Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

Why I Am An Anglican

By Ray Blunt

I left the Air Force in 1974, almost ten years after graduation, lots of mixed feelings and uncertainty attended our way. My earlier dream of flying, fighting alongside my classmates, and doing my part to stop the forward movement of Godless Communism had not come to fruition. Failing a flight physical at Vance AFB left me with no clue as to my future vocation. I had no idea what an Air Force officer did if not fly. It turned out that there were a lot of options; yet, despite my clear intent to parlay my interest and background in international affairs into an intelligence career, I was sent to SAC as a missile launch officer to fill the ranks of the new Minuteman force. While the day to day work proved boring to the extreme (living 50 feet below ground pulling alert duty without ever seeing a missile), it did offer lots of time to read and study. Gradually, I began a journey toward being a scholar, teacher, strategic planner and . . . what?

Years later I had joined Max Cleland's intent to transform the VA and its approach to wounded young men and women to help them heal not only in body but in mind and vocational promise enabling them to rejoin their comrades in a life of meaningful work--not helpless dependence. As a young cadre of newly minted Senior Executives he formed, I began to find the meaning and purpose with which the Air Force drew me in my teens. But after eight years of bruising political battles, I began to question public service, itself. A year's sabbatical to recover strength and vision spent not thinking or negotiating but in serving the poor and homeless helped me to recover the vision of public service. In the bargain, my faith suffered.

Searching for something more solid than a perfunctory worship out of responsibility, I had a long conversation with a good friend of many years, a '62 Naval Academy grad who was finishing his tenure at Yale Divinity School. He was about to begin a second career and take leadership of a small, almost defunct church in the mountains of Virginia. He had a tough journey to this place as a white, male, heterosexual, military man. A lot of the vetting committee did not want someone like him. He said he had a comrade that had a similarly difficult time becoming ordained into the Episcopal Church and that maybe I should talk to him as he was an Air Force vet who was about to take over a church within walking distance of us. His name? Tim Kline.

Wait a minute. I knew a Tim Kline--'64 AFA grad, classmate, fellow member of 20th Squadron, Honor Rep. We had gone through Fort Benning together in 1963 along with Bruce Fister and taught Sunday School together for two years--2 year olds and 4 year olds--in a Southern Baptist church. Tim would never become an Episcopalian let alone a priest! Wrong as it turned out. So BJ and I began walking over to this little church near our house where Tim and Bonnie Kline were now serving together, friends of so many years ago, 25 years by our calculations since we had seen each other. Tim's life had gone through many changes as a quarter of a century brings about and his story included an important encounter with a fighter pilot, brought painfully to earth, by the name of Kris Mineau, another classmate. Week by week as we sat under Tim's teaching, we renewed our friendship with him and Bonnie, and we began to change, too. His sermons were as scholarly and provocative as would be expected from a mind like Tim's, but the real meaning that led to our change came from something we were not used to--a weekly observance of the Eucharist, communion, the symbols of bread and wine that told and retold a story that meant the world.

Tim and Bonnie moved on soon, we became members of the Episcopal and now Anglican church and in subsequent years have become mentors of young couples who are to be married and leaders in many different venues. But it took a wholly unlikely encounter with a classmate whose transformed life and new career path intersected mine and helped transform my life. This past January, Tim and Bonnie and B.J. and I spent a week reminiscing about their role in our lives twenty years ago. As good friends do, the stories we tell grew sweeter with age. They say that God works in mysterious ways. My own experience would hardly be able to deny that.
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