The military services established “Chaplain Candidate Programs” as a way to encourage seminarians to consider serving as military chaplains. Seminarians or individuals accepted into a Master of Divinity degree program may apply, but they must be in an appropriate relationship with their presbytery (typically enrolled as an inquirer or candidate). The military uses the word “candidate” for this program, which has caused confusion with presbyteries in the past. To clear up past confusion, an individual may actually be an inquirer with the presbytery and still qualify for the program. Our referencing this status as “candidate” has no bearing on presbytery’s processes.
Typically, the seminarian completes an initial training program with their particular service branch. This is followed by a practicum where they work alongside military chaplains. The practicum is roughly a 45-day training program accomplished yearly. During their training and practicum they will learn more about leadership and the particular needs and culture of their service branch.
Participation in the chaplain candidate program does not guarantee that an individual will be accepted into the military as a chaplain following the program. Participation in the program does not incur commitment to serve beyond the program.
The ecclesiastical approval we provide is only in effect during the seminarian’s pre-ordination process. Once the seminarian is ready for ordination, they may choose to apply for an endorsement as a military chaplain. Typically if they continue they would enter the Reserve Chaplaincy, National Guard, or Air National Guard upon their ordination and endorsement. Rarely would an seminarian go to active duty as that requires a minimum of 2 year post ordination experience as a minister.
Note: The new guidance from the Air Force Chaplains application process has changed their wording of this to ”Two years of religious leadership experience.” The implication we draw from this is, currently an openness exist in the Air Force for individuals with solid church leadership background due to work experience while in seminary. Please talk with us directly concerning this interpretation.
Each presbytery may determine the appropriate review process for granting their consent for an individual to participate in the program.
See more on Seminarian Page.