During my 20+ years in the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps, I provided emotional and spiritual support to many military women, recruited chaplains into the service, and conducted two research projects aimed at exploring chaplain support to servicewomen, both from the female and male chaplains’ perspectives. In the process, I learned a few things:
- Nine out of 10 chaplains in the Army are male (the other services are also male dominated).
- Most women I counseled or interviewed for research either had a negative experience with a male chaplain or did not trust her chaplain to provide effective support.
- Many male chaplains are doing a good job in providing sensitive care to military women, but there is a strong percentage of chaplain men that are either avoiding women out of fear of being falsely accused of sexual harassment or are insensitive in their pastoral care to servicewomen.
- Women with Master of Divinity degrees are underutilized in Christian circles today. Few women who go to seminary and complete their MDivs are being employed as full time chaplains or pastors.
- A staggering number of women veterans are isolated and do not trust institutions, such as the VA, to provide to them the care they need.
Analyzing those things together, it occurred to the Board of Directors and I that a chaplain network, manned by female chaplains, and supporting only women veterans, could help fill a void in emotional and spiritual support. Thus the Tubman Chaplain Network (TCN) was born. We toyed with a number of names for the network, but Karen Meeker, an Army chaplain colonel and a member of the MISNS Board of Directors suggested the Tubman name. Harriet was a great woman of religious conviction, courage and faith. She helped countless people escape slavery. We like to think of the Tubman Chaplain Network as a good representative of what Harriet did by helping women on the road to freedom from the distress, pain, and anguish of moral injury.
TCN chaplains are highly qualified ministers. They possess Master of Divinity (or equivalent) degrees and at least two years of experience as religious professionals. We provide to them training on moral injury and cover them with liability insurance. A complaint and investigation process has also been instituted in case a woman ever feels that she is mistreated by one of our chaplains. Of course, we don’t expect that to happen, but misunderstandings do occur. Every complaint will be thoroughly and fairly investigated.
We do not require clients to have received an honorable discharge. For those who have been discharged from the military , it does not matter what kind of discharge they received. Women who received less than honorable discharges are very likely to need TCN’s services because they may not have VA benefits due to their discharge status.
Some women simply want to get chaplain support from someone who is not part of their chain of command. They don’t want to risk that their information might get leaked to the commander or that others might know that they are seeking help. Other women do not trust their current chaplain, are in a unit without a chaplain, or don’t know of a pastor or chaplain that can help them. There are many reasons why a woman might want to seek support from TCN. Whatever the reason, we are here to help.
Dr. Daniel Roberts, President and CEO of MISNS, is a 20+ year long member of the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps. In the span of time, he has helped many servicewomen who experienced moral injury due to sexual assaults, bullying, spousal infidelity, and other traumatic events. His work and research on moral injury and providing pastoral care has been published in the Journal of Health Care Chaplaincy, the Journal of Pastoral Care and Counseling, the Qualitative Report, SAGE Business Cases, and Amazon.