The gospel in uniform
(January 12, 2003)
Marvin serves as ecclesiastical endorsing agent for Assemblies
of God military and Veterans Affairs chaplains. He has also
served as director of the Chaplaincy Department, and spent 27
years on active duty as a chaplain with the U.S. Navy and Marine
Corps. Chaplain Marvin recently spoke with Scott Harrup, associate
PE: What are your
responsibilities as ecclesiastical endorsing agent?
The ecclesiastical endorsing
agency is the officially recognized, government-registered agency
for endorsing chaplains from a faith group. Our Commission on
Chaplains is the Assemblies of God endorsing agency, and my
signature assures a government agency that we have carefully
screened the man or woman we are endorsing. I serve as the endorsing
agent for military and Veterans Affairs chaplains from the Assemblies
of God. Chaplain Al Worthley, who now heads the Chaplaincy Department,
is the endorsing agent for institutional and occupational chaplains.
Describe the caliber of young men and women pursuing the military
I’ve given a lot of attention to recruiting chaplains
among Assemblies of God clergy and Bible college students. Chaplains
must have a God-given burden, a passion for military personnel
and their families, proven character and the ability to work
in a pluralistic environment. They need to administrate an entire
religious program in peacetime while remaining ready to be called
to action. For our clergy who serve in the reserves, this includes
being ready to turn over a church to an interim pastor. I was
in Europe recently at a ministry retreat. One of the chaplains
at the retreat had been called up to serve in Uzbekistan. His
wife is currently pastoring their church in the Midwest.
How are chaplains a stabilizing force during basic training
and peacetime operations?
Using both compassion and tough love, they must address the
needs and struggles of enlisted men and women, and at times
be their representative to commanding officers. Recruits going
through basic training are put into an environment of discipline
they probably have never experienced. Chaplains help them develop
spiritually and deal with heavy demands. Peacetime assignments
are also demanding on soldiers and are a big part of a chaplain’s
ministry. Troops work around explosives, fuel, ammunition, tanks,
planes, guns and ships. When the worst-case scenario happens
for a peacetime soldier, accidental death can be harder to accept
for a family than if their loved one died in combat. The chaplain
provides grief counseling for the unit as well as the family.
In light of mounting world tensions, what role are Assemblies
of God chaplains playing?
Assemblies of God chaplains, like all of the fine chaplains
in our Armed Forces, are focused on readiness. Soldiers preparing
to leave their homes and families for a possible overseas assignment
face some tough challenges. Chaplains are there to make sure
that a means of spiritual readiness is in place to support the
physical readiness required for deployment. A chaplain is there
to be a listening ear when a soldier voices fears for a collapsing
marriage or a child who will struggle emotionally during his
or her absence.
You emphasize the need for spiritual health in order to minister
to others. What spiritual disciplines contributed to your ministry
as a chaplain?
For any minister, prayer and immersion in God’s Word are
vital. During my years of service, it was often the lyrics of
the hymns I had learned all my life that would come back to
me and bring encouragement. Involvement in local churches where
our family was stationed was another blessing.
PE: Anything else?
chaplaincy is as vital a ministry as A/G outreach on any mission
field. We like to call the chaplaincy an “incarnational”
ministry, or “ministry of presence.” A chaplain
is right there, with the soldier, living out the demands of
military duty as an in-the-flesh representative of God’s
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