Army chaplains should always regard each other as colleagues, even if they do not always regard their colleagues as religious kindred or partners in ministry.
So what do I mean? For my purposes, the infallible Wikipedia’s definition of collegiality is a good place to start.
Collegiality is the relationship between colleagues. Colleagues are those explicitly united in a common purpose and respecting each other’s abilities to work toward that purpose. A colleague is an associate in a profession or in a civil or ecclesiastical office.
Army chaplains should see themselves as colleagues united in a common purpose who respect each other’s abilities to work toward that purpose. The common purpose, however, is not advancing the practice of my own religion or religion in general, but providing for and supporting the free exercise of religion for all. That’s the reason the chaplaincy exists. As a part of the application process, every prospective Army chaplain signs a statement that affirms.
While remaining faithful to my denominational beliefs and practices, I understand that, as a chaplain, I must be sensitive to religious pluralism and will provide for the free exercise of religion by military personnel, their families, and other authorized personnel served by the Army.
Certainly, all chaplains enter the Army with a mandate from their endorsers. My purpose for serving as ordained elder in the Army includes preaching the word, administering the sacraments, offering worship and prayer, teaching the faith and making disciples – for those who want to receive the gifts I offer. I cannot equate, however, my own purpose as a Christian pastor with our common purpose as the Army chaplaincy.
Our common purpose is to serve as champions of religious freedom for all, even for those who want to keep as far away from religion as possible. Our common purpose is to nurture the living, care for the wounded and honor the dead. Our common purpose is to facilitate each other’s religious ministry to the people who need the unique gifts each of us have to offer. Our common purpose is to provide for the needs of the human spirit for everyone in the command. Our common purpose to advise the commander on the role of religion in the lives of the organization’s members and in the area of operations. The Army chaplaincy is not a church or a religious institution. Rather, it exists to serve the needs of the Army, to care for its people in one very important aspect of their lives.
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