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Responsibilities of Commending Assemblies and Elders

Before an individual can be certified or endorsed as a Military Chaplain, Stewards Ministries must receive a Letter of Commendation from the home or commending assembly (see sample letters below). For the most part, Elders should treat requests for commendation by prospective military chaplains according to the requirements of your own local assembly for any other kind of commended worker, either as a missionary, full-time worker, itinerant preacher, etc. A distinction must be drawn, however, concerning commendations for Chaplain Candidates and Chaplains.

Chaplain Candidates should be commended if the assembly discerns potential for future ministry as a chaplain. The individual requesting such a commendation is about to attend or is already attending an accredited theological seminary and is not yet considered to be "in ministry." This commendation is only for the purposes of opening the doors for chaplaincy training and is not to be considered to be an unlimited license for ministry. This commendation also informs Stewards Ministries that the individual has the support of their home assembly to receive both seminary chaplaincy training. Elders are free to state that this commendation is only for the purposes of Chaplain Candidate training, not for full-time ministry.

When an individual has completed a Master of Divinity degree at an accredited theological school or seminary, they may begin the process of applying for a Chaplaincy commission. This individual is now seeking to minister in the context of the military. In the opinion of the Elders, the Chaplain applicant should possess the biblical qualifications for an elder or overseer as confirmed by observation, interview, practice and reputation. Each assembly should ask themselves prior to making such a recommendation, "Does this individual represent the doctrine, practice and values of our assembly?" 

For Chaplain applicants, Stewards Ministries recommends that individual assemblies follow the general guidelines found in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 as well as those found in Titus 1:5-10. Any process that assists the elders in assuring themselves that the individual under consideration meets the biblical qualifications is appropriate. Elders may request a personal interview, written statements as to doctrine and conversion, philosophy of ministry and tangible demonstrations of teaching or preaching gifts. Additionally, elders may request to see copies of applications being completed with regard to the Chaplaincy and commissioning as a Military Officer. 

Stewards Ministries thanks those assemblies currently commending Chaplains. For additional information regarding the role of commending assemblies and elders with regard to Chaplains, please consult the section on Frequently Asked Questions.

Are chaplains required to compromise their faith as part of their duties?

No. Chaplains are required to represent faithfully the groups that send them into the military. Chaplains face many of the same pressures that confront members of assemblies in their daily civilian jobs. Pray for our chaplains that they may continue to stand strong in the strength of Christ.

Are commending assemblies obligated to provide financial support commended Chaplains?

One of the wonderful aspects of the military chaplaincy is the government funded salary. Chaplains are reimbursed at the same rate of pay and allowances as other officers in the armed forces. Assemblies are encouraged, however, to stay in regular contact with their commended Chaplains. Periodic love gifts to the chaplains are not inappropriate. Though receiving a salary from the U.S. Government, this compensation is far from lavish. Your thoughtfulness will be sincerely appreciated by the chaplains and their families.

Are our chaplains required to cooperate with other faith groups?

Yes, and no. The Navy Chaplain Corps chose the phrase "provide and facilitate" to describe this unique relationship to other faith groups (the Army and Air Force have similar phrases). Chaplains are to provide for their own groups. Plymouth Brethren chaplains provide by conducting worship service for like-minded Christians, sponsoring Bible studies in which Bible doctrine may be taught, etc. Chaplains are not required to perform wedding ceremonies when it would violate their doctrine or their consciences. On the other hand, chaplains support other faith groups to the extent that all religious groups have a constitutionally guaranteed right to free expression. To protect the rights of other groups–even those with whom we disagree, is to protect our own rights.

May our chaplains lead service members and their families to faith in Jesus Christ?

Yes! This is one of the remarkable opportunities that still exists in the military. There is a fine distinction between proselytizing and sharing one’s faith. On the one hand, neither chaplains nor anyone else in the military may overtly coerce or otherwise influence and individual to convert from one faith (or lack of faith) to another. In the assemblies, we would not appreciate, say, a chaplain of a non-Christian faith group trying to pressure our service members into switching their spiritual allegiances. On the other hand, Chaplains are free to share their faith in the appropriate context. This may occur in counseling sessions, worship services, Bible studies. Chaplains may lead evangelistic crusades, give altar calls, baptize, etc. At all times, we can expect our chaplains to give a reason for the hope that is within them.

What about financial support for Chaplain Candidates?

Chaplain Candidates are not yet salaried by the military except for the few weeks in the summer when they are attending training. This is much like being in a Reserve component. Since they are also students, some form of assembly financial assistance would a thoughtful way of expressing support. Some schools provide matching funds for tuition assistance based on local church/assembly support. 

What responsibilities will our Commended Worker Chaplains be assigned?

 Individuals endorsed by the Stewards Ministries as Plymouth Brethren chaplains will be considered by the military has having "ordination." As such they will be expected to perform duties such as preaching, counseling, hospital visitation, officiating at worship services, presiding over the celebrations of the Lord’s Supper, the ability to marry (subject to local regulations) and conduct funeral/memorial services. 

Sample Letter of Commendation

Sample Commendation Letter for a Chaplain Candidate

To: Military Chaplain Endorsing Agent, Plymouth Brethren
From: The Elders of Bethany Bible Chapel, Yourtown, Your state.
Subj: Letter of Commendation for [your Chaplain Candidate]
Date: March 30, 2015

The Elders of Bethany Bible Chapel take great pleasure in commending [chaplain candidate] to the Chaplain Candidate Program. We have known [chaplain candidate] for [time] and see in him the potential to meet the qualifications for elder and possible future service to our Lord and our country as a military chaplain.

[Second paragraph may be used to give amplifying information regarding the person being commended. Assemblies may mention specific qualities, special gifting, length and type of service given to your assembly and apparent effectiveness of ministry].

We strongly recommend [chaplain] be accepted for endorsement as a Chaplain Candidate representing Bethany Bible Chapel and the Plymouth Brethren. We commit ourselves to support this Chaplain Candidate with our prayers and to maintain regular contact with him. This commendation is limited to Chaplain Candidate Status. We understand that another Letter of Commendation will be required for [chaplain candidate] to transition to full Chaplain status.

Please contact us for amplifying information. 

Sincerely in Christ,

Paul S. Barnabas
Matthew Jude
Luke J. Theophilus
Timothy T. Titus
Elders, Bethany Bible Chapel

Sample Letter of Commendation for Chaplains

To: Military Chaplain Endorsing Agent, Plymouth Brethren
From: The Elders of Bethany Bible Chapel, Yourtown, Your state.
Subj: Letter of Commendation for [your Chaplain]
Date: March 30, 2015

The Elders of Bethany Bible Chapel take great pleasure in commending [chaplain] [and spouse] to the work of the military Chaplaincy. We have known [chaplain and spouse] for [years] and find them to meet the Biblical qualifications of an elder and his spouse. 

[Second paragraph may be used to give amplifying information regarding the person being commended. Assemblies may mention specific qualities, special gifting, length and type of service given to your assembly and apparent effectiveness of ministry].

We strongly recommend [chaplain] be accepted for endorsement as an active duty [or reserve, if appropriate] chaplain representing Bethany Bible Chapel and the Plymouth Brethren. We commit ourselves to support this chaplain with our prayers and to maintain regular contact with him. Please contact us for amplifying information. 

Sincerely in Christ,

Paul S. Barnabas
Matthew Jude
Luke J. Theophilus
Timothy T. Titus
Elders, Bethany Bible Chapel