Dallas, TX (25 September 2019)—The Marsh Center for Chaplains Studies held its inaugural dinner here last week. Fifty-five senior chaplains, pastors, and friends met Monday, 16 September, to honor Gerald Marsh, who mentored many of them during his long career as a professor of pastoral ministry. Twenty-five of them also agreed to form an Advisory Team to partner with the Marsh Center to advance the cause of chaplaincy.
Chaplaincy is the fastest growing ministry in America. Chaplains help persons of all faiths in a wide variety of non-religious settings. This requires a special set of knowledge and skills to meet a wide range of human needs. The Marsh Center works with seminaries to develop material to train both new and experienced chaplains and to engage them in lifelong learning. This curriculum reaches beyond the scope of traditional seminary coursework. “It is specifically designed to develop competencies for a unique ministry,” says Dr. Gene Wilkes, President of B.H. Carroll Theological Institute, which is sponsoring the Marsh Center. “In doing this, we recognize the growing influence and value of well-trained chaplains who minister in settings where other religious workers rarely go.”
The Marsh Center’s initial Advisory Team is made of Texas and Virginia Baptist chaplains. “But our vision reaches far beyond that,” according to Dr. Bobby Smith, the endorsing agent for Texas Baptist chaplains. “Our goal is to partner with all faith groups in order to help chaplains bring people to God, and to bring God to people.” The March Center will become an inter-faith ‘think-tank’: a forum for chaplains of all types to discuss and research issues and to provide solutions for chaplain ministry. Associate Director of the Marsh Center and retired Air Force chaplain, Dr. Jim Browning, said, “Our Advisory Team members are experienced professionals who bring insight, guidance, and support from many perspectives to prepare effective chaplains and to advocate for quality chaplain ministry.”
Chaplaincy is often misunderstood by the public. Certain special interest groups even want to defund it. For these reasons, the Marsh Center exists also to inform and advocate in the public square concerning issues that influence and promote effective chaplain ministry.
The Center is named for Dr. Gerald E. Marsh, former Home Missionary of the Southern Baptist Convention, professor for twenty-five years at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and since 2004, Distinguished Fellow of Carroll Institute. Dr. Marsh served thirty-two of his thirty-nine years in the military as a chaplain. He retired in 1988 as a Major General from his eleven-year post as the U.S. Air Force Assistant Chief of Chaplains. Dr. Jim Spivey, a Senior Fellow of Carroll Institute and retired Army chaplain, is the Director of the Marsh Center.