Interested In Becoming a Board Certified Chaplain as an Ordained MSIA Minister?
By Carol Chaffin
About two years ago, I began to consider the idea of becoming a professional chaplain. I immersed myself in this new direction by reading job descriptions and looking into local chaplaincy programs; but I pretty quickly just began doing whatever was next, not knowing where it would lead me. Along the way, I began to realize how much I loved the work and how much I was learning and growing. The chaplains and faculty around me began talking to me about taking it to the next level and pursuing board certification.
The chaplaincy certification process has become a little easier for MSIA ministers in the last few weeks; but if you decide to go this route, you need to be prepared for a long, wild, roller-coaster ride. I don’t know of any job I have had in the world, (other than perhaps living at Prana and working for MSIA), that has been more rewarding. I have been given the opportunity to support people through some of the most challenging moments in their lives. And I have been blessed with the Traveler’s love and teachings as my foundation.
Recently the Association of Professional Chaplains (APC) decided to recognize MSIA as a faith tradition that can endorse professional chaplains who apply for their Board of Chaplaincy Certification (BCCI). Until that happened, anyone who wished to be BCCI certified would have had to pursue endorsement through some other (recognized) faith tradition.
Why Bother With BCCI Certification?
Not all employers of chaplains require board certification; but many do, and your chances of getting a job are greatly increased. Although BCCI is still considered “the gold standard,” there are other routes to certification that you may also want to consider. The next most well-known of these is certification through the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy (CPSP). Another certifying organization is an outgrowth of CPSP, called the Center for Spiritual Care and Pastoral Formation (CSCPF). There’s also a newly created chaplaincy certification through the Spiritual Care Association (SCA), which has been gaining a lot of attention among even the more traditional chaplains. Each of these certification boards have different requirements.
Which one to choose, or whether to even go the route of board certification, depends partly on where you live and what potential employers are looking for. I am currently living in Richmond, VA, and here the BCCI is the certification of choice for employers. In other parts of the country, some of these other certifications appear to be equally acceptable. If you’re interested in chaplaincy, I would recommend that you do some research online and talk with chaplains and pastoral care departments in your area. Also, feel free to reach out to the MSIA ministers mentioned at the end of this article who are in various stages of this certification journey. All of us would be happy to talk with you about our experiences. We are in the early stages of building an informal support network for MSIA ministers who are interested in doing this work.
Some Additional Requirements for BCCI Certification
• An undergraduate degree from a Council for Higher Education (CHEA)-accredited program
• A 72-hour theological graduate degree from a CHEA-accredited program (or equivalent*)
• 4 units of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) from an approved program (or equivalent*)
• 2000 hours of work experience beyond the CPE units (or equivalent*)
• A letter of endorsement from your (BCCI-recognized) faith tradition
*You may qualify for BCCI certification if you can submit documentation that satisfies the Board that you have equivalent education, training, and/or experience.
Further Information on Some of the Various Routes to Board Certification
MSIA Minister Rachelle Zazzu (email@example.com)has competed one unit of CPE and recently applied for BCCI certification through the equivalency process. The board turned her down. They want chaplains to have a CHEA-accredited theological degree. She is now pursuing a chaplain residency program.
MSIA Minister Jan Elpers (firstname.lastname@example.org) has completed four units of CPE and has been working as a hospice chaplain. She plans to pursue certification through CSCPF.
MSIA Minister Diana Heil (email@example.com) has also completed four units of CPE and plans to pursue CSCPF certification.
Also, feel free to contact me, Carol Chaffin (firstname.lastname@example.org), if you have questions or would just like support for your chaplaincy discernment process. I have completed four units of CPE and will likely pursue BCCI certification once I complete my Master of Divinity degree. I am currently taking a combination of online classes and 5-day intensive courses through the Starr King School for the Ministry (Unitarian Universalist) and the Chaplaincy Institute (Interfaith Studies) in Berkeley, CA. This is an amazing Interfaith Studies MDiv program that welcomes people of all faiths. It is just one of the many routes available to MSIA ministers who are interested in becoming board certified chaplains.
Let us know if we can help and Light ahead to your journey, wherever it may lead you.