HeroVet: House of Representatives Chaplain Margaret Kibben

HeroVet: Margaret Kibben

In a week that was tumultuous in Washington D.C., one piece of news is good: the first female Chaplain to serve the U.S. House of Representatives was appointed - and she’s a Navy veteran with over 30 years of military experience. Retired Navy Rear Admiral Margaret Grun Kibben replaced retiring Rev. Pat Conroy last week.

The appointment now provides a chaplain with military background to both houses of the U.S. Congress. Retired Rear Adm. Barry C. Black, also of the Navy, began serving as Senate chaplain in 2003, becoming the first African American chaplain in either branch of Congress. Veterans Advantage honored Admiral Black in 2009.

The military’s values will no doubt serve our legislative branch well.

“It’s no accident that our values are honor, courage and commitment,” Kibben told U.S. sailors in Korea during a tour in 2017. “As warfighters, our values are well grounded in our character and our skills. How you carry yourself and how you execute your mission is tied to how you identify with your sense of character…in two words – character matters.”

Kibben, a Presbyterian minister, was previously the U.S. Navy’s 26th Chief of Chaplains, and before that was 18th Chaplain of the Marine Corps. In addition to being the first woman to serve as the House Chaplain, Kibben earned the distinction of being the first woman to hold each of these positions as well.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi made the announcement after accepting her recommendation from a bipartisan group leading the search for Conroy’s successor.

“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. Her integrity, experience and patriotism will serve the Congress and the Country well, as she ministers to the needs of Members.”

In her new role, Kibben will lead House members in a daily nondenominational opening prayer and other ceremonies, which is broadcast live on HouseLive.gov. She will also provide pastoral counseling to House members, coordinate the scheduling of guest chaplains, and arrange memorial services for House members and staff.

Kibben was born and raised in Warrington, Pennsylvania and entered active duty in 1986 through the Navy’s Theological Student Program. She graduated from Goucher College in Maryland, and went on to earn her Masters of Divinity and her Doctorate of Ministry from Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey. She also holds a Master’s in National Security and Strategic Studies from the Naval War College.  

Her achievements are numerous. She holds a Distinguished Service Medal, two Legion of Merit awards, a Bronze Star, three Meritorious Service Medals, and three Navy Commendation Medals.

Her assignments with the Marines brought her to Quantico and Camp Lejeune and her Navy assignments included the Naval Academy, the USS San Diego (AFS-6), the Chaplain Resource Board in Norfolk, VA, and the U.S. Third Fleet in San Diego. 

Kibben also deployed in combat regions as the Command Chaplain, Combined Forces Command-Afghanistan. Upon returning, Kibben reported to the Office of the Chief of Navy Chaplains, serving initially as the Director for Force Structure and Community Management, then as the Executive Assistant to the Chief of Navy Chaplains.

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