Proselytizing is the process of trying to convert someone to your belief system or opinion. Evangelization is the same process, but specifically refers to conversion to Christianity. This is something that has a place in the world, but not in the field of professional chaplaincy.
At The Company Chaplain, we only connect you to Board-certified chaplains. These are highly trained, professional spiritual care clinicians, with master’s degrees in theology. In addition, they have demonstrated their adherence to a professional set of agreed ethical standards, including the commitment not to evangelize or proselytize. Each Board-certified chaplain is endorsed by a recognized religious body. But they are mature enough in their spirituality not to seek to fit you into the mould of their beliefs.
When a chaplain is interested in working with The Company Chaplain, we make sure that they are very comfortable with this rule. If they aren’t, we don’t work with them. It’s that important.
That’s because we want you to be safe. Safe that the chaplain you work with doesn’t have an agenda. Safe that your needs are uppermost at all times. And safe in the knowledge that if we make a recommendation to you, it’s in accordance with the belief system and / or needs that you have identified. In other words, that we serve you, our client.
Now, we are not saying that evangelization is wrong. It’s perfectly appropriate in a situation of pastoral ministry and missionary work. For example, if someone knocks on your front door one evening, and you invite a missionary into your home to study their scripture, you are consenting to evangelization. It’s also an important part of the faith of many individuals, leading them to evangelize as they go about their daily lives. But when you ask for spiritual support from a professional chaplain you are not providing such consent.
If a chaplain takes you on as a client, with the belief that You need to come to believe certain things–even if those things are of the highest value in the chaplain’s mind–that is not ethical. It means the chaplain is putting their beliefs first, when actually your needs come first. And that’s our rule at The Company Chaplain; your needs come first, and our chaplains support your needs.
A chaplain may lead you at times, but it’s always in the direction that you set. A chaplain may assess your needs and think that a certain spiritual principle or practice may be helpful. If she shares that assessment with you and you agree to explore that with her, that is not proselytization. It is a spiritual intervention based on your needs and with your consent.
If it’s what you have asked for, if it serves your needs, and the chaplain is following your lead, then it is ethical. Under these circumstances a chaplain might invite you to a worship service they are leading, or a Catholic chaplain may offer the sacraments to a Catholic client. Again, these are appropriate interventions when they are in accord with your values and beliefs, and with your consent. And where an appropriate intervention is offered, you are always in control. As the client, you decide if it’s right for you at this time. If you don’t have complete freedom to decide, then it would cease to be ethical.
Spiritual support is a process of listening, allowing you to explore issues and assisting you in gaining clarity. It is much more common for me to lead you in practices that are already familiar to you, such as prayer or meditation, but sometimes I suggest a new practice that might be helpful. In such a scenario, I usually suggest a brief menu of options, and see which ones the client is most interested in. If someone is interested in joining a new spiritual community, for example, I assist them in finding one in their local area.
This doesn’t mean that the chaplain you work with doesn’t have any beliefs. They definitely do. In my case, I believe that wherever we are in life–whatever we are experiencing–the organizing power of divine love is operating and supremely capable of turning all things toward good. I trust in this, but don’t know how the next steps in a client’s journey will work out. I believe we need to keep coming back into alignment with that source of love and goodness, so my aim is to support the unfolding of wholeness and goodness in the present, so that each client can maximize their growth, and experience as much peace and joy as possible going forward.
This allows me to support each client in the present, wherever they find themselves–to listen and understand what is important to them, and assist them in healing and reconnecting to their values and beliefs, the relationships and resources that nourish and strengthen them, including their higher power.