keep you. Just knowing that you were in the building, taking care of our soldiers, gave me a greater sense of peace.”

    Then, when I was “administratively transferred” because of this essay, that battalion commander (the Roman Catholic guy) wrote, “the best Army Chaplain I have worked with in over 19 years of service and one of the top two Captains I currently Senior Rate.” This was the man who defended me during the memorial ceremony debacle. He once told me that one of the reasons he fought so hard for me was because while our unit was conducting a live-fire exercise we had a friendly fire casualty. Upon hearing that the wounded soldier was aero-med-evac-ed to the hospital, he called for his driver, and his next instinct was to holler into the darkness, “Pete, chaplain, I need you. Let’s go!” And, we rushed to the hospital to minister to the needs of our wounded soldier (who, by the way, was Jewish). In my final evaluation, as I left the Army, my commander (another Roman Catholic guy) wrote, “the consummate chaplain, a perfect blend of staff officer and pastor, who provides both religious and moral leadership to the soldiers and leaders of the battalion.”

    I know all this sounds like I’m trying to “flash my badge.” However, your comments insinuated that I didn’t know how to function in the military environment or at the very least, that I was unprepared in some way. So, I thought they merited a response. All of these comments and accolades were not pursued. In fact, I just did my job, and the leadership recognized it.

    Now, some may want to use the above as evidence to say, “You see, chaplains can do great things in the military!” I never said that they couldn’t. My point was that the chaplain corps system was set against them to do so.

    Kenneth, I won’t address all of your comments (this thing is already way too long, as it is). One thing I will say, though. People were deploying overseas within months of 9/11/2001. Yes, you are correct, I never did deploy into combat. Praise God. One of my responsibilities, though, was to minister to families during deployments, as well as to returning soldiers. I wouldn’t wish a combat tour on anyone. Despite the fact that people may be more open to the gospel during these times, war may be something that a soldier prepares for, but not something that he desires.

    Concerning the comments made by Todd Pearson on the BB Warfield message board that stated, among other things, that there are many godly men serving in the chaplaincy. I don’t disagree. As to the comments that I should not have been surprised with the type of counseling being taught at the Family Life Center, my answer is that on a post that had over 90 chaplains (many of whom were fellow evangelical or Reformed men), they bought into it. I’m happy to hear that Todd has not.

    Todd said that it was my own fault that I allowed myself to be marginalized in becoming the suicide prevention officer. I never said that I did. I said that this is pushed by the chaplain corps as something that you are supposed to do, and most chaplains that I knew did it without even thinking twice.

    Todd, I appreciate your endeavor to temper your response in a subsequent posting in which you seek forgiveness for the tone of your previous posting. All of us can say things that we later regret or that come across in a manner that we did not intend – especially through e-mail and in cyber-space (one of the reasons I don’t like posting on the internet). However, you went on in that same posting to encourage me “to ask yourself if part of the problem was an inability to simply get along with those with whom you disagree” and that I need to deal with that issue before I butt heads with another elder, teacher, or presbytery. I’m sorry, but do I know you? How can you make such an assessment based on a paper that I wrote about the systemic problems within the chaplain corps in the Army? If you disagree with my assessment, by all means, go right ahead, but that evaluation of my personal character is unwarranted and unfounded.

    I have had many fine relationships with not only soldiers and individual laymen, but with ministers within the Army and outside the Army. Some of whom, I disagree with, and they disagree with me. In fact, if you knew me, you would probably say that I don’t like confrontation – which is actually kind of funny since that seems to have been the unintended result of my essay.

    Let me conclude with one last personal vignette. There’s a point, I promise. One of my best friends was killed in Iraq. He was an infantry officer. He had enrolled to take some seminary courses at RTS and was interested in perhaps becoming an RUF campus minister at some point. I was to marry him and his fiancé, but instead presided at his funeral. At the funeral, his fiancé showed me the Bible that he carried with him in Iraq. In it were notes that he had prepared for a Bible study that he was leading with his men. One of the things that he was emphasizing with his fellow soldiers was the importance of the “visible church.” By the way, he was discipled in the local church, and brought that to his lay-ministry in the army.

    I guess most all of this discussion boils down to the fact that I am convinced that the outward and ordinary means by which Christ communicates the benefits of redemption are His ordinances, especially the word, sacraments, and prayer (WSC 88). And, I am convinced that God has given these ordinances to the catholic visible Church for the gathering and perfecting of the saints (WCF 25.3). This visible Church is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation (WCF 25.2).

    The bottom line is that the historic three marks of the church as Andy summarized above: “1) the right preaching of the word, 2) the right administration of the sacraments, and 3) the right use of church discipline” are, practically speaking, undoable as a chaplain in the military. You may get away with the first one for a while, but I submit that eventually, you will either change your message to accommodate the pressures of the chaplain corps, or you will find yourself out of a job.

    Concerning the other two: how does a chaplain baptize – into what church is he baptizing them? Into the invisible church? How does that work? And, how does he administer the Lord’s Supper? Can he fence the table? If so, what are the criteria? Where are the elders and the session that admits individuals to that table? And, of course, the last has already been addressed. No minister can institute church discipline by himself. In the PCA, at least, formal discipline beyond admonition requires a session.

    I’m not trying to be preachy, just saying why I wrote what I did. Some people recommended that I read some books. Most of my evaluations of the problems in the chaplain corps of which I wrote in the original essay were helped by my reading and rereading “The Work of the Pastor” by William Still. I don’t doubt that there are good men serving as chaplains in the military. I know there are. My point was to say that it is not the work of a pastor. Yes, evangelism and discipleship occur through chaplains (as well as through others like my friend who died in Iraq). But, it does not follow that ministry in the military requires an ordained pastor.

    Perhaps, it would be better for chaplains to adopt the philosophy of ministry that I have seen among most RUF campus ministers. Don’t try and replace the church. Seek the lost, preach Christ, make disciples, and point them to the church! However, there are some differences between RUF campus ministers and army chaplains that make the adoption of this philosophy impossible. Until ministers who are chaplains in the military are (1) no longer required to be commissioned officers and thus take the requisite oaths, and (2) are no longer paid by the government to perform their duties, they cannot adopt this philosophy and therefore are the victims of an unfortunate conflict of interest.

  8. Joe Ivory says:

    Thanks Pete. I’m sorry you felt the need to defend yourself. I look forward to being back in my local church. I think one thing to remember is to pray for our chaplains that they would be bold in sharing the faith they swore to uphold in their ordination vows, and not to cave in to pressure to dilute the Gospel, even when their job may be threatened. Pray also for us RE’s and Christian brothers who are deployed. Being in a spiritual wasteland like Iraq and Afghanistan takes it’s toll on your zeal.

    Also, Pete, you are correct in the assessment of the ability of a chaplain to issue orders. All officers, regardless of branch, are empowered to give orders that reflect UCMJ and military regulations. This is called general authority, and can be exercised at any time and by anyone. For instance, a chaplain can order a Specialist to fix his uniform if it is in violation of AR 670-1, and the Specialist is morally and legally bound to obey. Command authority is a special authority an officer has only when in a command position. For instance, a chaplain can’t order that same Specialist to guard the parking lot as a punishment for his sloppy uniform, but his commander can (as long as he isn’t endangering his health in the process), because he has command authority. The chaplain could run and squeal on him (but I seriously doubt he would).

    Anyways, good posting. This is a very interesting topic that I’m sure would ruffle a lot of feathers if it got out to more people. I personally look forward to the day when I don’t have to rely on the chaplain corps at all (i.e. when I’m not deployed every year). The chaplains in my unit are some of my best friends I have over here, and I know they are trying to be as faithful as possible. But I also know that there are several strongholds within their own branch which makes it difficult for them, and they deserve my prayers.

  9. Reed DePace says:


    For what its worth, thank you for your reasonable and humble assessment. Thank you too for you humility in responding to critics, treating them as brothers.


    Reed DePace
    TE, PCA, Elkton MD

  10. Ben Duncan says:

    Pete, et al…

    As I read Pete’s response a few things popped into my mind:

    1. About the Division Chaplain telling him to stand down… A battalion chaplain works for the Battalion Commander. Period. Of course the Division Chaplain is in such a position that one doesn’t want to thumb his nose at the man, but a battalion chaplain works for the battalion commander. Additionally, I take it that this was a memorial ceremony. Memorial Ceremonies are command driven. That means that though there is guidance and input from the chaplain, it is the command that puts it together and operates it. Properly speaking, the only reason that the Division chaplain was able to tell Pete to “stand down” and get away with it is because either Pete didn’t know he could tell his chain of command or his chain of command didn’t know that they were the ones who determined who played what part in the ceremony, to include the part played by the chaplain. (However, I’m a bit confused… was this a memorial CEREMONY or a funeral service? In your response above you use both terms. Though in the minds of some there my be no difference, the difference is vast. If it was a memorial ceremony then it was – doctrinally speaking – for the soldiers. If it was a funeral service it was for the family. Chances are it was just an improperly run Memorial Ceremony.

    2. Based upon your experiences you “submit” that a chaplain will either have to alter his message or go find another job. Ok… well based upon my experiences I submit that if you do it tactfully you can do almost anything you want. In Bagram I turned the “traditional Protestant service” into a Reformed service. I banished the skits, introduced reading of the Shorter Catechism, brought the service from a 15-minute sermon format to 45 minutes. My fellow chaplains.. including the division chaplain – with whom I had a great relationship – were stunned to hear that I could get people to come out for such a “boring” service. I simply pointed out that some people actually want to worship God!… (It irritated me that none of my peer chaplains ever showed up to behold it for themselves.) Heck, we even went to singing acapella!!! Yet attendance went up almost 30%. Amazing what happens when people have something substantive offered to them in the face of a bunch of drivel! Plus, though for the sake of tact I didn’t name-names (who knows, perhaps you think that Jonathan Edwards was in the right to name names from the pulpit… I submit that I think that his unfortunate display of pastoral insensitivity got him what he deserved) but I preached against all the nonsense published by the likes of Osteen, Jakes, even LaHaye! It can be done. It is difficult and sometimes you have to go the route of Piper (who preached Calvinism for – I think – 7 years before he ever actually mentioned the word). But it can be done. There are now about 30 more Reformed folks in the world because the Lord was pleased to bless the work of me and my Reformed Baptist fellow-chaplain.

    3. For the record, as I’ve told everyone from the Division chaplain on down, I think we need chaplains but with a few exceptions, I DON’T think we should have chapels. So in my preaching I make that clear… this was especially easy for someone in a combat area. I would – in every message – reiterate that coming to the chapel was fine while in that situation, but once they get stateside they need to join a local congregation. In the application of my sermon I’d always throw in one or two applications for how this applies in the life of the church, etc…

    3. Just a question: the way you define the ministry of an ordained man, I was surprised that you posited the example of an RUF minister as an ideal model. Based on the way you define the ministry and the work permissible by an ordained minister, I’d ask: Do you REALLY think that an RUF campus minister should be ordained? How about seminary professors? How about hospital chaplains? Prison chaplains?

    I’ll save additional comments for my formal response.

    Chaplain, US Army
    Ordained by the Ohio Valley Presbytery, PCA

  11. Chris Weinrich says:


    Thanks for the article on your experiences and service as an active duty chaplain. Currently, I am pursuing active duty chaplaincy as an IRR candidate. I just completed the chaplain school (CH-BOLC) at Ft. Jackson.

    Your article has helped me to see and try to understand the pains and triumphs of the chaplaincy in God’s calling. Peter, thanks for your ministry to the great soldiers of this country. They saw and heard the preached gospel of our Lord through your words and actions. Also, thanks for answering the calling for ministry to this country. Living a faithful and honoring life towards our Savior within this postmodern and pluralistic culture is difficult. Yet, you are upholding that great calling for ministry. Thanks!!!

    I hope my ministry in the chaplaincy will minister to soldiers throughout the Army. Please keep writing about your experiences throughout your chaplaincy and civilian pastoral service. You are sharing great thoughts for young ministers in the gospel calling.

    God’s Blessings…

    1LT Chris Weinrich
    IRR Chaplain Candidate
    St. Louis, MO

  12. Peter M. Dietsch says:


    I understand (and understood) the difference between a memorial ceremony and a memorial service. I didn’t include all of that discussion because (1) I didn’t think that anyone outside of the chaplain corps knows or cares about the difference; and (2) it was part of the 2-hour discussion with the division chaplain that was not germane to the paper.

    But, since you bring it up. Yes, it was a memorial ceremony and not a service. I apologize for any confusion. You say that doctrinally speaking, there is a vast difference. According to Army doctrine, you are correct. But what ecclesiological or theological doctrine is it that says that a minister of the gospel, when he stands to preach, speak, or ‘give words’ at a ceremony or service must be careful not to offend those of other faiths who are there – that he should amend his message based upon the doctrinal standards of the military? (And, yes, I understand what it means to be winsome and preach truths without unnecessarily offending or beating people over the head; that’s not the issue). This whole discussion about the difference between a ceremony and service is a perfect illustration of the problem with the chaplain corps. Why do we need an ordained man to perform the military functions of a memorial ceremony?

    During my discussions with the division chaplain, I mentioned that since he was so adamant about the message being generic for this memorial ceremony, then we didn’t need a chaplain to give the remarks – any officer from the unit could do a fine job with that. That obviously, fell on deaf ears. (By the way, the only reason he was involved was because my brigade chaplain was on leave).

    You also mentioned that the battalion chaplain works for the battalion commander. Period. I would have said, “Comma.” Does the medical officer in your unit answer to the battalion commander or the senior medical officer? The answer is: both. And, so it is for the chaplain. I’m glad that your experiences were different, and that you have been able to operate in a less restrictive environment and saw ‘success’ in the reforms which you sought to bring. In practice, as well as according to army doctrine: “Army chaplains have a dual role as religious leaders and staff officers. Their duties are prescribed by law, DOD policy, Army regulations, religious requirements, and Army mission.” (AR 165-1, 4-3a). In fact, the first chapter of this regulation details the responsibilities of commanders and supervisory chaplains – they all have authority in one way or another over a chaplain.

    At the same time, there is an often overlooked statement in that same regulation. AR 165-1, 4-4e says, “Chaplains are authorized to conduct rites, sacraments, and services as required by their respective denomination. Chaplains will not be required to take part in worship when such participation is at variance with the tenets of their faith.”

    For those not familiar with this regulation, it is called AR 165-1 “Chaplain Activities in the United States Army” and can found at:

    This regulation defines the responsibilities and authority concerning all things religious for commanders and chaplains. The thrust of the regulation (this is my personal summary) seems to state that while the responsibilities and authority given to a chaplain and commander concerning the ‘religious support’ for soldiers in the army are many, the defining (or limiting) factor with respect to what a chaplain can or cannot do is his denomination.

    Again, Ben, I’m glad that you have had different experiences than I have had. However, my experiences or your experiences not withstanding, most people don’t understand all of these issues that chaplains are confronted with on a daily basis. Most individual Christians believe that the chaplain is there to fulfill his calling as a minister of the gospel. Most people in the army, including many in the chaplain corps, see it differently.

    Finally, I mentioned the RUF campus minister as an example of – from what I have seen – an ordained minister who does many of the things that an army chaplain does, but in a completely different environment with a completely different mentality. For one thing, the RUF campus minister doesn’t work for the university, get paid by the university, or have to answer to anyone in the university concerning the message that he preaches. Also, I’ve never heard of an RUF campus minister administering the sacraments, or even desiring to, in a campus setting. From what I know and have experienced as a pastor, individuals who came to faith and sought baptism were directed to the church. I could be wrong about this as I know more about the chaplaincy, then I do about RUF. But, this has been my personal experience.

    With respect to seminary professors, I suppose that would be a case by case basis depending on the role of the seminary professor outside of the classroom. I know there are various positions on this topic, and I really don’t even want to get into whether or not seminary professors ought to be ordained. Concerning hospital and prison chaplains, I suppose that I would say that the same things apply concerning military chaplains. Hopefully, I haven’t opened up a whole other can of worms here.

    Believe me, Ben, the experiences that I had, and the situations that I described, were not because I lacked tact or because I was unaware of army doctrine, protocol, or the culture in which I found myself. Beyond my personal experiences, in the original essay, I was trying to address larger, systemic problems within the culture of the chaplain corps.

    We may disagree about the legitimacy of army chaplain ministry. That’s fine. Really, Ben, I appreciate your zeal and desire to faithfully serve the Lord wherever you are. I hope and pray the Lord blesses you, your family, and your ministry.

  13. Ben Duncan says:


    Good to hear from you. I hope all is well with you and yours.

    For those on the outside of the Army Chaplaincy, this is for you. Even my battalion commander didn’t realize what I’m about to type…

    For an Army battalion chaplain the “chain of command” can in one sense be very very complicated because we have so many different people, with different expectations, to whom we answer. Here are the people that a battalion chaplain has to “please:”

    1. The battalion XO. This person is the chaplain’s immediate superisor. The XO is in charge of all the battalion staff officers, of whom the chaplain is but one. This person is the chaplain’s first line “rater.” Some young chaplains that I know have foolishly tried to play the “I’m a personal staff officer card” carelessly. We ARE technically personal staff officers – this means that we (in theory) answer directly to the battalion commander and have immediate and unmediated access to him – but trust me… the XO is a wiser and more experienced person than any young chaplain. Chances are the commander’s initial gut instinct is to trust his XO as an officer more than the chaplain… so allow the XO to do his job and mediate on your behalf except in the most pressing of situations.

    2. The battalion commander. This is the person who is the final and ultimate human military authority. He signs the most important line – the senior rater line – on a chaplain’s evaluation. He has life or death responsibility for the chaplain. If the chaplain – or anyone else in the battalion – fails, the commander bears implicit responsibility. If the chaplain – or anyone else in the battalion – succeeds, it is because of the commander’s leadership. Until the army issues orders moving you to another unit, a chaplain belongs to his commander. (To paraphrase a classic Vietnam war movie: “Your heart can belong to Jesus, but your rear belongs to me!”)

    3. The supervising chaplain. Otherwise known as the intermediate rater. This is the only “technical” officer in a chaplain’s chain of command. The supervising chaplain writes the middle line of a batalion chaplain’s evaluation.

    Here’s where things get a bit odd…

    In theory the supervising chaplain can tell you what to do. He can give you tasks, etc… BUT these are always subject to the permission of the commander. The best supervising chaplains have good relationships with the battalion commanders so contradictions are minimal. It is also true that commanders realize chaplains have to answer to the supervising chaplain, and as a result of this knowledge the commanders tend to not quibble about tasks given by the supervsing chaplain so long as they don’t take away from a chaplain’s ability to serve the commander’s troops. At the same time, the job of a supervising chaplain is to make sure that the commander doesn’t improperly use/abuse his chaplain by having him do things that take away from the religious support mission.

    At this point here is what a “dirt bag” chaplain will do: He will try to hide behind his commander when the supervising chaplain wants him to do something he doesn’t want to do and he will hide behind his supervising chaplain when the commander wants him to do something that he would rather not do. (I’ve seen this more than a few times. Pathetic.)

    4. The endorsing agent. This is the person who ultimately has control over a chaplain’s ability to serve in the military. A chaplain CAN NOT serve without an endorsement from a recognized endorsing agency. In my case the endorsing agency is the PRJC and the agent is currently Dave Peterson, a retired full colonel. It is his job to go to bat for me if I need help and it is his job to hold me accountable to be a faithful representative of my faith group. If the endorsing agent decides, for whatever reason, to revoke my endorsement, I’ll be processed out of the army in a matter of days. So chaplains have to answer to their endorsers. This means writing reports, etc…

    Finally, because I’m a Presbyterian…

    5. My Presbytery. I am ordained by and a member of the Ohio Valley Presbytery of the PCA. I am subject to my fellow elders and must request permission each year to continue to minister “out of bounds.” (Outside of the geographic area that marks the “territory” of my presbytery.)

    So a chaplain has many people he has to please.

    On another note… Peter, or those who would be of like mind, please bear with me as I’d like to press you a little further on the issue of the RUF thing… If, as you correctly note, RUF ministers don’t administer the sacraments, and if they point others to local congregations for shepherding, then what do they do that in your mind warrants them being ordained pastors? How can they shepherd their people in a way that fits with your “the local church is the only place in which a person can be biblically sherherded” model since they can’t administer the sacraments to them or enforce discipline? I agree that having campus ministers is helpful, but do you really need to have an ordained pastor to host pizza parties and go on trips and Bible studies and perform counseling?

  14. Dan says:


    I am a Chaplain with Combat experience and find many of the issues you present to not be part of my story. Additionally, my perception and others that have read this is that if we say anything different from your story, then we must be vindictive and are attacking you. This is not the case. If anyone is doing anything that looks like someone is attacking, it is you. You seem angry and even bitter. Not all of us have experiences like yours. I have rough ones and good ones. Sometimes I am disheartened and other times I am very content as a pastor whom is called to pastor soldiers as an Army chaplain. In my experiences as a pastor at a local church, I have had some of the same feelings, but just in a different context. It was never said that ministry would be easy, especially in the Chaplain Corps. I do understand that there is a lot of heartache and even bad situations we are put in the middle of, but the concept of the life of a shepherd is not always an easy life. I don’t mean to minimize your experiences and heartache; they were and still are very real. However, to bandwagon the whole Chaplain Corps because you had bad experiences is as disheartening.

    To totally disband the Chaplain Corps is very unrealistic. Just because this may not be your calling does not mean it is not my calling or others calling as well. I also would like to encourage you to remember that the church is not about the chapel, but it is about the gathering of people who come dependant on God’s grace for worship and direction. To be enabled by the Word and Sacraments in some of the harshest areas of the world and acknowledging by pointing beyond ourselves to a God that loves even this world testifies to the Holy Spirit being very active among us. Many times, we had chapel services in the dessert with no building. We were part of the Church regardless of the environment we worshipped and are worshipping in. As far as some of these programs you mentioned, I know many Churches with programs that you have described. We do have retreats, we do have counseling programs that resemble social work, and we do have other programs that you seem to think is not part of the ministry that edifies believers and encourages Christian fellowship. Are these places we call houses of worship not considered to be part of Kingdom work or should take the word ‘Church’ out of their identities? I really don’t think you would say that, nor would anyone else. All this is to say, not everyone shares your experiences and conceptions of Ecclesial Ministry. Take care and may God bring healing to you and your family.

    Grace and Peace,


  15. Peter M. Dietsch says:

    Correction: in my previous post (above) the link to the regulation (AR 165-1 – “Chaplain Activities in the United States Army”), the period at the end of the sentence was included, so it doesn’t work. Try this:

    If that doesn’t work, just google “AR 165-1” – it’s not hard to find.

  16. Andrew Webb says:

    Just a few thoughts that will hopefully build on what has already been said. But before I do that, first a few caveats.

    First this discussion is not about chaplains as individuals. I’m blessed to know several in this area, and I like, respect and in many ways admire all of them. I won’t give away which of the chaplains I know personally (aside from Peter) but I certainly am glad to have gotten to know them. There is also no question that chaplains have done many wonderful things. Thousands of soldiers have been saved through their preaching and witnessing, and many have been or are being helped by them.

    The discussion is not about chaplains, it is about the modern chaplain corps (not the chaplain corps of the 19th and early 20th century). If I can draw an analogy that I hope will help in understanding the distinction; we would all probably agree that within the modern megachurches there are some excellent pastors, we would also agree that many people have been saved in megachurches, and that some wonderful things have occurred in those ministries. I for one acknowledge all of those things. However, I still do not believe that the modern megachurch can be defended biblically, or on the whole that it is the right approach to Christian ministry.

    Now if someone who had previously been a megachurch pastor, left the megachurch and started pastoring a small confessional congregation, and began criticizing what he saw as the problems inherent with the megachurch movement citing his own experiences as examples for his points, I’m sure that many would answer by saying “Just because you had a bad experience doesn’t mean the movement isn’t legitimate and doing great things,” but that obscures the point that he is actually making. So too does taking an individual example and saying “well you could/should have handled that situation differently.” Perhaps, but that doesn’t address any of the principial issues. Also, criticisms that simply assume that the existing structure is legitimate – when that is the very issue being discussed – and then critique the critic using the presuppositions of that system are also not helpful in advancing the debate. We see this when, for instance, a critic of the Megachurch movement is dismissed with “Well you must be a lousy pastor who isn’t doing his job and doesn’t know anything about real ministry because your church only has 100 members and mine has 3,000!

    So let me simply list a few points that I have concern with in regard to the modern chaplain corps, that I don’t see being addressed, these are not listed in any particular order:

    1) Biblical Basis: Since we are Reformed believers who would argue for the sufficiency of scripture to order all of our faith, life, and practice what are the scriptures that govern and direct chaplains in the armed forces? We could all probably list the scriptures that rule and direct the work of the pastor, but we have also seen arguments that the ministry of the chaplian is not the same as that of a pastor, well then, what are the scriptures that rule and direct the work of the chaplain? Please note, I am not saying they don’t exist, but admitting I don’t know what they are.

    2) Ecumenicity: We have all heard the stories about chaplains who have been told that in certain functions they must not pray explicitly Christian prayers or deliver explicitly Christian messages due to the fact that at those functions they are essentially fulfilling a role as a government religious employee in a pluralistic society. To tell the truth, I think that in those moments we are forgetting that we are actually involved in spiritual warfare. What those chaplains are actually being asked to do is to deny the exclusivity of Christ, and their own calling to be His servants (forsaking all others) and teach a universalistic or works-based religion. It is telling for instance, that I have never heard of a Muslim chaplain being asked to begin a prayer without saying “In the name of Allah…” Most reformed chaplains have told me that when they are told they must do this, they refuse to perform the service, and someone else is called in to do it and I applaud them for their principled and righteous stand. But at the same time, we have to ask, what other ordained ministries do we have where we are frequently called upon and encouraged by our superiors to deny our Savior and rewarded for doing so? Most orthodox Pastors I know wouldn’t remain in a denomination that called them to do that, or work for a missions organization that encouraged them to do it.

    3) Ecclesiology and the Sacraments: When a Chaplain baptizes an adult, what body of elders has determined this man has a credible profession of faith and membership in what visible church is being acknowledged? To whom does that man take his membership vows? Whose authority is he submitting to? Who admits him to the table? If later on reports are received that he is living in open sin (but not necessarily breaking any army regs – lets say he frequents strip clubs and sleeps around with unmarried women) how is that man disciplined? Having admitted him to the church of Jesus Christ, how does the chaplain now fulfill the mandate of 1 Cor. 5 render judgement and “put away from yourselves the evil person.” How does he even forbid him to come to the table? For that matter what body of elders, elected by the members of the congregation, rules over the chapel? Where do we get the our biblical model for the military chapel?

    4) Accommodation: I am also uncomfortable about the requirement that Army Chaplains are under to accommodate “other faiths” – for instance, if a man came to me saying he felt he wanted to become a Muslim and wanted a copy of the Quran, directions to the local Masjid, and the name of an Imam, I could not in good conscience simply facilitate his request. My hearts desire would be to warn him that no one is saved by embracing Islam and to warn him of the danger he was in. Also the idea that, in my ordinary duties I could be called upon to help Wiccans to organize a service and advertise their services is more than I could do. In both of these situations I cannot imagine that any of the apostles would for a moment have simply “accommodated” the request and performed the service. Does anyone seriously think that Paul or Peter would have directed a man who thought he might want to become a worshipper of Diana to the local temple or made Dianic literature available to him?

    5) The Civil Aspect: Ok, I’ll admit this is purely a personal issue, but it was bad enough when tax dollars paid the salaries of Catholic Priests, Unitarians, and flaming liberal clergy members. I’m certainly not comfortable paying the generous salaries of Imams and Wiccans or paying for the distribution of their literature (it’s interesting to note that most of the Muslim English language literature distributed in the US comes from Saudi Wahabbi sources – the same sources that provide the ideological support and religious training for the very Jihadis trying to kill our troops – it is literally like having National Socialist material printed in Spain distributed by the US Army during the Second World War) with my tax dollars. Can anyone make a coherent biblical argument that the civil magistrate should raise taxes in order to pay the salary of Imams during a fight against a worldwide Islamic Jihad?

    I would maintain that there are some strong indications that like public education the Chaplaincy itself may have become or at least may be becoming broken by the demands of religious pluralism and that nothing good will come from simply ignoring the evidence of that.

  17. For what it is worth, I agree that the chaplaincy has problems. I personally think that one of the biggest problems is that the chaplaincy draws bad ministers and bad preachers (broadly speaking of course). Where else can a guy who is a horrible preacher, terrible people skills, can’t communicate the simplest of tasks, and a host of other deficiencies get paid 60 grand plus a year? Also most of the “good guys” get out after they make Major. Once major is made, more than likely the chaplain starts to fill administrative duties. This gets old for guys who have a real heart for the Gospel and they get out, thus leaving more and more “bad guys” in the upper ranks.

    I am not sure whether the answer is to pack up and leave or to work harder at getting “good guys” in the chaplaincy and reform it.

    I am not speaking specifically about anyone who has responded here (in fact besides speaking briefly with CH Duncan, I do not know anyone else). So no one should feel slighted in the least.

    Boliver Allmon

  18. Lawrence says:

    We have a local protestant pastor who was a chaplain in Iraq. While we are grateful for his services, we are beginning to question some of his self-seemingly self-promoting comments. He recently stated that he was “over a thousand men in Iraq” on a base that had 1000 men (implying command or authority or being in charge of those men). My son-in-law, a catholic Sgt. who was at the same base and knows this pastor cautiously states “Not so” and resents such mis-representation. Can you shed some light of a captain chaplain’s command authority and how many people might actually serve under him on a base? This chaplain recently testified under oath at court re. this rating, authority and military history and we are concerned that he has over-stated his authoriry and military experiences: i.e. he is in violation of the “False Honors” as well as perjury code and has thus, has perjured himself under oath. Should we gently caution him re. this? Or is he o.k. with making such statements?

  19. Bill Bowden says:

    When I was going through AIT at Ft Rucker in 2005, I became a Christian because of my Chaplain. He wasn’t preachy or loud. He would just show up and do PT with us and always be around us when we were training. I was going through some problems and he counseled me several times. He was caring and compassionate and went out to the field every week to hold a service. He led me to Christ in his office when I asked him how to be a Christian. Even though he was an officer he treated us all with respect. Because of that experience, each time I PCS I make sure I meet my unit Chaplain. I guess I just had a really good experience.

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