Archives For military

The Briefing

15 attorneys general oppose transgender military ban
Fifteen state attorneys general, including Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, filed a brief Oct. 16 in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia arguing that banning transgender individuals from the military is unconstitutional and against the interest of national defense and that it harms the transgender community.

Air Force punishes colonel over marriage views
U.S. Air Force officials have suspended a decorated officer and revoked his recommendation for promotion to brigadier general because he would not sign an unofficial document affirming a retiring subordinate’s same-sex marriage.

Study: Congress should end IRS oversight of sermons
In the 1950s, Congress banned charitable nonprofits–including churches — from endorsing candidates or otherwise intervening in elections. Any nonprofit that violated the ban could run afoul of the IRS. Churches risked losing their tax-exempt status if the preacher endorsed a candidate in a sermon. It’s time for that to change, most Protestant pastors say in a new survey from LifeWay Research.

Col. baker asked to make ‘Birthday Cake’ for Satan
Lawyers for “cake artist” Jack Phillips say someone e-mailed a request for him to design and bake a cake celebrating the birthday of Satan. Phillips, a Christian who owns Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado, is headed to the Supreme Court in December after declining to make a cake celebrating a same-sex wedding.

Bill Hybels names male, female co-pastor team as his successor
Bill Hybels, the founder and Senior Pastor of Willow Creek Community Church, announced the names of two leaders who will take on new roles to replace the role of senior pastor as he transitions out of the church leadership next year. Heather Larson, currently executive pastor, will step into the role of Lead Pastor over all Willow Creek locations, and Pastor Steve Carter, currently teaching pastor, will become Lead Teaching Pastor.

 Sources: Chicago Tribune, Baptist Press (2), Daily Signal, Christian Post

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

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

Read the June 8 issue of the Illinois Baptist newspaper at

Tuesday_BriefingTHE BRIEFING | Military members ranked the highest in Pew Research’s study of how much various professions contribute to society. Pew found 78% of Americans believe military personnel contribute “a lot,” followed by teachers (72%) and doctors (66%). Clergy members didn’t fare quite as well, with 37% of respondents saying they contribute a lot to society, and 36% that they contribute some. Read more at

Other news:

‘We all lost’ in George Zimmerman verdict, pastor says
In a Christianity Today essay about Saturday’s verdict, Pastor Victor Montalvo shares his perspective as the leader of a church in Sanford, Fla., the eye of the storm since teenager Trayvon Martin was killed in February 2012. Montalvo writes, “A young man is dead. Another man’s life is ruined. A city struggling with an undercurrent of racial tension for decades has another gaping wound.” Read Montalvo’s essay, including his charge for the Church, at

Baptist named new president of The King’s College
Greg Thornbury, a vice president and dean at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., has been named the new president of The King’s College in New York City. Located just around the corner from the New York Stock Exchange in Lower Manhattan, the Christian college is in an extremely strategic place, Thornbury said. “There is one freestanding Christian college in that city, and it must succeed… We need an institution of higher education that is articulating the cause of God and truth in the greatest city in the world.” Read the full story at Baptist Press.

Illinois Supreme Court clears way for parental notice law
The Illinois Supreme Court acted on the Parental Notice of Abortion Act last week, breathing new life into a law that is nearly 20 years old, but has never taken effect in the state. The Associated Press reports the court upheld the dismissal of a suit against the law, ending years of legal challenges and requiring doctors to notify the parents of any girl 17 or under 48 hours before she undergoes an abortion. The law is scheduled to go into effect in mid-August. Read the full AP story at

Churches investigate Boy Scouts alternatives
More churches are investigating Royal Ambassadors, a Southern Baptist missions education program for boys, in the wake of Boy Scouts decision to allow self-identifying gay members. Julie Walters leads corporate communications for Woman’s Missionary Union, the organization that directs RA’s.

“The first week following the [Boy Scout] vote we received more than 25 requests via Facebook and email from churches and individuals interested in beginning an RA program,” Walters told Baptist Press. “This is an increase from the typical number we receive on a weekly basis.” Read more at


While Tom Goble is on a six-month deployment with the U.S. Air Force, his wife, Jackie, and sons, Jacob and Evan, are buoyed by the support of Towerview Baptist Church in Shiloh.

While Tom Goble is on a six-month deployment with the U.S. Air Force, his wife, Jackie, and sons, Jacob and Evan, are buoyed by the support of Towerview Baptist Church in Shiloh.

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

Shiloh | By the time Jackie Goble’s husband, Tom, returns from a deployment in Africa, the couple’s one-year-old son will probably be able to string a few words together and have a little conversation with his dad.

Evan had already started walking and saying “Dad” when Tom, a captain in the U.S. Air Force, left in June. That first week, Jackie says Evan would toddle into their bedroom calling for his dad. But it will be almost six months until they’re reunited, and it’s up to Jackie to hold down the fort for Evan and his older brother Jacob until then.

“Dad’s gone and we’re trying to rely on God, and point to God,” she says, recounting how she encourages her boys, and herself. “God’s taking care of us, God’s taking care of Dad. When we’re sad and we miss him, we just need to turn to God and pray and ask for protection for both us and Daddy.”

It’s a heavy load, one shared by many military families in Illinois and around the country. The Gobles have found support, though, at Towerview Baptist Church, a church uniquely located to serve their family and many others going through a deployment or navigating the specific challenges of being a military family. Read more in the newest edition of the Illinois Baptist, online here.

Other news:

Disaster Relief volunteers serve during memorial service for Arizona firefighters
The spring and summer months have been busy for Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers working across the country, from storm cleanup in Illinois, Oklahoma and Texas, to wildfire recovery in Colorado, and now caring for people in Prescott, Arizona, after the deaths of 19 firefighters last week. Disaster Relief chaplains in the state were called out to minister in Prescott last week, and a new message on the Arizona Disaster Relief website asks for trained volunteers to help serve during a memorial service today. Read more Disaster Relief updates at


Believers in Egypt look for opportunities to share hope
Christian workers in Egypt say political unrest in the country is an opportunity to share the hope of Jesus, reports the International Mission Board. “It’s not just riots and chaos, this is opportunity,” says one worker. “For the first time in hundreds of years people are questioning everything. This is the greatest opportunity we have had in a long time in a city that is promised to the Lord.” Read the full story here.

Survey: On Twitter, Christians are happier
A new study from the University of Illinois compares the Tweets of people who follow five religious leaders (Pope Benedict XVI, Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, Dinesh D’Souza and Joyce Meyer), with the messages posted by Twitter users who follow five atheist leaders. The results, CNN reports, indicate Christians use more positive words and express more happiness through the social media tool. Read more on CNN’s Belief blog.