By Gerald E. Martin
Many positions described by the title “chaplain” require ecclesiastical endorsement as a condition for employment. The scope of chaplaincy is broadening, and the endorsement services are increasingly used by employers as an essential element in the selection process. Without such a service for Christian churches and churches of Christ, our ministers could not enter important outreach opportunities such as the military, police, health, correctional, and counseling institutions.
In 1968, members of the churches gathered at the North American Christian Convention in Cincinnati approved a commission of 12 members to carry out this function. In 1969, the commission was recognized as the responsible agency for Christian churches and churches of Christ. Until March 1980, the commission was represented by the National Association of Evangelicals, which provided final endorsement based on the commission’s selections. In 1980 our commission acquired full status as endorser, recognition of the Armed Forces Chaplains Board, and independent membership in what is now the National Conference on Ministry to the Armed Forces, which meets annually in the Washington, D.C., area.
The Chaplaincy Endorsement Commission serves on behalf of the churches to examine academic qualifications, experience in ministry, and personal and professional attributes of applicants who desire employment in chaplaincy of various kinds with institutions requiring endorsement by representatives of a faith group. The mature judgment and consensus of the commission is focused on the selection of those most adequately prepared and capable of rendering any particular chaplain function. It also seeks to provide for administrative and pastoral support to those selected, who are representing New Testament churches and who are often separated from fellowship of their own faith and families as a consequence of their service in these special ministries.
To have a viable endorsing service requires competent personnel available at all times to serve the applicant, and the funding that is necessary to maintain the service. Endorsement processing is offered for a fee designed to cover part of the cost. Applying for and granting endorsement implies a recognition and acceptance of mutual obligations that are companions to the benefits of the relationship thereby established. The following is a brief outline of the essentials.
Each chaplain shall maintain the highest professional standards; continue educational and spiritual growth; and develop confidence and competence.
Each shall preserve fellowship with congregations and individuals constituting church family roots; participate as an associate or full member of a local congregation whenever and wherever possible; attend conventions, particularly the North American Christian Convention and the National Missionary Convention, when duty and location permits.
Each shall render uncompromising loyalty to the chaplain’s employing institution or military organization and supervisory personnel; demonstrate dedication in the exercise of a compassionate ministry so as to represent the quality, freedom, and flexibility inherent in nonsectarian, noncreedal, but biblical and Christian orientation of the polity of Christian churches and churches of Christ.
Each shall communicate current vital information and changes in status, location, and assignment; submit required reports and items of interest for the Chaplaincy Newsletter; and accept visits of representatives of the commission for the purpose of professional evaluation.
Responsibilities of the Commission, Its Agents and Officers
They shall provide endorsement services to qualified applicants as required by employing institutions.
They shall grant endorsement only to those who, in their careful judgment, will fairly represent the ministry of Christian churches and churches of Christ with regard to competence, character, compassion, and consecration.
They shall respond immediately upon receiving reports of a confidential, personal problem, with prompt action, care, and counsel; visit chaplains and their families, particularly those whose duties take them away from family and fellowship circles; communicate matters of concern and interest; and publish a newsletter for sharing information and experiences.
Conforming to practice and polity for extra congregational services, the commission strives to perform a needed service for and on behalf of the churches, their ministry and outreach. They shall participate in major conventions, inform interested persons about services rendered and available, and solicit funds for operations.
They shall practice careful stewardship of contributed money, promptly banking and receipting checks, submit annual financial reports, and include each contributor in the chaplain family newsletter, distributed three times yearly.
For further information you may contact email@example.com or log on to the CEC’s Web site at www.cec-chap.org.
Chaplain (Col.) Jerry Martin, U.S. Army (Retired) is executive director Chaplaincy Endorsement Commission.