What is a Military or VA Chaplain?
In the Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches, a chaplain is a priest who provides pastoral ministry to Christians and people in all walks of life. Some priests serve full-time as chaplains in the armed forces, whereas other parish priests have assumed additional responsibilities as chaplains at Veterans Administration hospitals, with local police forces, at prisons, and in hospitals. One of the most significant features of chaplaincy activity is ministry to individuals who are Sacramental, Evangelical, and Charismatic Christians, and the witness of our faith among all Americans.
In general, a “chaplain” is by formal definition typically a priest, pastor, ordained deacon, or other member of the clergy serving a group of people who are not organized as a mission or church, or who are unable to attend church for various reasons such as health, confinement, or military or civil duties.
Armed Forces chaplains are highly-qualified priests who:
• Integrate the roles of clergy and commissioned officer
• Care for Christians while providing for the free exercise of religion by all personnel
• Understand the realities of military life.
Armed Forces (military) chaplains are commissioned officers in the Army, Navy, or Air Force; marine Corps and Coast Guard personnel are served by US Navy Chaplains.
Each branch of the military has Chaplains who serve in active duty or in the Reserves. You can also enter the Chaplain Candidate Program before graduating from seminary. This option provides money for your education and allows you to gain military experience a few weeks each summer. After graduation, you can either enter active duty or the Reserves. After 20 years of active duty, you can retire from the military and receive pay and benefits for the rest of your life. This money and experience could help you transition successfully to another ministry. After 20 years of Reserve duty, you will receive pay and benefits starting at retirement.
Benefits for Chaplains
• Tuition assistance for your theological education (Chaplain Candidate Program)
• Promotions and pay based upon rank and time in grade
• Retirement plan with no paycheck deductions
• 30 days of paid vacation (active duty)
• Medical and dental care for your family (active duty)
• Free on-base housing or allowance (active duty)
• Continuing education