From Mr Richard Bickle and others
Sir, - I was interested to read your coverage concerning the
work of military chaplains and the new convenant between the Church
of England and the Armed Forces (News,
At the Fellowship of Reconciliation, we believe that the life
and teachings of Jesus clearly show the power of active
non-violence in challenging and tackling the root causes of
conflict. We do not see in the Gospels any justification for the
use of armed force or violence of any kind, and would see ourselves
as part of a tradition of Christian peacemaking stretching right
back to the Early Church.
It was, therefore, disappointing to see your coverage presented
in such a naïve and uncritical tone. For example, the reported
claim by the Defence Minister that there was no conflict between a
priestly function and military service should at the very least be
open to question.
While we believe that people serving in the military are as
deserving of pastoral ministry as anyone else, it is clearly
potentially problematic to have chaplains with the dual function of
serving as part of the military chain of command, and therefore
expected to follow orders, while at the same time being ultimately
answerable to the higher authority of God.
It is also interesting to note that some of the earliest
chaplains (from the Wesleyan Methodist Church) were provided only
on condition that they remained under the control of their Church
and not that of the military commanders.
Similarly, the claim that "the only reason we engage in war is
because we want peace" barely stands up to the most cursory
scrutiny. Surely the stated justification for wars is a perception
of "national interest",
and the underlying causes include conflict over access to
resources, personal rivalry, or collective prestige. While these
are often dressed up in the grand rhetoric of moral, political,
national, or religious superiority, I would suggest that the claim
that the objective is to make peace is verging on disingenuous.
Richard Bickle (Chair of Trustees), Hilary Topp (Vice-Chair),
Christopher Collins, Geraldine Bridges, John Johansen-Berg
Fellowship of Reconciliation
19 Paradise Street
Oxford OX1 1LD
From the Revd Alan F. Jesson TD
Sir, - It is very encouraging to read of the signing of the
Armed Forces Covenant by the Archbishops. I hope that the publicity
given to it in your pages will encourage qualified clergy to
consider chaplaincy in the Reserve Forces.
Nevertheless, it must not be forgotten that the Cadet Forces
also require chaplains in uniform, and, in my experience, chaplains
in the Army Cadet Force (ACF) have invariably been under-recruited,
and have received little support from diocesan youth teams.
There are currently around 41,000 teenagers in the ACF alone,
most of whom will be unchurched, but will frequently respond
positively to a chaplain's ministry. Add around 9500 Adult
Volunteers - again in the ACF alone - and the scale of the mission
field becomes apparent. I can positively say that it is a most
I would love to see all the Cadet Forces chaplaincy vacancies
filled, and dioceses supporting this essential ministry.
ALAN F. JESSON
9 Lawn Lane, Sutton-in-the-Isle
Cambridgeshire CB6 2RE
From Canon David Staples
Sir, - There are still opportunities for service when one's
sell-by date is past. There are clear opportunities in retirement
with current serving and veteran members of the military and their
families, especially if one has in one's CV the shared experience
of uniformed service.
There must be many retired priests who served, as I did, as
National Service conscripts, and are now "retired". The bond of
previous service gives a special entrée, and an opportunity for
ministry which is received with appreciation.
After I retired, I acted as secretary to our local branch of the
Royal British Legion for ten years, and was able to help the Vicar
of this large parish, who is officially the Branch Padre. I have
also acted as a priest in the affairs of the Royal Fusiliers
Regimental Association, of which my own Royal Warwickshire Regiment
is part. I have preached at the Annual Association Service at St
Mary's Collegiate Church in Warwick, dedicated the refurbished
Regimental Museum in Warwick, and, with their families, accompanied
to Sword Beach veterans of the 2nd Battalion RWR who had landed
there in June 1944.
I was privileged to conduct a memorial service at the cemetery
at Douvres-la-Délivrande, and to accompany widows and their
families who were visiting their husband's or father's grave for
the first time.
I say this not to draw attention to myself, but to point out
that oppportunities are there for us to identify and follow up. We
may even have more time than pre-retirement clergy for this kind of
ministry when formal appointment as Chaplains to the Army Reserve
is no longer open to us on account of increasing age, although it
has given me the chance to prove that I can still march in
1 Sycamore Close
Bourne Lincolnshire PE10 9RS
From the Revd Donald Reece
Sir, - In the light of your report about military chaplaincy, I
offer an account of the wartime ministry of André Trocme, Reformed
Pastor of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, France.
Some of the occupying German forces had been taken prisoner in
August 1944 and were held in his parish. He preached the same
sermon in French to his morning congregation as he did in German to
the prisoners in the afternoon. This offers a more complete and
uncompromised idea of chaplaincy.
In my experience of what was called Rhodesia in the 1970s, under
white-minority rule, some of us had pastoral dealings with bereaved
or injured of the families of both those who called themselves
"security forces" and those who called themselves "freedom
fighters". This was a less compromised and more complete pastoral
foundation than that of the appointed military chaplains.
8 Lamarsh Road
Oxford OX2 0LD