The Assembly of Episcopal Healthcare Chaplains held its 2021 meeting on line on June 10, 2021. While soon not only full minutes but a full recording of the meeting will be available, there are some notes that we can share.
First, congratulations to Sheryl Black who was confirmed today as the new President of AEHC. She has served for two years as President-elect, and her new position was confirmed by vote of those who joined on line.
Congratulations also to Mark Jeske of Saint Luke’s Hospital of Kansas City who was elected as Secretary of AEHC.
I would note that we did not elect a President-elect at this meeting. The officers will be reaching out for a person willing to serve. We hope to hear more about that soon.
Andrew Peterson, AEHC Treasurer, provided a financial report from the time when he was elected. That information will be shared separately.
The Rev. Margaret Rose, Deputy for Ecumenical and Interfaith Collaboration and Endorsing Officer for the Episcopal Church, participated in the meeting with us. Her office is responsible for the Endorsement process for the Episcopal Church. She now advises that if you are applying for certification, submit your application for endorsement within three months of submitting your papers for certification. If you have followed the advice to first have a relationship with your bishop, the endorsement process will go smoothly and quickly, and you should be able to get through the certification process without having to submit for endorsement again.
The meeting was held in conjunction with the on line Annual Conference of the Association of Professional Chaplains. We appreciate the support of APC who worked with AEHC officers and made the Zoom meeting available to AEHC members who had not registered for the APC meeting.
Below is the 2021 Financial Report submitted by Andrew Peterson, AEHC Treasurer. The report provides information beginning when he assumed office in 2019. Note that AEHC has stopped accepting credit card payments for the time being due to the high fees noted in the report.
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.
As I prepare to write about the current process for ecclesiastical endorsement in the Episcopal Church, I thought I would reflect on the value of endorsement itself. That's all the more important because things have changed in professional chaplaincy in the last few years. As a place to start, I looked back at the article below. It was written by Rod Pierce and myself and published in Chaplair in November 1999. When I write about the process I'll make some additional comments about the current situation; but while I work on that, please enjoy this reflection from twenty years ago.
This post is being posted here, and also on my personal blog, Episcopal Chaplain o the High Ground. However, I hope that comments will be left here, to allow conversation among members and friends of AEHC and Episcopal Chaplains.
Twelve years ago I posted on my own blog , “To Become an Episcopal Chaplain.” All these years later, it is the most viewed of any of my more than 800 posts. I will be revising that post, as I have done in the past. However, as I prepare to bring that up to date, I wonder if it’s not worth asking a slightly different question: who is an Episcopal chaplain?
I want to think about this for several reasons. One is that the healthcare industry has changed a great deal over my career. When I was President of AEHC I received several calls with the same question (including one from an office in the Episcopal Church Center): how many Episcopal hospitals are there? But, the question at the time was based on the assumption that most care, or at least most chaplains, was associated with hospitals. One thing I can confidently assert, though: there are fewer hospitals than at the beginning of my career. At the same time, there are more places chaplains are working. For some time, the fastest growing arena of healthcare has been hospice, the one corner of the healthcare industry that requires some form of chaplaincy. While I don’t have specific statistics, I also have a sense that there are more retirement communities and long term care facilities; and any associated with the Episcopal Church will have some provision for spiritual care.
That leads me then, too, to think about the future of AEHC. AEHC in one sense also started with that assumption. Indeed, our original title was the Assembly of Episcopal Hospitals and Chaplains. (We did recognize that the number of hospitals was shrinking. That’s why we changed the name.) If we are to serve the Episcopal Church, and to serve chaplains in the Episcopal Church, we need to consider how we will reach out colleagues in many different venues.
That also means thinking about how we communicate and reach beyond our certifying bodies. I first became part of the College of Chaplains, one predecessor of APC, more than 30 years ago, and I believe strongly in the value of certification. The annual meetings of our certifying bodies have also made it easy for Episcopalians to gather. That challenges us with two opportunities. The first is to reach out to those who are not certified, and whose positions aren’t going to press them for certification. The second is to demonstrate the value of certification and to support and mentor those Episcopalians who pursue it.
So, who is an Episcopal healthcare chaplain? The answer is certainly not a matter of order of ministry. Happily, the Episcopal Church can endorse a person in any order of ministry – any of the four – who demonstrates a call to ministry in healthcare. Nor, really, is it a matter of venue. If the venue is focused on healthcare, a chaplain there is a healthcare chaplain.
That does, though, press us to think about how much healthcare focus we would want to require. There is no question that the care of souls in a parish or a school or a university setting does involve caring for folks with health issues. However, chaplaincy is a matter of focus. Pastoral care of the sick engages the sick person and immediate community. The Chaplain does so, and also engages the institution and in some meaningful sense integrates with the staff and administration. So, I would insist that the chaplain is serving all patients or clients, and not only Episcopalians. That may not mean that the chaplaincy is paid, or is central to the income of the chaplain. I’m aware of more than one Episcopal long term care facility served by a parish Associate. That Associate participates in leadership, provides an on call response, and serves all residents. The associate is paid through the parish, but functions as a professional chaplain in care of that long term care facility. Another venue to consider is pastoral counseling, Any parish cleric will provide some pastoral counseling; but the professional pastoral counselor is focused on the wider community, and not an individual congregation. These are examples to help us distinguish the healthcare chaplain from the school chaplain, the correctional chaplain, or the military chaplain. (I would note, for example, that the Association of Professional Chaplains will consider unpaid work toward required hours for certification, but the functions must be those of a chaplain.)
Is an Episcopal chaplain endorsed for healthcare ministry? I am a strong advocate of endorsement, and will be writing more about the current status of endorsement. However, there is a lack of information about endorsement, especially among the bishops. That’s a problem, because we’re an Episcopal church, and endorsements are provided by bishops. We have an Endorsing Officer, and an Office of Record to communicate endorsement to the certifying bodies; but the endorsement itself (or the critical confirmation of it) comes from the diocesan bishop. Bishops can also endorse persons for healthcare ministry who are not interested in being certified. While I would very much want to see all chaplains endorsed, I don’t think our recognition of them should wait.
Should we have educational expectations of an Episcopal chaplain? This is an interesting question, with some interesting ramifications. Our current endorsement process only requires that the individual meet the diocesan bishop, and that the bishop feel the person has a vocation for healthcare ministry. I have often observed that in at least this we are virtually pentecostal. Other communions are more rigorous, to the point that one must have completed all paperwork toward certification before requesting endorsement. To some extent, we are better preparing professionals for healthcare work. All our seminaries integrate clinical pastoral education (CPR) into their programs; and many dioceses require or encourage CPE for ordinands who are alternatively educated. On the other hand, these may not be requirements for jobs. While Medicare will not reimburse for hospice care without a chaplain on the team, Medicare takes no position about the qualifications of the chaplain. Also, not only do we endorse lay persons without specifying an educational track, but many dioceses have most if not all ordinands in alternative programs for education that will not integrate CPE. This, like endorsement, can only be addressed with our bishops; and I don’t want to require AEHC to wait to engage such chaplains.
And, for all my enthusiasm to engage those working in healthcare chaplaincy, regardless of how they got there, I want to see us strongly encourage education and endorsement. In one sense, if one is to call oneself an Episcopal chaplain, one must also recognize that those outside the Church will expect a reflection of the Church. Sooner or later, the question is will arise, “What does the Episcopal Church say about…?” An Episcopal chaplain must at least be competent in not only the words but also the faith of the Book of Common Prayer. An Episcopal chaplain must have some sense of what the General Convention has said regarding engagement in the larger community. This is what education can form, and endorsement can confirm. I don’t think that requires a seminary education; but perhaps the same canonical expectations should apply. I don’t know that it requires CPE, but I don’t know of many comparable programs to help a minister understand himself or herself in the practice of spiritual care.
So, these are my first thoughts on the question, “Who is an Episcopal Chaplain.” I would hope we can have an interesting and a helpful conversation on this. I think it would be something to offer to the Church, and something to help shape the continuing mission of AEHC.
Our preacher, Sheryl Black, has had requests for a copy of her sermon, and we're happy to share it here.
Let anyone with ears to hear listen!
Listening, and actually hearing, is probably the foundation of what we do as chaplains, no matter our setting, and I read recently that the Chinese character for listening includes the roots for eyes, ears, heart, you, and undivided attention. That sounds a lot like God in our psalm, God who answers when we seek, one who delivers from terror, God who hears when we call, God whose ears are open to the cries of God’s people. God, who chooses to be fully involved with humanity. And as chaplains I see our roles as priests, intermediaries, and, yes, even midwives assisting those in our care – by listening.
As I was reflecting on this homily, I read Bishop Steven Charleston’s post about listening on Facebook. He wrote that
"Listening is such an important spiritual practice, but perhaps hearing is even more critical. There is a difference. We can listen to others when they talk and never hear a thing. Hearing what someone is trying to tell us, even if it means listening between the lines of what they are saying, is a great skill and one that requires a deep level of empathy. Hearing is understanding. It is that moment when we enter into another person's reality. This level of trust and intimacy must be treated with great care. If we are not trained counselors we need to know our own limitations, but simply hearing what we are being told is a profound gift we all have to share."
Listening to those in our charge plants us firmly us on sacred ground, sharing holy moments of encounter with another child of God, created in God’s image. To listen is to be fully present, giving our whole attention to the Other. In his book Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote that “The first service that one owes to others . . . consists in listening to them. Just as love to God begins with listening to His Word, so the beginning of love for the brethren is learning to listen to them. It is God’s love for us that He not only gives us His word but also lends us His ear.” And in our hyped up and hurried world, to be truly heard is a rare commodity. In my hospital setting, there are very few disciplines who even have the time to listen – and that’s why there are chaplains. That’s why there is pastoral care. That’s our calling: to listen, to hear, to care. We are servants of the divine, listeners with the job of being attentive to God, with and for the sake of another. While our Episcopal tradition is rich in sign and symbol, church leaders don’t always do well in practice. That leaves much ministry to us: to listen to deepest yearnings and needs, to help others read the signposts that may bring them closer to God, or at least to value the deepest divinity in each person.
When I was in seminary, I had no idea that I would end up as a chaplain; however when I did my first unit of CPE at Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh, I felt like this was “real ministry” – being with people where the rubber hits the road, people who are often in the midst of the worst thing in their lives, and being able to listen to their stories, to care for them, and, perhaps, offer hope. It was truly eye-opening! For you newly board certified members, and I was in your shoes just 4 years ago – I hope you have spent time in CPE learning to listen. And I don’t think we can ever stop learning, improving our skills, re-filling our tool box. We learn to listen for the real message hidden behind the words people use as they struggle perhaps with a new diagnosis, or a word like Cancer, or with dying, grief, and loss. We are called to listen -- and even more to hear and bear witness, to validate the other. Sometimes, we bring love, sometimes we bring hope. We show God’s love by listening with our entire being – fully present and attending to the patient.
It took me a while to figure out that I don’t have to have answers – and it’s honestly best if I don’t. I have 2 ears and one mouth for a reason! “Why” is not a search for answers, but a cry of pain or protest. People don’t want an answer, they want to be heard, supported, loved. Henri Nouwen wrote that “Listening is a very active and extremely alert form of caring.” He says, “Healing is the humble, but, also, very demanding task of creating and offering a friendly, empty space where strangers can reflect on their pain and suffering, without fear, and find the confidence that makes them look for new ways right in the centre of their confusion.”
Listening – to God, to ourselves, to hurting people – is a high calling! Zen Buddhist teacher Joan Halifax (book Gifts of the Spirit) said, “Listening means that we have stabilized our minds so completely that the person who is speaking can actually hear themselves through our stillness. It is a quality of radiant listening, of luminous listening, of vibrant listening, but it is also very still It is listening with attention, with openheartedness, without prejudice. We listen with our being. We offer our whole listening body”. Like that Chinese character, we engage our eyes, ears, heart, self, and our undivided attention. Fully mindful, fully present.
Pay attention to what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you.
The Very Rev. Sherry Black, MDiv, BCC, is Chaplain and Spiritual Care Manager
Welcome to Chaplair! Chaplair is the blog page of the Assembly of Episcopal Healthcare Chaplains (AEHC).
For many years Chaplair was the newsletter of the Assembly. We shared our stories and our concerns. So, when it was decided to add a blog page to our web site, the name seemed obvious.
What will we see here? Some members of the Assembly write, and this can be a place to share thoughts and comments on chaplaincy, the Episcopal Church, and chaplaincy in the Episcopal Church. We will also share historical pieces, whether comments from past members or articles from print editions of the Chaplair newsletter. If you have thoughts about how the blog can be used, share that information with members of the Executive Committee, or with me, your faithful Web/Net Chair.
All in all, this is another way we can share information and work with one another. I look forward to seeing the things we have to offer one another.