What Is An Ecclesiastical Endorsement?
by David B. Plummer
Rev. 2005 & 2010
As an ecclesiastical endorsing agent for over eighteen years, I regularly receive calls from prospective chaplains who ask for "credentials" so that they can become "full-fledged chaplains." They often call with a number of mistaken notions. Some have never heard of the term "endorsement." Some think that an ecclesiastical endorsement is the same as ordination or perhaps is like a letter of recommendation. Many also think that the process of endorsement is a simple, overnight process. In truth, few chaplains and even fewer pastors understand just what an ecclesiastical endorsement is and means.
What An Endorsement Is Not
An ecclesiastical endorsement is not a letter of recommendation. Anyone or any church can write a recommendation. Only recognized ecclesiastical endorsing agencies can legally endorse. An ecclesiastical endorsement is not ordination. Only a denomination, faith group, or church has the God-given authority to ordain. The Coalition of Spirit-filled Churches (CSC) respects and recognizes the autonomous authority of its member churches and fellowship groups to ordain their clergy. Subsequently, CSC will occasionally ordain prospective chaplains ONLY on the authority and at the request of the churches and fellowship groups that it represents. As such, a prospective chaplain DOES NOT have to leave their home congregation or join a particular church or denomination in order to be endorsed with The Coalition of Spirit-filled Churches. Rather, the most natural method of affiliation is for the ordaining church or fellowship to authorize the CSC to represent them for chaplaincy purposes. Please see "Joining The CSC."
What An Endorsement Is
An ecclesiastical endorsement is a legal document that states that an ordained minister is spiritually, doctrinally, educationally, and professionally qualified to represent his/her church or faith community in a specialized setting (beyond the local congregation) ministering to all in a religiously diverse context. Simply stated, an endorsement is the document that makes a "general" minister a very specialized one — a "chaplain."
What is the CSC's Application Process?
Before the CSC will endorse a minister, he/she must complete a very thorough application process. All ministers must document their basic background information, testimony (of salvation and neo-Pentecostal beliefs and experiences), education, and professional experience. The CSC generally requires no specific educational or professional ministry background beyond that which the prospective chaplain's institution requires. Nevertheless, the CSC desires that its professional chaplains have some form of clinical education in their educational process. Next, the CSC will conduct a criminal background check with a licensed private investigator as well as a spiritual background check with the minister's pastor, ministerial colleagues, and ordaining authorities. Professional chaplaincy applicants will be then interviewed in-person by a member or friend of the CSC organization. In addition to all of the above requirements, the prospective chaplain will be instructed that he/she must have a servant's heart and a willingness to minister to all people regardless of their ethnic, religious backgrounds, and moral values. This is quite a challenge to many clergy, but if a minister desires to be a chaplain he/she must agree, in writing, to be a servant to all, without discrimination.
If a prospective minister cannot genuinely and with authenticity make such a commitment, the minister needs to choose another ministry other than chaplaincy. It is a serious integrity issue – one that is sadly not uncommon in the pastoral care community today. And religious endorsing bodies which knowingly endorse such clergy are also guilty of this professional dishonesty and breeching professional ethics. And worse, there are a few religious endorsing bodies that practice "divine deception" (lying and deceiving to manipulate people towards God – or so the deceiver believes) and actually encourage their chaplains to lie about being pluralistic for the purposes of "winning" them for the Lord. Such organizations should not be allowed to endorse; and such chaplains, when discovered, should be discredited as a professional and removed from their office.
The Significance of An Endorsement
An endorsement is only good for a specific period of time, for a specific institution. Endorsement means that a minister is on temporary "loan" from their church to an organization. At almost any time, for a variety of reasons, a chaplain can have his/her endorsement withdrawn and the minister quickly becomes a "non-chaplain." Further, if the chaplain does not perform to the high standards of chaplaincy or is guilty of ethical breech or felonious activity, he/she is likely to find their endorsement non-renewed, if not "pulled" (prematurely terminated) for cause. Ultimately, endorsement links all chaplains to their ordaining churches and faith communities in matters of accountability and spiritual oversight. Thus, chaplains are continuously accountable to their sponsoring church, ordaining authority, the endorsing agency, and to the institution of which they are a part.
Since an endorsement is a very serious legal document, endorsing agencies are charged by God, the government, and various professional organizations to credential only their very finest clergy as chaplains. To date, there are over 150 federally-recognized endorsing agencies, representing all major religions, denominations, and faith groups.