MILL VALLEY, Calif., (BP)–U.S. Army Chaplain Col. Clarke McGriff said he is “proud to be a part of the Golden Gate legacy” in an Armed Forces Chaplaincy Day message at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Mill Valley, Calif.
“Twenty-six years ago you sent me out and I’ve come back to report that all is well, despite some sleepless nights, problems, opposition, crying and loneliness –- still, all is well and I am in the most marvelous ministry in the world.”
McGriff, a 1980 master of divinity graduate from Golden Gate, is commandant of the U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School at Fort Jackson, S.C. As a decorated 27-year Army veteran and an ordained American Baptist minister, McGriff is the first African American to hold that position in the chaplaincy school’s 88-year history.
When he first came to Golden Gate Seminary, McGriff recounted, “I was a Christian of only two years. I had never ventured farther west than Dallas. I had no family and no connections here.
“When I left Golden Gate in 1981 and went to Fort Riley, Kansas, they immediately put me as pastor of a battalion -– 800 people! Can you imagine?”
Speaking on the topic of “For God and Country” during his Oct. 18 chapel address, McGriff recounted, “I often am asked, ‘Is there not a contradiction between what is over your left pocket -– the U.S. Army -– and what is over your right pocket -– the cross? How do you balance that?’
“My answer is in Matthew 22, verses 34-40 -– love God and love your neighbor.
“Can you love your neighbor when he isn’t like you?” McGriff asked. “When he doesn’t have your best interest in mind, can’t get past the racial issue, comes from another background, has another religion? Those are the neighbors I am called to love every day in my job. What a joy and privilege to serve the Lord in that way.”
Mark Tichenor, Golden Gate’s vice president for enrollment and student services, said the seminary’s Armed Forces Chaplaincy Day sought to recognize “the critical ministry of our military chaplains both to Kingdom mission and to national service and sacrifice.”
Amanda Phifer is a writer at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.