Archives For chaplains

The Briefing

Pro-LGBT group plans protest at SBC 2017
The advocacy group Faith in America (FIA) has announced plans to “politely disrupt” the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting June 13-14 in Phoenix. The group hopes to persuade the nation’s largest Protestant denomination to change its interpretation of Scripture, FIA said in a press release accusing the SBC of marginalizing and harming lesbian, gay, homosexual and transgender (LGBT) children in particular by discouraging sexual sin.

Illinois forces foster parents to support gender transition
The state of Illinois’ social services policies now bar social workers from employment and foster families from caring for children if they refuse to facilitate a child’s gender transition. The director of the Department of Children and Family Services approved “enhanced department procedures” that established “mandatory minimum standards for LGBTQ children under its authority.” These state standards, reportedly drafted with the assistance of the ACLU, “will not tolerate exposing LGBTQ children and youth to staff/providers who are not supportive of children and youths’ right to self-determination of sexual/gender identity.”

Planned Parenthood reports abortion increase
Despite a significant decrease in clients, decrease in contraceptive services, and increase in the number of abortions it performs, Planned Parenthood still claims abortions make up only 3% of its overall business. According to the abortion giant’s annual report, released last week, it performed 328,348 abortions and 9,494,977 total services. The report came out about six months later than normal, prompting speculation about what it might contain.

Christian hospitals win Supreme Court case
In a decision that has religiously affiliated hospitals cheering, the Supreme Court ruled federal pension rules don’t apply to them. The 8-0 ruling reverses lower court decisions that sided with hospital workers who argued that the exemption from pension laws should not extend to hospitals affiliated with churches.

DoD wants fewer generic Christians
The general categories of “Protestant, no denominational preference” and “Protestant, other churches” have been removed from the Department of Defense (DoD) list of recognized religions as the US military seeks out more detailed designations for its 1.3 million service members. This spring, the DoD doubled the religious identities that military personnel can declare on official paperwork and dog tags. The list now totals 216 different affiliations, including 30 types of Baptists.

Sources: Baptist Press, Christian Post, World Magazine, Religion News Service, Christianity Today

The BriefingStates debate religious liberty protections
Within the last 24 months, state legislators have introduced almost 100 (and counting) “targeted laws”—legislation designed to give legal cover to business owners, religious schools, and ministries that affirm the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman.

US to decide if Christians face genocide from ISIS
For two years, ISIS has been terrorizing Christians and other religious minorities in Syria and Iraq. March 17 Secretary of State John Kerry will have to tell Congress whether the United States will officially label ISIS’ actions a “genocide.”

ERLC, IMB urge prayer for refugees March 15
The March 15 focus of the campaign — #PrayForRefugees — comes on the fifth anniversary of the outbreak of hostilities in the Middle Eastern country. The ERLC and its partners are calling for churches, small groups, Christian organizations, families and individuals to pray for the more than 13.5 million Syrians who need humanitarian assistance as a result of the conflict.

Voters don’t care about candidates’ generosity
Americans contributed $358 billion to charity in 2014, according to Giving USA. How much did each current presidential candidate contribute to that record-setting sum? The candidates, for the most part, are not telling, and pollsters, the media, and voters are not asking.

Workplaces get chaplains
A number of companies have hired spiritual leaders to serve on their staffs. Though slightly less trendy than nap rooms and yoga classes, workplace chaplaincies are another attempt to make workers more productive by catering to their “whole” selves.

Sources: WORLD Magazine, Christianity Today, Baptist Press, The Atlantic, World Magazine

When war comes home

Meredith Flynn —  June 8, 2015

How can the church help families struggling with PTSD?

Special for the Illinois Baptist by Kayla Rinker

Sterling, Ill. | The young soldier sat in the chair across from Army Chaplain Aaron Jackson and described the grisly scene that reoccurred in the private’s nightmares.

But Jackson was only half listening. Instead, his own anxiety that he had spent years suppressing flooded his mind, and images of violence and death caused his hands to become clammy and his heart to race.

IB_art_blog“Until that point I had always felt stronger than it,” said Jackson. “No way was it going to overtake me. In the military we are taught to improvise, adapt and overcome. You don’t want to be the one who’s hurting.”

The more he counseled others, the more Jackson’s post-traumatic stress disorder came to the surface.

PTSD is a mental health condition triggered by experiencing or seeing a terrifying event. It’s closely connected to military service; the National Center for PTSD reports 11-20% of veterans who served in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom have PTSD, as do 12% of veterans of the Gulf War.

But it’s not only war-related. The Center says 7-8% of the U.S. population will have PTSD at some point, about 5.2 million adults in a given year.

Churches and pastors can play a vital role in the healing process, said Kip Troeger, a National Guard chaplain based in Springfield and a member of Living Faith Baptist, Sherman.

Troeger said the church holds a unique position to reach out to all people and their families who are battling PTSD.

“If you are dealing with something that has put a bruise on your soul or is surrounded by a tremendous amount of shame, or maybe you were even put in a situation that goes contrary to your moral conscience, what better place than at the cross of Jesus Christ to find healing?” he said. “That’s the answer that the secular world can’t provide.”

‘The God of all comfort’
In the 1990s and early 2000s, before God called him into the ministry as a pastor and a chaplain, Aaron Jackson served as an Air Force cop for the security forces in Iraq.

“I was an assistant flight sergeant on the midnight shift for combat controls,” he said. “It was a busy time and that was a busy part of the war.”

To this day, Jackson prefers not to talk about the details.

But it was during his chaplaincy, just three years from full military retirement, when Jackson knew he had to quit. He was asked to identify the remains of one of the men in his unit.

“That was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” Jackson said. “I had to get away from it.”

That was in 2008. Now seven years later, Jackson is pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Sterling. Though his PTSD hasn’t gone away, Jackson said the Lord has brought comfort and blessings in the middle of his afflictions, just like the Apostle Paul writes about in 2 Corinthians 1: 3-4:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (ESV).

“I’ve clung to this verse and it’s helped me realize a purpose in the post-traumatic stress disorder and a purpose in my going through combat,” he said.

Jackson can shine a light in the deep darkness that most have never walked through. Whether a person has experienced a war zone, sexual abuse, natural disasters, serious accidents or another type of traumatic event, Jackson knows what it means to live with PTSD. But he also knows where hope is found.

And though Jackson still battles his symptoms of anxiety, depression, flashbacks, nightmares, memory loss, anger, social issues, and physical struggles, they don’t overwhelm him like they once did.

In fact, Jackson recently visited a local Veterans Affairs (VA) office and underwent a series of tests. His VA therapist said his symptoms have greatly improved in the last year.

“He attributed that to my being around people of the same faith that I have,” Jackson said. “I certainly know that’s true. My church family and support system throughout Sinnissippi Baptist Association is an awesome blessing. I also know Jesus Christ is providing his healing power and comfort. Oh and of course Archer; he is a tangible of God’s grace.”

Pastor Aaron Jackson’s dog, Archer, has helped him overcome symptoms of PTSD and also is the official greeter at his church, Emmanuel Baptist in Sterling. Photo courtesy of Aaron Jackson

Pastor Aaron Jackson’s dog, Archer, has helped him overcome symptoms of PTSD and also is the official greeter at his church, Emmanuel Baptist in Sterling. Photo courtesy of Aaron Jackson

Archer is a service dog that Jackson acquired through an organization associated with Disabled Veterans. He said Archer has helped him with anxiety, parts of his depression, and even his nightmares.

“He sleeps by my bed and when he sees me start to struggle in my sleep, he wakes me up,” Jackson said. “He’s also the official greeter at our church. Everyone loves Archer.”

His dog also encourages Jackson to overcome social reservations. When dog-lovers see Archer with Jackson, they can’t help but approach the pair.

“Most people think I’m training him. I explain that he’s my service dog, but my scars are unseen,” Jackson said. “With Archer I am able to celebrate and rejoice through these struggles, just like Paul and the thorn in his side. I would love God to just release me of PTSD, but the truth is that might not happen. You have to learn to live with it and live through it. You don’t have to stay down with it and you don’t have to accept the hurt it brings.”

Once Jackson started receiving the holistic help he needed to deal with his PTSD, he was finally able to live with it and allow God to work in a mighty way.

Caring for families
Chaplain Troeger said those who are most successful at working through PTSD take advantage of every resource available to them.

“And above that, those with the best results are willing to address the spiritual side of the issue,” Troeger said. “PTSD is the mind’s normal response to an abnormal experience. In my perspective, the guys who finally pray to God and say, ‘I can’t do this. You are going to have to take it from me,’ are the ones who come through it the best.”

Another way the church can help is to encourage connection through Sunday school classes and small groups. Duane Smith, pastor at First Baptist Church, Mascoutah, and a former member of the U.S. Air Force, said PTSD often causes people to withdraw and, in turn, compound PTSD with alcohol abuse, phobias, obsessive-compulsive issues and eating disorders.

“The church body and pastors must be encouraging and not let anyone slip through the cracks,” he said. “Pastors think they’re not experts on PTSD, but they don’t have to be. They are equipped to handle a wide range of hurts. We can help folks if we truly believe that we worship a God who knows all things.”

Military veterans may be most susceptible to PTSD, but their families often suffer too. When mom or dad comes home and things aren’t the same, spouses and children can bear the brunt of the “new normal.” Troeger said another way churches can be proactive, especially when it comes to ministering to service members and their families, is by participating in the Illinois National Guard Joint Force Partners in Care.

Through the partnership, member churches agree to provide the Illinois National Guard a list of services, ministries and support, and the Guard provides training and resources to churches on how to assist members and their families in times of crisis, stress and need.

“I can tell you that our church and many churches around this area are a tremendous support, whether it’s through a formal thing like Partners in Care or just a willingness to help,” Troeger said.

“PTSD awareness is a great thing. One of the biggest hurdles is de-stigmatizing mental health issues. Dealing with PTSD does not mean you’re somehow broken or have a weak mind. Again, it’s the mind’s normal response to an abnormal experience. That’s it.”

For more information about Partners in Care or other ways your church can help military families, send an email to Kip Troeger at illinoisbaptist@IBSA.org.

Read the June 8 issue of the Illinois Baptist newspaper at http://ibonline.IBSA.org.

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

Chaplains on the ‘front lines’ of cultural change
The North American Mission Board has released updated guidelines for Southern Baptist military chaplains serving in the days after the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and the Defense of Marriage Act. The guidelines reiterate Southern Baptist doctrine, Baptist Press reports, and the expectation that SBC chaplains will not participate in or attend wedding ceremonies for gay members of the military.

The policies are already causing some to say Southern Baptist chaplains should step down from their posts, Southern Seminary President Al Mohler blogged Sept. 17. “Make no mistake, the moral revolution driven by those who demand the total normalization of homosexuality and same-sex relationships will not stop with the crisis over military chaplains,” Mohler wrote. “But at this moment, the chaplains are on the front lines of the great cultural and moral conflict of our times.” Read the full story here.

Iorg: America applauds immorality
The trouble today isn’t the rise of immorality, said Golden Gate Seminary President Jeff Iorg during the school’s fall convocation. “The troubling issue is the applause” that now accompanies it. After a summer that saw the U.S. Supreme Court abolish the Defense of Marriage Act, Iorg addressed students and faculty on the topic of “Ministry in the New Marriage Culture.”

“The last step of rejecting biblical morality is when people applaud or celebrate those who legitimize immoral practices,” he said. “We have reached that point in America.” Watch Iorg’s convocation address at GGBTS.edu.

Chicago tops FBI’s homicide list
Chicago had the highest number of murders of any city in 2012, according to FBI information released this month. At 500, the city’s homicide rate rose 20% above 2011, and was 81 more than New York City, which is three times as populous. So far in 2013 there have been fewer homicides, but Chicago has seen recent rashes of violence, including a Labor Day weekend during which eight people were killed and at least 25 more injured by gun violence.

Pastor Michael Allen, whose Uptown congregation was shaken by a drive-by shooting near the church steps in August, tweeted Sept. 17: “Praying against the spirit/culture of violence and that God would replace that with His Spirit of peace.”

Baby ‘Messiah’ keeps his name
Messiah McCullough
will keep his biblical first name, thanks to a ruling that overturned Child Support Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew’s earlier decision to require his parents to change it. Ballew ruled in August that the 8-month-old be named “Martin” instead of his given name, because the word Messiah is a title “that has only been earned by one person – and that one person is Jesus Christ.” The baby’s parents appealed her decision and this month won the right to name their child the 387th most popular baby name. Read the full story at ChristianPost.com.

Mullins’ story told on screen
“Ragamuffin,” a new film detailing the life of Christian musician Rich Mullins, will premiere early next year. Best known for an authentic approach to his faith and for praise songs like “Awesome God,” Mullins died in a car crash in 1997. The biopic, produced by Green Color Films, has a trailer online at ragamuffinthemovie.com.