By Walter Fenton
The United States Department of Defense (DoD) has officially recognized the Global Methodist Church as a religious organization enabling the Church to endorse chaplains currently serving in the armed forces and clergy candidates who believe they are called to military chaplaincy. The first three GM Church chaplains are now being reviewed for approval of clergy membership and endorsement.
“This is an important and encouraging announcement for clergy who want to serve in the U.S. armed forces as Global Methodist Church chaplains,” said the Rev. Gary Clore, the GM Church’s Director of Endorsing Ministries. “Endorsement authority from the U.S. Department of Defense allows chaplains currently endorsed under other faith groups to make a seamless transfer to the GM Church if that is a better theological and spiritual fit for them. This avoids any threat of disruption in status or service by that chaplain, reservist or seminarian in a chaplaincy program.”
Clore, who served 31 years in the U.S. Navy and 28 of them as a Navy chaplain, said he started working with colleagues about four years ago, preparing for the possibility of division in The United Methodist Church. A small group of retired military chaplains recognized that a number of UM Church clergy would want to transition to a new theologically conservative Methodist denomination and still continue their service as military chaplains.
“We were ready and working on May 1, 2022, when the Global Methodist Church was launched,” said Clore. “We were pleasantly surprised by how quickly the DoD recognized the Church as an endorsing body. Securing the DoD’s recognition could have easily been a year or two-year long process. But with so many military chaplains seeking transfer to the GM Church, the Armed Forces Chaplain Board (a DoD level organization representing the Army, Air Force, and Navy) decided to approve the GM Church as an endorsing body just nine months after the Church’s official formation.”
During his long career, Clore served in a variety settings. He was deployed with Marines out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, to support them in their combat mission in Iraq. He served as the command chaplain of two ships, the USS Mount Hood that did a deployment to the western Pacific, and later aboard the USS Peleliu, during a deployment to the Persian Gulf. He also served at the U.S. Naval Academy for one year as a resident fellow at the Stockdale Center for Ethical Leadership. His service took him to many locations around the world and across the U.S.
“Chaplain Clore and his team are to be commended for their diligent work on behalf of clergy persons who are called to serve as military chaplains,” said Cara Nicklas, Chairwoman of the GM Church’s Transitional Leadership Council. “We are very thankful for all the men and women who serve in the U.S. military, and we praise God for the many chaplains who serve right alongside them in circumstances most of us can hardly imagine.”
Clergy have served as military chaplains in America since at least the Revolutionary War. Initially they volunteered with local militias and so were often well known by the soldiers they served alongside. Over time the role of a military chaplain was formalized, and they were officially integrated into the Army, Navy, and Air Force (the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Coast Guard are served by the Navy Chaplains Corps). Thousands of Methodists clergy have served as military chaplains over the past 250 years.
“Serving as a military chaplain is a total immersion in ministry to Gen X and Gen Z, groups sadly rare in most local churches; ministry among the ‘nones’ is a given,” said the Rev. Bob Phillips, a retired Navy Chaplain who worked closely with Clore to secure endorsing status for the GM Church. “Chaplains are the front line in crisis ministry, whether in relationships, or in ministry in times of trauma arising from death or injury to troops and families. There are also good times: lots of marriage preparation, regular connection to troops where they work, deploying with them, sleepless with them, and running with them – the biblical term is ‘incarnational.’ It is lived ministry, where truly the world is your parish.”
For more information about endorsement for service as a chaplain, readers can contact Rev. Clore at email@example.com.
Rev. Walter Fenton is the Deputy Connectional Officer for the Global Methodist Church.