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Susan Stack
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History of PASPM

This personal account of PASPM was adapted from material found in the PHEWA archives. The original was written by John Rea Thomas in 1990. John was one of the founders of PHEWA. Since 1981 he has served as a part-time assistant pastor at Christ Presbyterian Church, Madison, Wisconsin. He continues his chaplaincy activities through the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education, the Association of Mental Health Clergy (now Association of Professional Chaplains) and the College of Chaplains. He is the author of A ‘Snap-shot’ History of the ACPE, 1975-2000; A Study in God’s Grace: A Sesquicentennial History of Christ Presbyterian Church, Madison, Wisconsin; and Chaplaincies in Wisconsin Institutions. This account contains names of two persons that PHEWA members hold in the highest regard: John Park Lee and Rodney T. Martin. Awards bearing these namesare given to deserving persons at the Biennial Social Justice Conference.

PASPM was formed as the result of a series of joyful — and also frustrating — experiences of Presbyterian clergy serving as non-military chaplains and pastoral counselors. The joys and frustrations of these pastoral ministries to hurting persons occurred not only within the variety of institutions in which we ministered but also in our relationships with our predecessor Presbyterian denominations.

Let me explain . . . After 18 months as a Naval Reserve chaplain in World War II, I was involved in the beginning of the Church Federation Chaplaincy and Clinical Pastoral Education ministry at Cook County Hospital in Chicago. Five years out of McCormick Seminary, I attended an alumni gathering only to have some of my classmates in parish ministry ask, “What are you doing since you left the ministry?” (They had heard that I was in civilian chaplaincy.) This might be understandable from a layperson, but from fellow clergy, it was not. I was ordained as an “Evangelist” by the Presbytery of Madison to enter the Naval Reserve Chaplaincy. Later, the Presbytery of Chicago had no problem accepting me as a hospital chaplain and gave me several responsibilities during my eleven years there. But what about the denomination?

I first heard of the Office of Institutional Chaplaincy of the Board of National Missions of the Presbyterian Church in the USA in a letter from Harold Baldwin dated January 17, 1955 in which he indicated his desire to know how they could be of service to me in my work and in my relationship with the church. He also enclosed a form for me to fill out and noted that his office was now subscribing to Monday Morning for all full-time chaplains.

Later that same year, John Park Lee wrote to all chaplains informing us that in addition to his duties as Director of the Division of Welfare Agencies for the Board of Pensions, he had been appointed Assistant Secretary for City and Industrial Work in the Board of National Missions, with special responsibility for institutional chaplaincies. He asked us to fill out a questionnaire so we could be listed in the Board’s report to the General Assembly and be individually listed in the minutes, as were all military chaplains. He signed his letter, Secretary, Office of Institutional Chaplains.

The 1956 General Assembly not only approved the ordination of women to the gospel ministry, it also gave recognition to the Office of Institutional Chaplains and gave that office responsibility for standards for clergy wishing to go into those specialized ministries. John Park Lee managed to find funds to provide scholarships for persons wishing to specialize in chaplaincy ministries.

There were no stipends for year-long Clinical Pastoral Education programs in those days. The office approved chaplains who had done C.P.E. and were certified by the College of Chaplains. A special committee provided consultation to John Park Lee if a person did not meet the standards.

The National Presbyterian Health and Welfare Association was formed in 1956; there were six sections, each of which was represented on its Board. Jack Humphreys was the first chaplain representative.

By 1969 hard times had fallen on the office, and the chaplains were concerned. The Board of National Missions appointed a Task Force to study the status of chaplaincy in the denomination. A good report came from that Task Force, but it was completed at the time of national restructuring and the recommendations were not implemented.

By 1976 chaplains again were aroused. Overtures were developed by chaplains in several presbyteries regarding the need for a national office. In 1977 the Program and Vocations Agencies created a Task Force composed of several persons from each Agency, the chaplaincy and the Division of Court Partnerships of the Presbyterian Church U.S. That Task Force was quite productive and brought a series of recommendations via the Program and Vocations Agencies to the 1979 General Assembly. At the same time, the chaplains and pastoral counselors realized that they needed to organize themselves so that they could effectively represent their ministries and the people they served to the larger church.

By May 1979, 75 members had signed on to the fledgling Presbyterian Association for Specialized Pastoral Ministries. Each member contributed $5.00 to underwrite the Association’s newsletter. Most of the members came from the College of Chaplains, the American Association of Pastoral Counselors (AAPC), the Association of Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE), and Association of Mental Health Clergy (AMHC). They met as Presbyterian ‘sections’ at the annual conferences of those associations. The executive committee consisted of two representatives from each section and met in person once a year at the ACPE Fall Conference. The first officers were: John Thomas, Chair; Jasper (‘Jap’) Keith, Vice Chair; John Stettner; Secretary-Treasurer; and Timothy Little, newsletter editor.

PASPM was organized to give chaplains and pastoral counselors a vehicle through which its concerns could be communicated to the denomination, e.g. pension dues, payment to certified pastoral counselors for their services to clergy and clergy families, and receipt of Monday Morning. The executive committee took concerns that arose at the sectional meetings and dealt with them in a variety of ways, including directing requests to the various agencies for dialogue and action.

PASPM delivered a strong recommendation to the Design for Mission committee that a separate mission unit be created to include all health-related ministries, which at that point were still scattered throughout several mission units. That recommendation was defeated in the Standing
Committee that reviewed the Design before recommending it to the General Assembly for adoption. PASPM representatives did, however, help sympathetic commissioners include references to standards for chaplains and pastoral counselors in guidelines for the Vocations Unit, as well as references to PASPM itself in the Social Justice and Peacemaking Mission Unit.

Over the years, PASPM has utilized its special skills and abilities in the church and various PASPM members have served on task forces exploring such issues as health care costs and validated ministries. Individual PASPM members are very active on presbytery committees, especially on Committees on Ministry, Care of Candidates and Continuing Education. A number of them have served as moderators of their presbyteries.

The wisdom, skill and support of Rod Martin (Executive Director of PHEWA, 1972 to 1990) was invaluable to PASPM during these years.

Today PASPM members are still meeting in their professional cognate groups, representing the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in meetings with other faith communities, volunteering to be a pastoral presence at General Assembly when needed, caring for persons in a variety of venues, training candidates for pastoral ministries and responding to national and local disasters. When called upon they participate in on-site consultations or as resource persons by phone or through email. What still evokes a sense of disappointment, however, is the uneasiness the denomination still has with these healing ministries.


This history appears in the March/April 2003 Church & Society, What Does God Require of Us? The issue, featuring PHEWA and its networks, can be ordered through Presbyterian Distribution Service: (800) 524-2612, item # 7263003602.

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  • Yes, Martha, you can catch up with the Presbyterian Older Adult Ministry Network (POAMN) and how to contact them via their website: http://www.poamn.org/ I will also call your note to the attention of leaders in PHEWA's PASPM Network. Thank you for writing! by Susan Stack, PHEWA on 03/10/2014 at 10:35 a.m.

  • I'm looking for information on ordained ministers serving the pastoral needs of continuing care communities. Does POAMN still function? Thank you by Rev. Martha Moler on 03/07/2014 at 6:26 p.m.

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