Pastoral Report Articles 

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  • 06 Nov 2020 12:02 PM | Admin Office (Administrator)

    National Clinical Training Seminar–East (NCTS-East) just went virtual for 2020 this week, making it the first national event for CPSP that was held entirely online!

    For the past nineteen years, NCTS-East has been held mainly in New Jersey, with the focus on participants presenting their work with patients and trainees in small groups, then coming together for the didactic and workshop sessions. The annual event became a bi-annual event in the mid-2000's. When the pandemic hit the U.S. in early 2020, the event scheduled for May was cancelled. 

    Recognizing the need for the training experience and keeping the participants safe, Francine Hernandez, Chair of NCTS-East, opted for an online meeting for the Fall 2020 NCTS-East event. The recent event had over sixty registrants and several attendees have shared about their recent experience. 

    NCTS REFLECTION - by Craig Scott Brown, CC/PC, Hopewell, NJ Chapter

    It is my sincere delight to share reflections on my NCTS experience. Let me first applaud and congratulate Dr. Francine Hernandez and her team for organizing and presenting our first virtual gathering. Overcoming the myriad of challenges associated with this herculean task was no small accomplishment. Through these efforts, I was afforded the opportunity of both fellowship and feedback.

    While we were confined to Zoom limitations, I was still able to engage in “hallway” conversations, in moments we were waiting for the group to reassemble. Within my group, everyone had an opportunity to present material and those who seized the opportunity received insightful and constructive feedback.

    I am still feasting on the insights I was afforded by Raymond J Lawrence. His vast knowledge and candor were like eating at a five-star buffet. I applaud and commend Asnel Valcin for inviting Raymond to lead in supervisory feedback. Further, the “Directors Covid-19”, sharing was insightful and engaging. I am energized and excited as I continue to pursue the unparalleled privilege to serve as an Agent of Hope.

    NCTS-East Reflection by Lori Whittemore, Diplomate Supervisor, Central Nassau, NY Chapter

    What a joy it was on Monday and Tuesday to see my brothers and sisters at NCTS on Zoom! It wasn’t the same as our time at Loyola. I definitely missed the beautiful grounds, the grandeur of the old building, the meals, and especially the conversations in the halls with friends from far and near. That isn’t our reality right now. Still, Francine and Krista curated a wonderful and very important experience that brought our community together to learn, laugh, and take comfort as

    we shared about our work in the trenches right now. Francine and Krista made it look easy, although I am sure it wasn’t. I can’t think of a more important time for us to connect and support each other in our important and sacred work!

    Bonnie Miller-McLemore images a Living Human Web when thinking about a metaphor for pastoral care. Recognizing that each human’s identity is a web of social, cultural, and religious construction, we listen for the strands of someone’s fabric to reflect back a patient’s source of strength and comfort. Hearing about what’s happening for my colleagues at St John’s Episcopal, Mt. Sinai, Robert Wood Johnson, Hackensack Meridian, Greystone Park, Maine Health, and all of the other locations, amplified this idea for me.

    CPSP embodies the living human web and when we come together for our NCTS annually, we can see the many threads of our institutional web. I feel the strength of our collective expertise and shared support. We amplify and strengthen each other! Even when we have to do it virtually.

    I am reminded of a quote by Pema Chodron, a Tibetan Nun, that obstacles are not our enemies. Obstacles are opportunities to look at where we are stuck and to look beyond that stuckness to see the truth in a new way. I believe the truth is that the new normal is going to look a lot different than the normal of 12-months ago. Francine and Krista looked past the obstacles and brought us together beautifully. In so doing, they modeled one kind of path forward that will serve us in new ways as we navigate this new normal.

    Reflection on the first Virtual NCTS by Rita Bakr, CC/PC, and HPC, Convener, Palisades, New Jersey Chapter

    I consider us in this age to be the “Baby Zoomers”.

    Having been on so many Zoom meetings, seminars, webinars, memorials, and moreover the last several months, I was thinking with some apprehension as to what our first zoom NCTS would be like.

    Today’s experience was a sight for my sore eyes and a soothing balm for my anxiety. It was refreshing to see so many faces, new and familiar, and connecting with what I missed - the CPSP community. The time allotted for our interaction was adequate and I had a great sense of unhurried calm in my break-out group and in the larger group where the panel presented. The pace was steady, the information was timely, relevant, and light enough to keep me engaged and well informed with what we are all in some way experiencing, without the overheads of a heavy-duty theological or scholarly topic.

    Thanks to Francine, Krista, and all who made this first event sail off to a good start while maintaining the charm of our togetherness.

    Reflection on NCTS-East, Virtual Meeting by Thomas Kircher, CC/PC, Portland, Maine Chapter

    COVID has pushed the practice of chaplaincy and chaplaincy training at times out of the physical room and into the virtual room. Thus, for me, the experience of a virtual NCTS was somehow appropriate for these times.

    Throughout the conference, I found the dialogue in both small and large group meetings lively, engaging, and at times profound. Especially in the large group, it was interesting how the ZOOM chat function allowed a diverse set of voices to be heard. The sharing of case studies in the small group breakouts moved participants to new understandings. In these respects, the event was a success.

    However, the overall experience was also somewhat bittersweet. I felt joy, seeing, and sharing with fellow pilgrims new ways of deeper and more meaningful relationships with self and others. And at the same time, I felt the loss - loss of the many small rituals I have come to associate with the Loyola Retreat Center, and loss of the experience of human connection with those I respect and admire. This type of connection, in all its complexity and wonder, is something not easily transmitted in bits and bytes.

  • 13 Oct 2020 6:45 PM | Admin Office (Administrator)

    Sometimes a picture is more informative and revealing than either words or actions, referencing the thought, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” This year’s theme, Collaborative Healthcare: Chaplains Complete the Picture, encourages professionals and constituents across the healthcare continuum to view the work of chaplains as part of an image that conveys inclusive healthcare practices among spiritual care practitioners. Viewing chaplains through a lens whereby they collaborate to provide holistic interdisciplinary care, that otherwise would not be complete if the chaplain were not included.

    Spiritual Care Week/Pastoral Care Week is hosted by The COMISS Network: The Network on Ministry in Specialized Settings. The first Pastoral Care Week was held in October 1985. Since then it has grown beyond national to international proportions. The celebration of Spiritual Care Week provides an opportunity for chaplains and pastoral care counselors, educators and providers to share their story and to celebrate various ministries. More specifically, the established objectives of the Spiritual Care Week Committee outline the scope of Spiritual Care Week observance:

    • To celebrate the education for and practice of spiritual care through professional chaplaincy and pastoral counseling.
    • To interpret and promote pastoral care.
    • To honor and celebrate all practitioners of pastoral care.
    • To express appreciation to institutions and their staff who support pastoral care ministries.
    • To publicize the work of pastoral care organizations affiliated with COMISS.
    • To promote continuing education for clergy, laity, and institutional employees regarding the value of pastoral care.

    Each year a new theme brings to light a certain aspect of spiritual care as a focus. May this year’s focus bless you as you complete the picture in providing holistic ministry to all who come under your care!

    For further information about Event Resources, A Proclamation or a Press Release, please go to

  • 07 Oct 2020 11:49 PM | Admin Office (Administrator)

    Ron Evans

    The College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy mourns the death of Ron Evans, who died on October 1, at age 84, in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. An early member of CPSP, Ron showed up at the fourth Plenary, held at the Episcopal Camp in Greenville, North Carolina. Ron was a peer with me under the supervision of Armen D. Jorjorian at St. Lukes Episcopal/Texas Children’s Hospital in 1967. Ron and I immediately bonded. It was us against the world. Later he was certified a Diplomate, and eventually became a member of the Chapel Hill Chapter.

    I recall sitting in the hospital coffee shop with Ron before heading up for patient visits. We talked a lot. He named his newborn daughter Suzanne after the newly discovered Leonard Cohen’s song by that name.

    After clinical pastoral training, Ron was for 5 years the chaplain at Kings View Mental Health Center in Reedley, California. After that, he was 19 years as the Director of Pastoral Services at Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon. Except for four years in the Rocanville parish in Canada, Ron’s working life was spent as a chaplain and teacher in psychiatric and general hospitals in Houston, Reedley, and Saskatoon. Reminiscing, he said that In another life, he would ask to “have the courage to be an actor or join the circus; as it was, adding that he “got only as far as the church".

    I and my family visited Ron in Saskatoon a few years back, and one of the entertaining things we did was to go to his village center and shovel compost. I thought that was very down to earth. He had a wonderful sense of humor.

    Ron was known for sharing his poetry and prose at various events. Ron was a published author and also contributed to the Pastoral Report.

    After I began publishing the ACPE Underground Report, in 1988, later to be named Contra Mundum, Ron published The Sourdough Bagel, followed by three books, Coming Home: Saskatchewan Remembered; Letters from the Sourdough Bagel: Confessions of a Loner who Likes Company; and then When the Bartender Dims the Lights: Storytelling after 80. He also produced one CD, “You Can See for Miles”, a collection of his storytelling accompanied by Barry Luft on banjo. In the last few years, he learned to draw and paint, producing many images of hills, barns, and barbed wire fences.

    Ron had a unique perspective when it came to observing people and some of the difficult situations that life could place them in. In his piece for Pastoral Report, "Candy and Pencils", (2015), about his encounter with artists in a correctional facility, he wrote:

    “I came here,” I reply, “because I have seen artwork done by people like yourselves, by individuals who have experienced difficulty. I think good art comes out of adversity and you know about that.”

    In 2013, Ron wrote about his experience in the hospital, after breaking his hip, in "It Is Good To Be Remembered", Pastoral Report:

    When you are lying in your bed in the night, troubled by what has happened and wondering how healing will occur, when you can’t take care of basic functions on your own and there is no alternative but to call for help, it seems to me you are returned to a state of early childhood. Certainly, you are afraid, feel alone. One of the things that occur on the battlefield is that a wounded soldier will be heard to call out for his mother. I don’t want to suggest that my state was near that severe but something of the same atmosphere prevailed. The usual layers of protection, bravado, assumptions about one’s dignity, were peeled away and as an infant, in the arms of its mother, I was grateful for a nurse stroking my hand and calling me by name.

    Ron never displayed his three diplomas from university days. Rather, what decorated his offices with were his diploma in sausage making, a plaque for fire eating, and a certificate for graduating from clown school. Ron’s alter-ego, Yitzak the Clown, was born after a week at clown school. Yitzak would later appear at the hospital, making balloon animals for patients on various wards.

    Ron's death is a sad loss for the CPSP community. Our condolences to Ron's loved ones. 


    My appreciation to Suzanne Evans and Krista Argiropolis for assistance in composing this tribute.


    Raymond Lawrence may be reached at

  • 14 Sep 2020 8:20 PM | Admin Office (Administrator)

    Ken Blank

    Medicus Rentz, Ken Blank, Jacob George

    Ken Blank and George Hull

    Ken Blank, a Diplomate in the Savannah, GA Chapter(formerly, Indian Nations - San Antonio Chapter) and past-president of CPSP, died this weekend. Ken lived in Edmond, Oklahoma with his wife of 42 years, Audrey, and was a father and grandfather, as well. Our deepest sympathy to Ken's loved ones, at this time.

    An early member of our organization, Ken made significant contributions to the prosperity of CPSP through the years, serving as the third president (2000-2002), while he was also the chair of the Southwest Region for APCE. Ken led CPSP into a conciliatory era with our collegial organizations and single-handedly requested for CPSP to be included in the Coalition on Ministry in Specialized Setting (COMISS) in December 1999 and continued to serve for several years as a delegate to COMISS. Ken was a member of the CPSP Accreditation Commission and he served on numerous committees for our community. Ken was also on the board of advisors for The Coalition of Spirit-filled Churches.

    In 2016, Ken spoke about his role as a chaplain in 1995 at the Oklahoma City bombing in an interview with Susan McDougall, CPSP Diplomate, and fellow chapter member, in an episode of Chaplaincy Alive, a podcast series on Pastoral Report. Ken was recognized for his work in the Oklahoma City bombing in 1997 with the Professional Service Award from the Association of Professional Chaplains. The list of Ken's contributions to clinical chaplaincy and pastoral care is numerous, for certain.

    As we get more details about the final arrangements and plans, we will share the details with the CPSP community.

    Raymond J. Lawrence, General Secretary

    09/17/20 Update: 

    Ken's family has started a Facebook group, Honoring Ken Blank, which people may visit to share their memories and express their sympathies. 

    Anyone who wishes to write Ken's chapter may contact Medicus Rentz, Convener, at Medicus tells us that he's in touch with Ken's wife, Audrey, and family. 

    A Celebration of Life will be streamed on Monday, September 21, 2–3 PM (Central time), by the First Presbyterian Church of Edmond, Oklahoma

  • 02 Sep 2020 8:00 AM | Admin Office (Administrator)

    It was brought to the attention of the Executive Chapter of CPSP that Muslim detainees' religious rights and dignity are being violated by the U.S. Dept. of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The Executive Chapter met on Aug. 28, and agreed by consensus to address this abuse. A copy of the letter that has been sent out is posted, below.

    Several news outlets have reported on this unethical treatment of detainees, and you can read more about it by clicking on one of the links: CNN, Forbes, ABCNews, and HuffPost.

    "We join in demanding that you hold all ICE officials accountable for this religious abuse and ensure that Muslims at all ICE facilities have access to unexpired halal meals." 

  • 24 Jul 2020 5:04 PM | Admin Office (Administrator)


    Netflix has put together quite a damning exposé on the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Please see and read, "Trump administration tries to block release of a documentary that shows ICE agents illegally breaking into homes, eager to arrest immigrants without criminal records," by CharlesReed, Business Insider, July 24, 2020. (Remarkably, a business publication has covered this story!)

    Apparently, the documentary has struck a nerve for some. “As the documentary neared completion in recent months, the [Trump] administration fought mightily to keep it from being released until after the 2020 election. After granting rare access to parts of the country’s powerful immigration enforcement machinery that are usually invisible to the public, administration officials threatened legal action. They sought to block parts of it from seeing the light of day,” (The New York Times, July 23, 2020). Fortunately for Netflix and the public, the courts have ruled in favor of Netflix, and the series will be shown in its entirety, beginning next month (Aug. 3). It is a six-part series.

    Under Ruth Zollinger’s and my co-presidency, ICE and their reported egregious actions were real concerns. In December 2018, the Executive Chapter published a public statement in response to the abuse of immigrants seeking asylum in the United States.

    I urge all of the Pastoral Report readers, especially all chaplains and pastoral psychotherapists, to watch it in its entirety. I have not yet watched this series, but I suspect that it will be very thought-provoking. Some of the themes it raises might be worthy of discussions within the chapters of CPSP. I hope all persons of conscience have the opportunity to watch the series and judge what has happened – and is likely still happening – with ICE.

    Netflix: Immigration Nation, a limited series, starts August 3.

  • 06 Jul 2020 9:20 AM | Admin Office (Administrator)

    FOREWORD. Our Administrative Coordinator, Krista Argiropolis, dug the following document out of our archives yesterday and sent it around to several persons in leadership. It is my 1999 Annual Report to the community. I was quite taken aback by the current relevance of this twenty-one-year-old document. So I have asked Krista to re-run it. I regret that it is somewhat over-written, but I suppose I have learned to write a little better two decades later. Please ignore, if you will, the prediction that I would be dead by now. I am still alive. I hope you find this ancient document both edifying and amusing. – Raymond J. Lawrence

     Raymond J. Lawrence, Jr.



    As I approach my 65th birthday, I don't feel particularly aged or worn out, but obviously, this threshold has some meaning, specifically that most of my professional work is behind me. As they say about the prospect of the impending execution, it concentrates the mind.

    Forty years ago this June, I was first ordained as a minister. For a decade or so, I was a committed parish cleric and a true-believing Episcopalian. I related to an informal network of like-minded clerics who were on the cutting edge of both social action, education, and counseling.

    My first years as a cleric were a yeasty time for me, both dynamic and creative. My disillusionment came gradually, but eventually, I learned that my place on the outer fringe of the Episcopal Church was not likely to change, that all-important decisions affecting the larger community were made by a coterie of leaders, many quite decent and liberal in ideology, but well defended against the larger community, and especially against agitators like me. For probably very complex and subtle reasons, I became unemployable by the end of my first decade. In the invisible process by which leadership is selected and rejected, I became an outsider, or more accurately, never became an insider. I was identified as a radical. Not that I actually risked all that much or was all that effective. I just got labeled that way. I was, in fact, simply a "tester of boundaries" and in those days a rather timid one at that.

    Race was one of the boundaries I probed, and in the '60s, it was a hot one. I was assistant rector in a Republican country club parish in Knoxville and thought I should go to Selma for the now-famous civil rights march in '65. My Episcopal priest boss, who was a liberal democrat, said it was okay for me to go as long as I did not return. Being at heart a prostitute, I stayed home. But my boss remembered that I wanted to go. That was enough. It wasn't long before I was asked to take my vocation elsewhere.

    In all my 40 years of clerical status in good standing, no bishop ever listened to me for more than 30 seconds. I became a nonparticipating observer of the institution as a whole. After 40 years, I have no stake whatsoever in the Episcopal Church except to be vested in the Pension Fund. Nor does the leadership want me to have any stake. If it wanted me to have a stake, the leadership would summons me and request my views.

    I am summoned once a year. An 8x11 sheet of paper arrives by post, sent by my bishop. On it are three lines: baptisms, marriages, communions. To remain in good standing, I put a number on each line, which is usually zero, and sign my name. That's all the Episcopal Church wants of me. The bishop is happy, and I'm happy. Whether the Episcopal Church goes out of business or not, and it is moving in that direction, matters very little to me. I still love what it represents, with its magnificent liturgy and the wide embrace of the Elizabethan settlement incorporating both Protestant and Catholic traditions. It grieves me that it will likely be replaced in the culture by something less substantive and less humane, but I just don't have much stake in the matter.

    In that regard, I am not unusual. Most of us in the clinical field have drifted away from our denominations.

    I have a good friend who has been a cleric for almost as long as I have. He fills out his zeros every year too. Two decades ago, he became a practicing Hindu. He goes to the Ashram several times a week, has pictures of his guru on his walls, a meditation room in his home. It's all very meaningful to him. I don't know if his bishop knows that he's joined one of the other world religions, but it probably would not matter too much. The Episcopal Church has always had a wide embrace, which is one of its virtues. But it's the embrace of a Victorian grandfather who wants to love you but would rather you keep your opinions to yourself. So my Hindu Episcopal priest friend is, like me a nonparticipating observer.

    The Episcopal Church consists of a relatively small group of leaders and a larger group of nonparticipating observers. Most everyone sitting in the pews on Sunday is a nonparticipating observer. A nonparticipating observer is not necessarily inactive. They can pray up a storm, and work to promote the local congregation, but decisions that shape the direction and values of the larger community are out of reach. It's the corporate, hierarchical, pyramidal model of authority. If you work for IBM, you are either in a small coterie of leaders who make all critical decisions, or you're a worker who is a nonparticipating observer of leadership. If you dance right, you may be elevated to the circle of leadership, but very few are chosen. I single out the Episcopal Church only because it is the one I belong to. All the major churches are organized around the same hierarchical model.

    After seven years as a parish cleric, finding myself adrift, I found my way into the clinical pastoral movement in the mid-'60s. I entered the movement by way of the Council for Clinical Training (CCT), just as it was about to merge with the Institute of Pastoral Care (IPC), and others, to make the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE). The clinical pastoral movement at that time was an intimate, grassroots community in two respects. The use of the small group process in training, which we all know about and take for granted, was a liberating discovery. I found myself powerfully confronted and, at the same time, listened to, and cared for. But equally important, power and authority were vested almost entirely in regional small groups in the CCT and in the ACPE, too, in the early years of its life. I thrived. It was another one of those rare redemptive experiences.

    After the merger in the late '60s, the clinical pastoral movement evolved ever so subtly into a more corporate model. The balance of power and authority shifted from the grassroots to the central office and national commissions. Regions enlarged their memberships, and the previously meaningful shared life of the small groups vanished, except at the training level. Of course, informal networks developed, but they possessed no corporate power and were mostly impotent against the actions of the corporate office and its commissions. The consequence was the loss both of the on-going critical dimension and the caring dimension, and the loss was disastrous.

    A collateral consequence of the drift toward the corporate model was the gradual disappearance of the idiosyncratic, one-of-a-kind pastoral counselor, and clinical supervisor. When I was initiated into the clinical movement in the '60s the community was full of a whole array of the most colorful characters: Armen Jorjorian, Tom Klink, Ed Springer, John Bellinsky, George Tolson, John Smith, Dick Young, Henry Cassler, and so many others, the kind of people one would hear stories about. I think that those of you who have been around for as long as I have would agree that while the numbers of persons in the larger clinical pastoral community have increased greatly, the colors have faded. The facelessness of the corporate model has intruded into the clinical pastoral movement.

    The gradual drift toward the corporate model continued unabated in the ACPE for twenty years. In late '87, I began documenting the abuses in the ACPE Underground Report, which later became Contra Mundum. One of the first stories I published was the case of George Buck, who was an active alcoholic for decades. His excessive drinking was done openly. He was never confronted in the ACPE for his obvious alcoholism. When he got into trouble related to his drinking and lost his job, the Methodist Church conducted an intervention. His pastor, Chuck Merrill, supported by the District Superintendent, made it possible for George to enter treatment for alcoholism, loaning him money and guaranteeing him a pastorate on completion of his treatment–a critical and caring response from a quarter one least expects it. While he was a patient in treatment, the ACPE sent George a registered letter dismissing him, lifting his supervisory credentials. This was not the act of people who customarily push old women down in the street, but of corporate executives who simply act the part. They cannot do otherwise.

    The publication of The Underground Report struck a chord in the ACPE/AAPC membership and got wide circulation. But the community leadership kept strangely quiet, assuming that the problem would go away if it were ignored. After two years of silence from the corporate leadership of ACPE/AAPC, an informal group responded to an invitation published in The Underground Report and convened in a hotel room at the Houston '89 ACPE Conference to consider whether the time had come to create a new organization. (Bill Carr is the only other person still with us who was present at that meeting.)

    The consensus of those gathered was that the dehumanizing abuses and burdens of the old corporate-model certifying bodies were intolerable and that the time had indeed come to seek a new way to be together as professionals, one in which we could reclaim ownership of our professional destiny. The question was how to do this while remaining serious about and committed to our vocation and our special expertise.

    That Houston meeting authorized a call for a gathering to explore the matter. Invitations were sent out to the ACPE/AAPC communities. Fewer than a dozen persons responded initially, and we came very close to canceling the meeting. But we did meet in Roanoke, March 17, 1990–nine years ago yesterday–fifteen persons covenanted to create CPSP, and together wrote the Covenant. Eight of those fifteen remain with us: Bill Carr, Perry Miller, Don Gum, Jarvis McMillan, Al Anderson, David Moss, and Chappell Wilson. Had we known in advance how few would persevere, we would never have begun. But for everyone who has lost interest, many more have appeared from nowhere.


    Our Chapter-based organization is neither accidental nor tangential but central to the basic theological and philosophical posture of CPSP. I think this is not widely understood even by our own membership. The Chapter is the single most effective antidote to a corporate, pyramidal, hierarchical system. Virtually all power and authority rests in small grassroots communities. Chapters can do almost anything, and some have.

    The basic theological and philosophical posture is the claim that authority to function as a pastoral counselor and supervisor resides close to home, with a small group of persons who presumably care about your welfare and have promised in the Covenant to tell you the truth as they see it, and perhaps even more tellingly, link their reputation with yours by accepting and credentialing you. Conversely, your authority to function does not rest in the hands of a committee of persons who neither know you nor care about you and, in fact, are typically concerned mostly about the public image of the corporation itself.

    The corporate, hierarchical model may sometimes work for a business where the objective is the maximization of profits, but it is alienating in the arena of the spirit. It tends to shape the community in such a way as to force everyone into one of two categories of persons: power brokers and nonparticipating observers.

    Most of the networks to which you and I belong consist of two classes of persons: power brokers, often very nice ones, and nonparticipating observers. Virtually every Christian church today is so organized. If you fail to get the power brokers on your side, you remain forever a nonparticipating observer in the direction of the larger community.

    Persons become nonparticipating observers in inverse proportion to the degree to which they have a stake in an enterprise. Most of us who work in institutions as nonparticipating observers, continually watching over our shoulders for the power brokers, sometimes able to do very creative things in our little islands off the beaten track but essentially alienated from decision-making on matters that shape the life and work of the larger institution. That description characterizes my place in practically every organization I belong to, and I believe that you all could say the same.

    CPSP has no place for nonparticipating observers. The Covenant does not permit such. When you become an observer, you are no longer with us. You either take full possession of your own professional destiny in your Chapter, or you are not one of us.

    CPSP is not just another organization to belong to. It's a theological and philosophical awakening. It is the disenfranchisement of the power brokers, however genteel, and the end of passive compliance on matters that affect your right to practice an effective ministry. It is part of a larger cultural malaise that is an inspiring revolt against loss of stake in our destiny, an epidemic in the political arena.

    This country is bereft of a sense of community in all spheres. A rapidly intensifying sense that we have no stake in anything that is happening is spreading like a virus. The great majority see no point even in voting. There is very little sense of contributing something to the common good. Everyone races for his own little economic security, the community be damned.

    The Chapter model actually has the potential to create a profound renewal in this country, in politics as well as religion. Congregations should be organized on a Chapter model. Imagine a congregation in which there were no nonparticipating observers, but one in which each person had a stake in the direction of the larger community.

    Some of our critics have applauded our chapter model because it promotes collegiality and care in a small group context, but they object to Chapters possessing the authority to certify. The Chapter as a support group without real authority to act is mere sentimentality. Perhaps we are all so housebroken that we can hardly believe that authority is ours for the taking. We keep waiting for some bishop to sign off on our authority. We are locked in that pyramid model. People frequently ask me, "Is it acceptable for us in our Chapter to do thus and so?" That's the wrong question. Asking for permission is infantile. It is not worthy of persons of authority. Read the Covenant, make your own best judgment as a Chapter, and tell us what you plan to do, and finally be receptive to the feedback of the larger community.

    We need desperately to deconstruct the pyramid where authority rests at the pinnacle and loving care allegedly at the base. Paul Tillich deconstructed that pyramid fifty years ago when he taught us that love without power is sentimentality, power without love is abuse, and that justice can be achieved only when the two are united. In Chapters, we unite love and power as our best hope for justice.


    I continue to be concerned about the fact that the enterprise we do so well with trainees we are so hesitant to use with each other. We are quite competent at unraveling psychodynamic and theological issues between a pastoral trainee and a parishioner or patient, but we are hesitant to apply the same rigorous analytic eye to community leadership and our own organizational structure. In a community, each part is affected by the whole. No one does effective individual supervision or counseling in a highly dysfunctional context.

    As an extreme example, individual counseling oriented toward personal liberation, self-expression, self-actualization in Stalinist Russia would be a set-up for life in a labor camp. Community values and the nature of leadership affect each relationship. All of our work is affected in part by values in the larger culture, and we must take them into account. Likewise, leadership in CPSP shapes all who commit to the CPSP community.

    We monitor our trainees so well. But the clinical pastoral movement has never monitored its own leadership. Rather than a rational analytic eye on leadership, the clinical pastoral movement has almost from the beginning cast its leaders either as devils or angels, fostering unanalyzed projections. Boisen was scapegoated, first by Richard Cabot and the IPC, and ultimately by the Council for Clinical Training itself. The CCT had no room for Boisen in its leadership. Tellingly, when Boisen made a request for a research grant of $3000 in the '40s, he was turned down, a decision that appears in retrospect as disgraceful.

    All effective leadership brings to the fore creative elements mixed with pathological tendencies. We all know the field well. We apply it so seldom to our own shared life.

    I urge all Chapters to place first on their agenda a reflection on the psychopathology of their own conveners, neither scapegoating nor idealizing the leadership, but seriously and candidly reviewing the quality of their leadership. This will foster more serious mutual self-examination, which is the lifeblood of Chapter life.

    We must continually weigh our own leadership, including me, by the benchmarks of intelligence, honesty, capacity for sustained object relations, and a dose of the darker attributes as well. Audacity is a dangerous attribute, but not much very interesting occurs without it. Our leaders need enough narcissism to remain aloof from the approval of others, and enough paranoia to be suspicious of others' motives, lest the power brokers undo us. Leaders without a measure of audacity, narcissism, and paranoia are useless.

    The tragedy of Clinton is the failure of a reservoir of narcissism and a shortage of paranoia. He has so many gifts, but his need for approval–that shortfall of self-love–has left him vulnerable to his enemies. So he appears still running for office as if he doesn't believe he is the most powerful political figure in the world today.

    In 1992, I attempted to send word through a friend who is a Clinton intimate that he could be shot just as his role model, John F. Kennedy, if he did not bring to heel the covert forces of rage that fester in this country, especially with their tentacles in the military, spy, and police agencies. My friend thought I was too paranoid. As we know, of course, Clinton was not shot. But the forces I referred to have eviscerated his administration. My paranoia, on his behalf, was accurate.

    The fact that Linda Tripp was a White House staff person in the early Clinton presidency reveals an insufficiency of paranoia. As a holdover from the Bush administration, she should have been under suspicion of principle. Surely anyone interviewing her or observing her would have picked up her pathology. Clinton was not able to protect himself from his enemies right in the White House.

    But the Pentagon leadership obviously thinks highly of Linda Tripp. Her salary has been raised from the '60s to the '90s since her betrayal of Monica Lewinsky, and she has permission to work at home because of her notoriety. Who can believe that her value to the Pentagon has increased by 50% even though she works at home because of her notoriety? If Clinton cannot protect himself against relentless enemies among his own White House employees, and from the leadership of the Pentagon, how can he protect the nation? As he is weakened through a failure of paranoia, the entire nation is weakened.

    CPSP needs leaders with just enough paranoia to read signs of threats to the community, to identify the Linda Tripps and Kenneth Starrs of the clinical pastoral world. Defenselessness is no virtue. We also need leaders who, unlike Clinton, have enough narcissism or self-love to stand up to widespread disapproval from a fickle public and sometimes our own fickle colleagues.

    Even more importantly, we need as a community to be in continuing reflection and conversation about the strengths and psychopathology of all our leadership. Not to do so is to set ourselves to be blindsided by future developments.

    By leadership, I do not mean simply those persons holding offices. Leadership is fluid in CPSP and is there for the taking. We continuously await the emergence of new leadership. We hope for the vigorous younger ones among us to find their voice and point the way ahead.

    The purpose of our Tavistock-style meeting of the group as a whole here at this Plenary is to promote precisely that fact, that leadership is a movable feast. Any voice can be heard. Reflection on the shape of CPSP leadership in all its manifestations is subject for discussion. The group as a whole will determine the direction of the reflection and conversation. This is one of the ways we can start doing for ourselves what we have always done so well for our trainees, and in the process, invite new leadership to emerge, without which a community withers and dies.


    The most alarming recent trend in our field is the present widespread campaign to disempower clergy from the work of pastoral counseling. The campaign is driven by the insurers and their concern to protect church property. The success of this campaign will mean the evisceration of the ministry as a respected profession.

    No one gets sued for fundraising, preaching, leading prayer meetings, or spiritual direction. Ordinarily, one gets sued only for something that has weight or has a significant effect.

    Ministers who share fantasies about what God is thinking about, or speculate on what life after death will be like, or who revisit the cosmic drama of how Jesus came to earth for a visit some time back, never get sued.

    If a minister attempts to assist another in deciphering what's wrong with a marriage or to decide whether to quit a bad job, or whether to take a lover, or whether to submit to the demands of parents... this is dangerous territory. These are the kinds of problems people had brought to ministers for centuries, long before psychology was even invented. Take away the authority of the minister to engage in such counseling, and we will destroy the ministry as a profession. Better for churches to lose every building in America to creditors than to give up the pastoral counseling role as the principal tool in the pastor's armamentarium. Let the creditors take the buildings. The churches can rent the space back.

    I remember, as a teenager, my Methodist minister serving as pastoral counselor to me in Portsmouth in the '40s. He gave me far more than the recently established ludicrous limit of three sessions, and he never referred me for psychological testing. I doubt a psychologist even could have been found in Portsmouth at the time. This pastor–Mahlon Elliot was his name–was so significant to my finding an even keel in adolescence that I decided to follow him and become a minister. The congregation thought I was following Jesus. I don't remember much about his preaching, and nothing about his fundraising or didactics. He didn't seem to pray much. I do not know if he was clinically trained, but he listened well, said little, and I got through. And I always felt he saved my life at a critical juncture.

    We must not let ministers be shorn of the pastoral counseling role! Rather we must prepare them better, train them clinically, help them to know their limitations, and when to refer. The best ones will develop into wise and skillful counselors like Carlisle Marney, Myron Madden, and Wayne Oates. Some of the best psychotherapists alive today have come from the parish ministry.

    The clinical pastoral movement in the past has grossly neglected the front-line clergy in the trenches, viewing them as a source of clients or a market for fundraising. In fact, they are our future, not to be exploited or abused. The more we demean them, who are already demeaned enough, the more we degrade ourselves.

    So CPSP certifies as "Pastoral Counselor" any appropriately educated minister who has also been clinically trained. But we do so for only so long as that minister continues to grow and develop clinical expertise and self-awareness through collegial relationships in the context of a Chapter.

    We in no way wish to devalue the specialty of pastoral counseling, which we refer to in CPSP as "pastoral psychotherapy." Like the American Association of Pastoral Counselors, we promote that specialty. Some persons, including many among us, have a special talent and vocation for full-time pastoral psychotherapy. But our valuing of the specialty does not permit us to disempower front line clergy from the pastoral counseling task. We must speak loud and clear to the religious community of this country this message: Any minister is a pastoral counselor from the first day she begins work. Nothing a minister does is more important than the cure of souls, that task which is done mostly one-to-one, in private, involving sensitive self-disclosure, and for which introductory clinical training is essential.

    Our future probably belongs to the Pastoral Counselors. The health care industry, which has for 75 years been the home of the clinical pastoral movement, is increasingly subverted by mercantile objectives. Where profits are the ultimate objective, there will likely be less and less room for the kind of work we do. As Perry Miller has been arguing, it may be time to return to our original home base, the local religious congregation.

    The decision to offer Pastoral Counselor certification may well have been the most important decision CPSP made in its nine-year history. To ministers who seek such expertise belongs the future not only of CPSP but of the religious community in this country.

    We in CPSP need to do more for the Pastoral Counselor Chapters, assisting them in getting started and offering guidance in shaping their Chapter life.

    5. SUMMARY

    Our early years were ones of strife with our collegial communities. In the past year, using his guileless, magnanimous goodwill, Ken Blank has led us into a new conciliatory era with our collegial organizations. He has been the right man for the right time. I hope this means we will have years of mutual respect and dialogue between CPSP and our collegial communities. Ken has led us to sheath our swords. It is, of course, too early to beat them into plowshares. There are still too many who believe we have no right to exist, who judge us to be illegitimate, who contend that our "sacraments are not valid," and that everyone in our field must march to the same drummer. So as we benefit from peace and strive to further promote it, let us also remain vigilant.

    In relation to the future, we are all beggars. Twenty years from now, maybe less, all of the original CPSP leadership will be dead or palsied, good for little more than speaking into a camcorder for the historical record. CPSP or whatever alphabet is functioning by then must be weighed in the same balance that inspired the vision of the fifteen nine years ago.

    Reposted from Pastoral Report, May 17, 1999.

  • 24 Jun 2020 8:59 PM | Admin Office (Administrator)

    We're taking a moment to share a 17-minute video by Phil Vischer, the creator of VeggieTales (many Christian parents and people raised in Christian homes will know about this series). Vischer gives viewers context as to why we see what we see in today's socio-political climate. For those of us who are trying to understand what's going on today, it explains the rage, the violence, the hopelessness, and despair that we are seeing. It gives us multiple historical contexts of how we, as a nation, have arrived at this juncture. And while you may not have experienced any of this, if you are looking to relate to what others have experienced, you may benefit from taking a few minutes to listen to this video. 

  • 17 Jun 2020 9:33 PM | Admin Office (Administrator)

    Note: Originally published in Pastoral Report, 29-Nov. 2017. Republished on 17-June 2020 in response to the recent article, Call to Arms by Raymond J. Lawrence, General Secretary

    The following is a brief excerpt from the 90-minute seminar I presented in 2012 in Malibu and in 2015 in Chicago on “Anton Boisen (1876-1965): Clinician”:

    “The Rev. Dr. Anton Theophilus Boisen (1876-1965), according to a recent book, ‘was not at all interested in psychotherapy …’. [Myers-Shirk SE. Helping the Good Shepherd: Pastoral Counselors in a Psychotherapeutic Culture: 1925-1975. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009. p.30]. How anyone could have studied Boisen’s writings and come to such an erroneous conclusion I do not know. Boisen definitely was interested in psychotherapy. That being said, neither I nor anyone else, apparently, directly has portrayed Boisen in his role as a clinician.”

    “One part of the problem, of course, is that Boisen already is viewed as a sociologist/ psychologist of religion, as a theologian/ psychiatric investigator – not to mention as a language-teacher/ translator/ forester.  Another part of the problem is that Boisen believed in treating ‘official’ patients and novice theologs in the same manner. He believed in trying to point those who were suffering, bewildered, or vulnerable – for whatever reason – in the right direction – in fact, in trying to get them to aim high – but he was not going to do the work for them or to hand them ready-made answers.  Becoming one’s best as a clinical pastoral chaplain was an individual task, albeit one that benefited the entire world. Too many would-be clinical pastoral chaplains, he believed, wanted ‘to be told at once what to do’ – and wanted ‘rules of procedures … [to] apply’. He believed they should discover for themselves the meaning of the different forms of illness and that psychotherapy depended less on technique than on caring relationships between people. [Boisen, Exploration of the Inner World, pp.239, 240] Boisen did not try teaching psychotherapy per se; he did try encouraging 

     genuine interest in     

    the patient and his [or her] problems

    – as well as [in]   

    the discovery and solving of    

    the patient’s actual difficulties

    [Boisen, The Exploration of the Inner World (1936), p.245]


    Robert Charles Powell, MD, PhD


    Editor's Note: Robert Charles Powell, MD, PhD, is the leading historian of the clinical pastoral movement. Many of his published writings are posted on the Pastoral Report. Readers can use the search field, located in the upper right corner of the website, to locate his articles. As a practicing psychiatrist, his writings reflect his daily investment in his clinical practice of providing psychotherapy and care to his patients. Contact Dr. Powell by clicking his name, above. -- Perry Miller, Editor

  • 08 Jun 2020 11:51 AM | Admin Office (Administrator)

    You received a lot of material in the Pastoral Report last week, both Robert Powell’s Dunbar Award presentation and Jennifer Harper’s even longer document, her acceptance speech on receiving the 2020 Helen Flanders Dunbar Award. All of us should read both as vitally important documents concerning our life together.

    But I want to pass on to you what Robert Powell wrote to me yesterday via email: “Tell the community to read Jennifer Harper’s paper without fail.” It is so long that it is in two sections. As Robert Powell says, it is a must-read for anyone who cares about our discipline, our community, and our future.

    What Jennifer Harper does is to link pastoral care unambiguously with psychotherapy and psychoanalysis. She does this as only a person in her position can do– this our future– this is the future of CPSP, if we are to have a future at all.

    We should have known this all along. Boisen told us a century ago that a clinically trained minister can do anything a psychiatrist can do. (Of course, we don’t prescribe drugs, and arguably psychiatrists should not either.) But we have developed amnesia about Anton Boisen. We have buried him in the history books, to our significant loss.

    We must cut ourselves off from the prayer-warrior chaplaincy mentality and become the pastoral psychotherapists that we should already be. If we continue in the prayer warrior chaplain mode, as exemplified in virtually all the current literature of our so-called cognate organizations, we will all personally suffer the fate of the unicorn. You and I will soon become extinct.

    We must all become pastoral psychotherapists, and we must learn to get comfortable with that label. And we must do that soon. Not next year. Not in the next century, but now. Whether you are a Clinician or a Diplomate, you must reclaim the identity of a pastoral psychotherapist that Anton Boisen assigned us. You may be a novice pastoral psychotherapist, or you may be an experience pastoral psychotherapist. But you must be one or the other. Psychotherapy is the Greek word for the “cure of souls.” It’s our calling, our vocation. For generations, we have let the medical doctors take it away from us. If you are not doing the work of curing souls, AKA psychotherapy, you need to find other work. A psychotherapist heals principally through listening, not through talking and praying. When you’re talking and praying, you’re not listening.

    We all understand that It may not be easy to reframe our work in an institutional context, especially when some nurse says to us, “Go say a little prayer over Mr. Smith in room 101. He’s upset.” We cannot as a profession continue to go around, saying little prayers over people. Prayers can be comforting to people, but they cannot be a substitute for listening. Institutions will discover, if they haven’t already, that they can train a retired short-order cook and high school graduate in a couple of days to take on such a task as praying over patients and do it as well as we can. It takes a very well-trained person actually to listen and do the work of pastoral psychotherapy.

    Jennifer Harper is pointing the way forward. She has joined our community with delight and hope. We must allow her to help us get up to speed, as only someone like her can do. She is teaching psychotherapy and psychoanalysis as we speak. And she is a minister with an M.Div. Jennifer’s joining us and requesting credentials from CPSP is an enormous blessing and opportunity.

    The great psychoanalyst of the twentieth century and close colleague of Anton Boisen, Harry Stack Sullivan, used to train his more promising orderlies with no formal education to function as beginning level psychotherapists. If all you Clinicians and Diplomates do not reframe your thinking and language very soon, Sullivan will return from the grave and give your jobs to his orderlies. We in CPSP already have excellent preparation and training. But we lack the audacity and self-assuredness to declare what we can do. Even Freud argued that one does not need a Ph.D. or an M.D. degree to become a competent psychotherapist or psychoanalyst.

    If I seem a bit over the top in this short epistle, I think I see the future, and I fear what’s at stake. If we amble along doing things, as usual, praying over people and moving on down the road, I fear there will be no future for us as a discipline.

    Jennifer Harper, Robert Powell, and others among us like them can lead us in a new direction, and to a new future, and a clearer and stronger pastoral psychotherapeutic identity. We need only give them permission and make use of their wisdom. Time is of the essence.


    Raymond J. Lawrence
    General Secretary

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