Like many of you, I was blessed to be a part of the General Assembly in Memphis last week. I love to attend the General Assemblies whenever I can. I see old friends, make new friends, and experience what Church really can be like. (Unfortunately making my return to my own upper-class, white, male-dominated church always difficult.) This year I was blessed by Chuck Poole’s interpretations of the theme “Building Bridges” and I was inspired by the stories of missions going on around the world that are taking the Gospel of Jesus to bold new places. However, there was one disappointment to me in the General Assembly this year.
This year, not unlike many others, the General Assembly barely mentioned the almost 600 “missionaries” it has that are serving as Chaplains and Pastoral Counselors in specialized ministry settings around the world. There are Chaplains who are offering care to military personnel and their families. There are hospital Chaplains and Hospice Chaplains who are offering care to those who are sick, injured, or dying and their families. There are industrial Chaplains who are serving as Pastoral Care givers in places of business throughout the nation. There are Pastoral Counselors who are helping those with mental, emotional, and relationship issues to find healing through the use of spiritual and psychological resources. There are others who serve as chaplains in other settings. Each and every one of these people are men and women called by God to ministry. However, these ministers of Christ who wear the endorsement of the CBF were not represented by anyone who spoke from the platform in Memphis. These endorsees were not asked to stand when other ministries were recognized in the Friday evening gathering. You really had to be aware to realize that CBF does endorse ministers to these specialized ministry settings.
If you looked, you would have seen dozens of men and women wearing the yellow ribbons of Chaplains or the maroon ribbons of Pastoral Counselors. You might not have noticed the wonderful lunch buffet for the endorsed and their families attended by at least 150 people. Those at that lunch, heard a welcome by George Pickle who has contact with every single person endorsed by the CBF. Those at the lunch would have met retired Navy Chaplain, Jim Pop, who was introduced as CBF’s new Associate for Miliatary Chaplain endorsement. You would have also been disturbed by the presentation by Diana Garland on clergy sex abuse. There were also three other workshops available for chaplains and Pastoral Counselors arranged by George Pickle. It was amazing to see the number of people present, but you didn’t hear about it anywhere but in that luncheon.
CBF continues to be a place that nurtures my soul. That is why I chose to be endorsed as a Pastoral Counselor by them. I was one of the first 5 to be endorsed. We are now a group of about 600 ministers representing our Lord and CBF in a variety of places around the world. I am not sure why we still seem to be the step-children of the Fellowship. I welcome your comments on this subject.