The Modern Chaplain--A Changing Image

More institutions have placed chap¬lains on their staffs in the past five years than in the previous fifty years.

CLIFFORD A. REEVES, Chaplain, Florida Sanitarium and Hospital

MORE institutions have placed chap­lains on their staffs in the past five years than in the previous fifty years. Large in­dustrial concerns, state, county, and fed­eral institutions, as well as general and mental hospitals are calling for increased numbers of properly qualified chaplains.

One great factor in bringing about this changing image has been the higher stand­ards imposed by the armed forces on those entering the military chaplaincy during and since the last world war. Major Gen­eral Robert Taylor, Chief of Army Chap­lains, speaking at Miami, said, "The chap­lain's image in the armed forces today is about two hundred per cent better than at the start of the world war.. . . Commanders today realize the chaplain's job is vital." Since that war large numbers of chaplains have been employed by the Veteran's Administration hospitals throughout the country. All this has affected the civilian chaplaincy and is reflected in the higher requirements now being established by hos­pital administrators and governing boards.

Then there is a second factor that has helped to change the whole concept of the chaplain's ministry. Both medicine and the­ology have come to see that we cannot com­partmentalize a human being. Less and less do we find the attitude of the old-time medic who said, "You pray for his soul, Pastor, I'll take care of his body." The doctor in his concept of healing on the one hand and the minister in his concept of redemption on the other are being brought closer together. Within the past thirty years medicine has become increas­ingly aware that medical science cannot of itself treat the whole person. Psychoso­matic medicine is demonstrating that every illness has its physical, emotional, and spiritual factors. Healing is more than a purely physical process. There is a spiritual dimension in human total need that the general practitioner and the psychiatrist are not usually equipped to deal with.

Sometimes every known medical skill and tech­nique is employed to relieve a suffering patient, but tests and examinations may not reveal any­thing wrong. The patient, still in despair, may need the help of a pastoral counselor; for, in various physical ways, the patient expresses concern about his existence—his unpredictable fate, his destiny, his fear of death, his failures, his guilt. No medical science can help him here.'

It is precisely at this point that the clini­cally trained chaplain is fulfilling a unique role and taking his place as a vital part of the healing team. Because a person's spir­itual and emotional condition can have such a tremendous effect upon his health it is now being increasingly recognized that the chaplain's visitation of the sick can ful­fill needs which are not being met by oth­ers. The appreciation that medical science is coming to have for the work of the properly qualified chaplain is one of the most encouraging developments that has come to the ministry in modern times. One au­thority goes so far as to say that "in inviting clergymen to join physicians in their total approach to the total person, medical sci­ence is affording the church its greatest op­portunity since Christ commanded His dis­ciples to 'preach the gospel and heal the sick.' "2

We in the Advent Movement have known for a long time about the inspired counsel urging closer cooperation of med­icine and the ministry in doing a greater work for God and humanity. But limited vision has kept us from realizing the full potential of results there might have been had we followed this divine mandate more closely.

During the past forty years there has grown up a clinical training movement which offers a tremendous challenge and opportunity to our ministry in general and to our chaplains in particular. Centering around such pioneering personalities as Dr. William Keller, Dr. Richard Cabot of Massachusetts General Hospital, Dr. An­ton Boisen, the first mental hospital chap­lain, and Dr. Russell Dicks who instituted the clinical chaplaincy in a general hos­pital—this development presents the great­est single factor in the emergence of the contemporary chaplain. This movement in the realm of mental health, spiritual ther­apy, and pastoral care is based to a large extent on principles outlined in the Spirit of Prophecy writings.

Standards of training have been estab­lished by the American Protestant Hospital Association, the Council for Clinical Train­ing, and other such organizations. Accredi­tation requires that the candidate not only be an ordained minister in good standing, who has had some years of pastoral experi­ence with churches, but he must also have a college degree and the B.D. degree from a recognized seminary. In addition he must have the required amount of clinical train­ing (usually one year) under supervision in a regular clinical training center.

It would take some years for the majority of our chaplains to reach this goal. Some will never have the time available that would be necessary. In the meantime basic help along these lines is being given at the periodic monthly sessions of the institute in clinical pastoral education that we are offer­ing at the Florida Sanitarium. Many min­isters and chaplains are availing themselves of this opportunity. Workers from our over­seas divisions are among our alumni. Also quite a number of non-Adventist clergy are taking this work in our institution (see article by R. A. Anderson in this issue). The Lord has opened a door through which we are breaking down prejudice and misunderstanding among these "shepherds of the flock."

With our long history of medical minis­try reaching back over the past one hun­dred years, with our Bible-centered philos­ophy of healing and spiritual therapy, Adventists should be in the vanguard of this modern clinical movement. In a special di­rective to the chaplain the servant of the Lord says that he should be one "who knows how to deal with minds. . . . He should, by earnest thought and the exer­cise of his abilities, qualify himself for this important work." 4Today we can learn from the behavioristic sciences much that will help in dealing with the minds of people for whom we labor. And such training is not designed to change us into "junior league" psychiatrists. Rather, it should make us better ministers of the grace of God, more efficient physicians of the soul.

Increased training in the use of the more effective methods will contribute to the supreme purpose for the existence of our medical work around the world. "The con­version of souls is the one great object to be sought for in our medical institutions. It is for this that these institutions are estab­lished." ' The up-to-date chaplain, who is truly called of God, will watch for souls and tactfully utilize every evangelistic op­portunity that presents itself among his daily contacts with patients and staff.

This, then, is the modern image of the chaplain that is now emerging. He must be well trained for the highly specialized na­ture of the hospital ministry; he must be a capable spiritual counselor; he will have department-head standing in the hospital, wider recognition from the medical staff, full cooperation from the nursing and other personnel, and genuine appreciation from the administration to exercise his talents to the full. The chaplain's place in the modern healing community can be as big as his vision, as wide as his spiritual influence, and as extensive as his physical strength will allow.


Joseph Karlton Owen, Modern Concepts of Hospital Ad­ministration, p. 490.

Richard K. Young and Albert L. Meiburg, Spiritual Therapy, p. 29.

Ellen G. White, Evangelism, p. 562.

_____  , Counsels on Health, p. 289.

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CLIFFORD A. REEVES, Chaplain, Florida Sanitarium and Hospital

May 1966

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