Chaplain (Col.) Matt Woodbery: “The interfaith dialogue is really what brought me here. ... I wanted to explore how to learn about other faiths as a Christian minister and, in my context as a military chaplain, be more effective in assisting my commanders."
Chaplain (Col.) Matt Woodbery has served in the United States Army for nearly 30 years. In 2009, he knew he was at a point in his career when he was ready to explore something new. While discerning between pursuing a PhD or a Doctor of Ministry, Woodbery was attracted to Wesley’s emphasis on the practical application of the degree to his ministry as a chaplain. He graduated in 2012 with a Doctor of Ministry in Ecumenism and Interfaith Dialogue.
At the time Woodbery applied to the program, the military chaplaincy was wrestling with how to best serve as a liaison between local religious leaders in Afghanistan and Iraq and U.S. military commanders. The “Ecumenism and Interfaith Dialogue” track at Wesley was a great fit.
“The interfaith dialogue is really what brought me here,” Woodbery said. “I wanted to explore how to learn about other faiths as a Christian minister and, in my context as a military chaplain, be more effective in assisting my commanders. And I wanted to carry that back to my fellow chaplains as we tried to figure out ways to train and equip our chaplains and chaplain assistants to be more effective on the battlefield.”
Woodbery is responsible for training 35 military chaplains, representing more than 15 different denominations. His experiences in Wesley’s Doctor of Ministry program are key to how he works ecumenically with the chaplains he trains and mentors. He is also a key advocate for the “Military Chaplaincy” track at Wesley and recruits other chaplains to enroll.
“The curriculum for the Military Chaplaincy track has successfully brought together not only the theological exploration of the question of ministry and questions about a person’s pastoral identity, but also provides opportunities to explore the context in terms of being here in Washington, D.C.”
Guest speakers who are brought into courses in the Military Chaplaincy track provide a unique opportunity for students. Not only can students engage with senior military leaders about issues of military policy, but also as people of faith to explore where these leaders see the role of the military chaplain, Woodbery said.
To someone considering applying to Wesley’s Doctor of Ministry program, Woodbery emphasizes the excellence of Wesley’s faculty.
“The faculty here are second to none,” he said. “They are a phenomenal group of Christian academics and scholars who have in their heart what it means to be a practicing Christian, and also understand the joys and burdens of what it is to be an ordained clergyperson set apart for ministry today.”
Woodbery’s experiences throughout his career as an Army chaplain provide insight into who would be well-suited for the Military Chaplaincy track at Wesley.
“An ideal candidate would be someone who’s been in the Army for 10-15 years,” Woodbery said. “That’s when they’re moving into middle management in the military and they’ve mastered the fundamentals. They may be thinking through the next levels of their pastoral identity. Now they are entering places of middle management and supervision where they will now advise, supervise, coach, teach and mentor new chaplains. So at this time, I think this body of study will assist them in refining how best to coach or mentor folks coming behind them, and be better advisors to those senior level leaders who they will be assigned to care for and work with.
Wesley Theological Seminary is currently supporting 45 active duty and reserve military chaplains in our Doctor of Ministry program. 100% of the tuition for this program is provided by churches and donors. If you, your church or your fellowship group would like to specifically support the on-going education of those who are dedicated to the faith support of our armed service families contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-885-8630.