I’ve written before about ecclesiastical endorsement in the Episcopal Church. I have been through our process, and I have been watching the process now for going on 40 years. Over that time, some things have changed; and some things haven’t; and AEHC has been in the midst of it for almost all our 70 years.
In my last post I recalled how endorsement had gone from the individual bishop to AEHC, then the Office of the Bishop of Federal Chaplaincies. After that it went to the office of Mission. With that history in mind, let me clarify how the process works now. (And attached I have provided a flowchart.)
Once upon a time, it was individual bishops who endorsed for healthcare ministry. Now, it continues to be individual bishops who endorse for healthcare ministry. Yes, there is a process, but if an Episcopalian feels called specifically to healthcare ministry the first step is to be sure to have met with the bishop. This is true whether or not the prospective chaplain feels called to ordination or is pursuing certification. Healthcare chaplaincy is recognized as a specialized ministry and the Episcopal Church can endorse persons in any of the four orders for ministry. So, first be sure to connect to the bishop.
As referenced, for many of us the interest in ecclesiastical endorsement began in the pursuit of board certification. It is still required for the largest chaplain organizations (and I would encourage it for whether seeking certification or not). If you are pursuing certification, the next step is completing the form on line here. At this time this will be received by the Rev. Margaret Rose, Ecumenical and Interreligious Deputy to the Presiding Bishop, and our Endorsing Officer; and processed by Ann Hercules, Associate for Ministry Beyond the Episcopal Church. Note that the persons have changed at times, but the process has actually been stable for some time.
Note, too, when you look at the form, there is a requirement to affirm that you are up to date with the Church’s education on preventing and recognizing sexual abuse and ministry misconduct. This is normative for many ministries in the Episcopal Church, ordained and lay, paid and volunteer. Your diocesan office can help you get what you need.
Once the form is received, the Endorsing Office will reach out to the relevant bishop, asking if the bishop can endorse this applicant specifically for healthcare ministry (remember what I said to do first?). She or he will send the endorsement to the Office. Once received Margaret will send letters of endorsement to the endorsed chaplain and to the certifying body, with a copy to the bishop and a copy for the records.
Some have looked at the application and noted that it asks about certifying bodies. There has been concern that a person can only be endorsed if pursuing certification. Others have wondered whether chaplains not seeking certification are required to pursue endorsement. In fact, while many chaplaincy positions require certification, that’s not universal. However, I strongly believe every Episcopalian providing professional healthcare ministry should seek endorsement. For the reasons I have written before, I believe endorsement serves the Church, serves the chaplain, and serves the persons to whom the chaplain ministers. A person not seeking certification can be endorsed. Endorsement in that case, though, need not involve the form or the Endorsing Office. The chaplain can simply request and receive that directly from the bishop.
There is one further consideration. As noted the Episcopal Church will endorse persons in all four orders of ministry. However, if a lay person is endorsed, it is required that the endorsed chaplain arrange for a public service of commissioning. This both publically acknowledges the chaplain’s specialized ministry, and also the chaplain’s recognition of the authority of the Episcopal Church for that person’s ministry. Certifying bodies used to require this of all endorsed and certified lay chaplains. Because of the breadth of faith communities now involved in chaplaincy, the certifying bodies no longer require it. However, the Episcopal Church expects it, whether the endorsement is processed through the Endorsing Office or directly with the bishop.
Now, once endorsed, do you ever need to do it again? Really, that depends. Are you in a certifying body that requires periodic peer review or a similar significant review of the ministry? For example, APC requires that every five years. The Endorsing Office would like you to renew your endorsement at that point, including the Church’s abuse prevention training.
It would also be appropriate to renew endorsement if a job change takes you to a new diocese. You would in any case want to meet with the new bishop, and would likely need to meet the expectations of that diocese for abuse prevention training. It would be appropriate at that point to renew endorsement. The process would be the same: either to resubmit the application through the Endorsing Office or to work directly with the bishop.
So, that is the process. Again, check the flowchart below. I have tried in it to concisely describe the steps of the process. Margaret Rose has also reviewed it, and approved it. We hope, then, that this description and the attached flowchart make the endorsement process clear. And, always feel free to reach out to AEHC colleagues for help.
As I work on my post about how endorsement happens these days in the Episcopal Church, I rediscovered this paper. This was written in 2009, after the General Convention in Anaheim. Written in preparation for Bishop George Packard's retirement as Bishop of Federal Chaplaincies, it described how we came to work with Bishop Packard and his predecessors in the endorsement process. I thought it could be helpful to have some sense where we've been when we talk about where we are now.
A Concise History: The Relationship of AEHC and the Office of the Bishop of Federal Chaplaincies
The roots of this relationship are in issues of endorsement for certification in our various professional organizations. In our polity in the Episcopal Church, endorsement came from our diocesan bishops. A bishop might delegate that to a canon or archdeacon. He (and at this point by and large it was always “he”) might choose to apply the same standards for endorsement for health ministries that he applied to military chaplains, and so only endorsing priests. He might have specific standards for endorsement, or none at all. To paraphrase Scripture, “everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”
This was a difficulty for the endorsing bodies, such as ACPE or the College of Chaplains (now incorporated into APC). There was no standardization of what “endorsement” might mean in the Episcopal Church, nor how it was obtained. They hoped for what they had in other endorsing faith communities: a single process overseen by a single office with authority from the community’s official structures.
In the late 1980’s under the leadership of Linda Smith-Criddle, AEHC approached Presiding Bishop Edmund Browning and asked for assistance in this difficulty. Linda was able to speak to a meeting of the House of Bishops and raise the problem. Bishop Browning subsequently asked Bishop Hopkins, then his Assistant for Pastoral Care, to become our contact with the House of Bishops. Linda also offered on behalf of AEHC that AEHC serve as the “office of record” for endorsements. They would still be obtained from individual diocesan bishops, but AEHC developed a process and provided a contact point. It offered a single process and a single point. However, it still had no real authority from 815.
After several years, Bishop Hopkins asked to have the role as our advocate transferred. Bishop Browning asked the Bishop of the Armed Forces, Bishop Charlie Keyser to take this over. Bishop Keyser was very willing and very hospitable to health care chaplains and health care issues. At that point (I believe Razz Waff was President of AEHC), AEHC also asked Bishop Keyser to make his office the office of record for endorsements. The decision was logical: the office was already familiar with administering the process of endorsement for military chaplains, and in most religious endorsing bodies it was already the case that both endorsements were coming from the same office. Indeed, the list of military endorsement officers was the list that the College and ACPE were using to verify endorsing officers for health care. It was also the case that, when a bishop was having difficulty or being difficult about health care endorsement, a call from another bishop was often more effective than a call from AEHC’s endorsing officer. Finally, in those days there was a good deal of concern about clergy misconduct and clergy liability. AEHC’s officers were concerned that as the endorsing agency, AEHC would incur liability if an endorsed chaplain were to be guilty of misconduct – liability that the national Church would be able to bear better than a membership organization within it.
So, the relationship was established. For military and federal chaplains, the Bishop of the Armed Forces (known now, after several changes, as the Bishop of Federal Chaplaincies) had certain defined canonical responsibilities, and the chaplains had clear accountability. For others, including health care, corrections, and first-responder chaplains, the Bishop was an advocate and support, and the endorsing officer (although that title was usually with an Assistant for Health Care), while canonical accountabilities and responsibilties were between the chaplain and his or her diocesan bishop (and thus a reference to us as “diocesan chaplains” as opposed to “federal chaplains”).
When Bishop Packard became Bishop of the Armed Forces, he was happy to have the opportunity to advocate for health care chaplains in the House of Bishops and to oversee our endorsement process. At the same time, he hadn’t been long in his position when the United States was attacked in 9/11. Bishop Griswold gave Bishop Packard responsibility for disaster preparedness, in addition to his other duties. With the help of our own Mike Stewart, who worked in the Office for a while, he helped dioceses make their preparations. In addition, the responsibilities for military chaplains grew as the nation entered into war. First there was Afghanistan, and then Iraq. Then hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma added to his responsibilities in disaster response. Since these were for him canonical responsibilities and responsibilities directed to Bishop Packard by the Presiding Bishop, he gave them the time necessary. He could do so, even if it meant less time for health care issues, because we as chaplains were really responsible to our diocesan bishops. He was bishop for military and federal chaplains, with disaster responsibilities added. Our bishops were our respective diocesan bishops. He did continue to maintain the endorsement process, but was not available for much else, however willing he might be.
Now Bishop Packard is preparing to retire, even as Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori is reorganizing the offices of the national Church. One of those changes has been to distribute offices and leadership out of New York, including an expanded office in Washington. In that light, it makes sense for the Office of the Bishop of Federal Chaplaincies to move to Washington, closer to the center of those ministries. She also decided that health care issues would remain with the Mission Center in New York, with a new person in staff support. The person most likely to have those responsibilities when decisions are finalized after General Convention, is the Rev. Margaret Rose. Some AEHC officers met her last fall. The Rev. Bill Scrivener, President of ACPE and member of AEHC, and I had the opportunity to sit with her here in Anaheim for more than an hour. I feel comfortable that she sees the importance in maintaining the endorsement process with as little change as is necessary. It helps that Terry Foster, who handles that paperwork, is not moving to Washington. We will still have a single endorsement process, overseen by a single office; and if a phone call to a bishop is necessary it will come from a member of the Presiding Bishop’s staff, if not from another bishop.
It has been good working with Bishop Packard. While he has only been “our” bishop in a very limited sense, he has given us as much time and support as he could in light of his other responsibilities; and has always shown us clear enthusiasm and encouragement. We will miss him, even as we trust we will still have clear and strong support from officers at 815.
So, since this was written some things have changed, but the process largely has not. That said, there are some comments to be made, and they will be in the next post.