On May 10, 2016, a panel spoke at The Institute of World Politics at a seminar entitled, “Improving Civ-Mil Relations for a Stronger Military Chaplaincy.”
Karen Meeker, an IWP US Army War College Fellow, discussed a paper she wrote during her fellowship, “The Readiness of the Army Chaplaincy: Our Sacred Honor.” She explained the “gold standard” of degree requirements established for graduate theological studies for clergy at the turn of the twentieth century. At the turn of the twenty-first century, these standards for appointment were lowered and the quality of Chaplains decreased, which, Chaplain Meeker argued, lowered overall Army readiness. She pointed to a weakened civilian-military dialogue as a main catalyst for the drop in standards.
Chaplains are commissioned officers as well as ordained clergy who serve on bases and ships throughout the world. They offer religious services, counseling, and support for members of the armed forces.
The panel included Dr. Steve Keith from Liberty University’s Center for Chaplaincy, John H. Lea III, Executive Director of the National Conference on Ministry to the Armed Forces (NCMAF), Rev. Susan Lammert, incoming president of NCMAF, and Kenneth Bush, Director of Training, Programs and Research at NCMAF.
The panelists fielded questions from the audience and highlighted the importance of creating a new dialogue discussing a new “platinum standard” for vetting chaplain candidates. This new standard would help to boost the quality of Chaplains throughout the armed forces.
Chaplain Karen Meeker is endorsed by the United Methodist Church and is an Elder in the Susquehanna Conference. She entered Active Duty as an Army Chaplain in 1997.