Chaplains and “CRM” Status

The 63rd Convention of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod held in Houston approved one resolution of particular interest to me. “Resolution 1-06 recognizes more than 230 chaplains endorsed by the Synod’s Ministry to the Armed Forces, who “serve in arduous and dangerous arenas on land, sea, and air through lengthy and repeated deployments, separated from home and loved ones.” The resolution thanks God “for the sacrifice and faithful service of our chaplains to our men and women in uniform,” honors them for “serving with wisdom and integrity,” and commends the Ministry to the Armed Forces for “providing clear supervision and support for our chaplains.”

You see, I am the wife of a former Military Chaplain. Our foray into military life began years ago when my husband joined the Army as a reservist prior to attending Seminary. During Seminary and vicarage, he was considered a Chaplain candidate and served whenever his studies and ministry assignments permitted. Upon ordination, he applied for and was given the honor of being an Army Chaplain. In May 2000, after 14 years as a Chaplain Reservist, he received a call from the Ministry to the Armed Forces asking him to consider going active duty. There was and still is a shortage of Chaplains. After much deliberation and prayer, we decided that this is where we were meant to serve. Our active duty life has taken us to Ft. Drum, NY, Grand Forks, ND and Beale AFB, CA. After 7 years of active duty and numerous deployments and separations, we thought that God was pointing us in another direction and decided to return to civilian life and parish ministry.

On April 21, 2007, we left Beale AFB in California to follow a new path in ministry that will take us back to the church–where we hope our lives will become a little less transient and more stable. As of September, we are still waiting for a call. With the pastor shortage and numerous calling congregations we didn’t understand why. What we thought was a minor thing has become a major stumbling block for us. You see, when Chaplains return to parish ministry from their faithful service to our men and women in uniform or Missionaries leave the mission field to embark on a new path in the church, they are considered a “CRM”–the abbreviation for “candidate for the reverend ministry.” It is generally referred to as “candidate status.”  There is an excellent explanation of “CRM” on the LCMS website but it doesn’t include missionaries and Chaplains on the list of reasons to assign this classification. It does, however, include this: “Unfortunately, CRM status is at times associated with trouble. This is not a correct general association for reasons already given. As a matter of fact, a congregation that passes quickly over pastors on a call list that are on CRM status are doing an injustice to those pastors and to themselves. Many such pastors come from very positive past call situations.”

Until a friend asked me in an appalled voice, “Why is he a CRM?”, I didn’t think it was that big of a deal. To me “Candidate Status” just meant that we were available for call but didn’t have one at this time. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I have since found out that being a candidate means that you are overlooked if another name without the CRM designation is available. Experience, training, education and devotion become less prevalent–the “Candidate” is warning congregations to proceed with caution. By all means, proceed with caution but please do proceed. Don‘t discount a person without knowing why. Some very qualified, highly educated, and compassionate pastors are “Candidates”. If your congregation is in the middle of the call process, please find out why that person has the “CRM” or “Candidate” designation. Most of them will have a different reason. Judge all the names on your call lists by their merits as shown on their information sheets. We have been told that being a “Candidate” means the wait for a call may be longer than usual, possibly a year or more. We know that God has a plan for us.  We may not know what it is but, in the mean time, we are still waiting.

Donna Vesey

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