>Thanks for your patience during my busy last week! What follows is the report I submitted to Christian Renewal regarding Synod London 2010’s actions related to the armed forces chaplaincy.
URCNA Synod London 2010
Armed Forces Chaplaincy: Protecting those who protect
by Glenda Mathes
Synod affirmed its Kuyperian belief that Christ’s lordship extends to all of life with a vote to send a letter to U.S. armed forces officials urging them to maintain the current “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy.
Although the Clinton era policy was received with misgivings when first introduced, it effectively forbids homosexuals from serving openly in the armed forces. The current administration is advocating its elimination, which may have far-ranging ramifications for Christian military chaplains.
The URCNA has an ordained minister who serves as a military chaplain: Rev. Andrew Spriensma, Associate Pastor of Faith URC in Beecher, IL. And Synod Schererville 2007 approved URCNA associate membership in the Presbyterian and Reformed Joint Commission on Chaplains and Military Personnel (PRJCCMP, or PRJC, for short).
Synod 2007 also appointed the consistory of Faith URC in Beecher, IL, to send observers to PRJC meetings and report to the next synod.
That report was included in the agenda for Synod London 2010 and contained a few recommendations, the most important of which was the request to send a letter urging U.S. armed forces officials to maintain the DADT policy.
Attached to the URCNA report in Synod’s agenda was a copy of the PRJC petition (addressed to assemblies of member denominations) outlining its concerns and a sample letter to be sent to military officials.
The advisory committee dealing with this issue recommended that the Stated Clerk be instructed to send the letter. That recommendation came before the assembly as a motion.
Dr. Brian Lee spoke against the motion, saying that he felt “uncomfortable” with the church sending such a letter and that it shouldn’t be involved in “politics.” He asked rhetorically if the church would also send letters about abortion or other political issues. Citing his work experience with the Department of Defense, he expressed his belief that the possible consequences would not be as serious as those mentioned in the report.
Rev. Todd Joling spoke in favor of the motion to send the letter.
“The men on the PRJC Committee have a great deal of experience in military and chaplain service and are very concerned that this could be detrimental for the service of orthodox Christian chaplains,” he said. “Faithful chaplains could be forced to choose between compromising their beliefs and exiting the chaplaincy.”
He also referenced a letter from the Department of Defense Comprehensive Review Working Group to the PRJC, which requested input on how this repeal would impact chaplains’ service (including worship, pulpit ministry, and counseling).
The motion to send the letter and a second motion to use the sample letter provided in the agenda passed overwhelmingly with only a few dissenting votes.
In related actions, Synod voted to provide the PRJC with contact information for URCNA churches and appointed Faith URC to send an observer to a PRJC meeting in two years, reporting again to the next synod.
This and other Synod reports will appear in the next issue of Christian Renewal. Thanks for reading!