What if I told you that there was a denomination of fundamentalist Christians whose military chaplains are actively working to undermine military chapels – while being paid at taxpayer expense? That this denomination’s scheme is to use the military as a “mission field” to be “harvested” for new converts to their denomination by luring military members and their families away from military chapels to the churches that they’re “planting” near military bases? That once these military members and their families are converted they will be expected to carry this denomination’s beliefs and mission to their future duty stations, where more churches will be “planted” and more service members converted, thus “multiplying” this denomination’s hold on the military?

The denomination is the Southern Baptist Convention, and the above has been their plan and modus operandi for years. Now, a new doctoral dissertation written by a very recently retired U.S. Army chaplain, who in fact was working on his doctoral plan to subvert military chapels while still on active duty, has laid out the plan in stark detail. 

The dissertation, titled “The United States Military: A Field for Great Commission Fulfillment,” was written by William C. Harrison, a Southern Baptist Army chaplain for 27 years, who just received his doctorate in “missiology,” defined in the dictionary as “the study of religious (typically Christian) missions and their methods and purposes,” from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

There is nothing particularly new in Harrison’s dissertation, as we at the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) well know. We have seen the workings of the Southern Baptists in our military. In fact, in the majority of complaints we’ve received the culprit has turned out to be Southern Baptist, whether a chaplain, an organization, or a commander.

Southern Baptist chaplains, such as the one at 1:18 in the following video, proudly proclaim that they see themselves as “government-paid missionaries,” exploiting the military as a mission field to fulfill the Great Commission of Matthew 28, to “go and make disciples of all nations.”

As William C. Harrison writes in his dissertation:

“Evangelism and discipleship opportunities within the military community directly represent the full spectrum of Great Commission work. American military installations exist all across the nation and in various places across the globe. By establishing churches outside the gates of these areas, the church is actively taking the gospel to the nations. Service members and their families are not only a field for the harvest (in need of baptizing and teaching), but Christian discipleship among this population can ignite new sparks in global, gospel proclamation. These men and women and their children will move to new places every few years with a potential of taking the good news of Christ with them everywhere they go.”

And:

“Active-duty, Army chaplains are woven into the fabric of the military culture and have direct access to soldiers and their families; therefore, this strategic position for gospel ministry should be fully leveraged by the SBC (and its local churches) through intentional education, training, and other support to disciple America’s military families.”

Southern Baptists make up about 28% of the military chaplaincy, although less than 1% of the military population identify themselves as Southern Baptists. But even this disproportionately high number of Southern Baptist chaplains isn’t enough for them. As William C. Harrison writes in his dissertation, they want to “flood” the chaplaincy with even more of their numbers to combat the “non-Christian” chaplains (which to them includes the many Christian chaplains who aren’t their kind of Christians):

“Although the church cannot remedy the non-Christian chaplains that are confusing the masses within the military, it can seek to flood the chaplaincy with highly trained, God-called ministers of the gospel who are culturally engaged within the organization.”

Before going any further into William C. Harrison’s dissertation, a little bit about this former chaplain. His Facebook posts say a lot. He links to The Charlie Kirk Show, a video of a member of Trump’s legal team at Trump’s impeachment hearing diverting attention from the charges against Trump to Hunter Biden, an article by Newt Gingrich titled “Why I will not accept Joe Biden as president,” and a Steve Bannon video on the 2020 election. He retired from the Army in December 2021, having already started working on his doctorate in August 2021 at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, a school whose mission is “biblically educating God-called men and women to be and to make disciples of Jesus Christ throughout the world.” He completed his doctorate in March 2022. Yes, that’s right, he completed his doctorate, including writing his dissertation, in an astonishingly fast seven months!

This is the abstract of his dissertation:

“This dissertation proposes that evangelical, Army chaplains are strategically positioned within Army units and military chapels to reach soldiers and families with the gospel in obedience to the Great Commission. Because the chaplaincy is under governmental authority, this dissertation considers both the strengths and weaknesses of the chapel-model and additional limitations imposed by the secularization of America. Due to the pluralistic inclusivism that defines the chaplaincy, is the number of Christian chaplains adequate to disciple service members and families? If this model is inadequate, Southern Baptists must fill the void with military-focused church plants in proximity to every installation.”

The gist of his conclusions is that military chapels, with all their “pluralistic inclusivism,” are bad, and that Southern Baptists must “plant” their own churches outside of every military installation, then siphon off military members and their families who attend these non-Southern Baptist, and thus “non-Christian,” military chapels. 

From the dissertation:

“The military chapel model is inherently limited in effectiveness due to its pluralistic nature and the diminishing number of bold, evangelical chaplains willing to preach biblical truth, regardless of the consequences. Because the military chapel-model is regulated by a secular institution that advocates religious pluralism, this worship platform cannot fully function as a New Testament church; therefore, Southern Baptist churches must consider their role in filling the discipleship void in Great Commission efforts to reach America’s military with the full counsel of the gospel.”

“Planting biblically grounded churches near military installations that work in conjunction with evangelical chaplains fosters Great Commission evangelism and discipleship to these communities. Following the New Testament multiplication model, Southern Baptist church plants will then send these trained disciples on mission, equipped to carry the gospel with them when they move or deploy ‘to the ends of the earth.’”

“Southern Baptist churches should recognize the natural potential for sending military disciples into the world with the gospel. Intentional church planting efforts focused on these communities can result in the exponential growth of the Kingdom. … Military-focused church planters will essentially sow the seeds for a global harvest.”

And siphoning off military chapel attendees must be done “strategically.” For that, Harrison proposes the subterfuge of what he calls a “Non-Competition Model”:

“Non-Competition Model: Working in Concert with Christian Chaplains Military-focused church plants that desire connection to service members and families should not compete with chapel time slots, at least for the first couple of years. The close-knit community inside the gates naturally gravitates towards post chapels, regardless of the doctrinal shortcomings. Southern Baptist church planters should work in conjunction with NAMB-endorsed chaplains and other orthodox Christian chaplains assigned to the nearby installation. These civilian church planters will have more success by attending the on-post, general Protestant services to build relationships with the military community.

“Although this idea prevents the traditional Sunday morning service for the church plant, the benefits will more likely outweigh the concessions.”

So, there you have it — Southern Baptist chaplains, paid for by the U.S. government to run and preach in military chapels, should “flood” the military with the goal of undermining those very same military chapels by “planting” their own churches outside of military installations and stealing military congregants.

And Harrison even has a plan to fund these church “plants” with government funds. How? By opening Christian counseling centers near military bases that accept the military’s Tricare health insurance, and then using the profits from these Christian counseling centers to fund their church “plants.” As Harrison explains this scheme in his dissertation (emphasis added):

“Army families need Christian counseling centers in proximity to post where they can receive professional care in a timely manner using their military benefits. When one of these centers is directly affiliated with a missional church (focused on military ministry), these centers can fund the church towards self-sustainment. The counseling centers would need to first be certified as third-party practices that accept Tricare (the military insurance provider for off-post care).”

“… Jerry Waldrop and his wife (Angela), opened their own Christian counseling practice in Columbia, South Carolina, near the Fort Jackson Army installation. Waldrop says, “there is an extreme shortage of providers that are 1) culturally competent in military culture, 2) accept Tricare, and 3) work with a third-party payer (i.e., Wounded Warrior Project) to provide an adequate supply of counselors in and around Fort Jackson.” This reality at this medium-sized Army post is true for most installations, especially the larger posts that garrison division-sized units.

“Although Waldrop’s center is a privately owned business and not currently a church initiative, he assesses the potential of a church-led program by saying, “There are many models that a church plant could use. One would be to build a counseling center and then lease it out to a provider that could serve as the director. This would be a leasing agreement and could generate great profits for the church plant. …”

“Christian counseling centers that want to provide services for the military community (and accept payments through military insurance) must first become certified as approved providers. According to Waldrop at FFLCC in South Carolina, “Military clients can and do refer people to outside organizations; however, in order to participate with Tricare, the practice (for profit and not for profit) must gain certification. This is an easy but time-consuming task. It took our organization about twelve months to gain certification.” Church plants that seek sustainability through Christian counseling centers need to begin this process as early as possible. After the initial certification is completed, “the practice can generate authorization for new clients through the Tricare Provider Portal.”

This passage from Harrison’s dissertation very aptly sums up what MRFF sees over and over and over — what happens when not just the chaplain, but their commander, is a fundamentalist Christian. As Harrison puts it, “gospel proclamation is more easily facilitated.” Or, as MRFF puts it, military regulations go out the window and the unit becomes a hotbed of fundamentalist Christian violations of everyone else’s rights. What Harrison sees as problems — that the military is an “inherently secular institution” and “government regulations against proselytization” — MRFF fights day and night to uphold. From Harrison’s dissertation (emphasis added):

“When the unit chaplain is an evangelical Christian, and the commander of that unit is also an evangelical Christian, gospel proclamation is more easily facilitated. But what is the likelihood of that combination in an increasingly secular society that is reflected (if not compounded) in the microcosm of the American military? The command-to-chaplain spirituality ratio falls across a wide spectrum, from the ideal stated above to a very opposite example—an atheist commander and a non-Christian, minority faith group chaplain (Muslim, Buddhist, etc.). While this might sound like the extreme, ‘it should be noted that the military now recognizes more than 200 different faith groups who are legally eligible to send chaplains.’ The United States military, as an extension of the government that controls it, is an inherently secular institution. When America’s governmental laws and regulations move away from a Judeo-Christian framework and become more liberal and non-biblical, so follows its military.”

“Even when the best-case scenario exists within a particular command-to chaplain relationship, Christian evangelism can still be impeded by government regulations against proselytization and the increasing atmosphere of political correctness among pluralistic ideals.”

Not surprisingly, MRFF gets a mention in Harrison’s dissertation (emphasis added):

“This dissertation advocates for a chaplaincy track at Southern Baptist universities and seminaries, so that young (evangelical) chaplains can be better prepared to stand firm against the pervasive political correctness and pluralistic ideologies that attempt to silence the gospel within the military context. Proponents of the radical left, such as Mikey Weinstein, ‘the founder and president of the inaptly named Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF)’ continue to plague Christian service members living out their faith. According to the American Center for Law and Justice, ‘Mr. Weinstein has characterized sharing one’s faith in Christ [while] in uniform as part of a plot aiming at ‘a systematic hostile takeover of the U.S. military by lunatic, fundamentalist Christians … a cabal of deranged end time warriors.’’’ This particular statement by Weinstein was part of his rebuttal to a retired Air Force chaplain who spoke at a Liberty University graduation.

“Weinstein accused this chaplain of having ‘declared the United States Military to be a weapon of biblical retribution.’ Although Weinstein’s overstated style leads a logical thinker to dismiss his ideas, inflammatory attacks (such as his) cause a hypersensitivity toward political correctness, which in turn, directly affects policy or instills fear into American service members, to include many who serve in the Chaplain Corps. …”

No, newly-minted doctor of missiology Harrison, MRFF doesn’t “plague” Christian service members for simply living out their faith, which many do without infringing on the rights of others. But you can be damned sure that MRFF will continue to “plague” chaplains and commanders of your ilk who consider the military to be “A Field for Great Commission Fulfillment.”

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.

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