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Army Chaplain Protests UM Bishop's Bash Of Commander in Chief


 This is being sent to you at the request of Reverend / Chaplain Kent L. Svendsen :

June 18, 2004

An Open Letter To Retired United Methodist Bishop Melvin Talbert

Dear Bishop Talbert,

I read with a heavy heart your remarks concerning our president and our armed forces. (United Methodist News Service /UMNS# 04253)  http://umns.umc.org

I quote the article:

"In thinking about what the President has done, he has apologized for a few rogue soldiers, but he has not apologized for the sinful and systemic disgrace that is being unveiled now," he said. "Many saw the president's statement not as an apology, but as a weak attempt to shift the blame for his own policies to the rank and file soldier."

Talbert said he does not believe the soldiers that are being prosecuted now are really the ones that need to be dealt with. "I don't believe it is just a hand full of soldiers that got out of control." (End of quote)

You stated in the article that you were not speaking for the United Methodist Church.  However, when your title is included in connection with any statement, it certainly gives one the impression that you’re speaking as a United Methodist voice of authority.  That authority has the ability to persuade others concerning what they believe are the true facts.  Consequently, I would also like to offer for public consideration my opinion concerning this matter.

I am a United Methodist elder and an Army Reserve chaplain with over twenty-two years experience in working with military units.  This includes time served as an enlisted serviceman, an Engineer Officer, and ten years serving as a chaplain. I am also an advisor to the Board of Visitors of the Western Hemisphere Institute For Security Cooperation.  In that capacity, I offer advise in the areas of human rights, religion, curriculum, and academic instruction.  (WHINSEC has one of the best Human Rights training programs in the world.)

At present I have been activated and am deployed overseas with the military.   My duty position has me working closely with the Military Police.   I know many of the soldiers personally and have trained with them.  They are individuals who serve honorably and faithfully.  Many have deep faith commitments and honor all individuals, even our nation’s perceived enemies, as beings of sacred worth.

Our soldiers serving overseas are working under very difficult conditions.  They are separated from their families and living under harsh conditions.  They work long hours, under extreme pressure, and in a dangerous job.  For them quitting is not an option, so at times they feel trapped and in despair.  Since I know first hand the type of training they received and am knowledgeable of the conditions that they faced, I believe I can speak with authority concerning this issue.  In my opinion, it is easy for me to believe that what happened was the responsibility of “a hand full of soldiers that got out of control”. 

Here are additional facts that lead me to this conclusion.  The soldiers in question acted in violation of the training they were given.  We teach our soldiers not to follow an unlawful order and “to do the right thing”.  The fact that a soldier from the unit reported the abuse reinforces these facts.  He knew what was happening was unlawful & wrong and he reported it.  That’s exactly what we are trained to do!  In my opinion the facts of this situation lead us to a very different conclusion than the accusations you have publicly made.

I try to always assume the best of others.  In this regard, I assume you are spending many hours in earnest prayer asking God to bless and guide our president and our nation’s leaders as the scriptures admonish us to do.  I also hope that you are praying for all the members of our military who are “in harms way” and especially for the soldiers who are now facing disciplinary action. 

Grace and Peace

 

Reverend / Chaplain Kent L. Svendsen
Ordained Elder
Army Reserve Chaplain

(end of article)

Permission is given to reprint this article in its complete form.
Kent L. Svendsen
godrilla@accessus.net

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