The History of Presbyterian Federal Chaplaincy

Est. 1973

Chaplains in the Military

From the founding of our nation, Presbyterian Chaplains, along with clergy from many faith groups, have served the Armed Forces of our country with distinction. Early on, however, the need to establish standards for clergy serving in the military became evident; therefore,  the religious community and the military established an “Ecclesiastical Endorsement” (certification) for all chaplains serving the men and women in the Armed Forces. The Department of Defense now defines the requirements for all religious leaders who wish to serve as chaplains. The Presbyterian Federal Chaplaincy helps our denominations ensure that our ministers meet and maintain DoD standards.

The Founding of the Presbyterian Federal Chaplaincy

During World War II, the larger two Presbyterian denominations held endorsement power, while smaller Presbyterian denominations had to associate themselves with one of the larger two in order to provide chaplains. In the 1960′s, the two larger denominations began looking for ways to conduct their ministry more effectively, a process that resulted in the creation of the Presbyterian Council for Chaplains and Military Personnel in 1973. The initial Council consisted of the Presbyterian Church United States (Southern), the United Presbyterian Church, the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in America, and the Associated Reformed Presbyterian Church. Twenty representatives comprised the Council, including the Stated or Principal Clerk, or a designated representative of each denomination.

The Council represents the sponsoring denominations in matters that pertain to the chaplains and the church members serving in the Armed Forces, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Civil Air Patrol. The Council serves as a liaison with the Chiefs of Chaplains of the Army, Navy and the Air Force; with the Department of Veterans Affairs Director of Chaplaincy Services; with the Armed Forces Chaplains Board of the Department of Defense; with the Civil Air Patrol; and with other government agencies as required.

The Presbyterian Federal Chaplaincy Today

In 2011, the makeup of the Council changed: the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church withdrew from the Council while the Korean Presbyterian Church Abroad joined the Council. The Council works with all four Presbyterian bodies and consults with committees, study groups, and commissions of the denominations. We are participants in the Endorsers Conference for Veterans Affairs Chaplaincy (ECVAC) working with all faiths groups that provide chaplains for the Department of Veteran Affairs.  In 2015 the Council also picked up the responsibility to endorse chaplains for the PCUSA and CPC who wished to serve as Federal Prison Chaplains.

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Dennis Hysom

Doug Slater


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