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How is Military Chaplaincy in Europe Portrayed in European Scientific Journal Articles between 2000 and 2019? A Multidisciplinary Review

School of Theology, University of Eastern Finland, 80101 Joensuu, Finland
School of Applied Educational Science and Teacher Education, University of Eastern Finland, 80101 Joensuu, Finland
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Religions 2020, 11(10), 540;
Submission received: 11 September 2020 / Revised: 1 October 2020 / Accepted: 5 October 2020 / Published: 21 October 2020
(This article belongs to the Section Religions and Theologies)


This article focuses on the portrayal of the military chaplaincy in Europe in European scientific journal articles during the past two decades. The military chaplaincy represents an interesting case as it is a member of two strong professions: a soldier and the clergy. Furthermore, the profession is facing many challenges connected to diversification and pluralisation, networking, technology, and extraprofessional collaboration. The data of the review study included scientific journal articles that are published electronically in major scientific databases. When portraying military chaplaincy, the articles emphasised five themes: Basic functions, the history of the profession, the changing nature of the military chaplaincy, organisational change, and professional ethics.

1. Introduction

The past years have witnessed a marked increase in interest in the question of professionalism in the field of Practical Theology. While questions connected with vocation and calling among the clergy have been a recognised topic in research and the literature to present times1—and the German pastoral theological research in particular has recently discussed professionalism2—the actual upcoming international research focus has been on religious education teachers’ professionalism3. Hence, in 2016, there was a double-themed issue in the British Journal of Religious Education4 and Zeitschrift für Pädagogik und Theologie5 that focused solely on aspects on religious education teachers’ professionalism. While studies within international practical theology on the profession of the clergy have been relatively scarce6, studies on military chaplaincy in particular are non-existent.
However, there is quite a strong multi-disciplinary body of research on military chaplaincy in the Anglosphere in general where much of the research into military chaplains is located within military history and military studies, counselling, and pastoral care research. Much of such research can be described as kind of a microhistorical crisis research. Such a body of literature includes, for example, the experiences and actions of the military chaplains during World War I7, World War II8, the Vietnam War9, or even the American Civil War10. Other historical studies or other inquiries on special groups in the ministry include prison chaplaincy11, hospital chaplaincy12, and school chaplaincy13.
With this article, we wish to make a contribution to professional studies of the clergy by reviewing how military chaplaincy has been portrayed in international scientific journals during the past 20 years. Many changes have occurred during this timeline that make this focus period relevant in Western societies. It is also a long enough period to observe if there are any specific topics or themes trending. The major societal changes include the re-emergence of religion in the public sphere, accommodating religious pluralism and cultural diversity, and questions of national and cultural heritage that have emerged as important questions in Europe and Western societies. On the other hand, overall, the working environments have become, and are becoming, increasingly inter-professional, networked, and technological14. With the examination of the articles we aim to gain a fuller picture of the profession of the military chaplain today.
The concrete research question in this article is: How is military chaplaincy in Europe portrayed in European scientific journal articles between 2000–2019? The data of the research included European scientific journal articles that are published electronically in scientific databases including JSTOR and Ebsco. They had to be written in English, peer-reviewed, and published in high-quality journals or annals. The search concentrated on the years between 2000 and 2019 and the content of the articles included Europe as a focus. The main key words used in the search from the databases were military chaplain, military priest, army chaplain, military clergy. In addition, to gain data concerning the effect of pluralisation in Europe, Jewish military chaplain, military rabbi, Muslim chaplain, and military imam were added as search words. These terms narrowed the data to 45 articles. The collected articles were analysed by content analysis, and a table listing the properties and the details of the articles was produced. The details and properties included the name of the article, data used in the article, research method, description of the content, database keyword(s), publication, and the author(s). Appendix A is an elaborated table for the purposes of this publication. The articles, authors, and publications are listed in the leftmost column in the table in Appendix A. In Appendix B, the number of articles is listed by year, and also the yearly thematic division of articles is depicted. The most important outcome of the analysis in the table were the five themes, which describe the topics that the articles concentrate on. These themes emerged from the data through repeated examination and comparison of contents. In addition, there were two articles that handled other topics such as the juridical status of Chaplains in European Armed Forces15 and Military Chaplains in Ukraine.16 In Appendix A, the names of the five themes are marked in the columns. Many of the articles included content related to more than one theme.

2. Military Chaplaincy in Changing Contexts

In general, the armies of the Western societies deploy some form of arrangement for military chaplain services. While in some countries military chaplains are part of the militia, in some they work from a parish and give formalised services to the servicemen and their families at nearby bases17. While in some states military chaplains are representatives of major religious denominations, some countries such as Finland and Denmark deploy a system where the chaplains serve all the servicemen, regardless of their tradition. The concept of chaplaincy naturally refers to its Christian Catholic and Protestant origins: Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines a chaplain as (a) clergyman in charge of a chapel, (b) a clergyman officially attached to a branch of the military, to an institution, or to a family or court, (c) a person chosen to conduct religious exercises, and (d) a clergyman appointed to assist a bishop (as at a liturgical function)18. However, many Western countries increasingly provide established chaplaincy positions for other faiths such as Judaism and Islam thus extending the concept chaplaincy to military rabbis and military imams.
For the past decade, many sources have discussed the changes the traditional professions are facing19 and thus the need for research to re-examine the conceptions of profession and professionalism.20 Buhai has listed characteristics of a profession using what can be described as an example of the categorizing taxonomic approach.21 These include specialised education, expert knowledge, public trust, ethos other than profit maximising, continuing education requirement, and duties to the public.22 Admittedly, these characterisations are a helpful tool for distinguishing the well-established professions such as the police, clergy, officer, judge, and doctor from ’mere’ occupations. However, the taxonomic approach has been criticised for being, for instance, based on ’professional prototypes’ that are taken from ’nineteenth century England’23 and on surface social attributes, therefore making it unsuitable for examining—or identifying—today’s modern occupations (ibid.).24
In addition, it can be argued that the taxonomic approach is not very cognizant of the networked and contextual representation of the profession in a multidisciplinary societal environment. In addition, it does not recognise well the intraprofessional collaboration required today to respond to the complex social questions and demands of knowledge-based societies.25 After all, human service organisations and social work professionals exist and function in a reciprocal and interactive relationship with their external environments.26 As a result the changes in the environments where the organisations and professionals operate affect their functions and may challenge the their very cores. According to Schnell, two integral developments that have affected research into professions have been identified lately. First the transformation of welfare states and new forms of governance have resulted in the established professions encountering many structural changes in their working environment and conditions. Second there has been a need to re-define the concept of professionalism away from ’narrowed, affirmative and technocratic’ conceptions of professions, professionalism, and professionalisation.27
The military chaplain represents an interesting case for studies of professionalism. For instance, it can be argued that professional and ethical issues related to serving all strands of citizens with different relationships to faith and the Church in national or state churches can be somewhat highlighted in the professional practice of the military chaplain. However, in the context of this study, the fundamental issue is that the military chaplain is a member of two professional cultures whose respective professions—the military special officer and the clergy—have not only differing education and expert knowledge but also different spheres of public service and ethos.28 Similarly to interprofessional collaboration, the profession of the military chaplain includes within it by definition the tensions of the two professional cultures—not to mention the interprofessional collaboration with other professions. Consequently, those engaged in the profession of military chaplains today face many challenges in their work.29.
Hansen has used military chaplaincy in the US Armed Forces as an example when describing the tensions within the profession. He calls the first dilemma of the military chaplains the ’dilemma of diversity’. In the military, the chaplains serve and work with religiously diverse people groups, and also constitute a ’diverse corps’ within the institution.30 The second dilemma, called ’divided loyalties’, refers to the role conflicts in practising the profession of military chaplain. Military chaplains are, at the same time as being ordained clergy and viewed as such by civilian faith communities, also commissioned officers in the armed forces. According to Hansen, as a result, the military chaplains have to negotiate between the demands and respective hierarchies of two institutions: The religious and the military while tending for the spiritual and related needs of military personnel. The third dilemma Hansen describes is the ’dilemma of legitimacy’31. One of the integral issues in this is that in many Western countries the military chaplains are paid from the public purse regardless of the separation between church and state, while they are ordained by the church. At the deeper level, this is a question of the role of Christianity and religion in Western societies today32. Furthermore, pluralisation of societies results in many taxpayers increasingly not be affiliated to the same faiths that military chaplains represent.33

3. Results

3.1. Overview of the Themes in the Selected Articles

There were 44 articles found from the publications between 2000 and 2019 that focused on military chaplains. Figure 1 presents the frequency of the five themes that were identified in the articles. Many of the articles discussed more than one of the themes identified.
The most common themes in the articles were history of the profession (f = 26), basic functions (f = 11), and the changing nature of the military chaplain (f = 10). The other themes discussed focused on organisational change (f = 5) and professional ethics (f = 5). The themes and their contents are discussed in more detail below. However, it is noteworthy that the articles did not discuss the personal spiritual aspects of the profession of the military chaplain at all.

3.2. Basic Functions

Many of the researched articles (f = 11) focused on the basic functions of the military chaplain (Figure 1). The topics belonging to the theme’s basic functions could be divided into pastoral care and religious ceremonies: Teaching was not mentioned in the tasks of the military chaplains in these articles. Most of these articles (f = 6) concentrated on the British Armed Forces, and both Ottonian Germany and Austria had one article dedicated to them. The articles showed that military chaplaincy varies quite much depending on the country and the armed forces they are working in. The differences can be noticed for example in their legal status or in the establishment of religious minorities chaplaincies.
In general, the articles that discussed the basic functions of the military chaplain emphasised aspects related to pastoral care. In total, six articles discussed this topic. Emotional and spiritual support was reviewed in both historical and modern contexts. In the articles, pastoral care was not discussed solely in relation to Christianity but also related to other religions such as Buddhism and Islam. The first of these articles is a study about military careers and Buddhist ethics. The article investigates the religious and scriptural position of a Buddhist joining and continuing in the military as a military chaplain in the British Armed Forces.34 The article on Islam contemplates the question whether ‘newcomer religions’ constitute organisational challenges for state institutions. In this case, the interest fell upon Islamic religious accommodation in the Austrian Armed Forces. Pastoral care related to atheist conscripts was not discussed in any of the articles.35
The second theme that was emphasised in the basic functions of the military chaplains concerned religious ceremonies. This theme referred to topics concerning religious field services, funerals, and bereavement procedures. When the articles discussed religious field services the military chaplains were described performing acts of field worship during military exercises and military refresher courses. In addition, funerals were one form of religious services described in the articles. However, the discussion on funerals was being often done in the context of military organisations and therefore it can be discussed separately. In short, this discussion of funerals and bereavement procedures focused on issues related to organising burial ceremonies and the bureaucratic process from the death of a military officer or servicemen, transporting the deceased, and notifying the family. In general, the articles show how in the case a deceased serviceman, the chaplains communicate with various interest groups support military families and take care of bereavement work in the armed forces. For instance, Cawkill36 and Cawkill and Smith37 have described the military chaplain’s role in a case of death and casualty in the British Armed Forces.
A more historical approach to the topic is represented by the individual studies by Howson38, Bachrach39, Gudmundsson40, and Dörfler-Dierken41. However, in contrast to the previous articles, Dörfler-Dierken’s work also covers current pastoral care practised in the military. The study focuses specifically on the German Armed Forces from a Lutheran standpoint.

3.3. The Changing Nature of Military Chaplaincy

In total, 10 articles discussed the changing nature of military chaplains. The topics of these articles could be divided into two main subthemes: The increase in religious diversity and the developing role of the military chaplain. Most of the articles addressed at some level the question of the increase in religious diversity in society and the military. In fact, most of the articles belonging to this theme focused on issues related to accommodating or encountering Islam.
In his article, Hafiz compared the role of the imam in public service to the duties of a mosque-based imam in the UK. The article argues that it is crucial for military imams in the UK to be able to develop and comprehend democracy, individual human rights, and pluralistic values. In the UK, imams in public service work for institutions such as the military or prisons. It seems that the professional identity of the “military imam” is based on the context they are working on. Interestingly, the author argues that imams in public service are more suitable for providing a competent imamate for society today than mosque–based imams. The reason is that the imams in public service are, in general, second- or third-generation immigrants who have already integrated in society: The military imams can be seen as accultured or “home-grown” people. This is not the case with the mosque-based imams who are often brought from abroad and thus may lack a common language and view of society with second- or third-generation Muslims. The author also argues that the military imams also have a significant role in ensuring that British Muslims integrate in society and develop a good understanding of what it means to be Muslim in Britain.42
The other articles that depict the increase in religious diversity focus on various relevant topics relevant to the changing nature of the military chaplains. In a guest editorial introduction to a special issue focusing on Muslims in European armies, Stoeckl and Roy portrayed the importance of the inclusion of Muslims in the Western European armies as part of the integration process of European Muslim populations. They underline the change in the dynamics in the armed forces, which is caused by religious pluralism in Europe.43 The third article displays cultural diversity through the position of a Buddhist joining in and continuing in the military in the UK.44 Sociologist Settoul analysed the sociological factors and policies that have contributed to Muslim military chaplains’ institutionalisation within the French army. The first Muslim chaplains came in the early 2000s. This was called the “diversity wave”, though the French army had already Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish military chaplains.45
The second set of articles concerning the changing nature of military chaplaincy focus on the developing role of military chaplains. In general, these articles describe two integral changes with regards to the nature and tasks of military chaplains. Two articles, however, concern ethical issues such as promoting peace regarding serving in the military.
The first issue focusing on the developing role of military chaplaincy concerns the active role of military chaplains in promoting and implementing inter-religious dialogue and other initiatives in the field. In their article, Gutkowski and Wilkes introduce the challenges presented to NATO military chaplains in conflicts waged in majority-Muslim countries. They focus mainly on the UK and US forces. Especially after operations in Afghanistan, military chaplains can be seen as experts when it comes to facing what the authors call a “foreign religious frontier. This might cause inner tensions during their missions, as the bridge-building between the local community and the military unit may be interpreted as disloyalty to the mission. The article, however, points out that there are variations in the actions of the military chaplains as it seems that it depends on individual chaplains if they formalise this kind of role as a culturally sensitive relationship builder.46
The other change concerning the altering nature of the military chaplain depicted in the articles describes the changes in moral understanding underlying the task of the military chaplain. Dörfler-Dierken has, mainly in Germany, rather extensively studied the military environment and religious aspects involved.47 In the article studied here, she highlights the changes stemming from the moral introspection following World War II in Germany. The article describes how the self-understanding of the chaplains in the German military has evolved from “enhancing combat power to serving the cause of peace”. As a result, today’s military chaplains especially in Germany are expected to work as the “moral conscience of the army” and in consequence emphasise the individual soldier’s freedom of conscience. This change is described to concern especially chaplains from the younger generation. The peace-oriented ethical point of view is also promoted on missions abroad and, in consequence, there might be conflicts with the expectations and directions of military superiors and politicians.48
Krainz discussed the changing nature of military chaplaincy by analysing the accommodation of religions in state institutions. He concentrated specifically on Islam in the Austrian Armed Forces. Muslim chaplaincy is not yet established within the Austrian state system, including the armed forces. This brings a challenge regarding the establishing of pastoral care for Muslim servicemen. Persons practising pastoral care in state institutions should be professional and have official positions, but now pastors have emerged only from Christian traditions. It seems that in the Austrian case the formatting process is rather dynamic and as the author describes it, it is still a “society under construction”.49
Papkova’s article evaluates the church–state relations in President Medvedev’s era in Russia. Among other things, the article mentioned that in July 2009, military chaplaincy was introduced to the Russian army. In March 2010, chaplains received a legal status. Therefore, it can be concluded that Russia is also facing a new era in military chaplaincy and it will be interesting to see what the future development of the profession will be there.50
Finally, the relatively new article by Kühle and Christensen (2019) depicts how, surprisingly, in Denmark, even though it is one of the most secularised countries in the world, the demand for and recognition of religious professionals has grown in public institutions such as prisons, hospitals, and in the army. The increased plurality in society has resulted that the number of enlisted Lutheran ministers has increased substantially in public service. They conclude that the State actually enhances the interaction between the domains of ‘religious’ and ‘secular’ in Denmark. To back up their claim, the article has used several forms of data: A survey of 300 ministers, qualitive interviews of 34 ministers, and other documents and articles.51

3.4. History of Profession

The history of the profession was the most common theme concerning the military chaplaincy in the articles. There were 26 articles concerning the historical perspective of military chaplaincy. Though there were not many specific categories the articles can be grouped in terms of their chronologies into the pre-World War I period, the WW I- and WW II-periods, and the post-WW II period. However, some of the articles cover more than one of the eras. The articles showed vast diversity in terms of geographical context and religion. The covered countries are Germany, Sweden, Austro-Hungary, England, and Russia. Protestantism, Catholicism, Judaism, and Islam represented religious diversity in the articles.
Most of the articles portraying the history of profession discussed the military chaplaincy in the time of war (f = 15). There were two articles that focused on the pre-WW I period. First, Bachrach concentrated in the first article on the military chaplains and the religion during the wars in Ottonian Germany (919–1024). The article especially portrays the role of military chaplains as pastoral caretakers and organisers of military rites and ceremonies. This constructs a picture of military clergy working for both secular and ecclesiastical purposes.52
The second pre-WW period article was Gudmundsson’s article about the religious life in the Swedish army during the Great Northern War (1700–1721). It was the only article about the Nordic countries discussing the history of profession. In his work, Gudmundsson clarifies what the religious life was like to in the army of Swedish king Charles XII. The main features and foci of the article were the chaplains’ duties, the military sermons, the hymns sung in the army, and the soldiers’ reading of prayer books.53
The next articles concentrate on the period of WW’s. Hecht has examined the Jewish military chaplains on duty in the Austro-Hungarian army during World War I. The article focuses especially on the Jewish military chaplaincy in Vienna. The article shows the interesting detail that only a few rabbis served in the military before WW I, but their numbers multiplied in wartime. The reason was the increase of Jewish people in the general population. The outcome was that the Austro-Hungarian had three times more Jewish military chaplains than Germany.54 Snape, on the other hand, concentrates on the English military chaplaincy during WW I. The article focuses especially exposing some of the misconceptions regarding military chaplains, for example their active role in the front.55 Rafferty concentrated especially on Catholic chaplains in the British Forces. The article centred around the challenges they faced in times of war. Catholicism was a religious minority in England and Ireland at that moment and due to historical reasons not fully trusted. This mistrust ran both ways: in Catholic attitudes to British Protestant Militarism and vice versa.56
Roman Catholicism was also present in Houlihan’s article where he analysed Catholic military chaplains of both Germany and Austria-Hungary during the First World War. This comparative study embedded the military chaplaincy in the social and cultural history of Catholicism in the respective countries by discussing “the figure of the Catholic military chaplain as a symbolic focal point of discussions of religion and warfare, both in literature and in scholarly discourse”.57 The last article that was situated in First World War was Davie’s study on the ambiguity of military chaplaincy. It was during WW I when discussions concerning the nature and extent of religiousness among serving soldiers in general begun. The article examines military chaplaincy through eight paradoxes regarding chaplains with a military role. Such paradoxes include, for example, representing Christ in military institutions and the tensions arising because the chaplains were both priests and officers.58
There were two articles that focused on the period of World War II. Faulkner’s article presented Werthmann and the Role of Ideology in the Catholic Military Chaplaincy, 1939–1945 in Germany. The article described how the National Socialist Party tried to limit the services of the Catholic Military Chaplaincy in the German armed forces. Werthmann did not only see these actions as a direct attack on Catholicism, but as a threat to all Christian cultures and traditions in general. Even though he was strongly against the Third Reich ideology, Werthmann compromised with it. The reason behind the compromise was the fight against Bolshevism and providing spiritual care for his fellow soldiers. The article makes a point that by doing so Werthmann and his colleagues compromised their own moral integrity.59 In another article, Howson studied the deaths that had occurred among army chaplains during World War II and right after it in Great Britain.60
In his article, Hagerty describes the military career of a Roman Catholic bishop, Robert Brindle (1837–1916).61 Howson elaborated the reorganisation of chaplaincy in the British army after WW I. The article also explored the “interface between the military system of command and control and those of the churches, through the work of army chaplains. “Command and control” refers to the commonly exhorted leadership policy in military organisations.62 In the last article, Khayrutdinov and Abdullin examine several different periods of time to present the development of the Russian Empire’s state policy toward Muslim clergy in the army, divisions, establishments, and military institutions. Those periods include the establishment and development of a Muslim chaplaincy, its active involvement, abolition, and finally, the legislative acts towards Muslim clergy. These historical actions take place at the end of the 17th and the beginning of the 20th Centuries.63

3.5. Organisational Change

There were five articles that were placed under the theme depicting organisational change. In terms of content, most of the articles were related to the questions that Islam as a newcomer religion brings to the military chaplaincy at the societal, organisational, and professional levels. The other two articles that discussed state–church relations focused on the military chaplaincy at the organisational level. When compared to the number of articles in this theme, one thing that stood out was the diverse state contexts of the articles, especially as one article was a European comparative study. The state contexts being Austria, Russia, UK, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, and Germany.
In total, three of these articles discussed military chaplaincy in relation to Islam. In the first article on this theme, Hafiz discussed the features of Muslim chaplaincy in the UK and its effects from the viewpoint of military organisation. He emphasises that Muslim chaplains were part of the organisational whole and that they are employed by the state. According to him, this led to three different outcomes. First, they are under the same regulations as other employees of the military, including its management structures, and requirements of confidentiality, equality, and safety. Second, to be credible, the Muslim chaplains are subject to the shared ethos and aims of the whole military institution. Third, there is a demand for good public relation and communication skills both within the military organisation and with the Muslim community in Britain. Thus, the practicing Muslim chaplains learn “management skills, office skills and leadership styles” that are not learned in the mosque environment.64
A migration and integration researcher, Krainz discusses the idea that “newcomer religions”, such as Islam, pose an organisational challenge for modern state institutions. This article discusses the question of organisational changes and military chaplaincy to the largest extent. In the case of Austria, including Islam in the military can be seen as a question of equal treatment and the avoidance of discrimination. On the other hand, the military can be seen as a totalitarian institution, where individual needs are not accented. He underlines that when a new religion is integrated into an organisation, there must be careful planning that involves cooperation between state institutions and religious organisations. For instance, in Austria, the inclusion of Islam into the armed forces has generated challenges and conflicts for both sides. One issue has been the adequate representation of Islamic minorities, another is who gets to represent the Muslims in Austria and with what justification.65
One of the integral organisational challenges in Austria is finding the proper candidates for the positions of military chaplains. Krainz explains that there has not been a satisfactory solution for the state or the Islamic community on this issue. An interesting detail is that IGGiÖ, Islamische Glaubensgemeinschaft in Österreich (an umbrella organisation of more than 250 Muslim associations), has the right to propose the imams who may serve in the army or to propose candidates for the positions of chaplains in the military. However, the IGGiÖ’s perceptions of who would be suitable candidates sometimes differ from the state’s point of view.66
Michalowski’s article focused on the organisation of military chaplaincy and the opening of the profession to Muslims. She contemplates the question of which religious groups should be eligible for military chaplaincy. Because of the close ties between the state and Church, in Europe, new chaplaincy posts require organisational change, unlike in the US. The ‘strategic action field’, i.e., the religious environment, of military chaplaincy has been challenged especially by the increasing societal inclusion of Muslims. According to her, the organisation of a Muslim military chaplaincy is also a matter of respecting principles that are cherished in all liberal democracies, such as equality and religious liberty.67
The final two articles discuss the organisational change from a state–church relations viewpoint. In his historical article, Howson describes the reorganisation of military chaplaincy in the British Armed Forces after the First World War. The Chaplain General of that time issued an edict that the leading chaplain in the military would from that time onward be only from the Church of England and not from the Roman Catholic order. The article describes the events that made this into a policy and how the policy was reversed in the 1980s. The latter change had implications for the military structures, as military chaplains are now effectively seen as part of the military organisation rather than representatives of the churches in the army.68
Papkova’s article focused on church–state relations in Russia, both near and long term. From military chaplains’ and organisational point of view the most interesting part is the 1990s, when the Orthodox elements were introduced to all levels of public education, from kindergartens to universities and when the Orthodox chaplains were introduced into the Russian armed forces. In 2009, president Medvedev gave the go-ahead for providing salaries to priests already ministering in the armed forces, effectively opening the door for the introduction of the military chaplaincy. By March 2010, the Ministry of Defence defined the legal status of chaplains (who may or may not be Orthodox) and had begun actively recruiting pastors for military battalions.69

3.6. Professional Ethics

Professional ethics was the second least mentioned topic (n = 6) in the articles. The prevalent theme in the four articles was the negotiation between military culture and ethical perspectives of the military chaplains. The personal contemplation of the MC’s was emphasised in the articles. In general, the discussions did not take a strong stand on teaching ethics in the armed forces. However, the chaplains could be seen as the moral conscience of the military community. All the studies in this category focused either on the UK or Germany, however one article included both countries.
The first article by Barker and Werker in this group studied military chaplaincy in international operations. It made a comparison between two different traditions of military chaplaincy. The countries were the UK and Germany. The main difference between the two traditions is that in the UK, military chaplains are part of the military structure, Germany has parish-based Catholic and Lutheran chaplains. Issues related to professional ethics emerged when Barker and Werker examined chaplain vocation and its possible contentiousness in military operations. Based on the article, in Germany, the Catholic and Lutheran churches are more present in the discussions concerning professional ethics than in the UK. An example was given that when there were missions with conflicts between the church’s values and military operations, the church may opt not to send a representative to these missions. The interviews of the chaplains show that they accepted their role with regards to the ethical stances of the Church.70
The autonomous position of the military chaplains with regards to the military operations is likely connected to them not being part of the German military structure. As church historian Dörfler-Dierken describes, the German chaplains are not part of the chain command in the military. In Germany, the chaplains are privileged by law (special church-state relation) and they are obliged to provide ethical teaching to the soldiers with no regard to their faith. The role of the chaplains is focused on being “the conscience for soldiers. The article also raises the chaplains’ personal reasoning between ethics and loyalty to soldiers in action for example in Afghanistan. The challenge is to maintain their ministry amidst the military action: It is a question of conflict between vocation and justification of war.71
In the third article that discussed professional ethics, Todd explains how British Army chaplains are educated and prepared regarding justice and peace. Like the first two articles, this also reflected the challenges of combining the moral culture of the military and consideration of ethical thinking that chaplains represented. In contrast to the previous articles, however, Todd emphasises the personal reflections of the military chaplains.72 The fourth article in this group focuses on military careers combined to Buddhist ethics. The article assesses the ethics of Buddhist involvement in the British military.73
Two of the articles focus historically on ethical issues related to Military Chaplaincy in Germany in WWI and WWII, although the first of these articles includes also comparative perspectives from English Military Chaplaincy. The article by Porter74 depicts how the commemoration of World War I by the Military Chaplains to German and English people was founded on resurrected Volk as chosen people or peace bought by blood respectively and how in both instances the ritual of remembrance emphasised moral action and mobilisation instead of consolation. Bergen’s75 article on German Military Chaplaincy in World War 2 depicts how Christian Military Chaplaincy had problems in fitting with, being legitimate and function in the prevalent Nazi ideology of the German army and society.

4. Concluding Remarks

The focus of this study was how military chaplaincy in Europe was portrayed in European scientific journals during the past decades. In general, the articles seem to portray different aspects of the change in the military chaplains’ profession. These include the change from ecclesiastical representatives into becoming part of a military organisation. This also involves Muslims, Church of England, and the Catholics. When compared to the others, Islam in general is depicted as a newcomer religion in the articles. Based on the review analysis there were three common themes recurring in the articles. The first of these themes is basic functions, which contains detailed articles of pastoral care and religious ceremonies. The emotional and spiritual support was reviewed in both historical and modern contexts. It was noteworthy that teaching was not one of the topics in this section. The second of these themes is the history of the profession. Interestingly, while the recent changes in the profession of the military chaplain are evident in the material studied, many of the articles focused on historical accounts of the profession. This could well be connected to general trends in historical research and how research is organised in disciplines but nevertheless may indicate some stagnancy in the research into military chaplaincy. The third most popular theme was the changing nature of military chaplaincy. The articles highlighted especially the increase of religious diversity in the military and the developing role of the military chaplain in various changing conditions. These conditions were especially related to accommodating or encountering Islam in the military and society.
The results of the review are perhaps connected to the fact that much of the research focused on the European continent. For instance, Scandinavia—particularly Sweden—was only discussed related to the history of the profession. The study deals with the contextual differences by its emphasis on the portrayal of the military chaplains that are based on historical and geographical factors. The societal, historical, and constitutional situation where the military chaplains operate in Scandinavia, Russia, and European NATO countries varies. For instance, Islam was discussed mainly in German and UK contexts—a situation that is quite likely changing in the Nordic context—similarly to the developments in the Austrian state institutions. This observation on the contextual differences would be highlighted if the United States, Canada, or Australia had also been included as research contexts in this study. For instance, when compared to Europe, in the US there seemed to be more articles concerning military chaplains from psychological and counselling-related points of view.76 Also, in the US, there are more studies regarding NATO and international operations than in Europe.77
Military chaplaincy has been a rather small research subject in the field of international practical theology, though arguably its importance has increased due to European societal change, pluralisation, secularisation, and migration. The articles studied here seem to highlight a few tensions and broader questions concerning military chaplaincy, including the relationship between Church and state, the relationship between a professional representative of a majority faith with members of other religious traditions, and the memberships of military chaplains to two professions. Military chaplains have been studied rather widely in other fields of research and in the intersection of military and social sciences. While, for instance, professional studies offer an interdisciplinary framework and some coherence with fresh insights into the modern challenges the professionals face in their practice, the articles seemed to be lacking on the issues that go beyond the professional ethics and practice of military chaplains, such as vocation, faith, and spirituality. Furthermore, the discussions in the article would benefit from an informed examination of the positioning of the profession of the military clergy within the Church body not only organisationally, but also theologically. Thus, we propose an increase in the study of the clergy—not only military chaplains—in terms of professionalism especially within the field of international practical theology in order to understand the effects of the changed conditions in their practice also but to remain sensitive to the religious, vocational and catechetical dimensions of their professional practice.

Author Contributions

T.L. has carried majority of the concrete work with regards of the article, including data gathering and analysis. M.U. has collaborated in the process as a mentor and guided with the data analysis. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.


This research was funded by Turvallisuuden tukisäätiö, Maanpuolustuksen kannatussäätiö Church Research Institute, Finland and Reino Ylösen muistorahasto (The Diocese of Kuopio).

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest. The funders had no role in the design of the study; in the collection, analyses, or interpretation of data; in the writing of the manuscript, or in the decision to publish the results.

Appendix A

Table A1. The classification description of the European military chaplaincy articles between the years 2000–2019.
Table A1. The classification description of the European military chaplaincy articles between the years 2000–2019.
YearArticleBasic FunctionsChanging Nature of Military ChaplaincyHistory of the ProfessionOrganisational ChangeProfessional EthicsOther
12001German Military Chaplains in World War II and the Dilemmas of Legitimacy. Bergen, Doris L. Church history 70, no. 2 (June 1, 2001): 232–247. X X
22003The Organisation of Military Religion in the Armies of King Edward I of England (1272–1307). Bachrach, David S. Journal of medieval history 29, no. 4 (2003): 265–286. X
32004The Friars Go to War: Mendicant Military Chaplains, 1216-c. 1300. 54. Bachrach. David S. The Catholic historical review 90, no. 4 (October 1, 2004): 617–633. X
42005Beyond Comfort: German and English Military Chaplains and the Memory of the Great War, 1919–1929. Porter, Patrick. Journal of religious history 29, no. 3 (October 2005): 258–289. X X
52007Deaths Among Army Chaplains, 1939–1946. Howson, P. 2007. Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research 85, no. 342 (2007): 162–172.X X
62008Military Chaplaincy in International Operations: A Comparison of Two Different Traditions. Barker, C. R. & Werkner, I-J. 2008. Journal of Contemporary Religion 23, no. 1 (2008): 47–62X X
72009Death in the armed forces: casualty notification and bereavement support in the UK military. Cawkill, P. 2009. Bereavement Care 28, no. 2 (2009): 25–30.X
82009The military career of Bishop Robert Brindle. Hagerty, J. 2009. Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research 87, no. 350 (2009): 123–127. X
92009Reflecting Ethically with British Army Chaplains. Todd, A 2009. The Review of Faith & International Affairs 7, no. 4 (2009): 77–82.X X
102010Against Bolshevism: Georg Werthmann and the Role of Ideology in the Catholic Military Chaplaincy, 1939–1945. Faulkner, L. N. 2010. Contemporary European History 19, no. 1 (2010): 1–16. X
112011Military Chaplains and the Religion of War in Ottonian Germany, 919–1024. Bachrach, David. 2011. Religion, State and Society 39, no. 1 (2011): 13–31. X X
122011The Changing Role of Military Chaplaincy in Germany: from Raising Military Morale to Praying for Peace. Dörfler-Dierken, A. 2011. Religion, State and Society 39, no. 1 (2011): 79–91.XX X
132011Changing Chaplaincy: A Contribution to Debate over the Roles of US and British Military Chaplains in Afghanistan. Gutkowski, S. & Wilkes, G. 2011. Religion, State and Society 39, no. 1 (2011): 111–124. X
142011‘Command and Control’ in the Royal Army Chaplains’ Department: how Changes in the Method of Selecting the Chaplain General of the British Army Have Altered the Relationship of the Churches and the Army. Howson, P. 2011. Religion, State and Society 39, no. 1 (2011): 63–78. XX
152011Military careers and Buddhist ethics. Kariyakarawana, S. 2011. The International Journal of Leadership in Public Services 7, no. 2 (2011): 99–108.XX X
162011Orthodox concordat? Church and state under Medvedev. Papkova, I. 2011. Nationalities Papers 39, no. 5 (2011): 667–683.
172011Catholic Chaplains to the British Forces in the First World War. Rafferty, O. 2011. Religion, State and Society 39, no. 1 (2011): 33–62. X
182011Church of England Army Chaplains in the First World War: Goodbye to ‘Goodbye to All That’. Snape, M. 2011. The Journal of Ecclesiastical History 62, no. 2 (2011): 318–345.
192012Imperial Frameworks of Religion: Catholic Military Chaplains of Germany and Austria-Hungary During the First World War. Houlihan, P. 2012. First World War Studies 3, no. 2 (2012): 165–182. X
202013Bereavement support in the UK Armed Forces: The role of the Army chaplain. Cawkill, Paul & Smith, R. 2013. Bereavement Care 32, no. 1 (2013): 11–15.XX
212014Jewish Military Chaplains in the Austro-Hungarian Armed Forces During World War I. Bíró, Ákos. 2014. Acta Ethnographica Hungarica 59, no. 2 (2014): 397–406. X
222014The Consolation of Soldiers: religious life in the Swedish army during the Great Northern War. Gudmundsson, D. 2014. Scandinavian Journal of History 2014: 1–14.X X
232015The military chaplain: a study in ambiguity. Davie, Grace. 2015. International Journal for the Study of the Christian Church 15, no. 1 (2015): 39–53.X X
242015Muslim chaplaincy in the UK: the chaplaincy approach as a way to a modern imamate. Hafiz, A. 2015. Religion, State & Society 43, no. 1 (2015): 85–99.XX X
252015The Muslim Military Clergy of the Russian Empire at the End of the XVIIIth - Beginning of the XXth Century. Khayrutdinov, R. & Abdullin, K. 2015. Journal of Sustainable Development 8, no. 7 (2015): 121. X
262015What is at stake when Muslims join the ranks? An international comparison of military chaplaincy. Michalowski, I. 2015. Religion, State & Society 2015: 1–18. X
272015‘Newcomer religions’ as an organisational challenge: recognition of Islam in the Austrian armed forces. Krainz, U. 2015. Religion, State & Society 2015: 1–14. X X
282015‘You’re in the army now!’ Institutionalising Islam in the Republic’s Army. Settoul, E. 2015. Religion, State & Society 2015: 1-12. X X
292015Muslim soldiers, Muslim chaplains: the accommodation of Islam in Western militaries. Stoeckl, K. & Roy, O. 2015. Religion, State & Society 43, no. 1 (2015): 35–40. X
302016A Free Church Perspective on Military Chaplains Role in Its Historical Context. Allison, Neil E. 2016. In die skriflig: tydskrif van die Gereformeerde Teologiese Vereniging 50, no. 1 (March 18, 2016): 1–e8. XX
312016Irish Jesuit Chaplains in the First World War. Lavenia, Vincenzo. 2016. Edited by Damien Burke. Journal of Jesuit Studies 3, no. 1 (January 2016): 162–164. X
322016‘Der König rief, und alle, alle kamen’ Jewish military chaplains on duty in the Austro-Hungarian army during World War I. Hecht, D. J. Jewish Culture and History 2016: 1–14. X
332016The Clergy In Khaki (E., Madigan and M., Snape (2013):238). The Juridical Status Of The Chaplains In European Armed Forces. Tăvală, Emanuel. 2016. Jurnalul de Studii Juridice XI, no. 3–4 (2016): 23–41. X
342016Inter-Religious Relations in the Polish Armed Forces 1918–1939. Rezmer, Waldemar. 2016. Procedia, social and behavioral sciences 236 (December 14, 2016): 374–378. X
352016Pope Saint John XXIII: Army Medic and Military Hospital Chaplain. Watson, Richard A. 2016. The Linacre quarterly 83, no. 2 (May 2016): 142–143. X
362017‘Dextere Sinistram Vertere’: Jesuits as Military Chaplains in the Papal Expeditionary Force to France (1569–70). Civale, Gianclaudio. 2017. Discipline, Moral Reform, and Violence.” Journal of Jesuit Studies 4, no. 4 (August 2017): 559–580. X
372017A Swiss Protestant Perspective on a Multi-Faith Approach to the Swiss Army Chaplaincy. Inniger, Matthias G, Vorster, Jacobus M, and Evans, Byron. In die skriflig: tydskrif van die Gereformeerde Teologiese Vereniging 51, no. 1 (January 1, 2017): 1–9.
382017Jesuit Catechisms for Soldiers (Seventeenth-Nineteenth Centuries): Changes and Continuities. Lavenia, Vincenzo. 2017. Journal of Jesuit Studies 4, no. 4 (August 2017): 599–623. X
392017Italian Jesuits and the Great War: Chaplains and Priest-Soldiers of the Province of Rome. Paiano, Maria. 2017. Journal of Jesuit Studies 4, no. 4 (August 2017): 637–657. X
402017Flanders and Helmand: Chaplaincy, Faith and Religious Change in the British Army, 1914–2014. Snape, Michael, and Henshaw, Victoria. 2017. Journal of Beliefs & Values: Special Issue in Honour of the Founding Editor of the Journal of Beliefs and Values, Rev’d Dr W. S. Campbell Guest Editors: Editors: Stephen G. Parker, Imran Mogra and Leslie J. Francis 38, no. 2 (May 4, 2017): 199–214. X
412017For God And/or Emperor: Habsburg Romanian Military Chaplains and Wartime Propaganda in Camps for Returning POWs. Zaharia, Ionela. 2017. European Review of History: Revue européenne d’histoire: Habsburg Home Fronts during the Great War 24, no. 2 (March 4, 2017): 288–304. X
422018The Russian Army and Navy Ober-Priest G. I. Mansvetov: The Pages Of History of the Army and Navy Clergy (19.09.1827-12.11.1832). Chimarov, Sergey Yuryevich. 2018. Upravlencheskoe konsulʹtirovanie, no. 3 (April 1, 2018): 159–164 X
432019One to Serve Them All. The Growth of Chaplaincy in Public Institutions in Denmark. Kühle, Lene, and Christensen, Henrik Reintoft. 2019. Social Compass 66, no. 2 (June 2019): 182–197. X
442019Recommendations to the Military Chaplains of the Border Agency on Raising the Level and Saving the Personal Well-Being of the Staff of the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine. Volynets, N. V. 2019. Psychology: theory and practice, no. 1(3) (2019): 32–43. X

Appendix B

Figure A1. Number of military chaplain related articles published per year.
Figure A1. Number of military chaplain related articles published per year.
Religions 11 00540 g0a1
Figure A2. The variety of the topics handled in the articles.
Figure A2. The variety of the topics handled in the articles.
Religions 11 00540 g0a2


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British Journal of Religious Education 38, Issue 2. (2016).
Zeitschrift für Pädagogik und Theologie 68, Issue 2 (2016).
Figure 1. The different themes in the articles.
Figure 1. The different themes in the articles.
Religions 11 00540 g001
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