About our Mission Statement
Until recently, our mission statement drew from the oath of enlistment known by soldiers and veterans across the United States. Our Mission Statement drew from that oath, but with some adjustments. Centurions Guild used to make it our mission “to support and defend prospective, current, and former service members while bearing true faith and allegiance to Jesus Christ.”
However, we began to think that our mission statement had too much military jargon that only soldiers themselves might recognize. As we continue to adapt and improvise, we decided on a new Mission Statement that reflected what we do and our ongoing commitment to soldiers in the Church and especially to the lived experience of military training, service, and deployment by:
Sharing the story of Christian soldiers yesterday, today, and tomorrow in scripture, worship, and theology.
There are three important elements to our new Mission Statement, reflecting
Politics are reflected in the phrase “Christian soldiers.” As a term, it is highly contested and is the subject of much debate within Christianity, and religion combined with politics is best not talked about (so we are told). For pacifists, “Christian soldier” is a mutually exclusive term; you cannot be both because being one prevents you from being the other. For patriots, “Christian soldier” is redundant; to be one is to be the other. Centurions Guild falls somewhere in the middle; Christian soldiers are integral to the witness of the church, but historically they do not adhere to the simplistic conceptions we see in Church culture today. It is for this reason that we focus on their story over time, because the Church today can learn much from the witness of her military martyrs, soldier saints, and patriot pacifists alike. This brings us to the second element of our Mission Statement, time.
Time is reflected in the serial comma listing “yesterday, today, and tomorrow.” Even though we have shared their story yesterday, are sharing it today, and will share it tomorrow, we emphasize that Christian soldiers’ individual stories consist of a narrative unity over time. Though there are many soldier stories, they shared in common the experience of loyal military service or conscientious refusal as well as dangerous deployment or courageous resistance. What was your story becomes my story and vice versa. “I” and “my” becomes “we” and “ours.” That is why we use the singular “story,” to reflect the importance of reading individual testimonies within the Church’s story of salvation history. Testimony and biography is only one of many ways the Body of Christ is made present in the world, and that brings us to the final element of our Mission Statement, practices.
Practices are reflected in the second serial, listing “scripture, worship, and theology.” and these things remind us how Christians live into, and then live out, our faith. Hearing and interpreting scripture, regular community worship and theological reflection, are also especially fruitful for thinking about the intersection of Christian faith and military service, what we call a “Martial Hermeneutic.” These three practices, of reading scripture, worshiping together, and considerate reflection, could be broken down further:
- Scripture is fundamental to Christianity, and the story of Christian soldiers begins there, all the way back to Genesis 4, where Cain was the first person to wield a weapon against another. Soldiers of the bible are not all antagonists, however, and we are told that the soon-to-be-soldier King David was “after [God’s] own heart.” In the New Testament as well, we are given models of good and bad soldiers, both the centurion of great faith in Matthew 8 and Luke 7, as well as the soldiers who beat and mock Jesus in John’s gospel as he is led to the cross. Like other humans, soldiers are depicted as both sinners and saints throughout the Bible, and we should remember that even today Christian soldiers are capable of both good and evil. They are no different than their civilian counterparts in terms of moral substance.
- Worship varies widely between congregations, although it usually includes sermons of varying length. For some, “high church” communions, worship is very liturgical, with prescribed words and actions specific to particular seasons or even individual weeks of the year. For other, “low church” communities, worship substance and style differs across the year and even between individual congregations in the same denomination. Elements of worship are artistic, like with icons or stained glass, and musical, whether in a hymn book or by using an electric guitar. The story of Christian soldiers appears in all these forms, and Centurions Guild works to share that story ecumenically in diverse settings.
- Theology deals in ideas but uses words to do so. Explicit doctrine can instruct churches how war is to be waged and how Christian soldiers must conduct themselves before, during, and after war. Church dogma also includes ways of thinking and acting that question the fundamental assumption that war is necessary in the first place. Between patriotism and pacifism, there are many ways of thinking about war and military service in theologically credible ways. Centurions Guild is invested in cultivating conversations in the middle ground in order to help ministers re-member the dismembered bodies left in the wake of wars. We often, and rightly, think of civilian lives broken by war, like widows and orphans, but we’re increasingly coming to understand the extent to which veterans themselves are fragmented by the experience of combat. Abstract theologies about war must therefore give way to a deeply personal, specific, and hard to define Combat Theology which begins with the story of Christian soldiers as a way toward their full reintegration into the life of faith in community.
So that is the story of our new Mission Statement. We hope you like it and will consider sharing it with others. Let us hear your thoughts in the comments below!