Moral Injury Conference continues work of Synod resolution to welcome veterans
Written by Anthony Moujaes
December 3, 2014

As part of a promise to make people aware of veterans in their local communities, the United Church of Christ, working with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is partnering with the United States Veterans Administration. Together, they will educate the San Diego community on ways churches can welcome veterans when they complete their military duty.

A resolution passed by the General Synod of the UCC in June 2013 called for exactly that, and since then the Rev. Stephen Boyd, UCC minister for chaplains and ministers in specialized settings, has helped put the resolution into action.

A two-day conference, Jan. 28-29, at First Methodist Church in San Diego will gather local clergy, laity, veterans and chaplains in various fields for discussion and workshops, to learn about moral injury and how to care for those afflicted. About 120 people are expected to participate.

"We’ve done a number of these events," said Boyd. "We’re seeing an increase in sensitivity to the issue of men and women coming back from combat. We’re trying to make our audience aware, and show them how to reach out and teach them how to relate to veterans."

"Moral Injury and Soul Repair: A Conference" is cosponsored by the UCC, Disciples of Christ and Veterans Administration, along with the Pacific Southwest Region of the Christian Church and the Soul Repair Center at Brite Divinity School, in Fort Worth, Texas.

Boyd and the Rev. Rita Nakashima Brock are two of the plenary speakers for the event, with veterans, chaplains, psychologists and theologians also involved. Boyd said that having veterans present "provides a firsthand experience of what it is like to come home after being in combat."

Brock is a theologian and writer on the faculty of Brite Divinity School, and is co-director of the school's Soul Repair Center. She was present at General Synod in 2013 when delegates passed the resolution, which calls on congregations of the church to offer "compassionate care and healing ministry to our veterans."

Implementing the General Synod resolution has been an "event-by-event and conference-by-conference process," said Boyd. "I will, however have something to report at General Synod in June on the progress."

Boyd and Brock closely worked with chaplains in April for a training session on how they can care for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and moral injury that occurs in their unit.

"With this [upcoming event] we are looking at individuals trying to reintegrate with the world when they come home at the conclusion of their service," Boyd said. "Rita and the panelists will try to differentiate between PTSD and moral injury."

Moral injury results from having to make difficult moral choices under extreme conditions, witnessing immoral acts, or behaving in ways that challenge one’s conscience and identity. Conflicted individuals may feel survivor guilt, grief, shame, remorse, anger, despair, mistrust, and betrayal by authorities, which can linger after military service. It is one of several psychological effects that can result from engaging in combat.

More information on the Moral Injury and Soul Repair Conference is available online. Registration will begin this month.

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Mr. Anthony Moujaes
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