How to Become a Chaplain
If you are considering applying for an appointment as a military chaplain, you are considering one of the most unique spiritual opportunities for ministry available anywhere.
Military chaplains offer a broadly based ministry aimed at meeting the diverse pastoral needs of the pluralistic military community. All chaplains are responsible for supporting both directly and indirectly the Constitutionally mandated free exercise of religion for all members of the Military Services, their family members, and other authorized persons. (Referenced from Department of Defense Directive 1304.19) Every Active Duty, Guard, Reserve or Civil Air Patrol Chaplain is required to receive an ecclesiastical endorsement from his or her own religious organization, no matter which branch of military service is desired. Each chaplain is expected to remain faithful to the tenets of the religious group granting one’s ecclesiastical endorsement.
Selection to become a chaplain is competitive and based on the needs of the particular Service Branch to which a person applies. The requirements set by the Community of Christ include:
- Experience as a fully qualified member of the Melchisedec priesthood.
- A minimum of two years of service as pastor.
- Attend an interview coordinated by the Human Resource Management department of the church.
- Meet all the basic requirements set forth by the Department of Defense, or of your host nation if other than the United States. For a list of basic requirements for the United States Services, go to the National Conference on Ministry to the Armed Forces.
For more information about this challenging career alternative contact the Community of Christ Military Chaplain Endorser, David Anderson or e-mail.
Why Have A Military Chaplaincy?
Provided by the National Conference on Ministry to the Armed Forces (NCMAF)
Can’t civilian clergy meet the spiritual needs of military personnel? In a word—No. If all military personnel served within the United States and if all military installations were located near major metropolitan areas where many of the faith groups are represented, some needs could be met. Chaplains go where civilian clergy can not go, providing ministry world-wide, aboard ships at sea, in combat zones or troubled areas, and on special military missions.
Chaplains go where civilian clergy can not or will not go, often to places where no other clergy are available.
Chaplains are full members of their specific service branch, trained to minister and serve wherever there are military personnel. Chaplains wear the same uniform, undergo the same training, eat the same food, suffer the same hardships, die on the same battlefields, and are buried in the same cemeteries as the people they serve. In addition to providing services of worship, they provide moral and religious education, pastoral counseling, advocacy, family support services, crisis intervention, community services, cultural activities and humanitarian programs.
Chaplains provide continual witness of the moral and religious foundation upon which the United States is built.
Most important, chaplains are visual reminders of the Holy through their presence in and involvement with the members of their military unit. Their presence provides continual witness to the moral and religious foundation, the value system and the trust in God upon which the United States is built.
Chaplaincy and Law issues are vital to a full understanding of church and state issues. The answers go back before the Declaration of Independence to July 29, 1775, when the Continental Congress authorized the presence of and pay for chaplains.
Historic and recent legal decisions have upheld the constitutional validity of military chaplaincy.
The presence of chaplains does not imply the establishment of a military religion. All chaplains are fully credentialed religious leaders who are selected through a process of endorsement by their faith community to provide professional ministry within the armed forces. Chaplains are “on loan” from their particular faith community, remain fully accountable to their faith community, and continue in the chaplaincy only through the ongoing endorsement of their faith community. Thus, chaplains serve as representatives of the variety of religious traditions within the United States and not as representatives of a military religion.
In addition, Title 10 of U.S. Code formally establishes armed forces chaplaincy and defines its legal parameters. Legal decisions regarding historic and recent challenges related to the constitutionality of chaplaincy have upheld the constitutional validity and legal necessity of military chaplaincy.
The roots and roles of military chaplaincy go back to the legend of St. Martin of Tours, who as a fourth century soldier going into battle, met a shivering beggar beside the road. Having nothing to share except his own cape, Martin divided the cloak with his sword, gave it to the man and went on. That night, according to the legend, Martin had a vision in which he saw Christ wearing the half cloak he had shared with the beggar. Martin became a believer, and the remnant of his cloak became a sacred relic taken into battle by French kings. The keeper of the cape in French was known as the chaplain from which we derive the title Chaplain, the term now applied to representatives of all distinctive faith groups in the military.
Chaplains are religious leaders representing their faith communities. They serve as the commander’s principal adviser on issues of morale, ethics, religion, and morals.
Today, U.S. military chaplains enable members of the armed forces to claim their constitutional guarantee to the free exercise of religion. Because members of the military are scattered across the world in places where language, cultural, and religious differences block access to participation in the practices of individual religious faith, and because their duties keep military personnel in harm’s way, it is only through the presence of military chaplains that the free exercise of personal religious faith is possible. Military personnel must not be denied access to the presence of religious leaders and the practice of their religious faith because of their military assignments.
Military Chaplains—A Democratic Model
One of the gifts which military chaplaincy offers the world is a witness to the ability of a remarkably wide range of religious communities to work together for the spiritual well-being of the whole community. Chaplaincy has always been characterized by a common commitment to cooperation without compromise. Chaplains are religious leaders endorsed by a particular religious community. They are responsible to provide ministry and to facilitate the free exercise of religion for all the persons in their organization. They are never asked to violate their religious convictions, nor do they pressure others to violate their convictions. They are expected to remain sensitive to the personal, moral and spiritual needs of all people for whom they have responsibility.
Military chaplaincy offers a witness to the ability of a remarkably diverse range of faith communities to work together for the spiritual well-being of the whole community.
Military chaplains are:
- Clergy in uniform who go where churches and civilians can not (or will not) go to serve the spiritual needs of Americans in the military.
- Visible reminders of the Holy in the midst of combat and chaos.
- Fully credentialed and trained professionals serving God and country while blending the dual roles of clergy and staff officer.
- Representatives of their specific faith communities, not part of a military faith. They ensure the Constitutional free exercise of religion.
- Accountable to both their commanders and their faith communities for service to their fellow military members and to God.