Forum on the Military Chaplaincy

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CaptUSMC On November - 5 - 2014

A leading, Christian conservative endorsing agency for military chaplains has issued educational standards for their chaplain candidates rendering Master of Divinity degrees from Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University ineligible for endorsement. This bold and uncompromising action highlights the critical need for all military chaplains to possess solid graduate education, cultural competency, and clinical training.

http://spirit-filled.org/hints.html

Liberty University 72-hour M.Div. Chaplaincy Program

As of 12 October 2014 and until further notice, new applications from candidates who hold or are currently pursuing the Liberty University 72-hour M.Div. Chaplaincy Program will not be processed by this endorsing agency.**

We at The Coalition of Spirit-filled Churches are passionate about those to whom our chaplains will minister. Their institutions deserve the highest quality of pastoral care. With limited resources and staff, I personally spend an enormous amount of time, energy, and resources to vet each prospective candidate for endorsement. I spend a good deal of time, also, visiting our chaplains at their service schools and professional conferences. And I constantly act as liaison with the Chaplain Corps and other institutions to which we endorse. There are no short-cuts for providing quality professional endorsement. There are also no short-cuts for preparations for chaplaincy by candidates. Here at The Coalition, each applicant is personally screened and every aspect of their qualifications, experience and talents collated for their board package. We have found that the 72-hour Liberty University degree consistently falls short in competitiveness for board selection. We often wonder if it demonstrates a short-cut attitude toward preparations for what can be rigorous, challenging and demanding duty. For this reason, we currently must make the difficult decision to no longer consider these degrees.

If you already hold such a degree but have enhanced it with substantial additional graduate course work and/or nationally-accredited specialty ministry training such as clinical pastoral education, Prepare-Enrich certification or Critical Incident Stress Management Certification, PTSD Treatment, etc., feel free to contact us to discuss your individual preparation for chaplaincy and possible application for endorsement. Applicants with these additional credentials may be considered on a case-by-case basis. All others simply are not competitive for military chaplaincy positions, in our experience.

By the way, some military chaplaincy applicants report being very encouraged by their conversations with military recruiters. Unfortunately, this is highly misleading and such “encouragement” is misplaced. Legally, if one technically “qualifies” within the general parameters of the chaplaincy program requirements, one MUST be allowed to apply for consideration for commissioning within the Chaplain Corps. Even if the applicant is not competitive at all and the odds are 1 out of 1,000 for selection, that applicant still has the “right” to apply. So please do not mistake a recruiter’s simple willingness to process your application as “a good sign!” They are simply following regulations.

Incidentally, a few folks have asked why we have taken such a stand regarding Liberty University’s seminary. Interestingly, in the last week of October 2014 we received an unsolicited comment from one of our endorsees who is an alum of that seminary:

“…Regarding Liberty. I started out taking classes at Southwestern Assemblies of God University (SAGU) in Waxahachie, Texas. Most of my fellow chaplain candidates were completing their seminary degrees at Liberty. The tuition was half of SAGU and classes were offered more frequently. So I transferred to Liberty. I took classes at Liberty for about two years. However, I found the academic depth and standards to be significantly inferior to SAGU and other master level degree programs. I had also taken graduate business coursework at Texas A&M before taking classes at Liberty. I had 3-5 page papers at Liberty versus 15-25 page papers at SAGU. I typically had two textbooks per class at Liberty versus four to six at SAGU. Also, Liberty will let someone graduate with a Master of Divinity degree with a 2.0 grade-point-average. I don’t know of any other University of Seminary that grants graduate degrees without a 3.0 grade-pointaverage or above.”

Frankly, we thought that he might be exaggerating things a bit about Liberty University graduating folks with a minimal GPA of 2.0 — and we then spoke with one of our active duty chaplains who is an alum of their 93-hour program. Our chaplain directed us to http:// www.liberty.edu/online/?PID=27632. We see this as very sad and we hope that the military and prospective quality chaplains take note.

Categories: Chaplain Policy, Featured
  • A Concerned Christian

    Wow! This is truly upsetting… As a current student of liberty who is about to graduate, this is really upsetting. I can say that I have written more 12+ page papers than I have 2+ page papers. I am also Prepare & Enrich certified; which was included in my course work for my premarital and marital counseling class. Also, as a husband who must work full time to support my wife and I, I could not afford a more expensive school. In addition, I do not have the time to attend school in class. I find this to be a brash decision and insulting. Though it is no Trinity, it is a great school who offers a quality alternative educational opportunity for those of us who do not have the luxury of attending classes on a campus. How dare you judge an entire student body based on a few or on minimum standards. Just as in the military, there are minimum standards, but dedicated individuals will always strive to achieve far above the standard. You should be judging the individuals, the seriousness of their faith, and the diligence given toward their studies; not the seminary itself. By the way, I work full time, pastor a congregation part-time, serve in the Army Reserves and maintain above a 3.0 GPA. If you know of a traditional school setting that will afford the flexibility of such a schedule, please let me know. I pray that the Holy Spirit softens your hearts, fills you with compassion and compels you to reconsider.

    In Christ Alone,

    A Concered Christian

  • Don Williamson

    I couldn’t agree more with my fellow pastor/chaplain who wrote the comment as “A Concerned Christian.” I guess you could say that I am the exception to the rule then. And, like my friend here, had essentially no other choice but to do my seminary primarily online. When the Lord called me into the Chaplaincy, I was deployed to Iraq as a Military Police Officer in the Army Reserves. In my civilian life, I was an Area Director with Young Life in Missoula Montana, married with four daughters. And contrary to those stone-throwers from the Coalition for Spirit-Filled Churches, whom I’m quite certain have probably never even set foot on campus, nor talked to any faculty member there, Liberty Theological Seminary is not a “fly-by night” seminary. Anyone who has ever taken a class under Dr. Diemer would agree. My class on Romans literally kicked my butt! Liberty also has about 30% of its professors are covenantal/reformed, so it’s not a school that teaches only Baptist doctrine.

    Moreover, anyone who has ever taken courses online from Liberty will attest that it can sometimes be more difficult than sitting in class. I didn’t have the luxury of dialoguing with fellow students, nor stopping into my professor’s office when I had questions. But what I didn’t have in participating in seminary, I more than made up for it in experience in the real world. In my final 18 months doing seminary online, I was leading ministry in four high schools and three middles schools, taking 5 courses online, and a Company Commander for a Law Enforcement Detachment 367 miles away in Billings, Montana. Is there a brick-and mortar school that would offer the same? Also, is there a seminary that so graciously supports its military and veterans by only charging $250 per credit hour?

    Finally, I am convinced that the Army accepted me onto active duty not only because of my seminary education (I graduated cum laude) but also because of my military and ministry experience. I served in the Army as an officer for nine years. I also learned how to do good relational ministry as an Area Director in Young Life. Yes, I did need to get a waiver for pastoral experience because I had actually not worked as a pastor in a church, but the board accessed me onto active duty despite that because they felt my 18 years experience as both a missionary and an officer sufficed.

    If this is a forum that is going to decide what is best for the military chaplaincy, I suggest that you do so with a little bit more critical thinking before you simply post something like this because it fails on so many levels. First, clarity. You choose not to elaborate further. You just post what the coalition says. Second, accuracy. You check on the facts only by going to the website and share the standards. Did you ever think to call Liberty Theological Seminary’s Dean? Or contact the Liberty Baptist Fellowship,
    Liberty’s own endorsing agency to get their perspective? Third, relevance. You don’t actually answer the question, “How does this help us with the issue?” Instead, you simply look down upon those who went a different route and assume we are all knit from the same cloth and must have had a mediocre education.. Or how about depth. What are some of the complexities of this question? What are some difficulties we need to deal with? Online education is here to stay. Additionally, 72-hours is what the Army has said is the minimum for all candidates of any religion. Don’t attack those of us who have a 72-hour MDiv because we met the requirements. Most of us are now pursuing our DMin or PhDs. Then there is taking the Breadth of the situation. Have you
    looked at this from another perspective (like those of us who have gone there and succeeded in the Chaplaincy)? Are you willing to look at this from another point of view. Pretty sure the Coalition for Spirit-Filled churches has pastors who don’t even have an MDiv serving as pastors of small churches. Then there is the idea of significance. Is this REALLY the most important problem to consider? Honestly, I could care less what school a chaplain went to so long as they have their degree. I care more about the fact that he knows how to marry, bury, do memorial ceremonies,
    can preach in the pulpit, feel comfortable on a battalion or brigade staff,
    is able to contribute during operational planning, and is an exceptional
    officer who sets the example for others to follow. Many of these things you don’t learn in seminary. Finally, there is the issue of fairness. Were you all sympathetically representing the viewpoint of others? I think the answer there is a solid no.

    Those young chaplains who have not performed well in the chaplaincy cannot be blamed on education alone. I take it very personally if my battalion chaplains do not succeed. I have a responsibility to mentor, resource and train them. If they leave my brigade not feeling like they have learned from my example and grown to become a better chaplain, then I have failed them more than any seminary or institution ever could.

    My suggestion would be that we extend grace to those who may have taken a different route, be better supervisors able to steward our profession, and try to refrain from making sweeping stereotypical generalizations before posting an endorser’s standards, calling on all others (whether directly or indirectly) to follow suit.

    Sincerely, with gentleness and respect,

    Chaplain Don

  • JC

    I don’t get it. Isn’t this an issue for the accreditation agency to manage? If a school is ATS accredited, it should be good to go. And if its not accredited, then that tells me all I need to know about its academic standards. How is the endorsing agency getting pulled into this?

  • Kody

    Southern Seminary offers a robust M.Div. for future military chaplains. Email admissions@sbts.edu for more information or visit http://www.sbts.edu/apply.

  • JC2

    JC- Liberty is not accredited through ATS. They have regional accreditation. The army doesn’t really care whether the school is ATS, TRACS, or Regional accredited; as long as the school is accredited through a CHEA recognized agency.

  • Andrew

    Liberty University offers two different programs. They offer a 93 hour program that is fully recognized. Pretty deceitful to not include that information anywhere in this article.

    • JasonTorpy

      not included except for at the end of the article where the 93-hour program grad provided a link to the 2.0 gpa requirement. so pretty negligent of you not to even read the article.

      • Dr Jason D Heap

        Agreed!

  • John Calling

    How does this school even have an Mdiv program when it’s not ATS recognized? I wouldn’t want to have a degree from them…it would be like setting myself up for failure.

    • Real fact checker

      ATS is not where the world starts and stops. Gone are to 50’s and 60’s when ATS mattered.

      • Danield

        But I was reading that in order to be accredited through the Association of Chaplains (or whtaever it’s called, that you have to have education from an ATS accredited theological school. Not responding as an argument, but I';m actually doing research trying to figure out the steps that I need to take to become a nursing home or hospital chaplain.

        • Real fact checker

          ATS matters not, what you need to do that is any accredited MDIV and the full CPE program which is a year long internship at a hospital.

          • Danield

            Im looking at the qualifications for nursing chaplains where it says ats accredited but maybe it differs through denominations? Wish therr was one person i could talk with about steps i should tske. I suppose i should take a cpe class first
            I do have a masters in ministry at a non ats accredited but isnt a mdv degree

          • Real fact checker

            This is the only qualified USDOE recognized education provider https://www.acpe.edu/ACPE/_Students/FAQ_S.aspx

            I’ve never heard of the people you speak of. There are tons of groups out there and most are BS. If you want to work as any type of professional chaplin you will need to go through them.

          • Danield

            Ok thanks.

          • Real fact checker

            You can take all your cpe units now and you will be competitive for jobs…only problem is a lot of places(not all) will want a MDiv.

          • Danield

            Dors it matter what denomination? Like some denominations are more popular than others.

  • Billy

    72 credit hours is a lot of work for those of us who have families and are working full time. So I am not sure why one should believe this is not considered worthy of note. Some Masters in Mental Health Counseling are 63 credit hours I feel 72 credit hour through LU is basically with out Languages compared with the 93 credit hour.

  • Tom

    More evidence, at least to me, that people are losing further touch with reality when it comes to true ministerial preparation and/or credentials. I graduated from Liberty with M.Div Chaplaincy and served with Army National Guard for 4 years and currently a full time Clinical Chaplain at a state psychiatric hospital. Anyone who puts full confidence and faith in academics apparently forgets how God Himself chooses servants. Its a sad reality that our Messiah Yeshua (Jesus) does not even meet contemporary qualifications for ministry set forth by the very religious institutions and hierarchies that proclaim to follow and teach his ways. The twelve disciples were simple, uneducated fishermen, Paul was highly educated but counted it as “dung” and lived a hard life as a servant that no one dreams of or aspires to. Truth is M.Div (or any degree) is a tool, not an indication of true love, commitment, preparation or actual calling to minister. I know many educated, well-degreed “scholars” who have no idea how to sit with people in pain, experiencing loss, and who need guidance and direction, but can impress professors with vast knowledge and language skills.

    Bottom line is that the DoD, state governments and many other institutions accept Liberty’s 72 MDiv/degrees therefore anyone else who doesn’t creates further division between true calling and man-made qualifications. It is my personal belief that greater emphasis should not be on academics (which no one who receives ministry really knows or cares about), but rather in practice such as in Clinical Pastoral Education. CPE is where the rubber meets the road and is a true test of one’s calling, competency, knowledge, skill, and effectiveness in ministering to others.

    God raises kings by taking care of sheep and raised Messiah in a home of a Jewish carpenter. I’ve heard it best said “God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called”.

    Shalom,

    Tom J. M.Div
    Clinical Chaplain

  • Dr. Jay Hines

    I am a graduate of Liberty Seminary but took the MATS degree first and I am now enrolled in the MDIV. I also hold a PhD and JD from other regionally accredited universities and 4 other degrees so I have plenty of academic experience with which to compare Liberty s program. First, Liberty is comparatively challenging but I think the level of biblical or theological knowledge one brings into the program may have a considerable impact on the perceived difficulty of the program. I went into my masters at Liberty with 35 years of biblical study including theological independent study so the theologically based studies did seem easier to me compared to my law studies for my JD for which I had only a few undergraduate courses in legally related issues as a platform. As for term papers, I found that the professors did not slack off but often held fairly rigorous standards pertaining to grammatical construction, idea and concept development, and theological acumen incorporated into the paper. Many of the classes required a 12 to 15 page paper instead of 25 pages as mentioned by one person commenting but many other papers were often required in those classes so that all toll, 25 pages or more were processed over the course of the term for many of the classes. I also found the professors to be challenging about posts, feedback, and criticism so there was none of this slap dash kind of post and move on to the next. I am trained in prosecutorial jurisprudence and oral litigation so my assessment of the feedback criticism is seasoned and these seminary professors did a reasonably good job of that without being overbearing or seeming cantankerous. As for the online format, many people today with families and careers which they cannot leave are very thankful for an opportunity to join the online classroom where, at least at Liberty, there is a strong demand for your time and attention to detail. I agree that there is less lecture in the online format than in a tradition brick and mortar program but what is given of lecture is salient, on point and cohesive with the text book required reading. As for 2 textbooks compared to 4 or 6 as one commentator wrote, saying Liberty required far less textbooks than other schools, well, I found that usually each class required 1 to 2 required textbooks and then recommended several others. I like the fact that Liberty left it to my discretion about buying any number of textbooks including extra books, especially with an average cost if $120.00 per textbook. Of course, Liberty does not set the price of the textbooks but they seem to be sensitive to the costs laid upon the student, another factor in their tuition which is the most reasonable I have found. Since I currently owe 250 k in student loans from all my graduate training, I was delighted by Liberty s reduced block rate for students who wish to take more classes. Paying out of pocket, this plan was a godsend that no other seminary I know has. As well, working with the well trained people who you speak to when calling Liberty about advising or tuition concerns is always a pleasant experience. I remember in law school how administration was hateful and a routine challenge, all part of training aspiring lawyers how to navigate the challenging waters of court scheduling and difficult court clerks, but not at Liberty. The best way to describe my repeated experience of talking with these people was that they were well trained and used Christian principles in managing their services. But that’s getting off the point. As for the graduate seminary programs and the MDIV, I also realize the spiritual component that goes into it and that has always been very much alive at Liberty. I think critics of this program may be blindsided by the supposed ease of the online format and the fact that people can get an MDIV without forsaking their families and careers and going to campus somewhere to live in a dorm like some 20 year old kid. Our culture is changing so that the online environment is more popular now than traditional, live classrooms and people are learning to manage this new approach to learning while having their jobs and families. Life is tough enough without having to make any more sacrifices beyond the required study time, posting time, research time, financial costs, and the demand to push yourself to do the work against all the other demands for your time. The online format used by Liberty Seminary teaches you to self motivate, to think on your own, and to structure your time and focus among many other things. Without saying more, I encourage the critics of Liberty s MDIV to take a closer look and to discard their biases against online programs, realizing that it is the wave of the future, a wave that has already swept ashore to wash over our culture with some fascinating results for many people who have taken their online degree and have gone out to make a huge difference in our world. Thank you. Dr. Jay Hines, RN, BS, MS, MATS, JD, PhD.

  • Peter

    I’m considering Liberty. They said they’ve done away w. the 72 hour program and no only have a 93 hour program for the MDiv. Does endorsing agencies still nullify this too?

    • Junior

      Liberty has their own endorsing agency.

  • Junior

    I am currently enrolled in the 72hour Liberty chaplain
    program and I am a successful chaplain candidate. I have completed CHBOLC and other practicums and I can say that Liberty University produces a quality degree.

    Liberty University was one of the first schools to offer a 100 percent online education. That being said many of the seminaries’s turned their heads when they heard about it. It was natural for them to downgrade Liberty and say that they were producing inferior degrees or students.

    Well guess what?
    Today many seminaries have jumped on the online degree bandwagon. When you get your diploma it does not say it was completed online. So with that being
    said the only thing people could say negative about Liberty is that their 72
    hour degree is unfit for the chaplaincy.
    In reality, it is not unfit. I think one should take Greek and Hebrew but it is not immediately needed for the military chaplaincy. Truthfully, counseling
    is needed more in the chaplaincy than Greek and Hebrew. Liberty adds counseling classes to it curriculum.

    If you are getting a degree at Liberty then be confident it is a good degree. Take a look and see that many seminaries are offering online degrees. So does it not make sense to go to a seminary that has been offering an online degree for the longest?

    From my experience it seems true that the Army is looking
    for certain types of chaplains.

    They are always in need of Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim and
    Catholic chaplains.

    They are also in need of chaplains who marry Gays and
    Lesbians.

    The reality is that the degree matters very little and that
    God will move mountains if he wants you in the chaplaincy.

  • Real fact checker

    This article/blog is nothing but trash. Libertys MDIV is 90 hours and I have a 3.7 gpa. I hold a BA and a master’s from an ATS accredited seminary (BMATS) and I can tell you Libertys program is on par. There are state university seminary programs at 72 hours are you not recognizing them. I bet you will. You cite one person with a poor experience as why you think poorly of them.

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  • Russell Ward

    I finished an MDIV (93) in chaplaincy, it was great. I did some work at Gordon-Conwell, and New Orleans Baptist Seminary. The work at Liberty was on par with these other schools and in some areas, it was better.

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