“Faith on the Front Lines”

Masters of Sacred Theology Program for Military Chaplains

It may seem unusual, if not, problematic, to offer a program for military chaplains in connection with the Religion and Conflict Transformation program. We recognize, in Parker Palmer’s words, that we are living in the “tragic gap” between the reality of the present moment and the possibility that something new might emerge. The global realities of war and America’s military presence in the world place us, as theological educators in North America, precisely in this gap.  Military chaplains play an increasingly complex and critical role in caring for military personnel and their families, providing faith resources within a multi-faith setting. We believe that a university-based theological school is an ideal setting to address issues of war and peacemaking, justice and violence, religious identity and national identity. We are committed to these tension-filled conversations, believing that addressing these tensions are critical first steps to a just world.

As a military chaplain, understanding trauma from an interdisciplinary perspective is a value added requirement for effective ministry in our highly deployable ministry. The ongoing combat operations make this kind of training urgent and relevant. I appreciated the academic and pastoral effort made toward understanding the neuro-biology and the science of trauma and how theology intersects with this complicated sphere of God’s handiwork among us as human beings.
– U.S. Air Force Ch. Maj. Daniel Karanja, alumnus

Although the challenges I have faced as a Navy chaplain have been quite unpredictable, one constant has remained: the need to be a peace-builder in a diverse and sometimes chaotic and dangerous environment. I have, as part of my work, had to look into the eyes of those our nation calls enemies. I have also been charged with helping our nation’s warriors maintain their humanity and their morality in the midst of war. I chose the concentration in Religion and Conflict Transformation because it directly addressed my desire to be a better-equipped peacebuilder. Today, I am putting those skills to good use as the chaplain of the USS New York LPD 21, the bow of which contains steel from the World Trade Center. I have no idea where we will sail, but I am certain that whatever the future holds, my ability to provide ministry will be greatly enhanced by what I learned at BU.
-U.S. Navy Ch. Lt. Cmdr. Laura Jane Bender, alumna


The Master of Sacred Theology program is designed for military chaplains who are seeking a year of advanced coursework in theological studies. The program provides critical theological reflection on pressing issues confronting military chaplains: trauma healing, conflict transformation, interfaith ministry, spiritual formation, ethics, and leadership.

As a theological school located within the context of a research university, Boston University School of Theology is partnering with the wider university to provide chaplains with coursework that strengthens their skills and capacities to respond to the complex realities of military service, war, and post-war transitions. The coursework is also designed to assist chaplains in exploring vocation and personal practices of faith in a multicultural and multi-faith setting.


We recognize your need for practical training that will make a difference in your ministry and in the lives of those you serve. Through the Master of Sacred Theology program, you can specialize in academic areas that will have both immediate and lasting impact on your ministry.

Specialization in Religion and Conflict Transformation

This specialization provides the theology, theory, and practice of faith-based conflict transformation in order to prepare chaplains to become a resource for peace in a multi-cultural, multi-faith world.  See the Religion and Conflict Transformation website for more information (www.bu.edu/rct).

Specialization in Trauma Healing

This specialization provides chaplains with critical theological and therapeutic resources for addressing the realities of violence, suffering, and trauma within military contexts.

Other specializations can be developed in consultation with faculty in areas of interest. These areas include: ethics, leadership, spirituality, liturgy, and worship.

Plans of Study

The Master of Sacred Theology (STM) is a 32-credit program, which is typically done over the course of one academic year.

Religion and Conflict Transformation core course (4 cr)
Integrative Seminar – taken in final semester (4 cr)
Two additional core electives (chosen from pre-approved list) (8 cr)
Directed Study Thesis (4 cr)
Three elective courses (12 cr)

Theology and Trauma core course (4 cr)
Course in Spirituality (4 cr)
Course in Religion and Conflict Transformation (4 cr) (choose from list of core classes and electives)
Directed Study Thesis (4 cr)
One trauma-related course in another unit of Boston University (4 cr)
Three elective courses (12 cr)

Four courses in the specialization area, or four courses in areas prescribed by the military (16 cr)
Directed Study Thesis (4 cr)
Three free electives (12 cr)

“Theology and Trauma” – Shelly Rambo, Assistant Professor of Theology

“Spiritual Formation for Peacebuilders” – Mary Elizabeth Moore, Dean of the School of Theology, Professor of Theology and Education

“International Conflict and Ministry of Reconciliation” and “Engaging Conflict Well” – Tom Porter and Rodney Petersen, Lecturers in Religion and Conflict Transformation

“Wars of the 20th and the 21st Centuries” and “Ideas and American Foreign Policy” – Andrew J. Bacevich, Professor of International Relations, College of Arts and Sciences

“Clinical Practice and Trauma” – Ellen DeVoe, Associate Professor of Clinical Practice, School of Social Work

“Leadership in Times of Change” – Susan W. Hassinger, Bishop in Residence at the School of Theology

“World Religions and Global Development” – Liz C. Parsons, Lecturer in Mission Studies and Global Development

“Evangelism in Contemporary Cultures” – Bryan P. Stone, Associate Dean of Academics and E. Stanley Jones Professor of Evangelism

“Pastoral Offices” – Karen Westerfield Tucker, Professor of Worship

Partnering with the Boston Theological Institute

The School of Theology’s membership in the Boston Theological Institute (BTI) provides its students cross-registration and library privileges at each of the BTI’s eight member seminaries, at no additional cost to the student.  This means that, in addition to the resources of the School of Theology and wider Boston University, students are able to take a limited number of courses through these BTI seminaries.

Featured Courses for the STM for Military Chaplains Include:

Andover Newton Theological Seminary

ETHI 742S – Christian Approaches to the Use of Force: Pacifism, Realism, and Just War Theory

PSYF 762 – Spiritual Practices for Healing and Wholeness

Boston College

TH 619 – Suffering: Comparative Theologies

TH 563 – Ethics, Religion, and International Politics

TM 503 – Grief and Loss

Episcopal Divinity School

PT 2323 – Spirituality of Healing

PT 2288 – Creativity, Change, and Conflict

Harvard Divinity School

HDS 2989 – God, Human Suffering, and the Minister

HDS 3101 – Introduction to Comparative Theology and Theology of Religions

Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary

WM 624 – Christian Faith in the World of Violence and Clashing Civilizations

PC 717 – Counseling in Abuse and Domestic Violence

Holy Cross Theological Seminary

PAST 6601 – Grief, Death and Dying

PAST 7112 – Addiction and Spirituality


Recent article about School of Theology and School of Social Work partnership on Trauma Response for military chaplains.

“In Harm’s Way” – BU Research Magazine 2009

Recent article from the United Methodist Church website featuring Dr. Shelly Rambo’s research on integrating theology and trauma.