Article Repost from 1999: Special Report from the CPSP General Secretary

06 Jul 2020 9:20 AM | Krista Argiropolis (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.


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.