There is a very interesting article at the Washington Post on a US Army Chaplain who switched from a Pentecostal denomination to a Wiccan group. He believes Wicca better suits his universalist position and talks about his rejection of the fundamentalism of other Christians (and Muslims). Like many folks, I wonder, “Why Wicca?” Did he check out any of the universalist Pentecostal Churches? I also noticed his attraction to the non-violent tenents of Wicca (although I’m not familiar with this, so I wonder if this is something that is true across the board with Wiccans). You need to watch the video too, I think, to get a feel for this man. This switch wasn’t something that happened overnight.
4 thoughts on “From Pentecostal Chaplain to Wiccan”
I am not familiar with this particular case and would not comment on it even if I were.
In general … every chaplain represents a specific faith group. The endorsing agency (in the UMC, the UM Endorsing Agency, a unit of the GBHEM) certifies to the Army that the endorsed chaplain is qualified for perform religious ministry in accordance with that denomination’s own polity. When a chaplain loses his/her endorsement, he/she can no longer function as a chaplain. Period. The government has no authority to declare someone competent to minister when their own church says that they are not.
There are procedures for changing endorsers, but the government cannot force an endorser to give a chaplain time to make the switch. Most endorsers will assist a chaplain in changing denominations, but I imagine all endorsers have some conditions that would motivate them to pull an endorsement immediately. Chaplains who want to change endorsers should keep both the gaining agency and the losing agency informed.
There are procedures for groups to become recognized as endorsers, but that is miles above my pay grade.
All Soldiers – including Wiccans – have the right to practice their faith. Only military necessity trumps free exercise. Chaplains assist commanders in providing for the free exercise rights of all their Soldiers, even those whose faith tradition is very different from the chaplain’s own. That doesn’t mean that I have to perform Wiccan rites or accept Wiccan theology! It just means that I have to look after the rights of all Soldiers to practice their religion.
I personally have assisted Wiccan Soldiers to pursue their free exercise rights. I don’t know what it is about Wiccans – more than other groups – that gets folks so riled up. I’ve had some great conversations with Wiccans and find them pleasant to work with.
And, of course, I’m just speaking for me – not the government and not the United Methodist Endorsing Agency.
Thank you Pax for your mindful thoughts of those who are witches/pagan and are not there to judge us. If the UMC person would like more feedback about wicca. I can put him in touch with a full functioning coven who reside in his home state of Oklahoma who would love to educate him with any questions he may have about this.
interesting. just glancing the article it seems interesting the emphasis on the former military who practice wicca.
this may or may not be the case, but with my experiences with youth. the experience of the mystic is very powerful. unfortunately the mainline church in one way or another pushes that out the door proper acting and thinking. funny though that this man came from a pentecostal background where that aspect is embraced… or required.. it could have been a myriad of other dogmatic reasons for leaving the pentecostal faith all together.
Gavin: That’s sort of where I wanted to go with this post, even though I didn’t explicitly. The post-modern embrace of mystery and the supernatural would appear to be an important connector here between Pentecostalism and Wicca. Some of his reasons sound pretty similar to folks who’ve left mainline denominations for the emerging church… By the way, if you want to increase traffic on your blog, just mention Wicca in a post – I went from about 30 people on an average day to 120 on the day I posted this. Is there interest out there in the supernatural? Hmmm…let me think.