tree with many roots - photo by Bill Scar, 2021


The Pastoral Professional World Around Us

by Bill Scar, Editor


I previously reported that the Association of Professional Chaplains has just suspended all discussions with the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education regarding a proposed merger. The ACPE described this as a “surprising and abrupt decision.”The ACPE board response is, “We still hope for greater transparency and a clear rationale for why the APC board made this decision and why they made it without consultation or negotiation with ACPE.”

The CPSP does need to celebrate our own growth and the vision and mission that we have followed for 30 years. That is foremost!

At the same time, as professionals in ministry, we need to remain aware of other developments in our field, as well as pursue the best paths for our future as leaders. It is past time to move beyond the organizational disagreements and personal recriminations that have been a part of the recent decades. Is there a role for the CPSP to play that will bring more unity and understanding for all of us who particularly care for the sick, the troubled, the dying, the imprisoned, and those serving in the military? We call this a "ministry”, but that apparently does not always apply to our treatment of one another. 

For the time being, I encourage us in the CPSP to be open and remain aware of the rhythms and gurgles current in the clinical pastoral movement. Here is the most recent APC board response to their members. 

Subject: Responses to questions about the recent merger vote
December 23, 2021

Dear members of APC,

The APC board has reviewed the emails, phone calls, and other feedback about our recent decision to suspend merger discussions with ACPE. Thank you to everyone who responded. This was not an easy decision for the board, but one that we felt was in the best interests of APC. Below are answers to four of the most frequently asked questions we have received regarding the announcement that APC will not continue to pursue a merger with ACPE.

1. What was the timeline of the merger discussions?
In March of 2018 the APC, along with the NACC, NAJC, CASC/ACSS, and ACPE, began talking about a potential merger of these associations for the benefit of the profession of spiritual care, outlined by a Memorandum of Understanding. Beginning in April of 2019, the partners began issuing progress reports to their members, explaining the pace and scope of the ongoing talks. Early in the talks CASC/ACSS informed the other groups that due to previously established priorities already in motion they would not join a new entity as a formal member. In the December 2019 Progress Report it was announced that groups had hired the consulting firm La Piana Consulting as experts in nonprofit collaboration and strategic restructuring. In January of 2020 (point 6) NACC and NAJC announced that while they are committed to working with a merged entity between ACPE and APC, they would not formally merge with the new organization

In June of 2020 ACPE and APC began holding Town Hall discussions with members and issuing FAQ documents to hear feedback from our members. The two boards continued to do financial due diligence and further discovery of each organization’s legal and financial liabilities and responsibilities. These conversations led to the creation of Implementation Work Groups (IWG) which focused on the areas of Finance, Facilities and Branding, Culture, and Governance.

2. Why did the board vote to suspend further merger talks with ACPE?
After consulting with the APC’s legal counsel about the laws that guide our fiduciary responsibilities, the board concluded that there was not enough benefit to the APC to justify merging with ACPE under a new entity. A merger between APC and ACPE would not be in the best interests of APC, especially as APC is a solvent and strong independent nonprofit organization with no forecasted financial or legal problems. Therefore, the board decided to not recommend that the membership vote to dissolve the APC and turn over APC’s assets to ACPE and the new organization.

3. Wouldn’t the profession be better served by one larger organization?
The APC continues to believe that partnering with other organizations is a vital component of our goal to promote quality chaplaincy care. Some APC members also hold membership in our partner organizations. These partnerships can continue as we operate as distinct entities, with both separate and overlapping goals. The APC and all our strategic partners are well established and respected voices inside the spiritual care community. By continuing to work as partners we can effectively work to advance our collective and our individual goals without diffusing our mission.

4. What is next for APC?
The APC’s board has appointed a taskforce to examine all opportunities for partnerships and programs that would benefit the APC and our members. While the news of the end of merger negotiations is still fresh and all those impacted need time to process, APC will work to bring new resources and products online in 2022, including a new online certification website for those seeking BCCI certification and maintaining their current chaplaincy certification. The APC will review the goals set forth in the 2020–2022 Strategic Plan and the board will begin designing our next Strategic Plan.

The APC board has a fiduciary responsibility to protect its organization's own assets and pursue its distinct mission within its legal context. While we know that this decision may feel abrupt for some, it was always a potential outcome of the 4+ years of merger talks. The APC’s board was transparent in our desire to fully explore a potential merger with ACPE, and we put our time and financial resources into this effort.

The APC board continues to believe that ACPE is a valuable partner in the work to advance spiritual care and APC is committed to the joint ACPE/APC 2022 Conference. Our volunteers and staff teams are working diligently to bring our members, ACPE members, and all other attendees an educational and inspiring conference. We look forward to continuing to work with ACPE and our other partners in the years to come. 

You are invited to send any questions or comments regarding the merger or other APC business to [email protected]

In Your Service, 

Rev. Dr. Jeffery Garland DMin Eds BCC-PCHAC
APC President

Bill Scar, Editor


Bill Scar, Editor
[email protected]