The following requirements are the same for the three services. The applicant must be:
- An ordained minister
- A citizen of the United States for active duty; have a Green Card for Reserve or National Guard
- At time of appointment: Normally under age 42 but waivers may be available. Check with the branch of service you’re applying to. Adjustments may be considered for prior military service.
- Able to receive a favorable National Security Agency clearance.
- Physically qualified. (Military branches of service may differ).
- A graduate with 120 semester hours of undergraduate credit and 72 semester hours of accredited graduate or theological studies with a Master of Divinity degree or equivalency. This is the military minimum but most Presbyterian denominations require more for ordination.
The Ecclesiastical Endorsement Process
Every chaplain within the Armed Forces, the VA Service, and CAP must possess an Ecclesiastical Endorsement. It is the certification which permits the chaplain to minister in the name of the parent denomination. Furthermore, the Ecclesiastical Endorsement is the authentication by the denomination that the prospective chaplain is not only in good standing with the ordaining body, but is a person highly qualified to serve as a chaplain. For Presbyterian chaplains, it is granted by the Presbyterian Council only after an application process, very careful consideration, and a personal interview.
If application to the Armed Forces is made for a chaplain commission but the Ecclesiastical Endorsement is not granted by the Council, the military application will not be approved, and will be returned without action.
Because the chaplain is merely “on loan” to the military or Veterans Affairs, it is imperative that a close relationship be maintained with the parent presbytery and with the Presbyterian Council. The chaplain may retain membership in the presbytery to which he or she belonged at the time of entrance into Active Duty; or may transfer presbytery membership to the judicatory in whose jurisdiction he or she is presently assigned. While the Presbyterian Council will perform much of the role of ecclesiastical support and supervision, the parent presbytery remains the governing jurisdiction.
The withdrawal* of Ecclesiastical Endorsement by the denomination will disqualify the chaplain from continuing in a military, VA, or CAP ministry, and will require release from the chaplaincy.
The Application Process
Application forms to process for the Ecclesiastical Endorsement can be obtained from the Presbyterian Council Office, 4125 Nebraska Ave, NW., Washington DC 20016-3790 or request one via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or download here. Please specify the service choice and whether it is for active/reserve/Guard military service or the Chaplain Candidate Program. The form requires seven items:
A brief life sketch. Just tell your story.
A statement of the motivations and reasons for wanting to serve as a chaplain.
If married, a statement from the spouse of concurrence with the application for the chaplaincy (military chaplaincy only).
College, seminary and post-graduate transcripts.
Your Minister’s Personal Information Form (PIF) or dossier from the appropriate office of the denomination (if available).
A current photograph.
A recording of a sermon or worship leadership.
Nearly all of the application parts can be sent by email either attached or scanned in (if a signature is required). When the application has been received, the Council will gather additional information, including the concurrence of the presbytery and the confidential appraisals of the applicant. Approximately three months are required for the accumulation of all the necessary supporting material. The applicant is then invited to meet with the Interview Committee of the Council which is augmented by one active duty chaplain. These meetings are governed by the number of applicants. The Interview Committee will confer with the applicant to consider each individual’s appropriate motivation, personal suitability, and churchmanship for this type of ministry. The applicant will be informed, within two weeks, of an Endorsement. Persons applying for the VA Chaplaincy and Chaplain Candidate Program will be interviewed at a location near the applicant’s home.
The Military application for commission as a chaplain is made through the Chaplain Recruiting Office of the branch of the military. They can be quickly located by searching the web with: Chaplain, Army or Chaplain, Air National Guard or the appropriate one for you. Our office will be glad to give you the name, address, and email of the appropriate chaplain recruiter.