BROWSE BY:     Title Number Subject Creator Digital Content

Interview with James Pfannenstiel and James Apple, April 3, 2004 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

pdf icon Get PDF Version
Interview with James Pfannenstiel and James Apple, April 3, 2004
April 3, 2004
In this interview, navy chaplains and long-time friends Pastor James Pfannenstiel and Rabbi James Apple discuss their experiences within the chaplaincy, as well as their views on the current state of organized religion in America.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  Pfannenstiel, James / Apple, James Interviewer:  Zarbock, Paul Date of Interview:  4/3/2004 Series:  Military Chaplains Length  58 minutes


Zarbock: Good morning. My name is Paul Zarbock. I'm a staff person with the University of North Carolina at Wilmington's Randall Library. This is a continuation of the series on military chaplains. We have two retired military chaplains here on this videotape, videotape number one. Today is the 3rd of April, we're in Wilmington, North Carolina, and I'm going to ask our participants to introduce and identify themselves.

James Pfannenstiel: Hi, I'm Jim Pfannenstiel (clears throat) retired navy chaplain. I'm United Methodist by ordination and I appreciate the opportunity, Paul, to uh.. visit with you and my closest friend, Rabbi Jim Apple, this morning.

James Apple: Hi, I'm Rabbi Jim Apple. Uh.. retired from Temple from Israel recently. Retired navy chaplain, and this is my best friend on my right, United Methodist minister, Jim Pfannenstiel. And I'm glad you're here to have this talk.

Zarbock: In order to start off the talk, I'm going to do some enthusiastic, albeit I believe- enthusiastic role-playing. Gentlemen, as a Methodist and a member of the Jewish persuasion, what in the world could you possibly have in common, other then a military uniform?

James Pfannenstiel: Uh.. James?

James Apple: No, it's your turn. (laughs)

James Pfannenstiel: Well, Jim and I both were called, each in our own way, uh.. to be ministers. Uh.. I think we both felt that we wanted to uhm.. express our religious convictions as religious leaders. Uh.. I don't know what a call to the ministry really is, people say a call is some quantative, like it's a.. Saint Paul on the Damascus Road experience. Uhm.. it wasn't that way for me, it was kind of a gradual- gradual uhm.. feeling that I ought to- I ought to go to seminary. Uhm.. I think ministry is caring for people, it is uh.. leading people into a close relationship with their god. Uh.. and it grows, it just evolves uh.. I felt the call to uh.. go to seminary while I was a college student, and then in seminary felt uh.. that I wanted to be military chaplain. Didn't know it was going to be for a career when I set out, when I first began the process, but uhm.. it was too good not to make it a career and stay...

Zarbock: What year did you enter the military?

James Pfannenstiel: Uhm.. 1962. I came in directly out of seminary. Uh.. (clears throat) if you recall, Paul, in those days the draft was on and people of my vintage were subject to military service. So you had to have a deferment to stay in college, a deferment to stay in seminary. Uhm.. midway through seminary the military chaplaincy looked- just looked like a good thing to do, and I began the process. And in the fall of uh.. 1961, the Berlin crisis occurred, and that was just at the time that I was about to finish seminary. And I was in the Methodist Church pipeline for uh.. entering the chaplaincy and uh.. the church waived some religious requirements. Normally the Methodist Church asked you to be subsequent to ordination, serve three years in a congregation. Well they waived that and uh.. low and behold I finished seminary in December '61, I was ordained in February of '62 and two weeks later was uh.. in uniform in the navy, and stayed for 23 years.

Zarbock: Well Rabbi Apple, where were you in '61, '62? What I'm trying to do is to weave the two of your careers together in time.

James Apple: All right. 19-- I was in seminary in 1959 through 1965. And I had no idea that I would ever be in the military chaplaincy. Uh.. and we- we talked about this before, that in my senior year, uh.. we were all called in the president's office of the seminary and drew two names out of a hat that didn't have to go over and sign the chaplaincy, and my name was one, and I was supposed to go into the air force, and I said to the air force recruiter "I'm out of here. Have a nice day." And I went to Concord, New Hampshire, and then I went to Columbia, South Carolina. At the uh.. 1970-- when I was changing congregations, uh.. it was called by the Jewish Welfare Board, the endorsing agency, and I was told, "It's your turn 'cause you didn't go back in 1965." But Vietnam was still going on, and so that's how I wound up in the military chaplaincy.

Zarbock: And one of the things that I'd like to make sure that we have here on the tape, again for future reference. Both of you gentlemen had four years of college. Following four years of college, you had extensive post-graduate work. It was not like you fell off the turnip truck and decided to enter the orders. Well, back to the issue that I hinted at before. What common ground did the two of you find in religion and in spirituality?

James Apple: Well we- we never met until I was in chaplain school and Jim was the s- scaplain- chaplain school director. It was a nine-month course, which taught you, a- and Jim would better on this one then- then I. It- it taught you the most current things that were happening in- in the world of religion. And he was the Chaplain School Director, and it was his responsibility to bring in key people. And there were 18 of us sitting in this class of chaplains. And one of the things we had to deal with was spirituality. What was (external noise) our spirituality and what is spirituality. And one had to vocalize it. And one had to come to grips with what they thought their spirituality was. And uh.. Jim was the course school director- the course director, and no one really-- he was the authority figure. So we didn't really become friends, he sat in a class. And then what happened was, and I have to tell you this 'cause this is an important thing, this is how our relationship really began. They never had a Jewish chaplain on the faculty of the Chaplain School. And it usually was- was one Catholic and the rest all Protestants. And Jim saw something in me that he said "It's time to have a Jewish chaplain on the faculty." And so he went to bat for me. Like Diogenes and his lamp, and dropped it 'cause he saw an honest man, that's how I related to Jim. Because I never expected to be in the Chaplain School staff, I figured I was going anywhere but there. And then he makes me his- his assistant.

James Pfannenstiel: Let me- let me interrupt.

James Apple: Yeah, well you can go ahead.

James Pfannenstiel: Help me straighten up some of the facts. (laughs)

James Apple: Well that's from my viewpoint.

James Pfannenstiel: I- I was the course officer for this advanced course. Uhm.. my task was to facilitate this learning process for these 18 senior chaplains, all uh.. Lieutenant Commanders, Commanders in the navy 12 to 14 years. This was a post-graduate course, in fact there were two seminaries that really came on heavy to us to accredit the course and give a Doctor of Ministries Degree. We didn't- we didn't succumb to that because we didn't want to lose control of some of the curriculums, and we kept this totally navy. But this course, I think the 18 students in Jim's class probably had four, five priests, uh.. the rest were Protestants, and- and one Jewish chaplain. Well, they were there for nine months, Paul, and the course was designed to be an update in all of the skills of ministry. So we brought in professionals from seminaries, Notre Dame, Boston University, Gordon-Conwell Seminary, so on, to do the teaching.

Well midway through Jim's class, I was named to be the director of the Chaplain School. The director was moving on and they feeded me up to be the director of the school, and there were going to be some openings on the staff. Well, I don't know whether Jim realizes this or not, but there were several members of his class that pressured me to put their name in to come to the school as staff. And I had- I had other ideas. So the Chief of Chaplains, who was Ross Trower at the time, Ross came up to visit the school and uh.. I took Ross aside and I said, "Ross, I'm going to be the director of this school, you've named me director, I'd like to make a request that Jim Apple be retained on the staff." I said, "We've never had a Jewish chaplain." Army never had, air force, on their chaplain school staffs, never had a Jewish chaplain, you know. And hey, lets- lets seize upon a resource here, and- and lets- lets be a pioneer.

So Ross said to me, "You're going to be the director of this school, if you want Jim Apple, you've got Jim Apple." And so uh.. Jim got orders- orders to the staff. Well then, of course, Max Eller, my predecessor, moved on, I moved from the- the back room up to the front office and became director of the school, and I tapped Jim to be my administrative assistant. Then, Paul, at that time, the navy was able to achieve parity with the air force and the army in terms of the number of chaplains on active duty.

Army and air force (clears throat) chaplaincies were uh.. organized that there's one chaplain per so many active duty and dependants. The navy said, "One chaplain per active duty." So we didn't have nearly as many chaplains per population as the air force and the army. So we were authorized to beef up our strength. Well I think on my watch as director of the school, I think 15 months, I put 225 new chaplains on active duty. Well that meant that the influx of civilian clergy into the military for the navy was just, you know. So I had to tap Jim to be a course officer. So we had two courses, when we normally might have thirty chaplains in the- in the basic indoctrination course, and we got 60. So we had a gold team and blue team. So Jim ran one of those teams as well as being the administrative assistant to me, and uh.. he was promoted to commander at that time, so he put on- he put on three stripes, and uh.. I gave him my Silver Oak Leaves as a Commander, and the mandate was that he would then pass them to the next person when he made captain. But uhm.. that's how our relationship began, and it's just- it's just grown and grown over the years.

James Apple: And then what happened was, we began-- because we would have to discuss things, discuss our images and concepts of ministry. And what we found was if you took the Christology away, and you took the Hebrew out, that we were totally congruent. That- that our approaches to ministry were identical. And that was fascinating because most chaplains would never be congruent. They always had their own particular edge or something. But we were looking at the big picture. And we looked at ministry uh.. from the standpoint of, as the Book of James would say, and which is the same thing as Judaism would say, deeds and actions and not words. And so we saw that in that context, and uh.. and things just began. And we would talk ministry, we'd talk about chaplains, we'd talk about what one should do to be an effective preacher and to be an effective clergyman, and not to sell your soul to the navy, which many people did.

Zarbock: Would you expand on that please?

James Apple: Oh. In (over talking) order to become a navy.. you want- you wanted to become regular navy, not reserve, you wanted to get promoted and make the rank of Captain. And so whatever it took to become promoted and to become regular navy, you would sell your soul.

Zarbock: So a self-centered careerist.

James Apple: Yeah. Another nice word would be prostitute yourself. And I met chaplains who would literally prostitute whatever it took, whatever it took, they would do that. And you can- you can talk about that.

James Pfannenstiel: Well (clears throat).

James Apple: I mean prostitute's a hard word. Sell your soul is a little nicer.

James Pfannenstiel: When I was director of the school uh.. I was a captain and a young Methodist in the basic indoctrination course came to me one day and he said, uh.. "Chaplain Pfannenstiel what- what do I have to do to make it in the chaplain corps?" And I said, "What do you mean make it? Do you mean get promoted?" Well I'm not sure what my answer to him-- I didn't like his question. But I said, "Y- you got to do what your church sent you here to do." I said "I can't tell you how to make Captain, other then to do your job. Go out to sea and do 500 prayers at sea at night. Cross the Atlantic Ocean 31 times like I have. Uh.. go and hear some shots fired in anger in Vietnam. Uh.. hold the hand of a young 18 year old dependent wife who just delivered the preemie baby. Uh.. come out three times a night when you're hospital chaplain, and then be ready to go to work at 8 o'clock the next morning. You know, uh.. and if you look at every act you perform and think it's going to translate onto your fitness report, you're missing- you're missing the target."

I said, "When I was a young chaplain, a more senior chaplain said to me one time, 'When I go to a new command, I go to the commanding officer and I say to him, I need a perfect fitness report to get promoted. What do I have to do to get a perfect fitness report?'" And I said, "That's- that is really prostituting yourself. That is really selling your soul. Could you imagine a doctor, or a civil engineering corps officer, or a dentist, going to a commanding officer and saying, 'What do I have to,' you know? What are you in the navy for?"

So anyway, the promotions I think, the promotion-- we were-- somebody once said we're a stripe-happy chaplain corps. And uh.. you know getting-- we all want to be promoted. The British navy has chaplains and they don't wear a rank for probably very good reason. Uh.. we wear rank because we have to work in a rank oriented system. Uhm.. we all want to get promoted, not everybody does get promoted. Jim and I have sat on selection boards and know that it's a- it's a gut wrenching experience to- to cast a vote "No" for somebody you might have known for 15 years, but see that he or she is not as best qualified as someone else. It's a tough- it's a tough place to live your life.

But uhm.. I don't know, Jim and I- Jim and I have seen some things in common in how we reach people uh.. I think there's a sensitivity, I like to think that we're sensitive to where people's hearts are, and that we will- we will be willing to reach out-- let me tell you something about Jim. When he was the senior chaplain at Camp Lejeune on Christmas when many young troopers had to stand sentry duty and duty on the gates. Jim Apple b- out of his own pocket bought cake and candy and goodies and took it around to the gates for the young- the young Christians. You know, here's a Jew who's got a sensitivity uh.. Temple of Israel on Christian holidays would- would man the food uhm.. booths at the- uh.. the food banks.

James Apple: And the housing uh.. for Saint James. We took the- the housing over...

James Pfannenstiel: (over talking) To free the Christians to be able to go and, you know, wow. I mean, that's- that's an openness. Uh.. I'm doing a lot of talking here. At- at this school we had morning devotions and the students would conduct morning devotions. The priests would go and c- celebrate mass together. And the Protestants would gather for devotions, and here you've got one Jew. Every morning Jim Apple went to Protestant devotions with me, and here's a guy who's big enough and open enough to be able to stand and sing "Stand up, stand up for Jesus." Or "The Old Rugged Cross." And I'm looking, and I'm saying, "This is- this is some kind of a secure guy." Uh.. I think he knows as much about the New Testament and New Testament theology as many Christian preachers do. But he has- he has opened himself up to be sensitive to people, and uh.. I like to think that that's the- that's the essence of ministry. And he brought- he brought that to every duty station he went to. And I think there were times that it must have been very tough. I think you probably ran into some attitudes and some prejudices that you probably even haven't told me about. Right in our navy.

James Apple: Well, let me talk about Jim. See Jim gets promoted and with each promotion it's just a pay increase. It's- it's-- yes. The point with Jim was promotion was a pay increase, ministry is constant. So throughout Jim's career uh.. promotion meant, "Okay, I got- I'm get"-- he never failed a promotion, but each promotion meant a pay increase. So he never got carried away with, "Well I'm a Captain and therefore, you know, I'm somebody important." And he and I had worked for navy chaplains who put on the captain stripes or the commander stripes and jammed it in your face and said, "You will call me Captain." No, I know it's- it's hard to handle, but we had people like that. But for Jim it was just a pay rate. And for me, it was the same thing.

So, you know, in- in many ways Jim was a teacher. Because we worked together and I saw his approach to ministry. And his ministry was "What can I do?"-- which is the Methodist way of doing things. "What can I do for you?" Which translated into his way of doing things in the navy chaplain core. And that just rubbed off on me. "What can I do for you?" So you couple that with the Jewish approach, and Jim takes that approach. And you couple it with his attitude of, "Well, what can I do for you?" And he and I are absolutely right on.

And we were talking about ministry last night, about the Methodist ministers he's been at-- the churches he's been at the ministers he's seen, and a particular Rabbi that I have seen and how- how they have-- what's a good word?-- destroyed the spirituality and s- and sat-- you know, he's been bad news. And the Synagogue is going down, the temple's going down, as is- is church membership. So what we have in ministry today is a bunch of people, and we're moving on to what's- what's happening today. I think we have a bunch of people with second, third and fourth careers, which is a mistake. Who have- who have their own hidden agendas, for whatever that is. Uhm.. and they're either frumpy or dumpy or overweight, or have a- an agenda which looks toward money to guide. "Well, who's the money people in the- in the uh.. the ministry, the church or the temple." And- and you've got people who get- who are so self-imbued with themselves that any semblance of spirituality is destroyed. From the people who are paying their dues to keep the church, the Methodist church alive, or the- or the temple alive.

And what uh.. what's happening is, and we were talking about this at breakfast, people are now voting with their feet. They're voting with their feet and their feet go-- with their feet goes the pocket book. So it's happening in- in the Jewish faith, it's happening in the Methodist church, United Methodist Church. And what's happening is that we are ruining them. And we- you got- you got to respond to this concern, that we've opened ourselves up to this. We're ruining a whole generation of people who are becoming, what's the best word, non-denominational, trans-denominational, or just no denominational. And so what's the problem with-- I can talk about the Jewish faith. 52% of all Jewish marriages are inter-faith marriages. And rising. And rising. And I was talking to Jim about the religious school I recently visited where they have indifference, apathy, and candy or bubblegum. You know, and- and those kids aren't being taught anything. So that generation, if they marry a Jew, is- it's a coin toss. And I can say the same probably for the church. I mean, what do you say about that? I mean I have talked about ministry. What are you going to talk about?

James Pfannenstiel: I- I sometimes uh.. get very harsh about the United Methodist Church. I uh.. a church that uh.. grew up with America, that was on the frontier, I mean, if you- if you go across America in the 19th Century you see a- a surge of Methodism. All of the Wesleyan Colleges, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, it was- it-- they were on the frontier. The circuit riders were out there. Methodism swept America. Jim Apple: From 1820, I got to tell you, I teach this. 1820, they went West, you know, the pioneers.

James Pfannenstiel: Wesley came preaching. He sent- he sent preachers to America. And they rode with their saddlebags, and they-- with- with the pioneers. The church grew. I think that- that in the 40s and 50s uh.. probably half the members of the United States Congress were United-- were Methodists. When I went in the navy in 1962, the rank pyramid, we probably had a thousand chaplains. Like one admiral, a hundred captains, 300, you know, and so on. In 1962, 30 to 40% of the captains in the chaplain corps where unit- were Methodists. When I retired 23 years later, of 100 captains, there were five Methodists.

Zarbock: Replaced by what other denominations?

James Pfannenstiel: More conservative. Uh.. Lutheran. Uh.. Baptist. Assemblies of God. And that's exactly what's happened in our society. The Methodist Church has been in a- in a freefall in the last 30 years, and the conservative churches, the community churches, the gospel churches...

Zarbock: The ones that have all of the answers. Appear to have all of the answers.

James Pfannenstiel: What they're doing is they're filling a need that we're not filling. I think in- in my denomination today we've got a clergy going in one direction, and we've a laity going in the other. We've got a laity that wants a bible message preached, and we've got a clergy that's caught up with liberal causes. And- and we're missing, we're missing each other. And people are voting with their feet. They're leaving uh.. a- almost every United Methodist conference in America loses members every year.

I (clears throat) I retired two years ago as pastor of a Methodist church in La Crosse, Wisconsin. There were 69 churches in the heartland district of the Wisconsin conference. One church had a gain in membership over that three years. And, you know, we- we raised our membership at Asbury from 395 to 430. Now that's not great, but when everybody else has lost members, I mean, you look like an all-star. Uhm.. my successor came and within a month changed everything. Everything from the bulletin to the order of worship to the time of services. He removed people from committees that had been pillars of the church, changed everything, and people are leaving. You know, and I say, "What- what- what's happening? What's happening here?" And I think Jim has seen that in some uh.. in some Jewish congregations. Uh.. you know, the Roman Catholics will go to church because a priest is saying Mass. Doesn't make- doesn't matter who the priest is, they're going to go because a Mass is being said. Not so- not so in other- other congregations. People shout for a pastor, they shout for a Rabbi, and- and the personality, I hate to say it, but the personality of- of the pastor sometimes is the indicator of whether that church is gonna- gonna grow or not grow.

Zarbock: Would you endorse that, Rabbi?

James Apple: I certainly would. Everything he says applies to the Temple of Israel. Uhm..

Zarbock: So it's the messenger, it's not the message?

James Apple: It's both.

James Pfannenstiel: I- in a sense..

James Apple: It's both.

James Pfannenstiel: That's right.

James Apple: It- it-- Marshall McLuhan said, "Your medium is-- the medium is the message." The clergyman has also got to give the message. And I see that at Temple of Israel where Jim has talked about it in Asbury Methodist Church and La Crosse is happening at Temple of Israel. And ... because the Rabbi is giving one message, and he is not in touch with the people, so they're going, just like Jim said, that way. Now what's happening is more and more members are voting with their feet and their pocketbook. And I took-- Jim and I went to services last night and he- he saw exactly what I was talking about, and he said to me this what he saw in Asbury and he saw it in Florida where he was.

Zarbock: And what was seen?

James Apple: Uh.. I think you should get it uh.. well this-- I'm a partial viewer, but you're an impartial viewer. Now I'm not-- I'm lay-- I'm, you know, I'm sort of laying this on you. But- but I mean, I'm- I'm a partial 'cause I'm- I'm prejudiced already. On certain issues.

Zarbock: But you are participant observers, and it would be just absolutely wonderful to find out what were your observations as a participant observer. You're a ministerial anthropologist.

James Pfannenstiel: I have uh.. just a very nice relationship with Temple of Israel.

James Apple: Yes.

James Pfannenstiel: Jim retired from the navy (clears throat) and went to Temple of Israel here in- in Wilmington as the associate. Well the senior minister was- was a pretty senior man and uh.. probably past retirement age. And after a couple of years I think Jim more or less said, like they do in the major leagues, "Play me or trade me." So the senior pastor retired and became emeritus and Jim accepted the trustees' invitation to become a senior rabbi. And this is where we have some real fun.

Jim, in the negotiations, said to the trustees, "There is only one non-negotiable in this deal. And that is, the night that I am installed, my Methodist friend will preach the sermon." And so you could look- look it up uh.. the morning of his installation the local newspaper had his picture on the front page and the lead was beautiful, and I can't remember it, but- but basically it said something like this: "Tonight at Temple of Israel, Temple of Israel will install Rabbi James L. Apple uh.. reformed," No. "Reformed Temple of Israel will install Reverend R-- Rabbi James L. Apple in an unorthodox...

James Apple: Yes.

James Pfannenstiel: ... service where a Methodist minister will preach the sermon." (laughs)

James Apple: Yes. Yes.

James Pfannenstiel: And- and it was-- I- I told Jim last night, you know, I've been- I've been at this 40- over 40 years, the most memorable preaching experience in my life was that Friday night in 1999 at Temple of Israel. Standing room only, and here's- here is a Methodist minister preaching the sermon for the Rabbi being installed. And- and people say, "I never heard of anything like that." Well, five years later, last year in June, he retires. Beautiful retirement dinner at a posh country club here, tuxedo affair, and who gives the keynote speech at his retirement? Me. Now his successor, maybe you (laughing) should get this in, and saying, "What kind of a Jew have we got here..."

James Apple: Yeah.

James Pfannenstiel: "...that trots this Christian in?" You know, but that probably happened because a relationship began in the navy where we were open uh.. to other people. What- what did we learn? One- one of the things, and you may ask me this in the one on one, what did I learn? I learned that there's a big world out there, and it's not a just a world of Methodists or Lutherans or Assemblies of Go-- you know, we are-- there's a common humanity here and our responsibility wearing tablets on our sleeve or a cross, was to take care of the moral and spiritual well-being of those kids, many of them are kids, look aboard an aircraft carrier today baby, and the average age is 20 or 21. And the kids who are carrying the guns in Iraq, the same thing. You know, over there, we're there to reach out- reach out to them. And somehow the navy taught us how to do that, and maybe that makes us different in a way.

Zarbock: At the time of Rabbi Apple's installation? Is that the--

James Apple: Yeah.

Zarbock: --correct technical term?

James Apple: Right.

Zarbock: What was your theme?

James Pfannenstiel: His installation?

Zarbock: Yeah.

James Pfannenstiel: Phew. Uh.. Paul, I'd have to go back and look at my notes, but (clears throat) I talked about service, about caring, about what he was bringing and what he and Sandy were bringing to this- to this congregation.

Zarbock: Okay.

James Pfannenstiel: I talked about- about our relationship uh.. how special it was and how uhm.. we had a common- a common goal in reaching out to the people who are-- we were entrusted with the care of. Uhm.. it was just- it was just very- it was very special.

James Apple: Now the corollary to that was, when Jim had his 40th anniversary of his ordination, right? I was invited to come to La Crosse and to preach at his 40th anniversary. And then he says to me, "Not only are you going to do that, you're going to preach at the children's service." So I'm sitting down on the chancel steps talking to- telling the children the story, right? And he's standing by. And I take out a uh.. I give him a gift and I put it around his neck, which he still wears, it's a mezuzah, and uh.. it's there somewhere.

James Pfannenstiel: It's there some-- there it is.

James Apple: There it is. I give him that gift and I say "Mizpah." And Mizpah's a word Jim taught me...

James Pfannenstiel: Let me- let me tell Paul this part too.

James Apple: All right, kick off.

James Pfannenstiel: Okay. Well I grew up with a stepfather uh.. who was a very special man. And as kids, when my brother and I went off to scout camp, or went off to college, or whenever we were going to be away from each other, (clears throat) he would say "Mizpah." M, I, Z, P, A, H. And for years and years and years I'm thinking, "This is some-- what kind of a crazy thing is this?" Until one day, I'm probably a teenager or maybe even college, I say to him, "What does Mizpah mean?" And he said to me, "Well, you ought to read the bible." (laughs) (clears throat) In the Book of Genesis two men, Jacob and Laban, have property that's adjacent and they're going to be away from each other. And so they pile up some stones like a watchtower and they say "Mizpah." And what it means is, "May the Lord watch between you and me when we're separated one from another." Now I'm sure they said that so that n- they'd keep each other honest (clears throat), but just think about that in terms of relationships, "May the Lord abide between us while we're separated one from another." So Jim and I do this Mizpah thing all the time.

Well, Jim doesn't know I'm going to do this, but a year ago I came back from Arizona, Susan and I had been out there for the winter, and I contracted something called Valley Fever, which is a fungus that comes off of the desert, and there's no cure for this other then let six months go by and go through your system. It's- it's symptoms of flu, it's chills, it's uh.. fever, it's fatigue that is unbelievable. Uh.. now I w- got back to Wisconsin and really wasn't feeling very good, came down with the shingles, and bronchitis, and really wasn't feeling very good. And one day in the mail comes something from Jim Apple.

James Apple: Oh my God.

James Pfannenstiel: And it's a little cross. And on the front of that cross it says "Mizpah." And on the back of the cross is the Star of David. Now Jim knows what the cross means to me, and I know what the Star of David means to him, so you can sit-- you can bring in all the theologians in the world and they can debate what this means and why a Jew would do this for Christian, or a Christ- you know. And I say that's baloney sausage cut thick. This is a symbol of a relationship that is dear and binding and now I don't want to get into the deep theology of it, we could debate that 'til the cows come home, but what's important is that we both share something much in common that we care about people, we care about their relationship to their god.

James Apple: Amazing.

James Pfannenstiel: (laughs) You got a sermon there, pal.

James Apple: Yeah. You just- you have no idea. Uh.. Jim was sick and I wanted to send him something ... uhm.. that uh.. let him know that I wanted him to get better, and to work at it, or whatever, or God was gonna watch over Jim. So I went to uh.. Firebird Pottery. Firebird Pottery is in town, and I said, "I want a cross, and this is what I want to do to it. And I want"-- and then they said, "Well, sure." (laughs) So I took this cross and I painted it yellow 'cause I figure yellow is a nice cross, it's a cheery color, right? Not black, it- it is a cheery color, and I took brown 'cause yellow and brown go together, and you know, and that was the end of it. And then I put a Star of David on the back so only he knows, only he knows, only Jim knows who would do this. So somebody would look at it and say, "Hmm, interesting." And that's how it happened.

So our relationship is- is very, very deep because we understand spirituality and what it means to be a pastor. To take care of people where they're at, let them bloom, put our necks on the line for them-- go- go that extra 110 yards for somebody and not worry about ourselves. 'Cause that's-- we don't have to worry about ourselves. It's-- we're doing God's work. God's-- what God has put us here to do, and that's what- that's what it's all about. And if you can't do that as a clergyman, I got to tell you this, I cannot be your friend 'cause I think basically you're a fraud. Now that's hard- that's hard to handle, but I just can't be friendly-- I can be a uh.. "How are you." And asso-- I mean, I be an associate, but I can't be friendly with you as a clergyman because you're not doing what you're here to do. You're- you're here for a variety of other reasons, you know, whatever it is, status, money, prestige, name it, but you're not doing what you're supposed to do. And I can't deal with people like that. Now Jim has a good friend named Skip Vogel.

Zarbock: Fogal?

James Apple: Vogel. Vogel.

James Pfannenstiel: Vogel.

Zarbock: Yeah, "bird." Yeah.

James Apple: Vogel, Vogel, Skip Vogel. And Skip Vogel I relate to. I didn't know Skip in the chaplaincy, but I- I met him through Jim and he's the same way. And he is a Missouri Synod Lutheran?

James Pfannenstiel: Missouri, yes.

James Apple: I mean, you can't get more rigid then that.

James Pfannenstiel: Right. Are you Missouri Synod?

James Apple: Are you Missouri Synod Lutheran?

Zarbock: No. I'm a recovering Wisconsin Synod Lutheran.

James Apple: Oh gosh.

James Pfannenstiel: Oh you (inaudible) of Missouri (inaudible). Wow. Well. Anyway.

Zarbock: Please note that I say I'm a recovering.

James Apple: I won't even go there. But Skip Vogel is a Missouri Synod Lutheran, is right where we are. And Jim's replacement was a Missouri Synod Lutheran and I worked for this man for nine straight years, I couldn't avoid him he wouldn't let me get out from underneath him, and he was just the opposite. You know, he was rank conscious, status conscious, and had to show who he was in everything that he did. And I had to work for him and I had a difficult time for nine years with him, because he wasn't what I wanted to be as a minister.

Zarbock: Why weren't you crushed by this? Through nine years?

James Apple: I had a wife. I had a wife and I had a friend. And I could complain to Jim in letters, and I could complain to Sandy, my wife, and she understood. And she would say to me, as Jim would say to me, "This too shall pass."

Zarbock: Was there one more person in addition to pastor and your wife? Were there three?

James Apple: No. No. No.

Zarbock: Two. You made the third. I'm a triune person myself. And I'm (inaudible).

James Apple: I am in there. I am in there with- I am in there, I took the verbal might. I still have, you know, we talk about it jokingly. I went to his retirement to make sure he was retiring.

James Pfannenstiel: (laughs)

James Apple: I did, I did. I just wanted to make sure he was gone.

James Pfannenstiel: I think this was an evil man.

Zarbock: Yeah.

James Apple: He was an evil man.

James Pfannenstiel: He had motivation uh.. he caused-- when I was-- when I moved up to be the director of this school, he relieved me as the advanced course officer. So he was really on my staff. This guy was a couple of years older then me, and two years junior in rank. And it was a source of great discomfort to him. But he made- he made life miserable for me when I was director of the school, and then Jim had to work for him. And then down the road, Jim had more contact with him. This was- this was not an okay guy.

Zarbock: Off-camera, I said 50 years from now this videotape and the hard copy are really going to be materials of significance. So I'm trying to project 50 years ahead from now a question that may be raised, and the question that might have been raised was, why didn't the system get rid of this evil person? Is there no trapdoor out?

James Pfannenstiel: The system- the system can protect them. That- Paul, if you- if you made captain and you were regular navy, you were guaranteed a 30-year career. You- you'd have to fall on your sword, you'd have to do something really gross to be kicked out. Who's gonna- who's gonna tackle a- a captain with 25 years in the navy? So they-- sometimes the mediocrity is proliferated.

Uh.. I think that- that we had when-- I retired in '85. I think in 1985 we probably had a hundred captains and probably 40 bona fide captain jobs. So you probably had f- fifty captains doing jobs that commanders could have done. And sometimes we-- the chaplain would just let its rank system get- get out of hand. We promoted too many, is what we basically we did. We kept up with other communities in the navy, and we kept promoting and promoting, and pretty soon you find that you've got more senior people then you need. So what do you do with them? Well, back in the 1970s, the chief of chaplains was putting senior commanders and captains aboard large ships. Well you- you take a four-striper and put him on a cruiser, he's more senior to the captain. And so the whole thing gets lopsided.

But uhm.. you know, I was thinking before, if Jim and I were clergyman in the City of Wilmington and that was our career, we probably would shake hands once a year at a prayer breakfast. We'd greet each other warmly, "How you doing, rabbi?" "How you doing, pastor?" And that would be it. But look what- look- look what's happened. And it happened in the context of the chaplain corps where we had to get past- we had to get beyond our own personal identity, yeah. Uh.. you know, on a Sunday morning I might not have any card-carrying Methodists sitting out there, you know? Or card-carrying Luth-- there might be card-carrying nothings, but they want to go to church. And so you- you have to reach out and- and get past yourself to realize that you are ministering to a large cross-section. A- and it's- it's ecumenicity uh.. in spades really. Uh.. and so when- when the- the Jewish holiday seasons come and you're aboard ship, you round up as many Jews as you can and you throw in some Christian and say, "We're going to have a Seder here, you know, and we're going to do it." Uhm.. so uh.. just, yeah, please Jim.

James Apple: The navy doesn't teach you ministry. All the navy taught in- in basic chaplain school was how to salute and go out and be a chaplain. The ministry they left up to you, and that's the problem. They never tried to create a monolithic uhm.. model of what a navy chaplain should be, because they couldn't do that. And that was the first mistake that the navy made as far as I'm concerned, because you had people that let their religious denominational preferences come alive and it just got in their way. And that was- that to me always was a problem. And the navy also took people that really weren't qualified because they needed bodies. And these non-qualified people...

Zarbock: Qualified for what?

James Apple: To be a navy chaplain. I mean, I had women who swore better then sailors did. Uh.. I had women with the s- slimmest credentials, and men who had very slim credentials, that were passed on by some endorsing agency to become navy chaplains, and they were ill equipped to be navy chaplains. And I had to deal with these people. And I have to train these people. And you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. And so when I would talk ministry to them, they would look at me and say, "Well, you don't understand." And I would say, "What don't I understand?" And they would say to me, "Well, my domination says."

I had a (clears throat) chaplain who was a Presbyterian Church of Amer- Presbyterian Church of America, and this sailor was shipping out and he wanted to get married, and he comes to me and he says, "I need to get married, I got the license, and I need to get married today 'cause I want to take a honeymoon on Sunday," this is the Saturday, "'Cause I'm shipping out on Monday." So I call the duty chaplain who was their Presbyterian Church of America chaplain, and he says to me, "I am not going to marry that sailor because he's (audio glitch) not PCA." And I said to him, "What are you talking to me about?" I said, "He's in the navy, you're a navy chaplain, marry them. Marry him." He said, "I'm not gonna do it, and you can't force me to do it." Okay. So I get all the Protestant chaplains together and I said, "He needs to get married and who's going to do the marriage ceremony?" None of them raised their hand except the Mormon. And the Mormon says, "I'll marry them."

James Pfannenstiel: Was this Polecock [Ph?]?

James Apple: No. No it was uh.. Steve...

James Pfannenstiel: Reverend Polecock?

James Apple: Steve Line- Lineman.

James Pfannenstiel: Oh, okay.

James Apple: No, it's Polecock. It was Tom Polecock.

James Pfannenstiel: Yeah.

James Apple: It was Tom Polecock.

James Pfannenstiel: He was a good guy.

James Apple: Good guy. Polecock says, "They're Protestant, I'm doing it in a Protestant chapel." So I said, "What type of wedding you going to do it, Tom?" I take him aside, he says, "I'm going to marry them in a Mormon style in a Protestant chapel. And they'll never know the difference." So I said to him, "I've been- I've never been to a Mormon wedding." He says, "Why don't you show up?" So I, Saturday morning, I sit in the back of the Protestant chapel and I watch this wedding take place. And the b- the groom who was a navy sailor says to me, "I really appreciate you coming." And I'm a four-striper. And, this in Orlando, and ..... and I watched this wedding. And afterwards I say to my Protestant chaplains, they're grousing 'cause he did it in a Protestant chapel. And I say, "You just didn't want to get up Saturday morning. You just wanted to roll over in bed." I said "He's a better Protestant then you are." And...

Zarbock: I think that's the first time he was ever called that.

James Apple: Who? The Mormon?

Zarbock: The Mormon, yeah.

James Apple: Well I said that to the Protestants; "He's a better Protestant then you are."

Zarbock: Yes.

James Pfannenstiel: Yeah.

James Apple: And they were not happy that he did it in the Protestant chapel. Well, I said, "You didn't want to do it. None of you wanted to do it. So what does that say to me about your faith as Protestants? I'm the command chaplain." So they weren't happy with me, and I wasn't happy with them, and I said, "You're lucky I don't do your fitness reports, you are very fortunate." And that was what happened. And uh.. they got married, and that was it. And the Mormon did it. And after that uh.. they learned their lesson. But the PCA, the Presbyterian Church of America guy said to me, "If they're not PCA I won't do their marriages." And I said "How can you be rigid?" He said "Because that's my church doctrine." And I said to him "But you're a navy chaplain, you're supposed to take care of everybody." So that's what Jim and I run into.

James Pfannenstiel: W- when I was at Pearl Harbor (clears throat) I retired at Pearl Harbor 1985, and it was probably the biggest religious program in the navy I think, it had five chaplains on the staff. And one of them was a very conservative Baptist. Gets a phone call one day (clears throat) from a retired navy chief petty officer living in Honolulu wants to get married. And this chaplain begins to ask some questions and the bottom line is, "If you don't guarantee me that you're going to come to chapel every Sunday, I can't do it." So he does have the presence of mind to say, "We have other Protestant chaplains here." So he gives this chief my name.

So the chief calls me, and pretty defensive, and I said, "Chief, bring your bride and come on up and see me." So this guy probably in his 50s, spent 25 years in the navy, sharp guy, now is a businessman in Honolulu. And he comes to my office with his beautiful Japanese-American lady and they want to get married. And I said, "Chief, I want you to feel good about the navy. You spent 25 years in the navy," I said, "I don't want you to have a b- bitter feelings about your career." I said, "Furthermore, down the road you may want the ministry of a navy chaplain for something. Baptism, funeral, something like that." I said, "I don't want you to have bitterness."

So we're talking along and I, I don't know why, but I said to him, I said, "You been baptized?" He says, "Chaplain, I was the last of seven kids in the family, I"-- and he looks at her and she says, "I haven't been baptized either." On Good Friday morning, 1985, I baptized the two of them and did their wedding in the chapel at Pearl Harbor, and (laughs) when its over, this guy reaches in his pocket, he pulls out an envelope and he gives me a check for $500 payable to the Protestant Chapel Fund. (laughs) And I thought, you know, this guy could have been turned off. You know, and- and the navy that he'd served so well for yea-many years, you know, turns him down when he, you know. And I thought, "Wow, I will not let that kind of an opportunity for ministry pass me by." You know, and it was, you know, one of those- one of those great stories that uh..

James Apple: Yeah. So you can see we are concerned with people, and that's our, I mean, I hear, I see, we are concerned with people and our friends in the ministry have to be like, I think speaking for Jim, have to be like us or we're not-- be just sort of casually not, as you said, the little Rabbi, the little Pastor, and move on.

James Pfannenstiel: What a blessing- what a blessing to be looking past that and have something that endures.

Zarbock: One last question for each of you. Pastor, would you do it again?

James Pfannenstiel: (laughs) Oh, in a heartbeat.

Zarbock: Rabbi?

James Apple: Absolutely.

James Pfannenstiel: This afternoon.

Zarbock: Well maybe. May the Lord, whom I hope to be revealed to the three of us, be with us all. Thank you gentlemen.

UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database
Found in:
Randall Library | UNCW Archives and Special Collections | Online Database | Contact Us | Admin Login
Powered by Archon Version 3.21 rev-1
Copyright ©2012 The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign