Guidelines for Chaplains and Pastoral Counselors


Guidelines For Antiochian Orthodox Priests Serving As Chaplains And Clergy And Laity Serving As Pastoral Counselors

  1. Priests desiring to serve as chaplains shall first obtain the blessing of their diocesan hierarch.
  2. Priests serving full time in the U.S. Armed Forces should not expect that duty as a chaplain will be "easier" than, or a relief from, the normal challenges and difficulties of parish life. Instead, active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces will involve an even higher degree of personal commitment (of personal energy and of time away from family), and will require even greater interpersonal skills to face the challenges of ministry to all members of the Armed Forces regardless of their individual faith or background. Moreover, the priest serving as a chaplain will be a representative par excellence Antiochian Archdiocese, to the American people, to officials in the highest ranks of our military and government, and to individuals that will become future leaders in government and industry. Parochial priests who serve as chaplain as an additional duty to their parochial work must make sure that such duty does not interfere with their first calling as the pastors of their parishes.
  3. Priests considering duty as a chaplain should be well-formed spiritually in the Orthodox tradition. Military chaplains for example, may be required to serve at remote locations in isolation from their brother clergy, from access to the Mystery of Holy Repentance, and from the accustomed fellowship of their brother priests. This reality should not, however, frighten off prospective chaplains, but rather should reinforce the understanding that the Armed Forces require and must receive our best-qualified priests for assignment to this special and highly-esteemed ministry. Chaplains and Pastoral Counselors in other ministries also have special needs, responding to dangerous situations and at inopportune times in various crises. Thus a deep commitment to both service and spirituality is needed.
  4. Armed Forces Chaplains, upon leaving their parish assignment to enter on active duty as officers in the chaplain corps of Armed Forces, priests shall canonically be placed on ecclesiastical leave of absence by their diocesan hierarch. They will continue in this status throughout their time of service on active duty. Upon retirement, resignation, or transfer to the reserves, the priest shall once again be available for assignment or release by this same diocesan hierarch.
  5. Upon entering the Diocese of another hierarch during the course of assignments and travel, the priest-chaplain shall endeavor to contact the hierarch and introduce himself. He shall request guidance from the hierarch regarding the registry of any sacraments (viz., Baptisms, Chrismations, and Marriages) and funerals celebrated while stationed on military service within that diocese. Typically Baptisms, Chrismations, and funerals are recorded in the parish register of the nearest church, and Marriages are celebrated after receiving the Canonical Episcopal Permission to Marry (ecclesiastical marriage license) from the hierarch of the diocese in which the marriage will take place.
  6. Prior to accepting a chaplain appointment the priest shall be made fully aware of the primary and collateral duties expected of a chaplains within his respective agency or institution as specified in the appropriate regulations and manuals. He will be expected to fulfill these duties without reservation.
  7. The U.S. Armed Forces priest-chaplain shall accept assignment to duty wherever the service deems that he can be utilized effectively and fruitfully, whether within the geographic limits of the United States or in foreign countries, whether on land or at sea, in accordance with the policies and practices that govern the assignment and transfer of other chaplains.
  8. The priest-chaplain shall provide religious services for Orthodox Christian personnel who request these of him, in accordance with the customs, traditions, and usage of the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America.
  9. The priest-chaplain [in the U.S. Armed Forces or any other government agency, or community institution] shall, as the needs of the service may require, provide general prayer services for all personnel; he shall not, however wear orthodox vestments other than the cassock and jibbi. Such services might include invocation and/or benediction prayers at official functions, or non-denominational prayer services for personnel of mixed faiths. A non-denominational prayer service might include the singing of general Christian hymns, readings from the Holy Bible, a sermon delivered on these Scriptures, and a general intercessory prayer to the Trinitarian God for the health, welfare, and well-being of those present. At no time, however, shall the priest-chaplain participate in hymns, readings, or rituals whose content is contrary to the Orthodox Christian Tradition.
  10. The priest-chaplain may be called upon to celebrate the funeral service for non-Orthodox Christians, and shall do so in accordance with the established norms (the three sections of Psalm 118 without petitions or exclamations; the Apostolic and Gospel readings; and the Dismissal), as established by the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America.
  11. The priest-chaplain shall only celebrate Marriages according to Orthodox canonical tradition; i.e., only between two Orthodox spouses or between an Orthodox spouse and a recognized heterodox partner. The Marriage can only be celebrated, however, once local civil law requirements are satisfactorily met.
  12. The priest-chaplain shall not, and cannot, under any circumstances whatsoever, be permitted or required to celebrate, perform, or participate in a communion service other than that of the Orthodox Church. Neither shall the priest-chaplain be permitted or required to offer any sacramental-type service of non-Orthodox nature. Rather, the priest-chaplain shall refer individuals requiring such to those other chaplains qualified to render such service under the auspices of their denominational authority.
  13. All Antiochian faithful desiring to function as pastoral counselors shall obtain the blessing of their diocesan hierarch.
  14. All counseling by chaplains and pastoral counselors shall conform to the faith, doctrine and tradition of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Orthodox Church.

These guidelines are approved by the Self-Ruled Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America