Vol 2 No. 43 Some General Advice

Hello Folks

I attended, on behalf of Canadian Baptist Ministries, the installation of the new Chaplaincy General of the Canadian Armed Forces; Brigadier General Sam Johnstone, a Lutheran.

The senior chaplain in the Canadian Armed Forces is usually a two year term alternating between a Roman Catholic and a Protestant. The Armed Forces are about to induct a Jewish Rabbi and already have a Muslim Iman.

While I went to represent CBM, I learned a great deal from the experience particularly form General  Ric Hillier, the Chief of the Defence staff and Brigadier General Sam Johnstone in their remarks during the service.

It needs to be noted that there are very few interfaces between the Christian faith (or any faith for that matter) and the secular authority. The few examples include hospital and prison chaplaincy, some interaction over refugee settlement and of course military chaplaincy.

I’ll list our own BUWC Chaplains when we do a Remembrance Day letter and also recant some of my own experiences but for now I’ll recount the two Generals talks… some “General Advice”…ok a really bad play on words…I am utterly unrepentant.

The first set of advice was from Ric Hillier to Sam Johnstone (the new Chaplain General). These are my paraphrases but they are the overview of General Hillier’s remarks. All these piece of advice have a relationship and application to our lives as Christians. The praxis is obvious but I may point out some of the clearer ideas.

First, you have a responsibility to Armed Forces “in theatre” overseas (our commitment to global concerns).

Second, you have a responsibility to all personnel in the Armed Forces (we have a responsibility and calling to the nation and our local communities.

Third, that while there is an expression that there are “no atheists in foxholes” when you discover “an atheists in a foxhole” please encourage that person to the see the value of faith (these are the words of the Chief of Defense Staff).

Fourth, you have a responsibility to your own staff (remember this is advice to the new Chaplain General from his commanding officer). We need to nurture and encourage, deepen and build up Christians in the community and faith.

Lastly, you need to take care of yourself (this was a powerful moment in the General Hillier’s remarks)… we need to take care of ourselves in this journey of faith and, I might add, allow the Lord and others for care for me).

There was much more to the service, but suffice to leave the last word to Sam Johnstone. While he said many things I was deeply touched when he acknowledged, thanked and very personally affirmed his wife Judy’s journey with him. It is clearly a close, challenging and affirming relationship. My description is not fulsome enough to capture it but the experience was a reminder to thank those who journey with us even as we often only remember the Lord and those who employ us (relax, the Lord and others so clearly deserve our public praise and thanks).



In Christ,

Jeremy Bell