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AAPC & ACPE Explore a Common Future

AAPC and ACPE Explore a Common Future
September 20, 2018


Dear AAPC Colleague,

Over the past months I have shared several updates about the work of the Association. Today I write with a major announcement about the future of AAPC.

Those previous emails reported on a pivotal meeting of the AAPC Board and Regional leaders in February of this year and on the fruit of several cross-regional collaborations that have happened since:

  •  a new Mission, Vision, and Values statement,
  • a group working to standardize a Spiritual Care Specialist curriculum,
  • a group writing a 30-hour Spiritually Integrated Psychotherapy curriculum, and
  • a group coordinating continuing education conferences across the association.

We are making new wine to share with the world around us.

You are well aware, however, that we are in need of a new wineskin. The organizational structure that held us and supported our mission for 53 years is no longer sustainable (more on that below), and for the past three years we have been prayerfully considering new ways of being in the world.

I am grateful to share with you exciting news about a new wineskin.  On August 28, 2018, the AAPC Board of Directors voted unanimously to send ACPE: The Standard for Spiritual Care and Education (formerly The Association for Clinical Pastoral Education) a letter of intent indicating that AAPC will become a part of ACPE. We believe this organizational shift will help AAPC live into a more expansive vision and ensure that pastoral counseling and pastoral counselors have a home for years to come.

Amy Greene, ACPE Board Chair, and Trace Haythorn, Executive Director & CEO of ACPE, have acknowledged receipt of the letter and shared their excitement about our common future.  You can read her statement here. It will take a couple of weeks for them to work through their formal board review and approval process. It will also take some months for details of this intention to be worked through, a time during which either board could choose to end the process. The AAPC Board and I welcome your thoughts and questions during these months.

Given the significance of this decision, I want to share the factors that precipitated this change.

First, staying the course is no longer an option.  For nearly 20 years, the elected Board of Directors and officers have communicated to the membership the financial consequences of our declining and aging membership. Over the past 10 years the Board has implemented changes which decreased expenses but did not solve the problem. In 2016, all staff including the executive director either retired or were let go and our physical office in Fairfax was closed, to save money. By January 2017, we moved all administrative functions to a management company and programmatic functions to regional administrators and chairs, resulting in large financial savings and a with a large increase in workload to regional leadership.

This is not sustainable.  But even more importantly, we are not effectively able to deliver the mission for which we were founded - to promote and develop the field of pastoral counseling in the world, which is still the passion for those who remain in AAPC.

Second, and more importantly, uniting with ACPE creates numerous advantages for our mission and our members. Among these:

  • AAPC can focus on creating and leading conferences and trainings without having to do all the logistical management for these.  ACPE will also market these and maintain records of who attended, particularly where CEUs are involved.
  •  ACPE is recognized by the US Department of Education. This means we will be able to provide CEUs for our events across states and disciplines. The cost of doing this in our old structure was becoming prohibitive.
  • ACPE has relationships with a number of colleges and seminaries and sees these as a natural market for the new training products we are developing.  They will introduce our folks working on and delivering the trainings to those institutions. They are interested in how they can support our existing relationships with similar institutions.
  • ACPE is now organized by Communities of Practice, not regions.  AAPC’s West Region is already beginning to pilot some Affinity Communities of Practice groups, so AAPC can use these as well as create other CoPs.  They might be focused on the various programs (SIP, SCS, etc.).  Regions that wish to do so could become their own geographically based CoPs.
  • A Joint Task Force comprised of leadership from both associations will create membership categories and appropriate dues for our members. We will create a process to migrate previously certified persons’ credentials over to ACPE, creating new categories of membership within ACPE that honor those credentials.  While this is actually a concern for some on the Board who don’t want us weighted down by the certification problems we encountered previously, for many of our members who continue to value the time and effort and learning it took to achieve certified status this will be welcome news.  In states where licensing as a pastoral counselor is an option, it should help with maintaining that credential.
  •  ACPE needs more Educators (their new term for supervisors).  They have offered to create with us a path for our certified fellows and diplomates who are interested to have a streamlined way to become ACPE Educators.  Some on our Board, particularly younger members, identified this as one of the strongest benefits of the partnership.Some of our clergy members need endorsement to be in good standing with their ordaining body.  ACPE already has all of the ecclesiastical connections so our members will once again have a way to provide this with a recognized and respected organization.  This will not become a requirement for persons for whom this is not relevant.

Claire Bamberg, Vice President, AAPC Board of Directors, and I have met several times with Trace Haythorn, ACPE’s Executive Director and CEO, Amy Greene, Chair, ACPE Board of Directors, and other members of the ACPE staff. ACPE is financially stable, including an endowment of $4.3 million. They have a staff of 15 including a meeting planner, a marketing specialist, an IT person, grant writers, ethics and advocacy and the other staff members needed to effectively and efficiently operationally support AAPC and our vision for the future.

I attended the ACPE national conference in May 2018. I observed that they are processing grief about the changes in their organization, too.  I felt their excitement about the growing number of Communities of Practice (CoPs) and what this would mean for collegiality and growth. I learned that they are receiving requests for training, not only from the institutions such as hospitals and prisons, but also from businesses and corporate entities.  I witnessed the diversity of their membership and educators – diversity of race, age, gender, religion, geography, culture, and sexual orientation – a diversity we in AAPC also aspire to. 

ACPE is excited about joining forces with AAPC. Or perhaps I should say, “rejoining forces.” Many of their members, and many of you, remember that we were formerly much more closely aligned than we have been in recent years. Working together again will be healing. And the collective wisdom and cross-pollination across organizations will be beneficial in both directions. ACPE is excited about having easier access to our knowledge and experience, expanding even further their diverse membership, offering richer annual conferences with an additional learning track for attendees, and connecting AAPC members with new professional opportunities that strengthen what ACPE offers to the world.

So, what happens next? Where do we go from here? The ACPE Board of Directors will meet in a few weeks and consider our request. If both parties decide to sign the letter of intent, ACPE and AAPC will then name representatives to a joint Task Force to begin a period of exploration. This task force will: 

  • review current AAPC policies and procedures to assess how they can be best integrated into ACPE’s operations,
  • develop a transition of business operations from AAPC to ACPE, 
  • create new member categories for AAPC members within ACPE, 
  • integrate ongoing AAPC activities and programs, and 
  • transfer AAPC assets to support those activities.

Our expectation is that AAPC and ACPE will move toward dreaming jointly about the mission of a combined organization and creating together a vision of the best ways to live this out in the world. A few of our primary questions are: 

  • How will we maintain our distinct identity as pastoral counselors? 
  • How will we honor the purpose of the Mission Advancement Endowment and the donors who created and supported it through the years? and 
  • How will we protect the intellectual property of our new products, e.g., the Spiritually-Integrated Psychotherapy Curriculum?

Additionally, at some point in the coming months, per our AAPC by-laws, current members will be asked to vote on this matter. I will be in communication with you several times before then, providing you opportunities to understand what we are considering and to offer your wisdom and your questions into the process.

There are many details to work out, but the AAPC Board feels fortunate that we are being welcomed with such generosity by a group that understands us and our history, that values our mission, that is excited to resource us to fulfill that mission, and is at their own point of regeneration in creating a broader vision for the field of pastoral care and counseling. 

We know this decision will have both supporters and challengers, and we want to hear your hopes and concerns.  As a Board, we continue to serve in order to be good stewards of the organization’s founding mission and to ensure the ongoing work and vision.  We know there is still a lot of work to be done to make sure that a partnership with ACPE is done appropriately, legally, and with a continuing voice for pastoral counselors in the newly combined ACPE organization.  Although we feel some fear and trembling, we also feel genuine joy and excitement at what the future will hold and for the new life this will bring for us, for ACPE, and for the world which we serve.

Please send me your comments, questions, and other responses, or share them with your regional leadership. I ask also that you hold the Board in your thoughts and prayers, asking for the strength, patience, and wisdom needed as we move ahead.


In thanksgiving, hope, and shared mission,


Tere Tyner Canzoneri, M.Div, LCSW
AAPC President