Policies and Guidelines for Commissioned Members of FCM Who Seek Endorsement for a Specialized Ministry

“Called by God’s Spirit and grounded in personal spiritual practice, FCM responds by worshiping God and supporting the growth in faith and ministry of its individual and collective members. Our Christ-inspired organization does this by welcoming people of all spiritual persuasions. We offer empowerment and commissioning to those who have discerned a call to ministry.”

The Federation of Christian Ministries (FCM) provides its members with both commissioning and endorsement. However, FCM commissioning and endorsement are unique processes and not interchangeable. Only candidates who have been commissioned by FCM may apply for endorsement. This Polity Manual will describe that process.

What is an endorsement?

Religious body endorsement is an official declaration by a religious body that a person is in good standing with that religious body, has a relationship of clear accountability with that religious body, and has met certain ethical and competency standards to serve in a specialized ministry – such as chaplaincy, pastoral counseling, or clinical pastoral education. Endorsement also means that the endorsed person can represent that religious body in a specialized ministerial setting.

Why is endorsement necessary?

National certifying bodies, like The Association of Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE), The Association of Professional Chaplains (APC), The American Association of Pastoral Counselors (AAPC), The College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy (CPSP), The Veterans Administration (VA), etc., require a formal acknowledgment that candidates for national board certification belong to a faith group and have been approved by their faith group to provide the ministries that they are set aside to perform. This formal acknowledgment is called “endorsement.”

Can FCM endorse?

The Federation of Christian Ministries has its roots in the vision and documents of the Roman Catholic Church’s Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) that affirmed the primary identity of the Church as the “pilgrim people of God” and embraced a fuller dialogue with the modern world. In 1968 the Society of Priests for a Free Ministry (SPFM) was incorporated to give voice to priests working toward church reform, especially optional celibacy. In 1973 SPFM changed its name to The Fellowship of Christian Ministries (FCM), reflecting its growing interest in the establishment of small communities of faith that were more ecumenical in nature. As a religious body, FCM also began in 1973 its own “certification” program in ministry. In 1974, the revised constitution of FCM included the words “an ever-expanding ecumenicity of purpose” – thus expanding its ministry to members from denominations other than Roman Catholic.

In 2013 The Federation of Christian Ministries (FCM) was recognized by the IRS as a convention of churches. That designation reflects that FCM has been more than an association of individuals. Many of our members serve and lead congregations some of which are IRS-recognized churches, others are state-incorporated, and others are unincorporated associations.

FCM has enjoyed a long-standing membership in The Network on Ministry in Specialized Settings (COMISS) and The Association of Religious Endorsing Bodies (AREB). FCM is recognized as an endorsing body by all major civil certifying organizations that require endorsement.

What does endorsement signify?

Endorsement means that the lines of accountability, access to consultation, and pastoral support, are open and clear between the person endorsed and his/her faith group. Endorsement is essentially mutual ministry, whereby the endorsed person maintains an active relationship with FCM and his/her local faith community. FCM (through the Committee on Specialized Ministries) provides the endorsed person with guidance, support, and oversight.

According to the Association of Religious Endorsing Bodies (AREB), endorsement signifies that the following core standards have been demonstrated through a process of mutual discernment:

Ministerial competence 
Academic competence 
Theological competence
Good standing within a faith community
Clear lines of accountability and counsel within that faith community
Capacity to minister collegially in diverse and pluralistic cultures 
Willingness to abide by the codes of conduct of both the agency served and the certifying body
Completion of clinical pastoral education

All FCM endorsed members must be members of a local faith community, including “domestic” or “house” churches” or small faith communities, lay constituencies that meet regularly for worship and service. Many FCM-endorsed members are also engaged in trans-denominational, ecumenical, and interfaith ministries.

How long does an FCM endorsement last?

FCM endorsement is granted for one year and is renewable on a year-by-year basis.

Can FCM endorsement be revoked?

A person’s endorsement can be revoked by FCM at any time. However, this is quite rare, usually involving ethical violations of FCM’s code of ethics, the professional standards of the agency served or the national certifying body, or failure to submit an annual report to FCM.

What is the FCM process for endorsement?

The FCM process for new endorsement involves completion of the application form and its required documentation, meeting with a regional FCM interview committee (selected and organized by the candidate), submission of the interview committee’s report, recommendation by the FCM National Committee on Specialized Ministries, and final approval by the FCM Circle of Directors at times designated on the website, generally the annual February or July meeting. A recommendation is based on a thorough review of the candidate’s application materials, letters of recommendation, verifications, and the written report from the local/regional interview committee.

How does one transfer endorsement from one agency to FCM?

FCM follows The Association of Religious Endorsing Bodies’ (AREB) guidelines for transferring endorsement from one faith group to FCM including:

  1. The endorsed person contacts FCM’s Endorsing Agent to inquire about the requirements of that endorsing agency.
  2. The endorsed person makes contact with her/his current endorsing agent regarding intent to change faith group affiliation and endorsement.
    1. The endorsed person writes formally to the current endorsing agent and requests continuing endorsement.
    2. The current endorsing agent agrees to maintain endorsement through a period of time mutually agreed upon by the endorsing agent and FCM and notifies the endorsed person in writing.
  3. The endorsed person writes to FCM confirming intent to transition and sends a copy of that letter along with the information letter to current endorsing agent.
  4. FCM contacts the current endorsing agent to inquire if there are any impediments or just causes not to proceed.
  5. FCM informs the current endorsing agent regarding the approximate timeline and later, when the process has been completed.
  6. The current endorsing agent notifies FCM of endorsement withdrawal and provides copies of those letters to FCM.
  7. FCM sends appropriate endorsement confirmation to the earlier endorsing agent.
  8. All correspondence is copied to the person seeking endorsement, whose responsibility it is to see that the procedures are followed.
  9. The endorsed person must be willing to maintain good standing in the current faith group until the change in faith group affiliation and endorsement process is concluded.

What happens to an FCM endorsement when one changes or expands one’s endorsement setting (e.g., chaplain to CPE supervisor) or one’s certifying organization (e.g., APC to ACPE to CPSP to AAPC, etc.?)

FCM endorsement members who change or expand their endorsement setting should notify the FCM Committee on Specialized Ministries within a month of that official change or expansion. The purpose of this notification is to keep the endorsed member’s FCM record up-to-date. The FCM Committee on Specialized Ministries will contact the FCM Circle, to update the Circle on the endorsed member’s change of endorsement setting.

How does FCM retain and secure its endorsement documentation?

FCM endorsement documentation is stored in secure electronic files at the FCM central office in Cleveland, OH. Should an FCM endorsement lapse, these files will be retained for an additional five years, and then destroyed. During the endorsement process, electronic files are maintained by the members of the Committee on Specialized Ministries listed below. These electronic files are safely secured until the candidate is endorsed. After endorsement is granted, these electronic files are forwarded to and maintained by the FCM Central Office in Cleveland, OH.

What criminal/child abuse background clearances does FCM require?

The FCM commissioning process requires that all candidates undergo a criminal background clearance by FCM. The cost of these clearances will be paid by the candidate during the commissioning application process. If a candidate for endorsement was commissioned before July 2014, a background clearance will be required in the endorsement process.

If you have any further questions about FCM religious body endorsement, please contact the chair or vice chair of the Committee on Specialized Ministries.