Centurions Guild unofficially started as a series of emails in 2006 between Logan (Mehl-Laituri) Isaac, who in the Army preparing for a second deployment to Iraq, and Zach Cornelius, after Zach and a few other veterans helped Logan think about how the Bible was relevant to military service and about what it might mean to be a Christian soldier. They met through Shane Claiborne; In The Irresistible Revolution, Shane mentioned a ‘soldier-turned-pacifist painting murals at The Simple Way in Philadelphia’ that Logan wanted to meet. That initial correspondence provided the framework that continues to influence Centurions Guild today.
Logan’s wasn’t the only letter Shane got from a Christian soldier. Many were very moving and heartfelt, but he felt any response he gave, as a civilian, would not connect in the same way as one would from a fellow member of the military community. Zach and Logan offered to reach out to the guys and gals writing him (with their permission) and Centurions Guild was born, centered on the power of our shared martial narratives to bring positive spiritual renewal.
At the peak of the surge beginning in 2007, they got a staggering amount of correspondence. So much came in that Logan and Zach decided to start thinking about how to be more organized and consistent in their interactions with other Christian soldiers thinking theologically about God and country. An active duty Sailor they had gotten to know, Isaac Simerly, shared their interests and joined them as they moved toward making what they did a more structured ministry.
Our genesis centered on the power of shared martial narratives for positive spiritual renewal.
Centurions Guild continues to field questions about, provide resources for, and press deeper into the intersection of Christian faith and military service. They do that through their community newsletter, Change of Command, on social media, and by providing care packages to soldiers and military communities. Eventually more people joined them in their work and there has always been about four or five active ‘members’ behind the scenes making things happen.
The Simple Way generously offered some seed money in January 2008 so that Centurions Guild (as “Centurions Purse”) could make initial forays into philanthropy by offering small scholarships for struggling service members and dependents. That experience introduced them to new collaborators, like Kyle Caldwell and Jason Vance, but it also taught them that providing scholarships was not their calling. In 2009, they re-focused on conversation and story-telling, since many soldiers and veterans frequently report their churches feel dominated by political extremes on issues ignited by their military service.
The stereotypes defining Christian soldiers are not only historically unreliable but can be morally injurious. When exemplars are caricatures, it stunts theological maturation and sanctification. Centurions Guild moves the Church forward in thinking about the rich liturgical, historical, theological, and philosophical resources at our disposal by sharing the story of Christian soldiers yesterday, today, and tomorrow.