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Former Chaplaincy Director Charles Marvin Dies

Charles Marvin, the director of AGUSM Chaplaincy from 1998-2005, passed away Sunday, May 5. He was 88 years old.
Charles W. “Chuck” Marvin, who led U.S. Missions Assemblies of God Chaplaincy Ministries for eight years, died May 5 in Poway, California, at the age of 88 after a lengthy illness.

“Chaplain Marvin was a dedicated chaplain who loved to serve those in the Navy,” says Manuel A. Cordero, senior director of Chaplaincy Ministries since 2015. “He loved to laugh and be relational. As senior director, he brought an air of community and cooperation among the chaplain's areas.”

The energetic, jovial, and compassionate Marvin initially didn’t consider the armed forces as a potential career, because he felt called to ministry. The AG Ohio District ordained him in 1962, the same year Marvin married Beverly Sliwinski. While pastoring in Pittsburgh, Marvin read an article in the Pentecostal Evangel about the need for “Prophets in Fatigues.”

“This article struck me forcefully as the call to a mission field I loved,” Marvin recalled. “I never realized I could combine the Navy with pastoral ministry.”

With a master’s in divinity requirement met and after having already been a pastor for 13 years, Marvin reported to the Navy’s Basic Course Chaplains School in 1971 at the age of 35. Marvin’s assignments alternated between duty with the Marines and the Navy, stationed at various times in places such as Parris Island, South Carolina; Holy Loch, Scotland; Guam; Washington, D.C.; and San Diego, where he finished his military career as senior chaplain at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot. He and Beverly moved 19 times in their 62 years of marriage.

“My greatest honor was the privilege of wearing the cloth of our nation while serving Marines and Sailors and their families for 27 years,” recounted Marvin, who received his master of theology degree from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1980. “AG chaplains are commissioned by Christ to preach the gospel. There are times to preach with words, other times to preach by example and caring.”

His duties included serving as senior chaplain on the USS Independence, conducting funerals at Arlington National Cemetery, and providing comprehensive pastoral ministry to recruits at a trio of different boot camps. His many honors included being awarded the Legion of Merit by the Marines for exceptionally meritorious conduct in performing outstanding service.

Upon his military retirement in 1998, Marvin became national director of Assemblies of God Chaplaincy Ministries, succeeding the retiring Lemuel D. McElyea. During Marvin’s nearly eight years of leadership at a national level, the department experienced growth in numbers as candidates increasingly responded. He oversaw more than 350 AG chaplains during his tenure.

“A chaplain is a man or woman who becomes burdened for a particular people group — soldiers, inmates, hospital patients,” Marvin said. “Assisting and mentoring men and women who felt called to become chaplains, then guiding them through the interview and endorsement process was my greatest highlight while serving as department director. When I visited these chaplains, the satisfaction and pride I felt about them was as if they were my own sons and daughters.”

Marvin relinquished the helm of the department to Alvin F. Worthley in 2002 and moved to San Diego. He remained as endorsing agent for military and Veterans Administration chaplains until Scott McChrystal took over in 2005.

“Chuck Marvin brought to the Chaplaincy Department a loving, gregarious way of dealing with people,” said McChrystal, who retired in 2019. “He loved the Assemblies, he loved the military, he loved the chaplaincy. He was a selfless individual with above-average people skills. He was a wonderful teacher, mentor, and counselor.”

While serving as endorsing agent, Marvin was elected chairman of the executive committee for the National Conference on Ministry to the Armed Forces, an organization comprised of 100 denominations and endorsing agents with chaplains in all branches of the military. Marvin also served for two years at executive director of the National Association of Evangelicals Chaplains Commission.

“While Chuck appreciated the distinctives of the Assemblies of God, he saw Christianity outside the constraints of denominationalism,” said Worthley, who retired in 2015.

“He told the truth, with gentleness, respect, and kindness,” McChrystal said. “Chuck had a strategic view of how chaplaincy can engage the much broader culture. He was a servant leader who enjoyed life.”

Linda Ragain, who has worked for AG Chaplaincy Ministries for 38 years, has fond memories of Marvin.

“When I think of Chaplain Marvin, I think of keeping the spirit of Christmas in his heart all year long,” says Ragain, who is director of Chaplaincy Operations. “He was always thinking about the staff, doing things to make us laugh, and letting us know he appreciated our work.”

In “retirement,” Marvin served as interim pastor at four churches in California. McChrystal and Worthley continued to ask Marvin to occasionally assist by visiting AG chaplains at various bases and, at times, conduct interviews with those wanting to become chaplain candidates. Whatever the situation, Marvin interacted with new people as though he knew them all his life. He continued to consult with James T. Denley, AG Chaplaincy Ministries military representative/endorser since 2019.

“Chaplain Marvin was always a leader who possessed tremendous love, down-to-earth wisdom, and constant encouragement,” says Denley, who also is a retired chaplain. “Everyone who knew him was touched by his enthusiasm to glorify God in every way. And he has shaped the lives of hundreds of ministers, including me. He will be deeply missed, but our memories of him will remain precious.”

In his twilight years, Marvin realized chaplains faced a more rigorous screening process and more rigid theological requirements than ever before. The tempo of military operations placed increased demands on chaplains, stretching many of them to the limits of their capabilities, he believed. Still, because of security threats and troop deployments, he saw a growing demand for chaplains.

“When people face death, they think beyond themselves and about spiritual matters,” Marvin said. “Even with the secularization of American society, most people in the military see the value of chaplains. A chaplain is there to be a listening ear when a soldier voices fear about a collapsing marriage or a child who will struggle emotionally during his or her absence.”

Marvin grew up in a family of a dozen children — seven boys and five girls. As a child he attended a small Assemblies of God church in St. Clair, Michigan, that his layman dad, Wayne Frank Marvin Sr., and older brothers helped build. Three of Marvin’s older brothers served in the U.S. Navy during World War II while his next oldest brother joined the submarine Navy during the Korean War. Chuck, at 17, enlisted in the submarines toward the end of the Korean War. Beginning with his father’s time with the Merchant Marines to Chuck’s retirement from the Navy in 1998, a member of Marvin’s immediate family served in the Navy during every military conflict from World War I through the Gulf War.

Marvin is survived by Beverly and their four children: Julie Randolph, Mandy Marvin, Sara Daniel, and Matthew Marvin, plus seven grandchildren.

John W. Kennedy

John W. Kennedy served as news editor of AG News from its inception in 2014 until retiring in 2023. He previously spent 15 years as news editor of the Pentecostal Evangel and seven years as news editor at Christianity Today.