Several high-profile military chaplains matriculated from the Master of Divinity program in the Graduate School of Theology at Abilene Christian University, and now ACU is offering a 50% scholarship for future military chaplains.
Master of Divinity graduates who have become military chaplains include Dr. Darryl Wesley (’88) and retired Captain David Bynum (’84). Wesley received ACU’s Distinguished Alumni Citation in 2020, and Bynum was named the Outstanding Alumnus of the Year in 2013. Both were chaplains in the U.S. Navy during their illustrious careers.
Bynum was a military chaplain for 28 years and earned three degrees from ACU, finishing in 1994 with his Doctor of Ministry. Prior to retiring, he was the force chaplain for Navy Installations Command in Washington, D.C., and was responsible for all religious ministries across the Navy shore enterprise. Military chaplains are required to earn a M.Div. degree, and Bynum believes this scholarship further paves the way for students to become chaplains. Bynum said he always wanted to serve God and his country at the same time, and ACU helped him achieve his dreams.
“I’m incredibly thankful for the blessings of my education at Abilene Christian,” Bynum said. “Especially as I think about some of the great professors that I had, many of whom are now deceased, but who I carry with me every day. People like John Willis, Charles Siburt, Neil Lightfoot, these people still guide me every day. I was their student for a period of time, and they are my teachers for life.”
This will be the third semester for the GST to offer the scholarship, and several have already taken advantage of the discount. Future military chaplains receive a base 50% scholarship with the potential for it to increase over the course of their degree. The application process is based on undergraduate GPA, recommendation letters, writing samples and other criteria.
Jeremie Joseph, a second lieutenant and chaplain candidate in the U.S. Army, is a current student in the Master of Divinity program and will graduate in 2026. Joseph was featured in an article from the U.S. Army highlighting chaplains in each branch and their experiences. Joseph found ACU’s M.Div. program through a local community college and an online accreditation platform.
“Chaplaincy can deploy total fitness when providing and performing spiritual-emotional support, such as by applying physical exercises,” Joseph said. “I want to serve the country and the community – men and women I am called to – through a well-rounded approach to fitness.”
Dr. Wes Crawford, associate dean in the GST, worked at Lubbock Christian University from 2005-11 and implemented a similar program in their GST for future military chaplains. Crawford and the ACU GST staff are working to recruit and attract new applicant pools to diversify the student body within their program.
“Theological education is changing all of the time,” Crawford said. “So we’re trying to find new groups of folks that we can connect with. Because we had really good experience there and had some contacts, we reached out and made inroads in that community, and the applicants seem very excited about it.”
The scholarship is primarily geared toward military chaplains but it includes those entering other types of chaplaincy as well. Applicants may reach out to the GST and learn more about how they can qualify for the scholarship program. Students may choose to take the 72-hour degree online or in person.
Following graduation, Joseph aspires to reach men and women across the U.S. Army on a spiritual level through small groups, encouragement and other informative matters. By offering resources for the soldiers’ spiritual and emotional needs, he desires to make an impact on their lives. Greek and Hebrew were a core part of his education while at ACU, and he aims to use these languages to better understand scripture and apply them to his daily settings.
“My hope in military chaplaincy is to uphold total fitness – of my spirit, mind and body – and extend my core principles to other soldiers exemplarily,” Joseph said. “My dream is to employ my chaplain experience to establish a global Christlike institution that would study and serve people, ecosystems and more with high standards of research, public service, motivation and community.”
Students in the program can choose to gear specific projects toward their future careers and delve into the chaplaincy world, with numerous opportunities to see through a new perspective and become versatile ministers and chaplains in the future.
“The Master of Divinity is a very broad degree,” Crawford said. “So you’re not just taking just textual courses, you’re taking church history, you’re taking theology, and you’re taking ministry classes, which creates a well-rounded minister. It’s helpful for military chaplains to have a very broad-based degree because their environment is very diverse, and they will come in contact with all sorts of things.”
Learn more about ACU’s Graduate School of Theology.
— Connor Mullins
Nov. 10, 2023