By David Lichter
The NACC’s mission is to advocate for and support the healing ministry of Jesus — but we cannot do it alone. A day does not go by when we are not working in partnership with others to fulfill that mission, sharing our unique gifts with those of other organizations to produce a greater whole.
Many of the articles in this issue of Vision elaborate on these partnerships. Some of them go back decades, but the 2007-2012 Strategic Plan had two goals that spoke of such partnership: Goal III was To Strengthen the NACC’s Relationships within the Church and Goal V was To Engage Strategic Partners in Collaborative Work to Live Out our Mission. These two goals were visualized almost as wings on bird:
In many respects, these collaborations were the wings that helped us get that Strategic Plan off the ground and soar. The priority on collaboration continued in the 2012-2017 Strategic Plan. The third of our four goals was To Enhance Advocacy Efforts with Strategic Partners in four areas: the bishops; other organizations within the Catholic Church; our cognate partners in chaplaincy; and other key professional organizations integral to advancing the profession of chaplaincy. The NACC Board and I have focused on enhancing these partnerships over these past five years. I write elsewhere in this issue about our Catholic collaborations, but I want to take this space to talk about our cognate partners and other groups.
The NACC is blessed with a long history of collaboration with our cognate group partners. Next year, 2018, will mark the 30th anniversary of the first-ever joint conference on pastoral care, Dialogue ’88, in Minneapolis, where COMISS Network: The Network on Ministry in Specialized Settings was formally incorporated. Six years later, Dialogue ’94, “A Call to Partnership,” was held.
The first decade of the 21st century was the decade of collaboration among the cognate associations, beginning in 2000 when NACC and APC held another joint conference in Charlotte, NC. In 2003, a joint conference of APC, CAPPE, NACC, and NAJC was held in Toronto. In 2004, the leaders of the cognate groups met in Portland, ME, to affirm the collaboratively prepared Common Standards. The following year, APC and NACC held another joint conference in Albuquerque, NM.
In 2007, the Council on Collaboration became the Spiritual Care Collaborative, and hosted the 2009 Spiritual Care Summit of over 1,800 participants in Orlando, FL.
The first years of the current decade were more challenging for collaboration among the cognate groups. Within two years of that 2009 summit, the Spiritual Care Collaborative was dissolved as an LLC. Collaboration was still needed, but we faced the internal question of which groups could be members and the collaborative challenge of how to react to the Affordable Care Act — which was not a concern for our Canadian colleagues in CASC or our pastoral counseling colleagues in AAPC. So, ironically, we dissolved the entity in order to continue to collaborate less formally.
I am especially grateful during these recent years for my frequent communication with Pat Appelhans, CEO of APC, and Trace Haythorn, executive director of ACPE; and for their desire to find ways to collaborate. In early 2015, ACPE and APC leaders invited NACC to work together on several areas that required better collaboration among us: consistency in teaching to and assessing the common standards; exploring demographic trends as they relate to the growing demand for certified chaplains and supervisors; and how to address the diversity of groups providing CPE and certification. One beneficial outcome was the commitment of ACPE, APC, NACC, and NAJC to develop a joint narrative document for the Common Qualifications and Competencies that would include the ACPE outcomes for each competency — a tool that will greatly help both CPE supervisors and certification candidates.
Also in 2015, we jointly revised the 2004 Common Standards for Chaplaincy Certification. It was a great collaboration among ACPE, APC, NAJC, CASC, and NACC. It was a remarkably efficient and effective collaboration that led to strong consensus on the changes. The recommendations were then reviewed and affirmed by the leadership of all the cognate partners. Bob Barnes wrote more about this process in his article in this Vision.
Mary T. O’Neill also writes about our ongoing collaboration among our cognate partners. Our other collaborative efforts include regular quarterly calls among our cognate board leaders and executives; attendance at one another’s national conferences; joint marketing strategies and materials; a joint leadership symposium in fall of 2017, a joint conference of NACC, APC, and NAJC in 2018; and a joint conference among NAJC, ACPE, APC, NACC, and possibly CASC in 2020. I would also point to our revising the 2001 White Paper on Professional Chaplaincy; our collaborative investment in the Transforming Chaplaincy research literacy project and co-funding their e-learning module on research literacy; and participating in APC’s Joint Research Council, which Kate Piderman writes about in this issue of Vision.
I would not try repeating that prior paragraph without taking a breath somewhere in the middle! Needless to say, a lot of collaboration among our cognate leaders is taking place!
Collaborating with The Joint Commission, to which Mary Lou O’Gorman has been our NACC representative, has been challenging yet promising. As you will read in Mary Lou’s 2016 annual report, about two years ago she, Pat Appelhans of APC, Darryl Owens (then APC President), and James Taylor (representing COMISS as well as ACPE) met with Joint Commission representatives in Chicago, and discussed the lack of attention to spiritual care in site accreditation, and the failure to recognize the qualifications of the board-certified chaplain. Over the past couple of years that group above, along with Trace Haythorn of ACPE and I, have continued to speak with Dr. Anne Bauer of The Joint Commission on these topics. While progress has been slow, our collaborative work with APC, ACPE, and COMISS representatives has been consistent and persistent to have one voice on spiritual care.
Another important organization is HealthCare Chaplaincy Network. Over the years, HCCN has provided helpful education programs, helped advance research on spiritual care within healthcare, and supported advocacy efforts in Washington on behalf of chaplaincy, seeking to establish spiritual care as a billable service. Their annual conference offers a unique educational opportunity with workshops from a multi-disciplinary perspective. These are all valuable contributions to the profession of chaplaincy. HCCN is an important organization in the healthcare chaplaincy world, and despite some recent difficulties, we will attempt to find a way to collaborate in order for our organizations to be successful.
While the NACC mission, vision, and values do not mention collaboration, it has been at the core of our strategic efforts over the years. Our most recent NACC brochure has as its main line, “Your Partner in the Chaplaincy Profession.” Perhaps that is the best way of presenting ourselves — the preferred partner in every collaboration.