WASHINGTON (BP)–For the first time since 1954, a Southern Baptist has been nominated to lead the U.S. Army’s chaplains. The Army’s public affairs office announced May 10 that Chaplain Brigadier General Douglas Carver has been appointed to the grade of Major General for assignment as Chief of Chaplains.
The last chief of chaplains from the Southern Baptist Convention was Chaplain (MG) Ivan L. Bennett from 1952-54.
“It’s an exciting day to see a fellow Southern Baptist receive such an honor,” said Keith Travis, a retired U.S. Army chaplain who serves as director of the North American Mission Board’s chaplaincy evangelism team. “Chaplain Carver has had an outstanding military career and he is a remarkable man of God.”
In 2005, Carver became the Army’s 22nd deputy chief of chaplains and the first Southern Baptist chaplain to be promoted to the Chief of Chaplains office for active duty in more than 50 years. He also is the first Southern Baptist to hold the position of deputy chief of chaplains.
Carver is a native of Rome, Ga., and a graduate of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
Pending anticipated confirmation by the Senate Armed Services Committee, Carver will be promoted officially to his new role at a “Change of Stole” ceremony July 12 at Fort Belvoir in northern Virginia.
Involved in ROTC at the University of Tennessee, Carver was commissioned as a field artillery officer in 1973 as the Vietnam War was drawing to a close. It was the same year that he married his high school sweetheart Susan, affectionately called Sunny by the family.
Carver grew up in a strong Christian home and was active in church as a young Army officer. One winter, while accompanying some Royal Ambassador boys on their annual retreat, a church deacon asked him a question: What was he going to do with the rest of his life?
“I said, ‘Oh, I’ll probably put 20 to 30 years in the military, get out, and maybe pastor a small church,” Carver recounted in a 2005 Baptist Press story. The deacon told him, “Don’t give God the leftovers of your life.”
That simple statement forced Carver to examine his priorities in light of his life verse, Matthew 6:33: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness….” After six years of active duty, Carver left the Army to answer the call to ministry — a calling that Carver says really began at age 16.
After graduating from seminary, Carver became pastor of Skyway Baptist Church in Colorado Springs, Colo., and remained active in the reserves. Major General Charles Baldwin, currently the chief of chaplains for the United States Air Force, was the Air Force Academy cadet chaplain at the time and asked Carver if he had ever thought about the military chaplaincy.
“He said, ‘The military desperately needs chaplains who love the Lord,'” Carver recounted. After much prayer and with support from his wife and the church, he re-joined the military in 1984 and was commissioned as an active duty chaplain with endorsement by the North American Mission Board.
Carver began his work as a chaplain with the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Ky., and was there as division chaplain when 248 soldiers were killed in the 1985 Gander plane crash while returning from a peace-keeping mission. “That was a major event in my life as far as ministering to mass casualties and tending to the long-term care of soldiers and families as they suffered loss,” Carver remembered.
In his 30-plus years of marriage, he and his wife and their two now-grown daughters moved 24 times around the country and overseas, including stops in Manheim, Germany, where he ministered to the needs of families whose soldiers were deployed during Desert Storm, and in Heidelberg, Germany, when 9/11 took place.
Carver addressed last year’s Southern Baptist chaplains’ luncheon held in conjunction with the SBC annual meeting in Greensboro, N.C.
“Times are dangerous and difficult. But God has raised you up for a time such as this,” Carver told the audience.
“God has ordered you into some pretty tough places –- not just in Iraq, Afghanistan or Africa, but also in hospitals, truck stops and detention facilities. You are reaching people who would never darken the doors of a church…. Yet you show up, and God, in His relentless pursuit of souls, sends you to minister to people with needs.”
Military chaplains are serving a quarter-million troops in approximately 130 nations, Carver said, noting, “These chaplains are in harm’s way, separated from their families back home, and ministering to the spiritual needs of some who may meet God today.”
Regarding the horrors of war and other circumstances that chaplains encounter, Carver counseled, “We have to remember that without the wisdom of God to help us radiate His love and presence, we can all grow a hard appearance. Our job is to keep our passion for the Lord, stay in the Word and pray like never before. We can’t harbor hatred or resentment. Convince those we minister to that vengeance belongs to God. Talk about loftier things -– like forgiveness and even pray for the souls of terrorists. When you do that, you’ll reflect Christ.”
The North American Mission Board is the endorsing agency for the 1,000-plus Southern Baptist chaplains serving in the U.S. military. In addition to the military, SBC-endorsed chaplains also work in prisons, corporations, law enforcement, volunteer, and the health field, with a total of 2,694 NAMB-endorsed chaplains serving today.
Compiled by Art Toalston, with reporting by Mickey Noah and Sara Horn.