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Candler event series to explore moral injury, Oct. 12-14

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Laurel Hanna

Margaret Grun Kibben (left)

(Image credit: United States Department of Defense) 

Rita Nakashima Brock (right)

Candler School of Theology’s Laney Legacy in Moral Leadership program will host a series of four events Oct. 12-14 around the concept of moral injury, the emotional and spiritual pain that can afflict soldiers and others who are asked to perform actions that run counter to their moral codes.

“Moral Injury, Moral Repair and Moral Leadership” will include worship led by the U.S. Navy’s head chaplain, a film screening and discussion, a lecture by a leading expert on moral injury and repair, and a workshop and panel discussion. All events are free and open to the public; register here.

The concept of moral injury is an important and revealing way to think about how humans experience the collapse of moral order, says Robert M. Franklin Jr., James T. and Berta R. Laney Professor of Moral Leadership.

"Moral injury is urgently relevant for our time,” says Franklin. “It can be detected everywhere from our national political arena to foreign battlefields and our city streets. The good news is that such injury can be understood and healed."

The series kicks off on Thursday, Oct. 12, with an 11 a.m. worship service in Cannon Chapel featuring guest preacher Rear Admiral Margaret Grun Kibben, chief of chaplains of the United States Navy. Kibben assumed her current duties as the 26th chief of chaplains of the Navy in August 2014, the first woman ever to hold the post.

She received master of divinity and doctor of ministry degrees from Princeton Theological Seminary and a master's degree in national security and strategic studies from the Naval War College. She entered active duty in the Navy in 1986, and has served with both the Marines and the Navy, including deployments to Turkey, Norway and Afghanistan.

She was the first female chaplain at the U.S. Naval Academy, and served as the 18th chaplain of the U.S. Marine Corps and deputy chief of chaplains from 2010 to 2014. Kibben has been awarded the Legion of Merit with one gold star, the Bronze Star, the Meritorious Service Medal with two gold stars, and the Navy Commendation Medal with two gold stars. The worship service will be live streamed. Watch here.

A screening of the 2007 documentary “Soldiers of Conscience” will take place at 6 p.m. on Oct. 12 in room 252 of Candler’s Rita Anne Rollins Building. The award-winning film deals with the split-second decision a soldier faces when presented with the opportunity to shoot at the enemy — to kill or not to kill — and the lingering impact of that decision.

Made with the cooperation of the U.S. Army, the film transcends politics to explore the tension between spiritual values and military orders. A discussion will follow the screening, and dinner will be provided for all who register in advance.

On Friday, Oct. 13, the Rev. Dr. Rita Nakashima Brock, senior vice president for Moral Injury Programs at Volunteers of America, will present the keynote lecture on "The Moral Injuries of a Country: War's Legacies and the Agonies of Now" at 6:30 p.m. in Cannon Chapel. The lecture will examine, through the lens of moral injury, the recurring and lingering traumatic events that have propelled significant social change and backlash in American society.

Brock is senior vice president for moral injury programs at Volunteers of America (VOA). Prior to her work at VOA, she served as co-founder and director of the Soul Repair Center at Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University. A native of Fukuoka, Japan, Brock came to the United States at age six and grew up in a military family. She earned a PhD at Claremont Graduate University, and became the first Asian American woman ever to earn a doctorate in theology and the first to serve on the board of directors for the American Academy of Religion.

She was a professor of religion and women's studies for 18 years before becoming director of the Fellowship Program of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. She is the co-author of "Saving Paradise: How Christianity Traded Love of This World for Crucifixion and Empire" (Beacon, 2008) and "Soul Repair: Recovering from Moral Injury After War" (Beacon, 2013)

The final event will be a workshop and panel discussion in Cannon Chapel on Saturday, Oct. 14, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. David E. Smith, retired colonel and chaplain in the U.S. Army and the coordinator of the Soul Care Initiative at Just Peace, will lead a workshop on “Soul Care: A Journey Toward Healing the Wounded Soul.”

The workshop and discussion will explore the specific needs and challenges of returning veterans and their families, discuss theological and practical resources available to church leaders and members, and help participants to develop skills to welcome, reintegrate and journey with veterans and their families toward well-being and wholeness.

"As we welcome Dr. Rita Nakashima Brock, one of the nation's foremost experts on moral injury and soul repair, I hope that Candler students, alumni and religious leaders in the metro Atlanta community will take advantage of this extraordinary opportunity to increase their awareness of, and their capacity to respond effectively to moral injury in the 21st century," says Franklin.

All events are free and open to the public. Register online.

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