By Paul StampsJanuary 22, 2020
WASHINGTON -- "We must live the call together by investing in people, connecting them in spirit and cultivating community," said Maj. Gen. Thomas L. Solhjem, chief of chaplains of the Army, to the more than 100 ecclesiastical endorsers assembled at the Pentagon for the Armed Forces Chaplains Board Endorsers Conference, Jan. 16.
Solhjem, chair of this year's AFCB, described the type of chaplain needed to care for the soul of the Army.
"We need chaplains who are humble and hungry, with high emotional intelligence," said Solhjem. "All of that has to come with a strong sense of calling, so that our chaplains are secure in their identities, and capable of working with and caring for diverse Army people of all kind."
AFCB members consist of the chiefs of chaplains of the Army, Navy, and Air Force, and their deputies. The AFCB advises the under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness on religious, ethical and moral matters. The Department of Defense extends an invitation to our nation's civilian religious endorsers who provide chaplains for military service.
"These Endorsers are the crucial link between the service chaplaincies and the civilian churches and other faith traditions," said Navy Chaplain (Cdr) William S. Riley, AFCB executive director. "The Endorsers, many of whom have a former military connection, are appreciative of the efforts made by our military, and they look forward to hearing from the military how they may best support our efforts.
"Partnering Together in Military Chaplaincy: Contextual Ministry--the Reality of Today and the Environment of the Future" was this year's theme. "It is important, as we partner with our endorsers, to send the services the best, fully-qualified religious ministry personnel for service beyond self," said Riley.
Special guest, Lisa Miller, Ph.D., a professor of psychology and education at Columbia University, Teachers College, described her innovative research that shows a scientific link between spirituality and health. "The spiritual core is the chief asset for resilience, prevention and treatment, decision making, relational ethics and fitness."
Miller reminded the chaplains and endorsers in attendance that they are an important resource in the spiritual growth of the service member. "A chaplain should be the first person a new trainee sees at basic training."
The AFCB Endorsers Conference is an annual event that coincides with the conclusion of the National Conference on Ministry to the Armed Forces. This conference creates an opportunity for dialogue between DoD Chaplain Corps leadership and faith group endorsers. NCMAF members endorse chaplains for service in the Armed Forces on behalf of their respective religious organizations. They are the point of contact between the DoD and over 150 religious denominations and faith groups.
NCMAF began in 1982 as a private, non-profit, organization, but its roots go back to 1901 when the War Department decided to require ecclesiastical endorsement for clergy-persons as a prerequisite for service as chaplains in the Armed Forces.