By David A. Lichter
As many of you might remember, on Nov. 7, 2004, in Portland, ME, six pastoral care organizations met, affirmed, and committed to four foundational documents:
A link to these documents can be found here on the NACC website.
Collectively, these documents established a unified voice for the six organizations that affirmed and committed to them: Association for Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE), Association of Professional Chaplains (APC), Canadian Association of Spiritual Care (CASC, then CAPPE/ACPEP), National Association of Catholic Chaplains (NACC), Neshama: Association of Jewish Chaplains (NAJC, then National Association of Jewish Chaplains) and American Association of Pastoral Counselors (AAPC). These cognate groups represented over 10,000 members who serve as chaplains, pastoral counselors, and clinical pastoral educators in specialized settings as varied as healthcare, counseling centers, prisons, and the military.
It has been a long and winding path, but after a decade of use, we are ready to begin putting a revised version of the chaplaincy standards into practice. Below is a summary of how we got here.
2005-2007: NACC adopts Common Standards and adds NACC-specific Standards
After NACC affirmed those Common Standards in 2005, we adopted the Qualifications of the Common Standards, including a requirement of a graduate-level degree in theology (301.3). The NACC Standards Commission went to work immediately to add to these Common Standards to our Catholic standards. The NACC Board of Directors approved this document in July 2007 and submitted it that fall to the USCCB/CCA, which approved it in November 2007. These have served our members well.
2014: NACC reviews/revises/submits for USCCB approval Certification Standards
As you might recall, these NACC 2007 Standards were up for review and re-approval by the USCCB in 2014. For that renewal process, we needed to show how the NACC Standards aligned with the new USCCB National Certification Standards that were published in 2012 by the USCCB Subcommittee on the Certification of Ecclesial Ministry and Service. These new NCS were based on the four formation principles of Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord.
The NACC Standards Commission developed a very helpful crosswalk between those NCS and the NACC Standards, and added certain standards found in the NCS that had not been in the NACC Standards. In July 2014, the NACC Board of Directors approved these revised standards and submitted them to the SCEMS for re-approval, which we received in September 2014, effective for 2015-2021. The January-February 2015 Vision provides many articles on the process and content for these revisions. These revisions only added to and did not replace any of the 2004 Common Standards.
2015: Cognate partners review/revise 2004 Common Standards for Certification
In August of 2015, five of the six founding organizations that developed and adopted the 2004 documents established a Common Standards Task Force to review and revise one document, Common Standards for Professional Chaplaincy. They were ACPE, APC, CASC, NACC, NAJC. (The other founding cognate partner, AAPC, elected not to participate.) Therefore, the NACC Certification Commission decided it was best to wait on educating and implementing the new USSCB-approved NACC-specific standards until this work of the Common Standards Task Force was completed.
2016: Cognate partners affirm revised Certification Qualifications and Competencies
That work ended in December 2015, and by July 2016, the five associations had reviewed and affirmed the recommended revisions. This revised document is now being published for implementation.
We highlight here several features of this new document:
- It has a new title. It is now called Certification for Professional Spiritual Care: Common Qualifications and Competencies (CQCs) to emphasize:
- The core elements of the document: qualification required to apply and competencies needed to be evidenced, and
- Spiritual care versus chaplain, as the Canadian context uses different terminology.
Also, this title distinguishes this document from the Standards of Practice for Professional Chaplains.
- It reaffirms qualifications.
- Endorsement of faith group: The Cognate Partners remain convinced of the essential link between spiritual care and being rooted in one’s faith/spiritual tradition, whatever it may be. The spiritual care provider respects and fosters respect for every faith expression, while his or her professional role is rooted in the authority or commissioning of one’s own tradition.
- Academic preparation from nationally accredited schools: In the highly professional peer environment within which these spiritual care providers work, possessing a graduate-level degree from nationally accredited academic institutions remains of paramount importance.
- Four units of CPE from CASC or ACPE centers: In the United States, APC, NACC, and NAJC remain committed to the requirement that spiritual care professionals receive clinical pastoral education in professional clinical settings that are recognized and accredited by the U.S. Department of Education.
- It adds competencies. It adds competencies based on the development and demands of the profession related to research literacy (ITP6), understanding organizational cultural and business principles and practices (OL3), a more expanded requirement to formulate and utilize, along with spiritual assessments, interventions, outcomes, and care plans that are all professional chaplain expectations for effective care (PPS10), greater self-examination (PIC1), and expanded group facilitation skills (PPS9).
- It provides greater content consistency and clarity of language. Several adjustments were made to the document for greater consistency and clarity, including terms used so that competencies can be utilized in diverse settings, with diverse care recipients and diverse faith groups.
2016: NACC adopts CQCs and incorporates NACC-specific competencies
The NACC Standards Commission, with the review and recommendations of the NACC Certification Commission, decided to keep the Common Qualification and Competencies letters/numbers under its 300 section (ITP, PIC, PPS, OL) format for inserting the NACC competencies for certification. This allows the cognate partners to work together to educate members, create common narrative guides, and provide CPE supervisors a common teaching guide for all our members. All the NACC-specific competencies again are found as sub-points of the CQCs.
Moving forward together
While the implementation of the NACC-specific competencies has taken longer than expected, it was important that we move forward together with our cognate partners. Also, it was affirming to find that the cognate partners included as part of the revised CQCs three of what would have been new NACC-specific competencies (demonstrate the ability to be self-reflective – PIC1, group dynamics – ITP5, and research – ITP6). The collaboration points to the benefits and strengths of our common partnership to advance the profession of chaplaincy.
We look forward to more communication with you as we implement these revised qualifications and competencies.