The Rev. Dr. Johnny Jeffords has been named the Director of the Center for Pastoral Wholeness and Chaplaincy Studies at Memphis Theological Seminary (MTS).

This position was made possible by a generous grant from the Assisi Foundation of Memphis to create and sustain a vibrant chaplaincy studies program at MTS in partnership with the Center for Chaplaincy Studies (CCS) based in Chicago. The Center for Pastoral Wholeness and Chaplaincy Studies will work with CCS to provide a creative, dynamic, and experience-based education for persons preparing to become chaplains. The Center will also offer a variety of resources for those who already serve as chaplains.

A distinctive emphasis of the Center will be on the integration of a chaplaincy approach to ministry with congregations. In this way congregations will be equipped to offer health and wholeness ministries, such as addiction counseling and ministry with persons with dementia. Instead of seeing chaplaincy as an individual endeavor the Center will encourage a community-based approach to chaplaincy, providing formation and education for persons entering into and already practicing chaplaincy, while also providing ways for congregations to be “chaplains” to their members.

Dr. Peter Gathje, Vice President of Academic Affairs/Dean at MTS notes Dr. Jeffords’ fit with the mission of the Center, “Dr. Jeffords brings years of pastoral ministry experience, creative engagement in wholeness ministry, and close collaboration with area hospitals to this position. He is well prepared for the multi-dimensional work of guiding students in their chaplaincy studies, connecting them with chaplaincy placements, developing resources to support chaplains in their ministry, and working with congregations to provide wholistic care for their members who are hurting. I am excited that MTS is seeking to integrate chaplaincy with congregational ministry while also preparing students for more traditional chaplaincy ministry in hospitals, jails, and the military.”

Dr. Jeffords served for 33 years under pastoral appointment in the United Methodist Church, most recently as Pastor at St. John’s United Methodist in Memphis. He chaired the Board of Ordained Ministry for the former Memphis Annual Conference. He was part of the creation of The Way, a ministry of recovery, at St. John’s UMC. He has been on the adjunct faculty at MTS in previous years teaching “The United Methodist Book of Worship,” “John Wesley and the Poor,” and “Accountability and Addiction: Wesley and Twelve Step Recovery.” He also served on the Board of The Methodist House of Studies.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity the Assisi grant affords us in the exploration of chaplaincy ministries for students as well as helping to resource those chaplains long in the field,” Dr. Jeffords said. “I’m equally excited to build out and explore the nature of pastoral wholeness to include clergy, of course, while also engaging congregations in what it means to be pastoral. Every congregation can be pastoral with its people and in its community offering care around issues like addiction and recovery, or ministry with and among those on the margins. Of ever-increasing significance is ministry with the aging, many of which are faced with dementia and other cognitive impairing diseases. This is a growing edge for many congregations. Once developed, we will be a place where training and support for such ministries becomes real.”

Please join us in welcoming Dr. Jeffords!