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. Note that this post is also available at Chaplair, the blog of the Assembly of Episcopal Healthcare Chaplains.
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.