Military chaplains are faith mismatch for personnel they serve
In the military, the chaplain serves as both a religious leader and a listener - ideally one who can assist military personnel of all faiths. A frequent refrain among chaplains is “chaplain to all, pastor to some.”
But according to Department of Defense data, the nation’s corps of chaplains leans heavily toward evangelical Christianity, failing to mirror the military it serves.
While just 3 percent of the military’s enlisted personnel and officers call themselves Southern Baptist, Pentecostal or a member of a denomination that’s part of the National Association of Evangelicals, 33 percent of chaplains in the military are members of one of those groups, according to Pentagon statistics.
And the disparity could soon widen.
Data from the Air Force indicate that 87 percent of those seeking to become chaplains are enrolled at evangelical divinity schools.
The discrepancy is the result of a number of variables, including an aversion by mainline Protestant and Catholic seminary leaders to participate in military culture after the Vietnam War; changes in the military’s chaplain staffing and education policies; and the popularity of online courses for chaplain candidates at evangelical seminaries.
Military officials point out that chaplains are trained to support troops of all faiths, regardless of their own religious affiliation.