Chaplain Endorsement

Serving God and Others in the Federal Government

The Church of Christ is a fellowship of independent congregations and has no central ecclesiastical headquarters or organization to ordain or endorse ministers for any special capacity outside a local congregation. In order to provide an opportunity for qualified persons to serve in the military chaplaincy or act as “lay leaders” for congregations meeting in military facilities, the Armed Forces Chaplain Board recognizes the Church of Christ in Fairfax, Virginia as the endorsing organization.

This authority is recognized by the Federal Prison System and was grandfathered by the Department of Veterans Affairs, which now has its own Endorser recognition process.

The Endorsing Agent provides endorsements only for these Federal agencies. Endorsements for hospital systems, state prison systems, volunteer chaplain organizations such as state police should get endorsement letters from local congregations.

The Fairfax Church of Christ Endorser Committee acknowledges that the Holy Spirit has reserved to men the role of governance and authority over the assembled congregation.  However, a chaplain is not the same as an elder or preacher in a congregation.  We see no obstacle to endorsing women as chaplains within the Federal government and support their service as missionaries in the Department of Defense, Federal Prison System and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The endorsements of Fairfax Church of Christ are based on

  • Meeting the educational and experience qualifications of the Federal agency
  • Being supported by personal references from the applicant’s local church. We strive to make our endorsements consistent with beliefs and practices across a broad mainstream of the Church of Christ, recognizing there are diverse beliefs in a number of areas. Therefore, we rely on the applicant’s local congregation to affirm the person’s good standing in the Church of Christ.

Specific information regarding qualifications and application procedures are contained below.

Please contact the Endorsing Agent, Gary Payne, before proceeding with downloading and using these forms.

Chaplaincy Qualifications & Forms

  • Be a U.S. citizen, physically qualified, favorable National Agency Check
  • Maximum age at time of appointment:
    •  Army / Navy / Air Force: Prior to 40 years of age (or 42 with at least two years’ prior active service).  Reserve or National Guard Components allow you to be a few years older.  Age limits are subject to change—check with your recruiter
    • Veteran’s Administration:  Same as Civil Service
    • Bureau of Prisons:  Prior to age 36
    • OTHER – Research the organization’s requirement
      • Coast Guard Auxillary
      • Civil Air Patrol
      • Federal Bureau of Investigation
      • Department of Homeland Security
  • Baccalaureate Degree of not less than 120 hours.
  • Masters of Divinity or a graduate degree in theological studies, which includes at least 72 hours from an accredited institution (80 hours for the Bureau of Prisons)
  • Military clarifications regarding your Masters work:
    • The Army provided this guidance (October 2019):
      The educational requirement of a post-baccalaureate graduate degree is a single 72 hour program. The graduate level degree cannot be a combination of smaller degrees to total 72 hours, but it must be one single degree requiring at least 72 hours. A full 72 hour graduate program provides the best opportunity for individuals to be professionally and academically developed in the areas of pastoral counseling, social work, religious administration, world religions, theology, ethics and the foundational writings from the applicant’s religious tradition. Example: Two or three MA degrees (one in religion) does not meet the requirement.

    • The Navy requires at least 45 graduate hours in residence; the remaining hours can be online.
    • These requirements can change, so be sure to check with your military recruiter
  • Be a qualified “religious ministry professional” of a faith group.
  • Two years full time Professional Work Experience (PWE). This is religious leadership and service in a congregation  The purpose is to show you can function in the wide variety of ministry settings:  preaching, teaching, counseling, conducting weddings and funerals, etc.
    • Exceptions:
      • The National Guard and Reserve Components do not have a PWE requirement.
      • The Veterans Administration does not have a congregational PWE requirement. Instead, they require four units of Clinical Pastoral Education—preferably in a residency program.
  • Have an ecclesiastical endorsement from a faith group recognized by the DoD Armed Forces Chaplains Board.

For more information regarding qualifications or endorsement procedures, Ministers from the Churches of Christ e-mail us using the “Get Connected” form below. 

Chaplaincy Endorser

Gary Payne

Gary grew up in Lincolnton, North Carolina, and entered the Army in 1977.  Since then, he has preached for two different churches for twelve years.  He completed the Master of Divinity from Harding University Graduate School of Religion (now Harding School of Theology) in Memphis, Tennessee, and the Doctor of Ministry from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California.  He deployed to combat zones four times during his thirty-six years career, culminating as an Army Chaplain (Lieutenant Colonel). 

He currently serves as the Chaplain Endorser for federal-level Chaplains representing the Church of Christ.  He also serves as a Shepherd at the North Broad Street Church of Christ in Albertville, Alabama.  Gary and his wife Ellen have been married for forty years. They have three grown children, as well as two granddaughters and one grandson.

Get Connected

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.