By Gerry Hutchinson
Twenty years ago on January 22, 1998 Keith Parks, Alice Combs, Ed Beddingfield, Milton Snyder, Bob Duvall, Pat Davis, Carl Hart, and Gary Baldridge met at the CBF office to convene a CBF Council on Endorsement. This meeting represented the culmination of several years of advocacy, planning and visioning among those who desired to see the Fellowship begin to endorse Chaplains and Pastoral Counselors.
The group selected, from its applicants, the first four clergy to be “endorsed by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship”: Hospice Chaplain, Paula Peek; Hospital Chaplain, Tim Madison; Pastoral Counselor, Jim Pruett; and Navy Chaplain, Jim Harwood. It would take until June 1998 before CBF was officially recognized as a faith group endorsing body by the Armed Forces Chaplain Board, thus legitimating our standing to endorse chaplains.
In 2001 the CBF called a full time staff person to lead this ministry – Dr. George Pickle. George was well known in chaplaincy circles and helped raise the visibility and credibility of CBF among professional chaplain and pastoral counseling organizations. A few years later Retired Navy Chaplain CAPT. Jim Pope became a contract worker to relate to and support CBF military chaplains. Tremendous growth occurred in the number of endorsed personnel during George’s leadership. Dr. Pickle retired in 2013 and Jim Pope served as the Interim Endorser until CBF called Gerry Hutchinson as its second endorser in March of 2014. Jim Pope retired in June of 2014.
In January of 2018 Debra Walters became the newest contract staff person in chaplaincy. Debra will serve as Associate for Health Care Chaplaincy. She will work closely with our CBF endorsed hospital, hospice and CPE Educators providing professional and personal support for them and promoting the ministries of chaplaincy and pastoral counseling across the Fellowship.
From our modest beginning in January 1998, CBF has endorsed 1,057 Chaplains and/or Pastoral Counselors. They serve in a variety of specialized ministry settings: hospitals, each branch of the Armed Forces, hospices, business and industrial settings, police, fire and emergency services departments, campuses and universities, pastoral counseling centers, continuing care communities, Clinical Pastoral Education settings, the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs, and the Civil Air Patrol. Our endorsed personnel can be found in ministry settings across the United States and around the world. Currently 763 are actively serving.
A CBF Council on Endorsement continues to meet three times a year to consider applicants for endorsement. We celebrate all that God is doing in and through CBF Pastoral Counselors and Chaplains.
Gerry Hutchinson serves as the Endorser for Chaplains & Pastoral Counselors for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.