And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.” – Matthew 25:33-36, KJV (emphasis in quotes mine)
When I was doing my chaplain residency in the Veterans’ Affairs Medical Center, I made friends with a man who was a Southern Baptist chaplain just out of the Air Force. He described how he experienced being a chaplain in his tradition, which fits well with my own. My friend talked about how Southern Baptists have a category for either missionary or pastor. But they did not have a category for chaplain.
I believe this is true for many evangelicals in general as well.
A chaplain–as I see it and hope to embody–is someone who fulfills these words spoken by Jesus in Matthew 25. He or she is one who ministers to the sick and in prison. It is primarily a ministry of presence and mercy. An incarnational ministry.
This is also a specialized ministry.
A Board Certified Chaplain (BCC) is one who did minimally an additional year of specialized training–i.e. Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE)–on top of their three or four year Master of Divinity degree and demonstrated professional competencies at the highest levels to a panel of already board certified chaplains. Such a process includes writing up many pages of personal, professional reflections (for me, my application packet included over 60 pages single spaced of my own writing when complete) as well as passing a board interview.
So, a Board Certified Chaplain (BCC) is someone who has achieved the gold standard of providing demonstrated excellence in emotional and spiritual care.
What does this have to do with Divorce Minister: Taking Adultery Seriously?
First, I am a Board Certified Chaplain (BCC). Plus, I believe chaplains are uniquely trained and positioned to provide care to survivors of infidelity.
They are trained to offer support to individuals suffering from spiritual distress as well as emotional distress. I can think of few situations where that situation can be more distressing than after discovering infidelity.
Chaplains are not therapist. And we are not psychologists.
However, too often, I have seen questions rising out of infidelity situations be pawned off to the mental health field. It as if the matters have become serious and the pastor thinks they need to be addressed by the “professionals”–i.e. not a pastor.
That is a travesty.
People are hungry–I’d say especially in these situations–for spiritual care. They want to know what God has to say about their situation. For example,
- Does God reject me, too?
- Am I to blame for her adultery–even in part–according to God?
- Will I forever be cut off from God if I divorce him because he committed adultery?
These are certainly emotional and relational questions.
However, they are more.
They are spiritual questions.
Chaplains are the ones uniquely situated to address such questions. They are trained in accessing spiritual resources as well as providing emotional care during difficult, crisis times.
They bring the table the professional combination of spiritual and emotional care so needed in these difficult times.
We absolutely need good mental health professionals to help faithful spouses and others affected by infidelity. But we also need chaplains–i.e. professionals prepared to provide both competent spiritual and emotional care.
I hope my tribe will increase who are willing to tackle these difficult scenarios as their voices are desperately needed.