Continuing Education Update - 12/29/2015
All clergy chaplains are required to fufill 20 hours of continuing education, per new OCA Guidelines. Please click here to go to the Continuing Education Department page where you can register your continuing education directly.
Institutional Chaplain Department transformed to Office - 12/29/2015
The Institutional Chaplaincy Department was redefined as an Office this past summer, to make it consistent with other offices representing interaction with the greater community. Among them are military chaplaincy, and the Office of External Affairs. Please click here to see our new home on www.OCA.org We continue to be active in endorsing Orthodox chaplains to minister in specific institutional ministry settings.
In Memoriam, The Rev. Dr. John deVelder - 12/29/2015
The Rev. Dr. John deVelder fell asleep in the Lord on December 17, 2015 after having suffered a massive stroke. While there will be many other more comprehensive obituary notices, John was a very close colleague and friend to many, including me, and had an impact on our Orthodox community. So it is with great sadness that I share the following:
John, of Dutch descent, was the son of Walter Reformed Church missionary in China, who married the daughter (Margaret) of John Otte, a medical missionary there. He traveled with his wife Linda in 1998 to represent the family at the celebration there. You can click here to read the story.
John began the CPE Program at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in 1983, and after "retirement" in January of this year, celebrated his final graduation in May. Though a remarkable achievement all by itself, this 30+ year program oversight is part of a much larger picture of John truly being a missionary in clinical training.
John was the Convener of the CPSP NY/NJ Chapter for most of its history, dating from the early 90's up until the chapter was recently re-identified. He was also a past-president of CPSP. I was introduced to this chapter in 1994, and after being certified through that chapter later served as convener for about 9 years. I only share this self-reference to underscore what I witnessed as the most significant work of this chapter, led by John and the Rev. Dr. Richard Liew, of developing indigenous CPE programs. In 1999 (see photo) the three of us, with others, collaborated with a group of Korean Chaplains who briefly visited the US, in developing CPE in South Korea. This was the first of many indigenous training groups: Singapore, Italy, Ghana, Israel, just to name a few. He was a founding grandfather in the Malaysian CPE Program that has developed The Asia Pacific Council for Clinical Supervision & Psychotherapy. He is shown in photos from the Asia-Pacific Symposium, held in Malaysia in November of 2008, where he was a Keynote Speaker.
John was also very active in the greater pastoral care and counseling community. He served during a tumultuous time (both due to premature resignation of previous chair, and what was unfolding in that community at the time) as Chair of the Commission on Ministry in Specialized Settings (COMISS). It was in this role that he traveled to St. Tikhon's Seminary to participate in our first-ever institutional and military chaplaincy gathering in 2006 (see photos). John was known literally around the world in his missionary chaplaincy work, always serving to encourage others to take creative steps.
I would be remiss to mention that John traveled to St. John's Hospital in Far Rockaway, NY on November 1st, 2012, just days after Storm Sandy devestated this area, to chair a very signficant accreditation review for the CPE program there where I followed the Rev. Dr. Richard Liew as Director. This review would be a pivotal day for the program in its re-accreditation, and was hailed by the hospital's CEO as a sign of life moving on in the wake of the devestation. You can see the story on this site by clicking here.
I share this last story to personally highlight just how willing John was to step in and support initiatives in clinical training that was a hallmark of his service, ministry, and supervision. It is in many ways a terrible loss to the clinical training community that John really did not have any time to celebrate, write about, or reflect on these many events in retirement, for future generations to draw from. May his memory be eternally with God, and we pray for Linda and their family during their time of grief.
John deVelder’s memorial service was held on Saturday, January 9, 2016 from 10-11:30am at Kirkpatrick Chapel New Brunswick, NJ.
Outreach to OCA Police Chaplains - 03/12/2016
During the recent Association of Religious Endorsing Body (AREB) meeting in January, we were introduced to the International Conference of Police Chaplains (ICPC). You can click here to view their website. This organization provides training and support to those serving as police chaplains.
If you are currently serving as a police chaplain as a member of the Orthodox Church in America, please get in touch with this office. We will support your application to join this international conference, through endorsement, in order to assist you in developing your role through the many resources this organization has to offer. We have also added the ICPC in the links portion of this website.
Endorsing Community to Gather in Alexandria, VA - 12/12/2018
Endorsers from a multitude of faith traditions will be gathering early in January, 2019. For institutional chaplaincy, endorsers will attend meetings of the COMISS Network (Commission on Ministry in Specialized Settings) and AREB (Association of Religious Endorsing Bodies). Military chaplaincy meetings are also held.
AREB as an entity is just over ten years old. This body is made up of endorsers, who work together to advocate for the relationship between communitieis of faith, credentialing bodies, and chaplain employers. This body will meet from January 11-12, 2019. They explore best practices for endorsing, and reflect on what is currently unfolding in the chaplaincy community from the endorsing perspective. As more credentialing bodies are entering the chaplaincy arena, AREB seeks to interact with them to advocate for continued active engagemeent between faith communities and institutions employing chaplains, as well as bodies like the Association of Professional Chaplains (APC), the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE), and the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy (CPSP) who certify chaplains.
The COMISS Network represents a nation-wide round table for certifying bodies, endorsers representing faith communities, those who employ chaplains, and others, who come together annually to share developments in the chaplaincy arena. The COMISS Network meets January 13-14, 2019. Table discussions offer opportunities for a sharing across disciplines on presentation topics that recently have been focused in the area of pastoral research. Also individual representatives can share what is happening for their particular organization.
The Orthodox Church in America has been a member of COMISS since 2005. When AREB formed in 2006 and 2007, the OCA was part of that formation. Archpriest Steven Voytovich has served in leadership roles in both bodies. Archpriest Theodore Boback attends the military chaplain meetings that follow COMISS and AREB and has similarly held leadership roles. OCA chaplains desiring to serve in military or institutional chaplaincy positions are supported by the work of the Office of Insitutional Chaplaincy and the Office of Military Chaplaincy, and all endorsements are ultimately forwarded through Metropolitan Tikhon's office.
Commissioned Chaplains and Housing Allowance Question - 07/23/2019
Recently, several requests were forwarded to the Office of Institutional Chaplains related to what is called a housing allowance. Clergy can designate a portion of their income to be designated as housing allowance, to cover housing expenses. This portion of income is not subject to income tax, but is included in social security tax computations.
Some lay chaplains have been offered housing allowances by their institutions, either as residents or in employment. The question they have raised is whether this offer can be accepted?
In seeking to respond to these inquiries, our most recent OCA Treasurer, Melanie Ringa was contacted. She has served in this capacity for many years and is knowledgeable about OCA offices and departments. She shared the response, following below, that is being publicized to prevent chaplains from finding themselves out of compliance with the Internal Revenue Service. Before turning to her detailed response, the summary is that even though laypersons in the OCA are commissioned for ministry, since they cannot perform sacraments, or lead our liturgical worship, they do not fit the IRS definition of ministers that can designate a portion of their salary. The details of her response follow:
In IRS Pub 517, ministers are defined as:
"Ministers are individuals who are duly ordained, commissioned, or licensed by a religious body constituting a church or church denomination. Ministers have the authority to conduct religious worship, perform sacerdotal functions, and administer ordinances or sacraments according to the prescribed tenets and practices of that church or denomination. If a church or denomination ordains some ministers and licenses or commissions others, anyone licensed or commissioned must be able to perform substantially all the religious functions of an ordained minister to be treated as a minister for social security purposes.”
According to Melanie Ringa: “It is these individuals [defined above as ministers] who are eligible to designate part of their compensation as Housing Allowance. In the Orthodox Church, all commissioned chaplains are NOT allowed to perform sacraments, and therefore are CLEARLY not eligible for housing allowance. The OCA would not recognize housing allowances for laypeople. Their compensation is considered regular and taxable for both IRS and Social Security/Medicare tax purposes.”
For our lay chaplains, if you are offered a housing allowance by your institutional setting as part of your salary package, either as a resident or employed in a chaplain role, you need to decline this offer and have your compensation fully identified as regular income. If helpful, you can forward this brief statement to your employer.
AREB and COMISS Preparing to Meet - 12/24/2019
The Commission on Ministry in Specialized Settings (COMISS), and the Association of Religious Endorsing Bodies (AREB) are preparing to meet in Alexandria, early in January, 2020. AREB will gather together on January 10-11, and COMISS from January 12-13.
COMISS is our round table for pastoral care and counseling in North America, and AREB represents the endorsing community representing numerous communities of faith. The OCA is a member of both bodies.
Annual Institutional Chaplain Meetings to Convene in January - 12/23/2021
The Commission on Ministry in Specialized Settings (COMISS Network) and Association of Religious Endorsing Bodies (AREB), will be gathering virtually in January. AREB, our national community of endorsers, will be meeting on January 6th. The COMISS Network will hold its annual Forum on Sunday, January 9th, with the focus: Recovery of Trauma: Pandemic and War. Fr. Steven Voytovich is serving as Chair-Elect of COMISS, and is responsible for the content of this year's Forum. The COMISS Network is our national roundtable for pastoral/spiritual care including: endorsers, credentialing bodies, those employing chaplains, theological schools, and chaplaincy-related groups.