Presbyterian rear admiral becomes first woman to serve as chaplain for US House

Margaret Kibben
Rear Admiral Margaret Grun Kibben gives a Veterans Day sermon at the Washington National Cathedral of Washington, D.C., in November 2019. |

A retired rear admiral who once addressed the general assembly of Presbyterian Church (USA) has become the first female chaplain of the United States House of Representatives.

Margaret Grun Kibben, who formerly served as chief of chaplains in the U.S. Navy and chaplain of the U.S. Marine Corps, was named to the position last Thursday, making her the first woman to serve as chaplain for either house of Congress.

In a statement released on New Year’s Eve, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi explained that Kibben was approved for the position by a bipartisan group of congressmen.

“Kibben brings decades of decorated experience in the military and the ministry, as a retired Rear Admiral who served as the U.S. Navy’s Chief Chaplain and the chaplain of the Marine Corps,” stated Pelosi.  

“Her integrity, experience and patriotism will serve the Congress and the Country well, as she ministers to the needs of Members. This historic appointment was made possible by the values-based leadership of Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, and I thank him and all Members of the bipartisan group leading the search.”

Kibben will be replacing a retiring Father Pat Conroy, a priest of the Roman Catholic Church who had served in the position of House chaplain since 2011.

Kibben has an extensive military background, entering active duty in 1986 via the Navy’s Theological Student Program. She has been on five deployments and received multiple honors, including the Distinguished Service Medal, the Bronze Star, the Meritorious Service Medal on three occasions and the Navy Commendation Medal on three occasions.

Her educational background includes a Bachelor of Arts degree from Goucher College of Towson, Maryland, a Master of Divinity and a Doctor of Ministry from Princeton Theological Seminary, and a Master’s in National Security and Strategic Studies from the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.

In 2018, she gave a speech before the 223rd General Assembly of PC(USA) regarding her experiences as a military chaplain, noting that chaplains were called to “care for each soul in our command and our service.”

“Many men and women we deal with have never darkened the door of a church, a mosque or a synagogue,” stated Kibben at the time, as reported by Presbyterian News Service.

“We have access to every space, every place and every office where people serve, and can come alongside them.”

Kibben previously served as a guest chaplain for the House of Representatives, giving the opening prayer for a House legislative session in December 2015.

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