The Chaplain Corps
of the United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...
consists of ordained clergy
Clergy is the generic term used to describe the formal religious leadership within a given religion. A clergyman, churchman or cleric is a member of the clergy, especially one who is a priest, preacher, pastor, or other religious professional....
who are commissioned naval officers
An officer is a member of an armed force or uniformed service who holds a position of authority. Commissioned officers derive authority directly from a sovereign power and, as such, hold a commission charging them with the duties and responsibilities of a specific office or position...
. Their principal purpose is to "promote the spiritual, religious, moral, and personal well-being of the members of the Department of the Navy
The Department of the Navy of the United States of America was established by an Act of Congress on 30 April 1798, to provide a government organizational structure to the United States Navy and, from 1834 onwards, for the United States Marine Corps, and when directed by the President, of the...
," which includes the Navy and the United States Marine Corps
The United States Marine Corps is a branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for providing power projection from the sea, using the mobility of the United States Navy to deliver combined-arms task forces rapidly. It is one of seven uniformed services of the United States...
. Additionally, the Chaplain Corps provides chaplains
A military chaplain is a chaplain who ministers to soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines and other members of the military. In many countries, chaplains also minister to the family members of military personnel, to civilian noncombatants working for military organizations and to civilians within the...
to its sister sea service, the United States Coast Guard
The United States Coast Guard is a branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven U.S. uniformed services. The Coast Guard is a maritime, military, multi-mission service unique among the military branches for having a maritime law enforcement mission and a federal regulatory agency...
They share in the difficulties and rewards of Navy life. The Chaplain Corps consists of clergy endorsed from ecclesiastical bodies, providing assistance for all Navy, Marine Corps, Merchant Marine
The United States Merchant Marine refers to the fleet of U.S. civilian-owned merchant vessels, operated by either the government or the private sector, that engage in commerce or transportation of goods and services in and out of the navigable waters of the United States. The Merchant Marine is...
, and Coast Guard personnel and their families. Navy Chaplains come from a variety of religious backgrounds; chaplains are Catholic
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...
Protestantism is one of the three major groupings within Christianity. It is a movement that began in Germany in the early 16th century as a reaction against medieval Roman Catholic doctrines and practices, especially in regards to salvation, justification, and ecclesiology.The doctrines of the...
The Orthodox Church, officially called the Orthodox Catholic Church and commonly referred to as the Eastern Orthodox Church, is the second largest Christian denomination in the world, with an estimated 300 million adherents mainly in the countries of Belarus, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia, Greece,...
Judaism ) is the "religion, philosophy, and way of life" of the Jewish people...
Islam . The most common are and . : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...
, and Buddhist
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...
Chaplains are assisted by Navy enlisted personnel
An enlisted rank is, in most Militaries, any rank below a commissioned officer or warrant officer. The term can also be inclusive of non-commissioned officers...
in the Religious Programs Specialist
Religious Program Specialist is a United States Navy occupational rating. Religious Program Specialists assist Navy chaplains. Religious program specialists provide support to Navy chaplains in developing programs to meet the needs of Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard personnel and their families...
The Continental Navy
The Continental Navy was the navy of the United States during the American Revolutionary War, and was formed in 1775. Through the efforts of the Continental Navy's patron, John Adams and vigorous Congressional support in the face of stiff opposition, the fleet cumulatively became relatively...
, predecessor of the United States Navy, was approved by the United States Congress
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C....
on October 13, 1775. It was administered by a Marine Committee of three members later expanded to seven members. The Navy Regulations adopted by the Marine Committee on November 28, 1775 mirrored those of the Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...
The second article of the Navy regulations of 1775 read: "The Commanders of the ships of the thirteen United Colonies
The Thirteen Colonies were English and later British colonies established on the Atlantic coast of North America between 1607 and 1733. They declared their independence in the American Revolution and formed the United States of America...
, are to take care that divine service be performed twice a day on board, and a sermon preached on Sundays, unless bad weather or other extraordinary accidents prevent." Although the chaplain is not mentioned in this article, the reference to a sermon implies that Congress intended that an ordained clergyman be on board. The first mention of a chaplain in the Journals of the Continental Congress refers to his share in the distribution of prize money. On January 6, 1776 Congress passed a resolution detailing the prize share percentages and includes distribution of a portion to the chaplain. On November 15, 1776, Congress fixed the base pay of the chaplain at $20 a month. The first chaplain known to have served in the Continental Navy was the Reverend Benjamin Balch, a Congregational
Congregational churches are Protestant Christian churches practicing Congregationalist church governance, in which each congregation independently and autonomously runs its own affairs....
minister, whose father had served in a similar capacity in the Royal Navy. Benjamin Balch's son, William Balch, is the first chaplain known to have received a commission in the US Navy after the department was established in 1798.
Naval Chaplaincy School and Center
The Naval Chaplaincy School and Center (NCSC) is part of the Armed Forces Chaplaincy Center
The Armed Forces Chaplaincy Center is the center for training of United States military chaplains, located at Fort Jackson, Columbia, South Carolina. Co-located on the AFCC campus are: the United States Army Chaplain Center and School, the United States Naval Chaplaincy School and Center, and...
(AFCC), which also includes the US Army Chaplain Center and School (USACHCS) and the US Air Force Chaplain Service Institute (AFCSI). The 3 schools are co-located at Fort Jackson, in Columbia, SC. NCSC's first graduating class — consisting of 29 chaplains and chaplain candidates — graduated on Nov. 6, 2009.
NCSC is the successor of the Naval Chaplains School, which relocated in mid-August 2009 from Newport RI due to the 2005 decision of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission to put all military ministry training at the same location. NCSC's new name reflects its new mission of training Navy chaplains and Religious Program Specialist (RPs) in the same place. Until recently, RPs have been trained at NTTC Meridian, MS.
The AFCC is designed to foster closer cooperation between the 3 Chaplain Corps and to facilitate shared instruction and training.
The Navy accepts clergy from religious denominations and faith
Faith is confidence or trust in a person or thing, or a belief that is not based on proof. In religion, faith is a belief in a transcendent reality, a religious teacher, a set of teachings or a Supreme Being. Generally speaking, it is offered as a means by which the truth of the proposition,...
groups. Clergy must be endorsed by an approved endorsing agency. Once endorsed, the clergy person must meet requirements established by the Department of the Navy including age and physical fitness requirements. A chaplain's ecclesiastical endorsement can be withdrawn by the endorser at any time, after which the chaplain is no longer be able to serve as a chaplain.
Qualified applicants must be US citizens at least 21 years old; meet certain medical and physical fitness standards; hold a bachelor's degree, with no less than 120 semester hours from a qualified educational institution; and hold a post-baccalaureate graduate degree
A graduate school is a school that awards advanced academic degrees with the general requirement that students must have earned a previous undergraduate degree...
, which includes 72 semester hours of graduate-level coursework in theological or related studies. At least one-half of these hours must include topics in general religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...
Theology is the systematic and rational study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truths, or the learned profession acquired by completing specialized training in religious studies, usually at a university or school of divinity or seminary.-Definition:Augustine of Hippo...
, religious philosophy
Religious philosophy is philosophical thinking that is inspired and directed by religion. Depending on religion, there are different philosophies for each religion:*Buddhist philosophy*Christian philosophy*Hindu philosophy*Islamic philosophy...
Ethics, also known as moral philosophy, is a branch of philosophy that addresses questions about morality—that is, concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, justice and crime, etc.Major branches of ethics include:...
, and/or the foundational writings from one’s religious tradition. Accredited distance education
Distance education or distance learning is a field of education that focuses on teaching methods and technology with the aim of delivering teaching, often on an individual basis, to students who are not physically present in a traditional educational setting such as a classroom...
graduate programs are acceptable.
Chaplains then attend the Navy Chaplain School at Ft Jackson, South Carolina at the Armed Forces Chaplaincy Center (AFCC).
The Navy has a "Chaplain Candidate Program Officer" (CCPO) Program for seminary students interested in obtaining a commission before completing their graduate studies.
The mission of the Chaplain Corps is:
- PROVIDE religious ministry and support to those of our own faith.
- FACILITATE for all religious beliefs.
- CARE for all Marines, Sailors and their family and friends.
- ADVISE commanders to ensure the free exercise of religion.
- Promote ethical and moral behavior throughout the Sea Services.
- Ensure religious ministry enhances current readiness.
- Think strategically for future readiness.
- Employ Reserve religious ministry assets more effectively.
- Realign assets to improve religious ministry for operational forces.
- Improve recruitment and retention.
- Enhance external and internal communications.
- Leverage technology to support the mission.
The guiding principles are:
- We are faithful to our individual religious traditions and practices.
- We respect the right of others to hold spiritual beliefs and religious practices different from our own
- We cooperate and collaborate in ministry.
- We are committed to the highest standards of morality and personal integrity.
- We are committed to professionalism in the performance of duty.
Mission-ready Sailors, Marines and their families, demonstrating spiritual, moral and ethical maturity, supported by the innovative delivery of religious ministry and compassionate pastoral care.
The Chaplain Corps has been responsive to the diverse ministry requirements of Sailors, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, Merchant Marines and all their family members since its inception over two centuries ago. Throughout its history the corps has experienced several controversies.
Some contemporary controversies include the filing of class-action lawsuits by "non-liturgical" active and former active-duty Protestant chaplains alleging religious discrimination. These chaplains argued that the Navy allegedly employed a quota system that caused "non-liturgical" Protestant chaplains to be underrepresented through the current career promotion established by the Department of the Navy. http://stripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=16075&archive=true
In September 2006, LT Gordon Klingenschmitt was reprimanded and fined $3,000 for disobeying an order not to wear his military uniform at a protest. Klingenschmitt was released from the Navy in March 2007. The chaplain disagreed with a policy that he interpreted to require him to offer non-sectarian prayers at Navy command functions (essentially public, military-wide and often mandatory). The Navy doesn't require a chaplain to give prayers at a command function if the chaplain's religious beliefs prohibit non-sectarian prayers. The Navy doesn't prohibit chaplains from preaching in a sectarian manner in worship settings.
In the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life
, Accommodating Faith in the Military (dated 7/3/2008) states: "That precise question has been raised in a series of cases, going back a decade, over the way that the Navy selects chaplains. These lawsuits allege that the Navy has hired chaplains using a "thirds policy," a formula dividing its chaplains into thirds: one-third consisting of liturgical Protestant denominations (such as such as Methodists, Lutherans, Episcopalians
The Episcopal Church is a mainline Anglican Christian church found mainly in the United States , but also in Honduras, Taiwan, Colombia, Ecuador, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, the British Virgin Islands and parts of Europe...
and Presbyterians); another third consisting of Catholics; and a last third consisting of non-liturgical Protestant denominations (such as Baptists, evangelicals, Bible churches, Pentecostals and charismatics) and other faiths. The lawsuits claim that the Navy’s criteria are unconstitutional because they disfavor non-liturgical Protestants, who make up a great deal more than one-third of the Navy, while Catholics and liturgical Protestants each make up less than one-third.
In April 2007, a US District Court in Washington DC, rejected one of these challenges to the Navy’s chaplain-selection criteria. The court held that the Navy had abandoned the thirds policy and said that its current criteria were constitutional because the Navy has broad discretion to determine how to accommodate the religious needs of its service members. This decision was affirmed in 2008 by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit known informally as the D.C. Circuit, is the federal appellate court for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Appeals from the D.C. Circuit, as with all the U.S. Courts of Appeals, are heard on a...
In June 2009, the Navy's Inspector General found that the Deputy Chief of Chaplains, RDML Alan Baker, took actions which "reprised against" his former Executive Assistant during a promotion board in 2008 and was subsequently not recommended for his second star and selection to Chief of Chaplains by the CNO. This determination found that Adm Baker improperly influenced a Captain (06) promotion board in a negative manner. Chaplain Baker retired in September 2009.
The current Chief of Chaplains for the Navy is RADM Mark Tidd.
Religious Programs Specialist
Chaplain and Chaplain Assistant Insignia
Chaplains at U.S. Coast Guard Academy
At the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, the current chaplain is Lieutenant Commander
Lieutenant Commander is a commissioned officer rank in many navies. The rank is superior to a lieutenant and subordinate to a commander...
Chapels at U.S. Naval Academy
- See also: USNA Chaplain Center official webpage
- Naval Academy Chapel
The United States Naval Academy Chapel in Annapolis, Maryland, is one of two houses of worship on the grounds of the Navy's service academy. Protestant and Catholic services are held there. The Naval Academy Chapel is a focal point of the Academy and the city of Annapolis...
- Commodore Uriah P. Levy Center and Jewish Chapel
The Commodore Uriah P. Levy Center and Jewish Chapel is the Jewish chapel at the United States Naval Academy, in Annapolis, Maryland. The center is named in honor of Commodore Uriah P. Levy , the first Jewish commodore in the United States Navy, who is famous for refusing to flog his sailors...
Coast Guard prayers
- See footnote
- See: Eternal Father, Strong to Save#U.S. military variants
- See footnote
- See: Eternal Father, Strong to Save#U.S. military variants
Navy Hospital Corpsman Prayer
Grant me, oh Lord, for the coming events;
Enough knowledge to cope and some plain common sense.
Be at our side on those nightly patrols;
And be merciful judging our vulnerable souls.
Make my hands steady and as sure as a rock;
when the others go down with a wound or in shock.
Let me be close, when they bleed in the mud;
With a tourniquet handy to save precious blood.
Here in the jungle, the enemy near;
Even the corpsman can't offer much lightness and cheer.
Just help me, oh Lord, to save lives when I can;
Because even out there is merit in man.
If it's Your will, make casualties light;
And don't let any die in the murderous night.
These are my friends I'm trying to save;
They are frightened at times, but You know they are brave.
Let me not fail when they need so much;
But to help me serve with a compassionate touch.
Lord, I'm no hero—my job is to heal;
And I want You to know Just how helpless I feel.
Bring us back safely to camp with dawn; For too many of us are already gone.
Lord bless my friends If that's part of your plan; And go with us tonight, when we go out again."
- See: Eternal Father, Strong to Save
"Eternal Father, Strong to Save" is a hymn often associated with the Royal Navy or the United States Navy and United States Marine Corps. Accordingly, it is often known as the Royal Navy Hymn or the United States Navy Hymn , and sometimes by the last line of its first verse, "For Those in Peril on...
(The Navy Hymn) (including special verses for Antarctic and Arctic service, divers and submariners, Naval aviation, Naval nurses, Seabees, SEALs, submariners, U.S. armed forces, wounded in combat, and for those deployed)
- Robert R. Brett – Chaplain during Vietnam War.
- Vincent R. Capodanno
Servant of God Vincent Robert Capodanno was a United States Navy Roman Catholic chaplain and a posthumous recipient of America's highest military decoration — the Medal of Honor — for actions during the Vietnam War....
– Chaplain during Vietnam War. Awarded the Medal of Honor.
- John L. Lenhart – Chaplain during Civil War. First Navy chaplain to lose his life in battle.
- Joseph T. O'Callahan
Joseph Timothy O'Callahan was a Jesuit priest and, during World War II, a United States Navy chaplain. He was awarded the U.S...
– Chaplain during World War II. Awarded the Medal of Honor.
- George S. Rentz
George Snavely Rentz was a United States Navy chaplain who served during World War I and World War II. For selfless heroism following the loss of in the Battle of Sunda Strait, he was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross— the only Navy Chaplain to be so honored during World War II.-Personal...
– Chaplain during World War I and World War II. Only Navy chaplain to be awarded the Navy Cross
The Navy Cross is the highest decoration that may be bestowed by the Department of the Navy and the second highest decoration given for valor. It is normally only awarded to members of the United States Navy, United States Marine Corps and United States Coast Guard, but can be awarded to all...
during World War II. USS Rentz
USS Rentz is an Oliver Hazard Perry-class of guided missile frigate, of the United States Navy, the 40th ship to be constructed of its class. The Rentz was named after World War II Navy Chaplain George S. Rentz . Chaplain Rentz was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for selfless bravery following...
was named in his honor.
- Four Chaplains
The Four Chaplains, also sometimes referred to as the "Immortal Chaplains," were four United States Army chaplains who gave their lives to save other civilian and military personnel during the sinking of the troop ship USAT Dorchester during World War II. They helped other soldiers board lifeboats...
(When the troop-transport ship USAT Dorchester
USAT Dorchester was a United States Army Transport ship that was sunk by a torpedo from a German U-boat on February 3, 1943, during World War II...
was torpedoed during World War II, four Army chaplains ministered to the soldiers and sailors on the sinking ship, gave up their life jackets, and sacrificed their lives when the ship sank.http://www.fourchaplains.org Those chaplains were LT George L. Fox
George L. Fox was a Methodist minister and a lieutenant in the United States Army. He was one of the Four Chaplains who gave their lives to save other soldiers during the sinking of the USAT Dorchester during World War II.-Life:George L. Fox was born in Lewistown, Pennsylvania in 1900, one of five...
, Methodist; LT Alexander D. Goode
Alexander D. Goode was a rabbi and a lieutenant in the United States Army. He was one of the Four Chaplains who gave their lives to save other soldiers during the sinking of the USAT Dorchester during World War II...
, Jewish; LT John P. Washington
John P. Washington was a Roman Catholic priest and a lieutenant in the United States Army. He was one of the Four Chaplains who gave their lives to save other soldiers during the sinking of the USAT Dorchester during World War II.-Life:Born as one of seven children to Irish immigrants Frank and...
, Roman Catholic; and LT Clark V. Poling
Clark V. Poling was a minister in the Reformed Church in America and a lieutenant in the United States Army. He was one of the Four Chaplains who gave their lives to save other soldiers during the sinking of the USAT Dorchester during World War II.-Life:Poling was born in Columbus, Ohio to Daniel A...
, Dutch Reformed.)
- Church Pennant
- Ship-to-ship personnel transfer
Underway replenishment or replenishment at sea is a method of transferring fuel, munitions, and stores from one ship to another while under way.-History:...
- Military Chaplain (including conflicts and criticism)
- United States Air Force Chaplain Corps
The Chaplain Corps of the United States Air Force consists of enlisted chaplain assistants and clergy who become commissioned Air Force officers, endorsed and ordained by their particular religious organization...
- United States Army Chaplain Corps
The Chaplain Corps of the United States Army consists of ordained clergy who are commissioned Army officers as well as enlisted soldiers who serve as assistants. Their purpose is to offer religious services, counseling, and moral support to the armed forces, whether in peacetime or at war.-Army...
- Chaplains assistants
In the US Army Chaplain Corps, Chaplain Assistants provide support to Chaplains. A Chaplain Assistant is part of the Unit Ministry Team and supports UMT programs including worship services...
- Chaplain's Medal for Heroism
The Chaplain's Medal for Heroism is a decoration of the United States Congress which was authorized by an act of Congress on July 14, 1960. Also known as the Chaplain's Medal of Honor and the Four Chaplains' Medal, the decoration commemorates the actions of the Four Chaplains who gave their lives...
- Chaplains Hill (Arlington National Cemetery)
- Roman Catholic Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA
Traditionally, a chaplain is a minister in a specialized setting such as a priest, pastor, rabbi, or imam or lay representative of a religion attached to a secular institution such as a hospital, prison, military unit, police department, university, or private chapel...
An imam is an Islamic leadership position, often the worship leader of a mosque and the Muslim community. Similar to spiritual leaders, the imam is the one who leads Islamic worship services. More often, the community turns to the mosque imam if they have a religious question...
The ministerial orders of the Catholic Church include the orders of bishops, deacons and presbyters, which in Latin is sacerdos. The ordained priesthood and common priesthood are different in function and essence....
In Judaism, a rabbi is a teacher of Torah. This title derives from the Hebrew word רבי , meaning "My Master" , which is the way a student would address a master of Torah...
- See: Military chaplain#Further reading
- O'Brien, Steve. Blackrobe in Blue: The Naval Chaplaincy of John P. Foley, S.J. 1942-1946.