Captain William “Kyle” Fauntleroy believes God called him to a ministry of military chaplaincy.
That call was so strong that even while at Brite Divinity School, Fauntleroy spent his summers working as a chaplain candidate aboard a Navy aircraft carrier and at a Marine base.
An ordained Disciples minister, Fauntleroy joined the Navy in 1987, and since then has ministered to men and women in uniform in places around the world.
On June 3, his many years of experience culminated in being named Commanding Officer of the Naval Chaplaincy School and Center (NCSC) at Ft. Jackson in Columbia, S.C. He will now oversee programming for the more than 1,500 chaplains and religious program specialists who are trained at the site for ministry within the Navy, Marines and Coast Guard.
“We have a unique position with the military in that we care for souls each day,” said Fauntleroy during a recent interview. “We understand that our jobs are different from most, since the people we live and work with each day are our congregation”.
Fauntleroy now leads a 26-person staff which provides training that helps chaplains facilitate, care and advise military personnel about religious and spiritual matters. Newly commissioned, senior chaplains and religious program specialists spend time at the school and center on coursework and exercises that facilitate a broad understanding of their work both as military personnel and as religious professionals.
“It’s very important that we teach our chaplains and religious professionals how to be spiritual guides and leaders in a world that is becoming increasingly diverse,” he said. “The Navy corps already includes chaplains that are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Buddhist.”
Fauntleroy has built an impressive background for his new leadership position. He most recently served as Senior Chaplain at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. Prior to that he was Executive Officer at the former Naval Chaplains School at Newport, R.I.
Born in Wichita Fall, Texas, Fauntleroy was raised in Los Angeles, Calif. He was commissioned as Ensign in the Navy’s Theological Student Program in 1985. After earning his M.Div. at Brite, and serving as an associate minister at Central Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Dallas, Texas, he reported to active duty with the Navy in 1987. He has served in California, Connecticut and Rhode Island in this country, as well as tours in Japan and Kuwait.
His personal awards include Meritorious Service Medal (three gold stars), Navy Marine Corps Commendation (three gold stars), and the Navy Marine Corps Achievement Medal (three gold stars).
But Fauntleroy says it is the support of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) that allows him to carry out ministry.
“Without the support of the church, from the smallest country church to the largest urban congregation, from local area ministry to the General Church, we as military chaplains cannot represent the love of God to those serving in harm’s way,” he said. “Even though we wear the nation’s uniform we still bear the cross of Christ. Without the church’s endorsement first, I would not be able to serve.”
Fauntleroy is appreciative of the work of the Chaplains and Specialized Ministries Office within Disciples Home Missions (DHM), where he is required to renew his endorsement each year. There are presently seven Disciples serving as chaplains in the Navy and one in the Naval Reserves. In total, about 65 Disciples ministers serve as military chaplains in various capacities, including active, reserves, National Guard, and the Civil Air Patrol.
“Because I wear a cross on my shoulder those I encounter know I’m a Christian,” said Fauntleroy. “My job is not to convert them, but to nurture them in their own religious faith, without losing the integrity of my own faith tradition.”
Several Disciples were present on June 3 to witness the ceremony naming Fauntleroy to his new position, including General Minister and President Sharon Watkins, DHM President Ron Degges, Steve Doan, Disciples Chaplain endorsement officer, Sotello Long, regional minister for South Carolina, Fauntleroy’s sister-in-law Dani Loving Cartwright, regional minister for the Southwest, and military chaplains Wayne Riggs and Mike Tarvin.
“The chaplaincy will be eternally grateful to Sharon Watkins, Ron Degges and the others who attended for taking the time, trouble and expense they took to come and participate in an important day in the life of one of our chaplains,” said Doan. “It is typical of the way they undergird our pastors and chaplains with prayers and actions.”
Fauntleroy has been married for 25 years to the former Laura Loving. His son Griffin, 20, is a junior at Texas Christian University. A daughter, Grace, 19, will enter the Art Institute of Charlotte in Charlotte N.C. this fall.
Written by: Wanda Bryant Wills, [email protected]