12th Assembly 2009

Defence Force Chaplaincy Q&A

1. Do chaplains report to Presbytery or Defence Force? Who has oversight? Protocols do not seem to be followed in all cases. Does UCA attend to vitality and call questions on a regular basis?

The Majority of chaplains attend Presbytery as regularly as they possibly can. They have had a variety of receptions and the business of presbytery is often not focused on issues beyond congregations.

In matters of discipline and faith they continue to be subject to Presbytery. The chaplains also need to meet the requirements of the Defence Forces.

The Assembly Chaplaincy Committee and the Convenor have begun a process of conversations about vitality of call and related matters. Full time chaplains are required to attend an annual retreat, seminars and conferences which focus on faith and the practice of chaplaincy. The convenor visits chaplains on average at least once a year.

Further work on protocols is being undertaken by the Chaplaincy Committee. When one attempts to satisfy two interacting systems with different agendas, time frames and their own protocols, it is often possible that difficulties occur. In the area of recruitment attempts have been made to keep all parties as informed as possible.

2. Mandate is inadequate - needs more information about care for chaplains and families.

The committee will look at the mandate in terms of care for the chaplain and families and report to Assembly Standing Committee

3. Can Synods link more to assist with recruiting chaplains? Does the church need defence chaplains? Need more information on recruitment process.

When the Convenor becomes aware of potential candidates for Defence Force Chaplaincy, he talks to the minister and officers of the relevant presbytery before recruitment goes ahead. All chaplains need the endorsement of the Convenor before being employed. The Convenor would appreciate names of possible candidates from officers of Synod and Presbyteries. The convenor has talked to Synod General Secretaries about the need for chaplains.

4. Do we 'vet' our people enough for suitability for chaplaincy?

The requirements of the Defence Forces are such that many ministers who make enquiries are excluded.  Questions of fitness, health, aptitude and suitability for the role have led to ministers not being accepted. The committee would like to think that the relevant Presbytery officers would raise any concerns they might have, with the convenor. Generally the fulltime chaplains have fitted very well into the Defence Forces and manage their roles well. The Committee has been pleased with the majority of reports it has received on chaplains’ performances.

5. Are 'corresponding members' of the committee participating or not?

There are no committee members who do not attend the majority of meetings either in person or on the phone.

6. Should there be discussion about the stipend/package between 'church' and 'defence forces'? Need some discussion about 'carrot' to entice people into chaplaincy?

A new review of chaplains’ salaries and allowances has just begun. The starting package for a fulltime chaplain in this century is better than the New South Wales minimum stipend package. With experience and greater responsibility remuneration increases.

7. Why are chaplains required to do weapons training?

 A chaplain needs to know how to make a weapon safe.

8. Place of UCA 'Code of Ethics' for chaplains in defence forces?

The UCA code of ethics and a number of defence force codes of behaviour apply to our chaplains.

9. Need more info and publicity to wider church about the work of chaplains.
Presbyteries are encouraged to invite chaplains to talk about their roles and work to their presbytery. More publicity and more prayer for our chaplains is desirable. A voluntary committee with a part time convenor is limited in what can be achieved.

Recently there were articles on Chaplaincy in 'The Age' and 'The Sydney Morning Herald' which Assembly members might find helpful.

Answers provided by Gale Hall, Convenor Defence Force Chaplaincy Committee.