Organized in 1939 and recognized by the Department of Defense since 1942, the Associated Gospel Churches (AGC) endorses Chaplains (Pastors-in-Uniform) from Independent, Evangelical, Historic Fundamental churches to the U.S. Armed Forces. The group was formed as a response to Protestant liberalism, and is baptistic in practice. A long time defender of the historic Christian faith, Dr. W.O.H. Garman from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was the longest serving President and the Patriarch of the AGC.
The Associated Gospel Churches rose to national prominence shortly before WWII and is an Ecclesiastical Endorsing Agency recognized by the Department of Defense. The AGC was born in the midst of the theological controversy of the early and mid-20th century, as liberalism and biblical Christianity were engaged in mortal combat. Theological liberalism first poisoned Europe and then the United States, infecting many Protestant denominations with liberal skepticism, a presupposition against the inerrancy of the Bible, a passion for ecumenicity, a degradation of the deity of Christ, and a rabid anti-supernaturalism. In essence, this so-called “Christian liberalism” resulted in a new religion with the name of Christian still accepted, but with the fundamental core doctrines of the Christian faith rejected or compromised (II Timothy 3:5).
It was in this climate of theological turmoil that the AGC rose to prominence. Having begun as a small local ministerial fellowship in Michigan, the AGC gained national recognition through the efforts of its long-time president, Dr. W.O.H. Garman (1899-1983). Dr. Garman served as President of the AGC from 1942 until his retirement in 1981, a long tenure of thirty-nine years. His elevation to national recognition came about as he fought against the liberal Protestant denominations which sought to remove Chaplains from the Military. Garman’s extensive efforts against pacifistic liberalism and in support of the historic fundamentals of the Christian faith, and against the new and unreliable doctrines of the liberals, were the foundational tenets of the AGC, which are still supported by the organization today.
Dr. W.O.H. (Bill) Garman was an energetic minister of the Gospel who was involved in senior leadership outside of the Associated Gospel Churches in the following organizations: the Independent Fundamental Churches of America (1942-1963); the American Council of Christian Churches (1940-1960); the International Council of Christian Churches (1950’s); Immanuel College of the Bible (1953-1958); and the American Association of Christian Schools of Higher Learning (1967-1971). On a more local level, Bill Garman served as a Pastor in various churches in Pennsylvania from 1925 to 1981.
A large part of Bill Garman’s ministry was focused on the United States Military Chaplaincy. Before Dr. Garman’s time, with minor exceptions, all Protestant Pastors who desired to join the Military Chaplaincy had to do so through membership in the Federal Council of Churches (FCC), later renamed the National Council of Churches (NCC) in 1950. This theologically liberal group maintained a monopoly on the Protestant Military Chaplaincies. Conservative or Fundamental Christian men could not in good conscience join such a group, thus excluding them from Military ministry in uniform. Garman’s pioneer efforts resulted in the breaking the monopoly of the FCC over the Military Chaplaincies, thus allowing conservative evangelical men who preached the Historic Fundamentals of the Faith into the Military Chaplaincies during World War II.
The Associated Gospel Churches has endorsed Military Chaplains in every major United States Military conflict since World War II. Chaplains from the AGC have ministered to troops who fought the Japanese and the Nazis in World War II, and served as Pastors-in-Uniform to service members in the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War, multiple peacekeeping and nation building deployments to such places as Panama, Haiti, the Balkans, the Global War on Terrorism in Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom now Operation Freedom’s Sentinel) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (now Operation Inherent Resolve). In the over eighty years since the AGC rose to national attention, the theological foundation of the group has not wavered or compromised with the changing theological trends of fads of our culture. The AGC remains today what it always has been: a group of committed Christians, separated unto the Lord, dedicated to the Bible as the Word of God, seeking to win military men and women and others to Heaven through faith in Jesus Christ alone for salvation.
The AGC supports Historic Fundamental Churches with the Military Chaplaincy as its primary focus. AGC Endorses ordained men for the Army, Navy, and Air Force, as well as Civil Air Patrol. The AGC also Endorses men to Agencies such as the Veteran’s Affairs Chaplaincy, Police, Prison, Hospital, and Hospice Chaplain Services.
Every Chaplain must be a member in good standing with a Bible-believing local church, and the Chaplain remains accountable to his Local church through the AGC. The AGC, with its Chaplains Commission, represents the Chaplain’s local church in matters of theology and practice to organizations otherwise closed (restricted access institutions) to the Gospel.
The AGC truly honors the purpose of the local church. With a large nation-wide constituency of Independent Baptist Churches, Bible Churches, and other Bible-believing Churches, the AGC provides a united voice in Chaplain Affairs in Washington, DC. It is the largest and oldest truly independent, Historic Fundamental Christian group in the United States endorsing Chaplains.
The AGC supports the local church by keeping current with the ever-changing, complex Military regulations, procedures, and issues. Whereas, the local church is not in the position to give detailed attention to such matters, the AGC is. AGC represents Historic Fundamental Churches to the Department of Defense, the Veterans Affairs Agency, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and other Government Agencies. The AGC meets annually in Washington DC with the International Conference of Evangelical Chaplain Endorsers (ICECE) to discuss relevant issues pertaining to the Military Chaplaincy. The AGC provides professional and pastoral insight to Chaplains who need guidance when they must stand on difficult issues.
AGC Chaplains provide excellent ministry in preaching, teaching, and counseling for Military members and families and in other related ministries. In addition to serving as godly Pastors-in-Uniform, AGC Chaplains are among the nation’s finest Officers. Our Chaplains are spiritual advisors to the Command and sometimes serve in difficult assignments. Like the Soldiers they serve, they sometimes are separated from their families at home and abroad.
AGC Chaplains serve with Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen, as well as providing Chaplains for the Civil Air Patrol (CAP). Moreover, we have Chaplains serving in the Federal Bureau of Prisons, State Correctional Systems, with Police Districts, and Fire Departments. They also serve as Hospital Chaplains and with VA Chaplaincy Affairs. Thousands of Military personnel have come to know the Lord through AGC Chaplain ministry. In short, the AGC has been serving God and Country in many venues of Chaplain Service to include Special Forces/Operations, Airborne, Command Chaplains, Navy SEALS, Troop Chaplains, and Chapel Pastors.
Many AGC Chaplains serve as part-time Chaplains while they serve in other full-time ministries, such as Local Church Pastors, Christian Educators, Counselors, and the like. These Reserve Chaplains minister in Military Units or in Civilian Police and Fire Department Chaplaincies. These Chaplains are often the first to respond to natural disasters and civil disturbances.
Since WWII, AGC Chaplains have been bringing the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to our men and women in uniform and in other related ministries. Grateful to God for this over eighty years of faithful ministry, it can be truly said that the sun never sets on AGC ministry.