The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Looking for a few good chaplains

If you’re looking for challenging and meaningful work, consider enlisting—as a military chaplain.

There’s a shortage in branches of the U.S. military—so much so that the Army National Guard offers chaplains a $10,000 signing bonus. Maj. Timothy L. Baer, a chaplain in charge of recruiting, said he has 340 chaplains to fill 770 authorized positions.

That need is great among ELCA chaplains as well, said Darrell Morton, assistant to the ELCA presiding bishop for federal chaplaincy ministries. In September 2004, 111 ELCA chaplains were on active duty in the Army, Navy (including the Marine Corps and Coast Guard) and Air Force. By September 2007 there will be 84, a loss of 28 (25 percent)—mostly due to retirements, he said. In this calendar year alone, the ELCA will lose 17 chaplains with only one projected to come on to active duty.

“Frankly, we need to get the word out,” said Morton, who calls military chaplaincy “incarnational.”

“It’s literally wearing the skin of whoever we serve ... the chaplain goes where the soldier, sailor, airman, Marine and Coast Guard go. That’s where we should be. There is no place more important to have [ministry] than with those in harm’s way,” he said.

Neither the ministry nor the shortage is political, Morton said. “This issue is about personnel and families needing pastoral care. And I happen to think Lutheran pastoral care is the best there is. If we’re not there, our military will be served by someone else who we may not be comfortable with,” he said.

For more information, e-mail fedchap@elca.org; call 202-822-6414.


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February issue


Embracing diversity