August 2013

‘Miracle baby’ born to pro-life congresswoman

August 2 2013 by Baptist Press

WASHINGTON – A pro-life U.S. congresswoman refused to terminate her pregnancy when doctors diagnosed her unborn child with a condition that was “incompatible with life.” Now she has given birth to a daughter who is surviving, and the newborn is being celebrated in headlines across the nation as a “miracle baby.”

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R.-Wash., announced in June that her baby had been diagnosed with Potter’s Sequence, which prevents the child’s kidneys from developing properly and causes an absence of amniotic fluid, which is crucial for lung development.

“Multiple doctors explained that based on medical evidence her condition was incompatible with life and that, if she survived to term, she would be unable to breathe and live only moments after birth,” Herrera Beutler wrote on her Facebook page July 29. 

“We were also told that dialysis or transplant were not possible. The options we were offered were termination or ‘expectant management,’ that is, waiting for her to die,” the congresswoman said. “Instead, we chose to pray earnestly for a miracle.”

In that same Facebook post, Herrera Beutler announced that her daughter, Abigail Rose Beutler, was born July 15 at only 28 weeks gestation and weighed 2 pounds and 12 ounces but is doing well two weeks later.

Photo from Facebook
Daniel and Jaime Herrera Beutler lean over their ‘miracle baby’ at the hospital.

Herrera Beutler explained that a group of “courageous and hopeful doctors” at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore were willing to inject saline into the womb every week to give the girl’s lungs a chance to develop. 

“With each infusion, we watched via ultrasound as Abigail responded to the fluid by moving, swallowing and ‘practice breathing,’” Herrera Beutler wrote. “The initial lack of fluid in the womb caused pressure on her head and chest, but over the course of the treatment we were able to watch them return to their proper size and shape.

“Her feet, which were clubbed in early ultrasounds, straightened. There was no way to know if this treatment would be effective or to track lung development, but with hearts full of hope, we put our trust in the Lord and continued to pray for a miracle,” she wrote.

After five weeks of infusions, the baby was born prematurely in Portland, Ore. The doctors, Herrera Beutler said, were prepared for the worst, “but immediately after she was born, she drew a breath and cried!”

Abigail’s lungs had developed well for a baby born so early, and the infusions had stopped the Potter’s Sequence. But no local hospital was prepared to perform peritoneal dialysis, which was needed for her lack of kidney function, on a baby so small. 

Though Johns Hopkins could do it, the trip would be too far, Herrera Beutler said. A team of doctors at a Stanford University hospital was willing to try, and at 16 hours old the baby traveled to California. 

Now on dialysis, Abigail is “active, stable and breathing on her own,” the congresswoman said. Doctors believe she may be the first child to have survived her specific condition.

“Although Abigail will need ongoing care after she comes home, we have every expectation that she will lead a full and healthy life,” Herrera Beutler wrote. “... We are grateful to the thousands who joined us in praying for a miracle. But most of all, we are grateful to God for answering those prayers.”

Herrera Beutler, 34, is in her second term in Congress, and National Journal included her on its list of “The Top 25 Most Influential Washington Women Under 35,” according to Fox News Latino. She was named to MSNBC’s “Top 10 Latino Politicians to Watch,” and she is chair of the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Erin Roach.)
8/2/2013 2:17:31 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Uptown Baptist nurtures new plants in Chicago

August 2 2013 by Tobin Perry & Sara Shelton, Baptist Press

CHICAGO – Take a step into Uptown Baptist Church in Chicago and it’s clear this Southern Baptist congregation cares about the nations. But that care isn’t just written on 27 colorful sanctuary banners in the native tongues of 27 local people groups. It is demonstrated by a history of starting new churches to reach these people.

Even after helping plant at least 30 Chicago churches over the past 35 years, Uptown has six ethnic churches that meet in its building. The church also partners with church planter Dave Choi and his Church of the Beloved, a two-year-old multicultural church in the Windy City.

“Church planting is the best way for the gospel to be spread and Christ to be glorified,” said Michael Allen (@ubcreal), Uptown’s pastor since 2005. “I think more and more pastors are becoming aware of this fact: If we want to reach our cities, our state and our country for the gospel, there is no better way to do it.”

Chicago represents that need as well as most cities. The city has only one Southern Baptist Church (SBC) church for every 31,791 people in the Chicago metro area. Evangelicals make up less than 10 percent of the area’s population.

NAMB photo by Ted Wilcox
Michael Allen, pastor of Chicago’s Uptown Church, stands in front of some of the 27 banners surrounding the sanctuary. The name Jesus Christ is written on each banner in the native tongue of each of the 27 people groups Uptown has planted churches among in Chicago.

Uptown’s planting legacy began with its own founding as a church plant in 1976 by Chicago native James Queen. “I had a burden for the people of Chicago,” said Queen, in a quote on the church’s website. “Early in my Christian life, I made a commitment to see the city won to Christ.”

In the 1980s, Allen said, Queen and other church leaders noticed the growing diversity of the church’s neighborhood. To help reach these different ethnic groups, the church started – or opened their building up for others to use – churches that spoke the people’s languages.

“Our church planting strategy diversified when our community diversified,” Allen said. “Long before the IMB (International Mission Board) strategy of adopting a people group overseas, we were adopting people groups right in the neighborhood because they just kept coming. God was bringing them to our doorstep.”

The church now employs a new strategy to reach the nations in Chicago –partnership with an intentionally multicultural church plant.

“Today I think it’s important to blend more from the beginning and to start more multiculturally rather than segregating the churches in their different language and culture groups,” Allen said.

Even on the budget of an inner-city church with an attendance around 180, Uptown contributes what resources they can to Church of the Beloved. The church also supports the church plant through prayer, encouragement and people when needed.

For example, Choi, who is single, realized he needed help providing mentoring and counseling to his church’s couples. Allen and his wife offered to have interested couples from the Church of the Beloved into their home last summer for a time of mentoring and sharing.

“We have a lot of young people in our church,” Choi said. “To have that resource of a church with older couples who have kids has been great. It has been an encouraging partnership for us. We know we can lean on them whenever needed because they’ve shown such a willingness to serve us.”

The church also has remained consistent in its giving to cooperative Southern Baptist missions. The church contributes 12 percent of its budget to missions, which includes giving to the Cooperative Program and the Chicago Metro Baptist Association.

Allen sees his church’s involvement in church planting as part of a cycle that began when Southern Baptists helped start Uptown and played an important part in obtaining a building in the church’s early days.

“Being a part of church planting shows that we’re bigger than just ourselves,” Allen said. “We’re bigger than what we’re doing in just our little corner of the world. So let’s dig in and facilitate what’s a national movement and the national direction of our denomination. Our church has been so blessed throughout the years by our own denomination that we want to be a team player and give back and serve.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board.)

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Choi takes multicultural aim in Windy City
8/2/2013 2:07:58 PM by Tobin Perry & Sara Shelton, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Choi takes multicultural aim in Windy City

August 2 2013 by Tobin Perry, Baptist Press

CHICAGO – It’s a question God asks many people in ministry at some point: “Is My presence enough?” Dave Choi pondered the question while he was sitting in a small chapel inside the Billy Graham museum at Wheaton College.

Between ministry assignments, Choi was contemplating opportunities around the country. Yet, as he did, God kept bringing another thought to his mind. What if he started a new church in the city that had become his hometown – Chicago? Choi couldn’t shake the concerns. Could he plant a church? What if he failed? Taking an established ministry position seemed like the safer decision.

In that chapel God led Choi to Exodus 33, when He promised His presence to Moses.

“I felt God tell me, ‘I’m going to lead you to a place to plant,’” Choi said. “‘You’re not going to be alone because I’m going to be with you. Is My presence enough?’”

After reading Exodus 33 again, Choi decided he had only one legitimate answer: Yes. That night, when he returned home, Choi had an email from a man whom he had never asked for money and barely knew, offering significant support for his ministry.

NAMB photo by Jim Whitmire
Dave Choi followed God’s call to plant a church in Chicago. The influence of Church of the Beloved and its international congregation has grown since the Southern Baptist church plant launched last year. View video.

“It was God’s way of confirming that He was in this and His presence was going to be with us,” Choi said. “He would provide what we needed.”

A year and a half later, the Southern Baptist church planter is reaching one of the most multicultural cities in North America through Church of the Beloved in Chicago. Choi, born in America to immigrant parents, has gone out of his way to plant a uniquely international church.

Even in the early days of the church, at least 25 regular attendees were not born in the United States. Many church members come from countries like Algeria, Indonesia and China that are relatively closed to evangelical Christianity. Choi believes many heard the gospel for the first time at Church of the Beloved.

“These are highly influential people because they have financial resources and the academic background to study in the United States,” Choi said.

With less than 10 percent of the population affiliated with an evangelical church and only one SBC church for every 31,791 people in metro Chicago, local Southern Baptists – including Choi – have been making plans to start more churches in Chicagoland through Send North America: Chicago.

Send North America is the North American Mission Board’s strategy to help churches and individuals become active in all regions of North America to lead people to faith in Jesus Christ and start new churches.

Choi said he believes the building where Church of the Beloved meets is a great illustration as to why church plants are so critical to reaching Chicago. Three churches meet in the building, with each group reaching different people despite sharing a meeting location.

Church of the Beloved also started a worship service at a second Chicago location on Palm Sunday. About 200 people attend the church’s two services.

“It’s been proven that new churches are the most effective way to reach the lost and the unchurched,” Choi said.

He referenced one couple that has become regular attendees at Church of the Beloved. Although the husband was a Buddhist, he had been attending churches sporadically with his Christian wife. But the two failed to find a fit anywhere. Attending Church of the Beloved changed that.

“He told me he was tired of going to churches where it felt like everybody was a clique and everyone was exclusive and knew each other,” Choi said. “Churches he attended had been very insular. He figured if they attended a brand new church, there’s no way there will be cliques. He wanted to feel like he could get to know people and be welcomed. Just that little reason brought him to church.”

After about five weeks of hearing the gospel, the man accepted Christ and was baptized last summer.

Partners from nearby in Chicago and as far away as Arkansas and Washington state have been crucial to the early success of the new church plant. First Baptist Church in Fort Smith, Ark., has been active in sending volunteer teams and resources to help the Church of the Beloved. During Vacation Bible School last summer, First Baptist’s children raised $1,000 to help the young church plant.

“They have been incredibly generous with their resources to support us financially,” Choi said. “But they’ve also been incredible prayer resources to us. They pray for us regularly. They also have been a relational resource because they fly up here from Arkansas to encourage us from time to time.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tobin Perry is a writer with the North American Mission Board. For more information about Church of the Beloved, visit For more information about Send North America: Chicago, visit To see a video about Dave Choi’s ministry, visit

Related story

Uptown Baptist nurtures new plants in Chicago

8/2/2013 1:58:51 PM by Tobin Perry, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

God’s wrath taboo subject for PCUSA hymnal

August 1 2013 by Baptist Press

NASHVILLE – One of Christianity’s most popular worship songs has been deemed too controversial to be included in the latest edition of the hymnal for the Presbyterian Church (USA). 

In Christ Alone,” a modern hymn written by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend, consistently ranks in the top 20 songs sung in churches of all stripes, according to Christian Copyright Licensing International. Yet it contains one line that the PCUSA’s Committee on Congregational Song did not wish to include in the denomination’s hymnal.

The line in question is from the song’s second verse: “Till on that cross as Jesus died/The wrath of God was satisfied.” Not wishing to portray a wrathful God, the committee asked to change the line to “Till on that cross as Jesus died/The love of God was magnified.” The song’s writers denied their request. 

The decision made waves this week, as people learned about it from evangelical bloggers and through social media.

Timothy George, dean of Beeson Divinity School at Samford University, was among the first to comment on the controversy. 

“Sin, judgment, cross, even Christ have become problematic terms in much contemporary theological discourse,” George wrote in a blog post on “But nothing so irritates and confounds as the idea of divine wrath.”

Russell D. Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, wrote a piece for The Washington Post regarding the song’s rejection. 

“As an evangelical, I would argue that it’s necessary to sing about the wrath of God,” Moore wrote, “because we are singing not just from and to our minds, but to and from our consciences. There’s a reason why evangelical congregations reach a kind of crescendo when they sing out that line in the Gettys’ song. It’s not because, per the caricature, we see ourselves as a ‘moral majority’ affirming our righteousness over and against the ‘sinners’ on the other side of the culture war.

“Instead, it’s just the reverse. When Christians sing about the wrath of God, we are singing about ourselves. Our consciences point us to the truth that, left to ourselves, we are undone,” Moore wrote. “We’re not smarter or more moral than anyone else. And God would be just to turn us over to the path we would want to go – a path that leads to death. It is only because Jesus lived a life for us, and underwent the curse we deserve, that we stand before God. The grace of God we sing about is amazing precisely because God is just, and won’t, like a renegade judge, simply overlook evil.”

In a May article in the Christian Century, Mary Louise Bringle, a member of the PCUSA committee that rejected the hymn, discussed the decision.

According to Bringle, in reviewing other recently published hymnals, the committee discovered the revised lyric, “The love of God was magnified.” These hymnals had changed the line, apparently without the authors’ permission. When the PCUSA group sought permission from the authors and were denied, the song moved from the “yes” pile to the “no” pile by a vote of 6-9.

The committee decided “it would do a disservice to this educational mission [of the new hymnal] to perpetuate ... the view that the cross is primarily about God’s need to assuage God’s anger,” Bringle wrote.

Boyce College professor Denny Burk was not surprised.

“Although not all PCUSA churches are theologically liberal, the denomination by and large is,” Burk wrote on his blog, “Liberalism and wrath go together like oil and water; they don’t mix. And historically speaking, one of them eventually has to go. When wrath goes, so does the central meaning of the atonement of Christ – penal substitution. At the end of the day, the cross itself is the stumbling block, and that is why the PCUSA cannot abide this hymn.”

Moore agreed that God’s wrath is essential to the Gospel.

“I’m hardly one to tell Presbyterians what they ought to have in their hymnals,” Moore wrote. “But the gospel is good news for Christians because it tells us of a God of both love and justice. The wrath of God doesn’t cause us to cower, or to judge our neighbors. It ought to prompt us to see ourselves as recipients of mercy, and as those who will one day give an account. If that’s true, let’s sing it.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Laura Erlanson, operations coordinator for Baptist Press.)
8/1/2013 3:00:31 PM by Baptist Press | with 1 comments

Send Conference connects churches to vast mission field

August 1 2013 by Joe Conway, Baptist Press

PLANO, Texas – More than 4,200 church planters, pastors and church leaders flooded the hallways of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, for the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) second Send North America Conference July 29-30. 
The gathering was marked by masses of participants praying in response to speakers, hundreds of connections between churches and church planters, and individuals seizing their moments to penetrate lostness in North America. Many attendees expressed the belief they were witnessing momentum building toward a movement to reach the continent.

The conference opening combined video, graphics, precision projection and an individual performance that traced the significant moments Southern Baptists have seized throughout history. Afterward, Aaron Coe, NAMB’s vice president of mobilization and marketing, told attendees his prayer was that the conference would be seen as a turning point in SBC history.

“Will this be a defining moment or will this be a forgotten moment?” Coe asked. “The difference between a defining moment and a forgotten moment is a seized moment. We’re praying that we are able to give you the tools over these next days for you to seize the moment.”

Large group sessions, workshops and breakout meetings all were built around the effort to equip individuals and churches for growing the Kingdom. 

Prestonwood pastor Jack Graham closed Monday afternoon’s session by encouraging church planters.

“Church planters, you are on the front lines in cities across this continent, and you are taking the gospel into the cities to penetrate lostness here and around the world,” Graham said. “Thank God that NAMB is saying, ‘Plant churches. Make disciples.’ NAMB does a lot of good things, but it is important that they now say, ‘Plant churches. Make disciples.’ And we support them in it.”

NAMB photo by John Swain
Victor Schloss, center, a church planter in San Diego, visits with participants at the 2013 Send North America Conference at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas. More than 4,200 attended the July 29-30 conference which equipped individuals and churches for penetrating lostness in North America. View video.  

The Monday evening session closed with Jim Cymbala, pastor of The Brooklyn Tabernacle, calling for attendees to come forward if they felt God leading them to step out into a new dimension of service. Thousands came forward as Cymbala led in prayer.

“If you don’t want to be in a fight, get out of the ministry,” Cymbala said. “The ministry is nothing but a fight. Paul didn’t say at the end of his life, ‘I have danced a good dance.’ He said, ‘I have fought a good fight.’”

More than 100 breakout and workshop sessions included offerings for ministry wives, students and worship leaders as well as language tracks in Spanish, Korean and Chinese. At least 1,300 attendees registered for ethnic tracks. 

Monday evening events for students included a hip-hop concert by Grammy award-winning artist Lecrae. Multiple environments were created for churches and church planters to network. Thirty of NAMB’s 32 Send cities hosted sessions for attendees to explore partnership and planting opportunities.

Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and evangelist Luis Palau were the closing session speakers. Akin, who approached the platform following a time of praise and worship led by Christy Nockels and Brett Younker, put aside his prepared remarks.

“I want to speak to you about your life under the lordship of Jesus Christ,” Akin said. “Why do we need a gospel? The world is dead in sin. God is angry with sin. God judges sin. God killed His Son so He would not have to kill me. As you come to Christ there are some things you will become alive to, and some things you will die to.”

Palau challenged attendees to “dream great dreams for God,” “pray great prayers for God” and “obey great commands of God.”

He introduced his son Kevin, who is on the forefront of community transformation in Portland, Ore. He has worked with his father for almost three decades, and their efforts have brought together 27,000 Christian volunteers from 49 of the 50 largest evangelical churches in metro Portland. They’ve completed 350 projects, and the ministry was so impactful that every public school in Portland has been matched with a church for support. 

Coe closed the conference with encouragement and a challenge.

“How do we go from this moment to a movement?” Coe asked. “It takes people. There are entire communities in the United States and Canada that have no churches. We’ve got a lot of work to do. As we leave this Send North America Conference, I hope you leave encouraged that Jesus is for you.

“Let’s agree together as the people of God not to leave complacent or go back to the status quo, but to leave this place to make a difference in the world for the glory of God. Join me in not letting this be a forgotten moment,” Coe said.

NAMB President Kevin Ezell said he was “ecstatic about the turnout” for the event. “Not only the energy and electricity among the participants, but the passion and heart of pastors and planters – it all exceeds our expectations. The ethnic diversity is fantastic. Obviously this confirms the launch of a new day. It is a new day and a new NAMB.”

Most important, Ezell said, were the partnerships and commitments that were made at the conference.

“We’ve had more than 500 participants say they want to take the next steps in church planting. And more and more churches are stepping up to say they will partner with our planters. So the ongoing impact of these two days will really be the measure of success,” Ezell said.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joe Conway writes for the North American Mission Board. To learn more about the Send North America Conference, visit To discover how you can become involved with Send North America, visit Read more from Send 2013.) 

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NAMB seeks ‘defining moment’ at Send 2013
8/1/2013 2:54:02 PM by Joe Conway, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Chaplains prepare for military service

August 1 2013 by Joe Conway, Baptist Press

FORT JACKSON, S.C. – Southern Baptists have a profound influence on the nation’s military chaplaincy, both in practice and development. With more than 1,400 chaplains, Southern Baptists have more endorsed chaplains serving in the U.S. military than any other denomination or faith group. Yet their influence does not only come from sheer numbers, but also from the character of the individuals who serve.

One of those individuals is Chaplain Major General Doug Carver, U.S. Army (retired), and current executive director of chaplaincy services for the North American Mission Board (NAMB). NAMB is the endorsement entity for all Southern Baptist chaplains, military and civilian, a total of 3,617.

Prior to his retirement, Carver served as U.S. Army Chief of Chaplains, the top command position for chaplains. He previously served as the director of the U.S. military’s chaplaincy training center at Fort Jackson, S.C. Another Southern Baptist, Chaplain Colonel Allen Kovach, just completed his duties as training center director.

Chaplaincy training centers

Armed Forces Chaplaincy Center houses the military’s three chaplain schools: the U.S. Army Chaplaincy Center and School, the U.S. Navy Chaplaincy Center and School, and the U.S. Air Force Chaplain Corps College. More than 2,700 chaplains, chaplain assistants and religious program specialists train annually at the center.

“Once SBC chaplains are endorsed to a specific military branch of service, they attend the Armed Forces Chaplaincy Center and become fully immersed in the institutional culture of their particular branch of service,” said Carver, who also is interim pastor at First Baptist Church of Matthews, N.C. 

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army
Chaplains train in teamwork to provide supplies and assist the wounded in times of combat.

“It is truly amazing that our nation would build and resource such a training facility for military chaplains. There is none other like it in the world. It is a testimony to the heritage of our nation’s faith in God and the military’s commitment to ensure our young men and women in uniform have the opportunity to exercise their freedom of religion as guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States.

“Chaplain ministry is an extension of the local church,” Carver added. “Chaplains are endorsed by the SBC but they answer the call to ministry from their local churches. They are Southern Baptist pastors in uniform.”

Carver contends that chaplains can offer much in service to the local church, particularly with their experience in preaching, evangelism, discipleship and pastoral care.

Convention endorsement

Another Southern Baptist who served at the U.S. Army chaplain training center is Chaplain Colonel Byron Simmons. Simmons was director of capabilities development and integration directorate for the U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School.

“SBC endorsement is critical to Southern Baptist chaplains,” Simmons said. “It ensures that only quality, biblically based pastors are endorsed for military ministry – disciples of Jesus Christ called by God to a unique ministry, and who are equipped to live out their calling in an environment much different than the local church.”

Simmons, in his 28th year of military chaplaincy, served at the training center for two years. During that time he interacted with hundreds of chaplains and chaplain assistants.

“My most memorable experiences revolve around the ‘ah-ha’ moments chaplains have when they begin to understand the new environment they work in and how that impacts their ministry,” Simmons said. “To properly understand our ministry we must understand ourselves, the soldiers we minister to and our environment. Just as a ministry in Japan is different from a ministry in Africa, the army chaplain’s ministry is different from its civilian counterpart. This is a big stretch for some chaplains.”

Southern Baptist Chaplain David Kelley is a major in the U.S. Air Force and has been assigned to the Air Force Chaplain Corps College for the last year and a half. His responsibilities include integrating training and rapport with the Army and Navy schools.

“SBC endorsement of military chaplains is utterly important because we serve to foster the free exercise of religion for all service members,” said Kelley, a 14-year Air Force veteran. “We are not only pastors and spiritual care providers for Southern Baptist airmen, we also serve all airmen as spiritual leaders.

“I think one of the toughest challenges chaplains face is too many ministry opportunities and not enough time. There is so much to be done. It’s important that we take care of our families and guard our own walks with the Lord. Just like pastors, we must be intentional about our own spiritual development,” Kelley said.

Constitutional protections

The balance between individual spiritual integrity and fulfilling an order may be more challenging for a chaplain than almost any other member of the military. Two things help keep true dilemmas at a minimum. One, chaplains are in the military voluntarily, so they at least understand the challenge. The second is their individual religious liberty as provided by the Constitution.

“Although the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause restricts the government’s authority to endorse a specific religion, it allows the recruiting and funding of chaplains to promote and ensure the accommodation of religion for our troops,” Carver said. “The Establishment Clause allows chaplains to freely minister according to their religious tradition and within the dictates of their religious conscience.

“The two primary roles of military chaplains are to provide or perform religious services and to advise the commander on all religious matters,” Carver said. “Chaplains are not required to perform services contrary to their religious tradition or conscience. If chaplains cannot perform a religious request, they are obligated to assist the military member in finding a resource that meets their individual religious needs.”

The Armed Services Chaplaincy Training Center has been able to handle religious accommodation and many other religious or pastoral issues military chaplains face so well that it has gained an international reputation. Other countries now send their military chaplains to train at the center.

Pastoral ministry

Carver said one of the primary directives for the center is to train chaplains at all levels, from the tactical level up to the strategic leadership level, which includes supervision and mentoring. 

The basic military course is 11 weeks, Carver said, although a six-month advanced course is available. Both chaplain officers and assistants are trained at the center, with an Army unit ministry team consisting of one chaplain and one chaplain assistant.

“The Army typically assigns one chaplain for every 500 to 800 soldiers, including the pastoral support for their families,” Carver said. “That’s a large congregation. One of the critical training requirements for chaplains is in the area of pastoral and family counseling. Chaplains must be prepared to walk with their troops and their loved ones through all seasons of life. Unfortunately, especially over the last decade of war, chaplains have been faced with a great deal of loss and suffering.”

Broadening roles

Societal changes are reflected in the armed services. The same is true for chaplains.

“We are seeing a trend of some chaplains entering the service as a second career,” Carver said. “Some are seasoned pastors who are called into military chaplaincy. Others are called from secular professions into military chaplaincy. For many of our young chaplains, it is the first time they encounter people of other faith groups. Chaplaincy has a way of broadening a religious leader’s worldview.”

America’s war on terror has heightened the need for chaplains who can provide wise and timely advice to their commanders in challenging combat environments.

“One new training initiative is the Center for World Religions,” Carver said. “In the last 11 years of war, our deployed troops have encountered cultures from different faith traditions. Chaplains with a keen understanding of the various world religions can help ensure their troops treat others with dignity and respect, especially when conducting military operations on foreign soil.”

Spiritual formations

Carver said another training addition at Fort Jackson is the Center for Spiritual Leadership, which helps chaplains maintain their personal spirituality.

“It is vital for our troops to have chaplains who are strong and resilient in their own personal faith, prepared to help others struggling with spiritual issues, particularly in combat settings,” Carver said.

Simmons said the biggest struggle in his assignment was “the integration of chaplain-required capabilities across the Army.”

Carver added that Simmons led “one of the most critically complex missions in the chaplaincy center.”

“[Simmons] and his team [spent] a lot of time studying the emerging military war-fighting trends and their potential effect on the ministry of chaplains in the future combat environment,” Carter said. “They must ask the hard questions like: What will military chaplaincy look like in 25 years? How do you provide religious support to troops in a virtual combat situation? How do you provide religious rites and pastoral guidance in a complex and widely arrayed combat environment? How do you effectively counsel a soldier over a computer screen?”

If history is any indication, at least one thing will be true in the future of military chaplaincy: Southern Baptist chaplains will serve a central role.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joe Conway writes for the North American Mission Board. This article first appeared in SBC LIFE, journal of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee. To learn more about how your church can honor chaplains and other members of the military, visit
8/1/2013 2:48:36 PM by Joe Conway, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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