June 15, 2010

Adventist Chaplaincy Ministries

Adventist Chaplaincy

Gary R. Councell, Director

capAdventist chaplains are experienced ministers with conference-issued credentials and advanced professional education. Chaplains serve the church in denominational hospitals and schools, and represent the church on public campuses, in community agencies, inside correctional institutions, within health-care facilities, to national defense forces and veterans, legislatures, and in the corporate workplace.

Clergy called to the chaplaincies, particularly in public arenas, must be ecclesiastically endorsed by a recognized faith before they can serve. Adventist Chaplaincy Ministries (ACM) is the official endorsing body for the Seventh-day Adventist Church. ACM envisions chaplains reaching the unreached for Jesus Christ and inviting them to become His disciples. ACM’s mission is to develop, promote, and support Adventist chaplaincies. To meet growing interest and numbers of chaplains in many countries, ACM established broader ecclesiastical endorsement procedures that enable the church’s world divisions to tailor processes to their regional requirements. Standards remain high, but relevant to national sovereignty, laws, and professional qualifications.

Chaplaincy ministry is more than a career or job. As an integral element of the whole Adventist ministry, Adventist chaplains make a significant contribution to “telling the world” about Jesus. Chaplains engage across the full continuum of evangelism: sowing, nurturing, and reaping. Their capable, competent, and caring outreach in  the greater community contributed to more than 5,000 baptisms during the past five years.

During the past quinquennium ACM maintained an accountable connection between chaplains and the church. Annual chaplain association training conferences were held at conference headquarters, denominational heritage sites, and on Adventist university campuses. ACM staff provided guidance, support, and training to 11 division ACM directors and hundreds of chaplains by conducting chaplaincy courses, training conferences, and seminars. In seven divisions, chaplains have entered the public arena of military defense, police forces, prisons, and schools. Hundreds more “chaplains” serve Adventist schools as Bible teachers and pastors in divisions outside North America.

After much prayerful study, the content about ACM in the GC and NAD Working Policies was rewritten to reflect a new strategic direction and become the basis for implementing transformation of the department. The new policies guide administration of chaplaincy ministries and outline some bold initiatives for overseeing professional preparation of chaplains. ACM produced a DVD about the chaplaincies entitled “The Calling,” which is available free from the GC ACM Department.

The various chaplaincies received a more proportional balance of emphasis, resourcing, and support. Community chaplaincies became international in scope and now include disaster response. Adventist chaplains entered new doors: serving at the Olympics, in an airport chapel, and the United States Senate.

Practicing the three “Cs” of communication, coordination, and collaboration, ACM joined other departments in supporting ministry to students attending public colleges and universities. ACM developed a pilot project of gift Student Bible Kits to link young adults to the church, started 17 Adventist Activities Associations, helped form and support Adventist Christian Fellowship, and advocated for a designated person to focus on student ministry.

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Gary R. Councell, director, and Mario Ceballos, associate director, of Adventist Chaplaincy Ministries

Thousands of Adventists serve in the militaries of their nations. Currently, Adventist chaplains minister in the militaries of eight nations as pastors for military personnel, family members, civilian contract workers, transient workers, refugees, and prisoners of war. They are involved in civic and humanitarian assistance actions. Adventist chaplains and dedicated lay-persons lead Sabbath services in 25 known Adventist Military Chapel Worship Groups (AMCWGs). ACM serves as their “conference church” and arranges chaplain coverage and sends Sabbath school and worship supplies to the AMCWGs along with other religious materials. Military chaplains also resolve accommodation of religious practice issues.

ACM directors quickly realized that the world political-military landscape had left three overseas National Service Organization (NSO) centers in Germany, Japan, and Korea under-utilized, but with increasing expenses. Ending decades of valued service, ACM closed the NSO centers, saving the Adventist Church more than $360,000 annually. To help members discern issues around military service, NSO produced a free DVD entitled Reality. NSO continues providing military members with devotional books, chaplain coverage, denominational journals, Military Bible Kits, religious literature, and retreats.

The General Conference ACM Department also serves as the NAD ACM Department. Three assistant ACM directors (field representatives) extend the reach of the office throughout NAD. In 2009 ACM upgraded its two newsletters, The Adventist Chaplain and For God and Country into professional, international magazines. To communicate with the world church better, ACM created and designed two new Web sites: GC—www.adventistchaplains.org and NAD—www.nad.adventistchaplains.org.

During the past five years more than 200 applicants were granted ecclesiastical endorsement to serve as chaplains, enabling their ministry when otherwise they would not have been employed. Chaplaincies open doors where the church can seldom enter. Chaplains’ “ministry of presence” gains the church credibility and positive community relations. They bring professional expertise and services to conferences and church members. They loyally support the church with their personal stewardship.

Donations and tithe from U.S. military Adventists account for one out of every six dollars expended by ACM. Chaplains who work in the public arena save the denomination more than US$25 million tithe dollars in salaries annually. Support for one chaplain in the public sector costs only 2 percent of the funds required to pay a full-time pastor or administrator employed by the denomination. In view of the great reach and scope of its activities, ACM saves the church more money than it costs.