Friday, January 19, 2007

How does a UU become a Military Chaplain?

Though there is a long history of Unitarian and Universalist ministers serving as chaplains in the military, there are very few such chaplains right now. The reasons for this are varied, but the need for liberal religious chaplains in our military is greater now than ever.

If you are considering a call to the Unitarian Universalist ministry, consider if that ministry might not be found within the ranks of the military.

Right now, a policy working group is meeting, with the approval of the UUA Ministry and Professional Leadership Staff Group, to evaluate and re-draft the UUA policies on how military chaplains are endorsed and supported by the UUA. As this policy review is ongoing, the details of this reveiw are not currently available. But the following are the general outlines of how the process is likely to be conducted.

(That group has since completed its work, and the new policies can be found at )

First, all UU Military Chaplains are required to fulfill all of the same requirements and standards of all Unitarian Universalist Ministers. This includes a Masters of Divinity degree, completion of a Clinical Pastoral Education course, and successful completion of the UUA Ministerial Fellowship process. For more information on these requirements, and how the process can be started, please visit the UUA Ministerial Credentialing Website.

There are two different ways to pursue receiving an endorsement as an ordained and fellowshipped UU Military Chaplain. These are the Chaplaincy Candidate Program, and direct endorsement as a Military Chaplain.

Each of the military services maintains a way to begin your training as a military chaplain while you are still pursuing your Masters of Divinity degree. These Chaplaincy Candidate Programs are supported by the UUA as a way to both discern your call to military chaplaincy, as well as to train and form for this ministry. Participation in this program means you spend your summers during seminary serving and training on active duty. Each military branch has a selection process for this program, and the UUA requires that you go through an associational approval process as well, including an application, essays on military chaplaincy, and possibly an in-person interview. Completion of the Chaplaincy Candidate program would allow the candidate to be considered for an endorsement to military chaplaincy after recieving fellowship.

If you have already received fellowship from the UUA, and wish to be considered for an endorsement to Military Chaplaincy, then the process will involve an application, a series of essays on the nature of military chaplaincy, an interview with a committe on military ministry to be designated by the UUA, and completion of any and all requirements of the military.

When the new policies for the endorsment and support of Military Chaplaincy are approved at General Assembly in 2007, UUMM will publicize them, and make the process described here more explicit. However, the idea of the policy review is to make the process more accessable, while at the same time maintaining a high level of standards for those called and endorsed to serve as Unitarian Universalist Military Chaplains. If you have specific questions, or are interested in pursuing a call to UU Military Chaplaincy, please contact .

Websites of interest:

U.S. Army Chaplaincy Recruiting Website

U.S. Navy Chaplaincy Recruiting Website

U.S. Air Force Chaplaincy Recruiting Website

U.S. Coast Guard Chaplains Website


David Michael Cunningham said...

I am currently in the Ohio Army National Guard. It is my intention to become an UU Chaplain. I do not yet have my Bachelors degree. Further, my unit is deploying in July 2009. It is my intention to earn my Bachelor degree when I return and then go on to seminary. I am currently 33 years of age. With the above in mind, what would be the best first steps to manifest my stated intention of becoming an UU Chaplain in the military? Thank you very much for your time and consideration.

David Pyle said...


Well, the Bachelor's degree would be your first step... but you should also have a conversation with a recruiter to make sure you can make the age limitation. There are some waivers on that age available for those who have served on Active Duty, but it would take a chaplain recruiter to evaluate your prior service for that.

Beyond that, I would think about building community with other military UU's to aid in your discernment... so perhaps becoming involved at .

I hope that helps, and keep your head down during your upcoming deployment...

If I can be any further help, let me know!

Yours in Faith,

David Michael Cunningham said...

Mr. Pyle,

Thank you for your reply and advice. I appreciate your help with my intention of becoming an UU Chaplain.

I will do as you had suggested by becoming involved at and by getting in touch with a chaplain recruiter regarding the age requirements and my current service. Of course my hope is that if I were to miss the cut-off, a waiver would be available.

Again, thank you for your time and help with this matter.

David Michael Cunningham