An increasing number of Members in Discernment and clergy feel called to serve in specialized ministries: from spiritual direction to campus ministry, from hospice chaplaincy to pastoral counseling, from intentional interim ministry to CPE supervision, and many more. Explore further information about Specialized Ministry in Professional Organizations and Specialized Ministry in Government Organizations.
Within the broad range and varied titles of specialized ministries, “chaplaincy” denotes institutional ministry—ministry on behalf of the church but outside a traditional church setting—in places like hospitals, prisons, and the military services. Chaplains especially must demonstrate the ability to work well independently and to function in religiously and culturally pluralistic environments.
While the United Church of Christ affirms multiple paths to authorized ministry, it should be noted that organizations employing chaplains and specialized ministers often require a Master of Divinity degree from an accredited seminary, credits in Clinical Pastoral Education, and special training; they also may have requirements for age and physical condition.
Many (but not all) specialized ministry settings ask for Ecclesiastical Endorsement by a minister’s denomination. There is a distinction between “standing” as an authorized minister within the United Church of Christ and “eccleciastical endorsement” by the United Church of Christ. The granting of ministerial standing (ordination, commissioning or licensure) means that a person is deemed sufficiently prepared and equipped for ministry in and on behalf of the United Church of Christ. Ecclesiastical endorsement is verification by the denomination that an authorized minister is in good standing, has gained the necessary qualifying experience, is willing and capable of working collegially in a religiously and culturally plurastic setting without prejudice, understands that they are not to evangelize in a specialized ministry setting, and has the maturity to represent the United Church of Christ to the calling institution. Collected here are requirements and forms for Ecclesiastical Endorsement in both professional and government organizations; please note that not all employers require ecclesiastical endorsement.
Special Message: More UCC Chaplains Needed
The United Church of Christ currently has 46 clergy serving as chaplains in the military services. A generation ago, we had three times that many. The decrease can be attributed to a number of factors, including the denomination’s stance as a Just Peace church, fewer seminarians and clergy who can meet the age and physical requirements and, in the past, the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.
Other mainline Protestant denominations have experienced a similar decline in the number of chaplains provided to the military and other government agencies. This has led to a void that more conservative denominations have been ready and able to fill. This influence has not been benign. Women, gays and lesbians, persons from liberal or non-Christian backgrounds, and others have been negatively affected. And our national interests have also been jeopardized.
Recently there has been renewed interest in chaplaincy by UCC clergy and seminarians. If you or someone you know may be willing to consider a call to chaplaincy, please get in touch with the Minister for Chaplains and Specialized Ministers. For the good of service members and their families and for the good of our country, we need to ensure that our chaplains will continue to be there to serve them.