Pastoral Report Articles 

  • 06 Jun 2011 11:18 PM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    “We believe we should 
    make a space for one another and 
    stand ready to midwife one another 
    in our respective spiritual journeys.”

    “We commit to being mutually responsible to one another 
    for our professional work and direction.” 
    [from the CPSP Covenant]


    23 May 1911 - The Brooklyn Daily Eagle [NY]
    Four of the Applicants for Ordination Had Agnostic Views.


    It was one of the longest drawn-out meetings of the Presbytery ever held, and two hours of it or more were in executive session, it being nearly midnight when the ministers and elders decided to ordain and license seven young men, four of whom came from … [one] Seminary. It is known that there was decidedly divided opinion in the matter of making ministers of these four men, for a number of the ministers found it convenient to leave the room before it was finally decided to vote for the ordination of the young men … .[:] Robert A. Watson, Elmer Fred Eastman, Anton T. Boisen, and Herman N. Morse. …

    Four Young Men Were Agnostics and Undecided in Their Faith

    It was ascertained that the four … young men did not absolutely “deny” anything, but they were agnostic – did not know – or were undecided enough in their faith not to affirm certain fundamentals … . As has been said, for more than two hours there was an earnest discussion and much was said on both sides of the case, and it is known that there were quite a good many of the presbyters who thought it would be a good idea for the … young men to take a little more time and get straightened out, but the argument on the side of ordaining them prevailed, and arrangements were made to make them licentiates and fully ordained preachers … .


    The argument back in 1911 – 100 hundred years ago – concerned “vital piety” versus “literal orthodoxy” – 

    but a lot of other terms could be plugged into the “this” versus “that” equation.

    The question is, can we indeed accept that different people are in different places on their spiritual journeys- 

    and that different people need different supports in their growth?

    We can be blunt about “making space” – and serious about “standing ready to midwife”.

    The question is, can we be persistent enough and patient enough to 

    work with each other on what constitutes really good clinical pastoral work?

    Can we be tolerant and encouraging while together becoming better?

    Thus, perhaps it is worth noting that Anton Theophilus – “Lover of G-d” – Boisen (1876-1965) wandered a bit, almost not making it through ordination – yet we benefit greatly from his religious contributions. Likewise, perhaps it is worth noting that Flanders Dunbar (1902-59), as a woman at a certain point in time in a certain faith group did not even have the option of ordination – yet we benefit greatly from her religious contributions. Either could have been told, “Go away”.

    Boisen’s ministry came alive through accepting Dunbar’s guidance, offered with persistence and patience.

    Dunbar’s ministry came alive though providing Boisen’s guidance, offered with tolerance and encouragement

    Both benefited from their working together – from their becoming better versions of themselves. The world benefited, too.

    Each found greater spiritual fulfillment and contribution within an atmosphere of 

    mutual respect and cooperative striving toward achieving a higher standard.

    They expected much of each other – and, together, they delivered.


    The newspaper story can be found on-line.

    Many who have read Boisen’s autobiography may recall that Fred Eastman became one of Boisen’s lifelong closest friends, Many, however, may not be aware of the important role Eastman played in changing the nature of congregational religious study and worship. Boisen encouraged clergy to study “living human documents” – living people in all their complexity. Eastman encouraged clergy and their parishioners to contemplate carefully chosen biographies and carefully staged plays that presented human dilemmas in all their complexity. Each tried to add something simultaneously more “down to earth” and more introspective to the worship life of the average church.,9171,751419,00.html

    Hermann N. Morse was no slouch either. He championed nationwide missionary work within the United States and is considered a diplomatic architect of what became the National Council of Churches.,9171,857235,00.html

    Whatever became of Robert A. Watson could not be determined, except that he ministered in North Carolina.


    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 PR's search engine found on the left side-bar 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 here. -Perry Miller, Editor

  • 29 Apr 2011 11:14 PM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    "Clinical Pastoral Psychology of Religion:
    A ‘Peculiar and Dynamic Play between the Mundane and the Sublime’.” 1

    – Comments Honoring the Rev. Dr. Orlo Christopher Strunk, Jr –

    delivered in Virginia Beach, VA, on 30 March 2011 at the Plenary of the College of Pastoral Supervision & Psychotherapy

    – on the 135th anniversary of Anton Theophilus Boisen’s birth –

    [out of respect for the first generation of our elders, let us note that we are gathering]

    – on the 110th anniversary of William James’ popularization for the English-speaking world of the established French phrase “documents humaines ” [“human documents”] (1901) 2;

    – on the 80th anniversary of H[elen] Flanders Dunbar’s assuming supervision of the Joint Committee on Religion and Medicine’s “Study Project in Religious Healing.” (1931);

    – on the 80th anniversary of Boisen’s Hymns of Hope and Courage … . (1931);

    – on the 75th anniversary of Boisen’s The Exploration of the Inner World … . (1936);

    – on the 75th anniversary of Dunbar’s “Problems of Convalescence and Chronic Illness … .” (1936) 

    [Dunbar & Boisen both believed clergy were uniquely situated to serve those not yet ill & those not yet well];

    – on the 70th anniversary of Boisen’s “Theology in the Light of Psychiatric Experience.” (1941);

    – on the 65th anniversary of Dunbar’s Emotions and Bodily Changes … , 3rd edition. (1946);

    – on the 65th anniversary of Boisen’s Problems of Religion and Life … . (1946).

    [giving a nod to the second generation of our elders, let us also note that we are gathering]

    – on the 60th anniversary of Carroll A. Wise’s Pastoral Counseling: Its Theory and Practice. (1951);

    – on the 50th anniversary of Seward Hiltner’s The Context of Pastoral Counseling. (1961);

    – on the 40th anniversary of Orlo C. Strunk’s 

    “Relationships of Psychology of Religion & Clinical Pastoral Education.” (1971);

    – on the 35th anniversary of Paul Pruyser’s The Minister as Diagnostician … . (1976).

    Robert Charles Powell, MD, PhD

    Helen Flanders Dunbar (1902-1959), as I have phrased it [2010], was the one who translated the “thought-provoking ponderings” of Anton Theophilus Boisen (1876-1965) “about an intimate relationship between religion and medicine into a movement – a now world-wide movement – that has forever changed the definition of ‘chaplaincy’ and of what constitutes ‘pastoral care,’ ‘pastoral counseling,’ and ‘pastoral psychotherapy’.” 3 About 5 years after first meeting and working with Boisen, Dunbar asked how it was that “the various forms of worship -- liturgy and hymnody, the exercise of private devotions and the contemplation of religious symbols and architecture" seemed to have “therapeutic value” – essentially, how it was that religion seemed clinically to work. 4

    While Dunbar is remembered primarily for her pioneering work in psychosomatic medicine, and Boisen is remembered primarily for his invention of the clinical pastoral field, we may need to be reminded that both of their paths began with a focus on the psychology of religion. Similarly, today’s honoree explored and still explores broadly but first made a mark in the psychology of religion. Several central, nagging questions remain. “Where does rigorous research on the clinical pastoral psychology of religion fit into our world today? Surely there are active creations and re-creations – discoveries and recoveries – of faith and faiths currently occurring world-wide – but what does all this mean? Do chaplains have sufficient scientific background and scientific curiosity to ask useful, focused questions? – or to provide thoughtful guidance toward answers? Dunbar repeatedly called for “the development of the … techniques of religion in the light of … new understanding.” 5 That is, she asked for a clinical pastoral practice informed by new, basic research on how religion works.

    Last year we considered how the preadolescent or adolescent Dunbar might have been shaped somewhat by her mother’s translation of a French novel in which the heroine demonstrated “extreme individuality,” “extreme originality,” and “freshness” – as well as being “very unlike the rest of the world”. 6 Focusing on those who have made “significant contributions” to the clinical pastoral movement, the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy, now entering its third decade, has accumulated quite a list of honorees who share Helen Flanders Dunbar’s maternally inherited gift of “persistent creativity”. 7

    This year let us consider, at least in passing, how the young Dunbar might have been shaped somewhat by her father’s insistence on standing up for what he thought was right when his employer was less able so to do. The body of law built around “Dunbar v AT&T” (1906) and “Dunbar v AT&T” (1909), as I understand it, ultimately limited corporations’ predatory control over other corporations and reaffirmed the right of one man or woman to file suit on behalf of more powerful others. 8 Francis William Dunbar (1868-1939), an electrical engineer and patent attorney, ended up saving his employer’s company, just because standing up seemed the honorable thing to do. A 1909 article described “Frank” as “courageously” “persistent”. 9 Helen would have just turned 7 years old at that time, but surely she must have “caught the drift” of her father’s six years of involvement with the courts. Frank Dunbar won for his employer in the state supreme court, but all was lost when the adversary “waited out the clock,” rendering the victories moot. When Helen was age 12 her father, at age 46, abandoned “the rat race” wherein one can win but lose, moving his family to a not necessarily modest “cottage” in Manchester, Vermont. Today’s honoree abandoned the full-time “rat race” at a more modest age 60, but, specifically in regard to upholding the right to explore unpopular ideas, might be said to share Helen Flanders Dunbar’s paternally inherited gift of quiet “courageous persistence”.

    Focusing on those who have made “significant contributions” to the clinical pastoral movement, the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy, now a known leader in the field, might want to consider seeking out more honorees who share Helen Flanders Dunbar’s paternally inherited gift of “courageous persistence”. At least two previous plenary speakers [Susan McDougal and Henry Heffernan] could be said to have insisted on standing up for what each thought was right, but this year’s Dunbar honoree may be the first chosen primarily for demonstrated “courageous persistence”. 10

    On a previous occasion I spoke about the correlation of longevity – for individuals and organizations – with, in Dunbar’s words, a “continued ability to create and invent” – that is, with “persistent creativity”. On another past occasion I spoke about the important, mature capacity for holding strong convictions without becoming self-righteous. One could well argue for an analogous correlation of longevity – for individuals and organizations – with such judicious standing up for one’s values – that is, with “courageous persistence”. 11

    Sixty years ago, in 1951, after three years in the Army Air Corps and three years in the newspaper business, today’s honoree decided to enter the ministry, thus beginning a journey from West Virginia Wesleyan College (BA, 1953), to Boston University School of Theology (STB, 1955), and then to Boston University Graduate School (PhD/ psychology, 1957). 12 Fifty years ago, in 1961, today’s honoree was described as “One of the rising young leaders in pastoral psychology” – a person of “versatile talents”. 13 Across the decades our honoree served two years as part-time executive secretary (1955-57) of The Institute of Pastoral Care, devoted years and years as a professor of psychology, and crafted 15 books as well as almost 90 articles, firming up the phenomenologic/ perceptual approach to the psychology of religion, among other things, while married and raising two children. 14 Twenty-five years ago, in 1986, today’s honoree left academia to lay back a bit, continuing on as a psychotherapy supervisor and managing editor of a major journal. About ten years ago our honoree, a lifelong poet, began allowing more time for creative writing, eventually publishing about one novel per year. 15 Though ordained within the Methodist church, the Wider Quaker Fellowship has fit well today’s honoree’s studied and accepted preference for solitude. 16

    To say that our honoree has been open to new ideas – and new ways of knowing – about a great number of things – would be an understatement. A “comprehensive and authentic understanding of religious experience and behavior requires a broad and inclusive kind of perspective.” 17 Specifically, today’s honoree has discussed, with courageous persistence, open-mindedness versus closed-mindedness within the fields of religion and psychology, as well as concern about an uncritical/ unexamined acceptance of the Zeitgeist and various “isms”. 18 Complexity, in this view, should be embraced, not avoided or rejected. “After all, there is no such thing as a unified psychology; and certainly to think of religion generically strains credibility. What we have, of course, are psychologies of religions.” 19 Thus the newest Dunbar honoree, with courageous persistence, promoted and defended the formulation of new views, even if these were not popular. An episode ten years ago especially stands out, but there were others: an early book [1982], for example, was dedicated to “those adversaries who unwittingly reminded” today’s honoree of a core value – privacy. 20

    Several years ago our honoree went on record [2009] hoping “that clinical ministry … will not abandon the original notion … that the critical acceptance of authentic science and authentic religion could form the basis for an intellectually sound and compassionate expression of care.” – that “those who practice clinical ministry ought to be well educated in both psychosocial studies and religious/ theological studies” as “a life-long commitment”. 21 Our honoree has maintained a courageous persistence in embracing the complex, the controversial, the unknown – suggesting that “our theology must become our psychology” – comprehending each individual’s “unique,” “peculiar,” “variable,” characteristics in a “flexible” manner. 22

    On the 35th anniversary of his book praising quiet introspection, The Secret Self, please congratulate the tenth recipient of The Helen Flanders Dunbar (1902-1959) Award for Significant Contributions to the Field of Clinical Pastoral Training, a man who tried to ground clinical pastoral practice in considerations of how religion works, The Rev. Dr. Orlo Christopher Strunk, Jr. 23

    Dr. Strunk’s body is 86 years old, while the rest of him is not. I will be delivering the Dunbar Award and your good wishes to him tomorrow in Calabash, North Carolina.

    Please let me make just a few more comments. For forty years Dr. Strunk has served as the Journal of Pastoral Care and Counseling’s Book Review Editor, over and above serving much of that time as its managing editor. For five years I have served as CPSP’s chronicler of the Dunbar Award. 24 Both tasks appear a bit daunting at first glance – which is probably why we were assigned these jobs. Dr. Strunk has had the opportunity to experience more of the chaplaincy literature than he would have otherwise. I have had the opportunity to experience at least 5 chaplains’ work in more depth than I would have otherwise. Thank you for trusting me with this task.


    1 Strunk, Orlo C., Jr. “The Role of Visioning in the Pastoral Counseling Movement”. Pastoral Psychol. 1982; 311):7-18, p.7.

    2 In his 2005 presentation before CPSP, Robert C. Dykstra, MDiv, PhD, drew attention to James’ use of the phrase, generally identified with Boisen’s work, in The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature, being the Gifford Lectures on Natural Religion delivered at Edinburgh in 1901-1902 (New York: Longmans, Green & co, 1902). In fact, the phrase appears in the fourth paragraph of James’ “Lecture I – Religion and Neurology” – so even those audience member who barely listened to the lecture or those readers who barely cracked the published volume would have encountered “documents humaines” very quickly. The original French phrase was “documents sur la nature humaine” [“documents on human nature”], used as a “battle cry” of the “Realists” versus the “Romanticists” in French literature. “Les documents humaines' was the title of a chapter in Emile Zola's study, Le Roman expérimental (1880), and served as the title of a book by Jean-Louis Debut de laforest, Documents Humaines (1888). Beginning in 1893 an American illustrated monthly magazine, McClure’s, ran a series of character sketches of famous people that it called "Human Documents," attributing the phrase to [Alphonse] Daudet while admitting that an exact citation could not be supplied. 

    [] These sketches were pulled together into a book titled, of course, Human Documents, in 1895. One year later James began drafting the Gifford Lectures. In other words, while someone who, like Boisen, taught French literature might have been more likely to have encountered the phrase, “documents humaines” / “human documents” it was already definitely in the American domain by 1893. Significantly, Boisen added the prefatory word “living” – as in “living human documents” – because the original concept included non-living artifacts.

    3 Powell, Robert Charles. “Be Strong! Take Courage! All Ye Who Hope in the Lord: Comments Honoring the Rev. Dr. John Edwin Harris.” delivered in Columbus, OH, on 11 April 2010 at the Plenary of the College of Pastoral Supervision & Psychotherapy;

    4 Powell, Robert Charles. ““Emotionally, Soulfully, Spiritually ‘Free to Think and Act’: The Helen Flanders Dunbar (1902–59) Memorial Lecture on Psychosomatic Medicine and Pastoral Care.” J Relig Health. 40(1):97-114, PAGE X, quoting originally from: "Trinity Dean [Percy Kammerer] Seen as Faith Clinic Head: Academy of Medicine, Federal Church Council Unite in New York Project: Pittsburgh Divine Talked as Leader: Scientific Religious Center to Result from Study of Mind-Body Kinship," The Pittsburgh Press, clipping attached to telegram dated 3 March 1930, in Box 34, Federal Council Archives; as best can be ascertained, this and related items now are held as following: Religion and Medicine Committee, March 1923-March 1939, n.d. Folder 28, Part L. Research and Education Department, Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America Records, 1894-1952, Record Group 18, Presbyterian Historical Society, Philadelphia, PA

    5 Dunbar, H. Flanders. “The Faith and the New Psychology.” Living Church. 13: 333-336, 1934; reprinted [preprinted] in Liberal Catholicism and the Modern World. Frank Gavin, editor. Milwaukee: Morehouse Publishing Company, 1933; available on-line at .

    6 Powell, 2010, op cit, quoting from Schultz, Jeanne. Colette. translated from the French by Edith V[aughn]. Flanders [1871-1963]. New York/ Boston: T.Y. Crowell, 1898, pp. 201, 220, 223. [print-on-demand paperback exact reproduction of this specific translation: Colette. Charleston, SC: BiblioBazaar/ BiblioLife, 2008.] [Jeanne Schultz is also listed under the pseudonym “Saint Hilaire Philippe”.] [uniform title per the US Library of Congress: Saint Joseph, or, The Nine Days’ Devotions of Colette].

    7 G. Allison Stokes (2nd; 2003), Myron C. Madden (3rd; 2004), Robert C. Dykstra (4th; 2005), A. Patrick L. Prest (5th; 2006), Henry G. Heffernan (6th; 2007), Edward Everett Thornton (7th; 2008), Rodney J. Hunter (8th; 2009), John Edwin Harris (9th; 2010).

    8 Dunbar v American Telephone and Telegraph (1906) and Dunbar v American Telephone and Telegraph (1909) are referred to frequently in legal proceedings – but that does not mean that such proceedings neatly summarize the meaning of these precedents; see, Cook, William Wilson. A Treatise on the Law of Corporations Having a Capital Stock, Volume 1, 7th edition. (Boston: Little, Brown & Co, 1913), p.934; full text available on the web; this citation is provided merely because the author briefly notes both court cases on the same page.

    9 McMeal, Henry B. Telephony. 1909; 17:526 “The Kellogg Switchboard and Supply Company, as a result of the persistent fight so courageously carried on by Mr. Francis W. Dunbar and his associates, is now finally and legally restored to the position of a prominent independent manufacturer of telephone equipment and supplies.” See also page 242, re that the case began in June 1903.

    Francis William Dunbar (1868-1939) was an exact contemporary of Richard Clarke Cabot (1868-1939), who worked closely with Flanders Dunbar and Anton Boisen in the earliest years of clinical pastoral education. There is no known biography of Frank Dunbar. He was employed initially by AT&T but later, more importantly, by the Kellogg Switchboard and Supply Company [initially at the corner of Congress Street & Green Street, then 8 blocks away at 1066 West Adams Street, Chicago]. In 1905 Frank Dunbar is known to have lived at 5210 Jefferson Avenue, Chicago, with his wife, Edith Vaughn Flanders Dunbar (1871-1963), as well as their two children, Helen Flanders Dunbar (1902-1959) and Francis Flanders Dunbar (1906-19??). Francis William Dunbar achieved recognition quite early. An article dated 1901 listed fourteen of the top names in the history of telephony, and Dunbar’s name is seventh on the list. [Miller, Kempster B.“Telephony.” The Electrical world &Engineer. 05 Jan.1901;37(1):33; full text available on the web.

    10 Susan McDougal, a central figure in the so-called “Whitewater controversy,” spoke on “Why I Refused to Testify and What I Learned in Jail,” at the CPSP Plenary in March 2004; she quite specifically stood up for the right to remain silent when she believed she would be charged with perjury when her sworn testimony would not match what she considered to be falsehoods told by two previous sworn witnesses. Chaplain Henry G. Heffernan, chosen to receive the Dunbar Award in 2007, had to miss the presentation because at the last moment he was called to testify regarding discrimination against chaplains of certain faith traditions; he quite specifically stood up for the right of a Roman Catholic chaplain to administer sacraments outside the constraints of a secular forty-hour work week.

    11 Powell, Robert Charles. “The ‘Continued Ability to Create and Invent’: Going for One Hundred Years of Clinical Pastoral Transformation.” delivered at the CPSP Plenary in March 2002; on the internet at .

    Powell, Robert Charles. ““Religion IN Crisis / Religion AND Crisis: ‘Having Strong Feelings without Being Self-Righteous’. delivered at the CPSP Plenary in 30 March 2006; some passages quoted on the internet at .

    12 “Orlo Strunk, Jr.[:] Major Biographical Events and Information.” in Rector, Lallene J. and Santaniello, Weaver, editors. Psychological Perspectives and the Religious Quest [:] Essays in Honor of Orlo Strunk, Jr. (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1999). pp.181-184. [note the similarity in title to, Cattell, Raymond B. Psychology and the Religious Quest: An Account of the Psychology of Religion and a Defense of Individualism. London: Thomas Nelson, 1938]

    13 [Johnson, Paul E.] “The Man of the Month: Orlo Strunk, Jr.” Pastoral Psychology. 1961;12(6):6,66.

    14 re pheonomenological/ perceptual, see Strunk’s dissertation, A Redefinition of the Psychology of Religion: With Special Reference to Certain Psychological Theories of Gordon W. Alllport; Boston: Boston University, 1957, which, obviously concerned the work of Allport (1897-1967), including his Personality: A Psychological Interpretation. (New York: Holt, 1937) and The Individual and His Religion: A Psychological Interpretation. (New York: Macmillan, 1950). Strunk later published a study with a title similar to the latter, Religion: A Psychological Interpretation. (New York: Abingdon Press, 1962). Allport raised the notion that a person’s religious views might mature with age – a notion further explored in Strunk’s Mature Religion: A Psychological Study. (Nashville: Abingdon Press,1965) and again, with revised views, in Strunk’s “Mature Reflections on Mature Religion.” J Pastoral Theol. 1997; 7(1):149-154]. See also, Allport’s (1944). The Roots of Religion: A Dialogue between a Psychologist and His Student. (Boston: Church of the Advent, 1944), and his Waiting for the Lord. New York: Macmillan, 1978).

    15 Dr. Strunk’s novels are published under the name “O. C. Strunk”.

    Strunk, O. C. Three-Two Count. (Frederick, MD: PublishAmerica, 2005).

    Strunk, O. C. An Ever-Fixed Mark. (Frederick, MD; PublishAmerica, 2007).

    Strunk, O. C. Satan's Angels. (Frederick, MD: PublishAmerica, 2009).

    Strunk, O. C. The Geriatric Murders. (PublishAmerica, 2010).

    Strunk, O. C. The Forerun Winter. (Frederick, MD: PublishAmerica, 2010).

    Strunk, O. C. The Intelligentsia Connection. (March 2011, “under consideration” for publication).

    16 Henderson, Robert S. “With the Head but also the Heart: An Enterview [sic] with Orlo Strunk.” Sacred Spaces: The e-Journal of the American Association of Pastoral Counselors (2009), vol.1, pp132-144; p.138; ]

    17 Reuder Mary E. “A History of Division 36 (Psychology of Religion).” in Dewsbury, D.A., editor, Unification through Division: Histories of the Divisions of the American Psychological Association. 4:91-108. (Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 1999). ; Strunk, personal communication, November 21, 1997.

    18 Henderson, 2009, op cit, p.135.

    19 Strunk, Orlo C., Jr. The Choice Called Atheism. (Nashville: Abingdon, 1968), p.136.

    20 Dr. Strunk accepted for publication in the Spring 2001 issue of the Journal of Pastoral Care an article which generated a significant amount of controversy – which some believed was sufficient reason for the well-written article not to be published, or at least not to be published without being paired with an article conveying an opposing point of view.

    Strunk, Orlo C. Privacy: Experience, Understanding, Expression. (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1982).

    Interestingly enough, each of his dedications appear to concern those whose existence taught him something: Religion: A Psychological Interpretation [1962] to his wife “A Mary With Just Enough Martha Traits” [an apparent reference to Luke 10:40-42 – which appears to have been common sermon material for pastors across the ages – contrasting Martha’s focus on work needing to be done and Mary’s on relationships needing to be experienced. Mature Religion: A Psychological Study [1965] to his mother – “A strange woman whose sadness always has made me sober in the midst of foolishness and foolish in the midst of sobriety” [an apparent reference to 1 Peter 5:8 and Proverbs 24:9; compare Barnes' Notes on the Bible – re Romans 12:3: “Those who over-estimate themselves are proud, haughty, foolish in their deportment. Those who think of themselves as they ought, are modest, sober, prudent.” The Secret Self [1976] to “The Fathers and Brothers of the Province of St. Paul of the Cross (Passionists)”. The Choice Called Atheism [1968] to his two children – “… Only two of the millions of children on this earth who make the search for a more understanding world an absolute necessity.”

    21 Henderson, 2009, op cit, p.143.

    22 Strunk, 1968, op cit, pp.140, 142, 143.

    23 Strunk, Orlo C., Jr. The Secret Self. (Nashville: Abingdon, 1976).

    24 I have had the honor of introducing Henry G. Heffernan, Edward E. Thornton, Rodney J. Hunter, John E. Harris, and now Orlo C. Strunk, Jr. I guess you could say that I partially “introduced” myself in 2002.



    EDITOR's NOTE: The application used to publish the Pastoral Report lacks the ability to properly format Dr. Powell's scholarly article with endnotes. The reader is encouraged to download the PDF file listed below that contain the informative endnotes that add depth and richness to the article.

  • 01 May 2008 11:00 PM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    – Comments Honoring the Rev. Dr. Edward Everett Thornton –
    delivered at the Plenary in North Little Rock, AR, on 31 March 2008

    on the 65th anniversary of the publication of 

    [Helen] Flanders Dunbar’s Psychosomatic Diagnosis

    Robert Charles Powell, MD, PhD

    The College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy has had a lot of fun, I’d like to suggest, with its annual presentation of The Helen Flanders Dunbar (1902-1959) Award for Significant Contributions to the Field of Clinical Pastoral Training. Those honored thus far include G. Allison Stokes, Myron C. Madden, Robert C. Dykstra, A. Patrick L. Prest, and Henry G. Heffernan.2 Tradition dictates that the audience be kept in a bit of suspense, so let me construct a conceptual picture of our next honoree, focusing not on the work for which he has become most famous – but focusing, rather, on the notion of clinical pastoral transformation, for which he should become more well known.3

    Fifty years ago our honoree, then not quite age 33, apparently, sent an inquiry to psychologist Carl Jung, whose proffered guidance seems to have been taken to heart:

    “if you feel enough solid ground under your feet, 

    follow the call of the spirit.”

    Notice the “if” in Jung’s comment:

    “if you feel enough solid ground under your feet,

    follow the call of the spirit.”4

    As our honoree later rephrased this guidance with its caveats: 

    “if the Spirit wants me to do something …, 

    the Spirit will not mind repeating the instructions. 

    I do not need to act impulsively. 

    I only need to act obediently – 

    once the guidance has been repeated so that it is clear, and 

    once I have had time to check it out in the community of faith.” 5

    The last thirty-five years, especially, of our honoree’s life have been spent first ascertaining if he stood with faith community colleagues on solid ground, then following the call of the spirit, wherever it seemed to want to take him.

    While the writings of Helen Flanders Dunbar and her colleague Anton Theophilus Boisen are rather easy to read, because these two honed their words and their concepts evolved in depth and breadth over time, the writings of our honoree have consistently presented a challenge, as he would drop nuggets of wisdom almost in passing and would reverse direction during an argument. At first this might seem a bit bothersome, but then one recollects that many classic religious authors take a similar approach, forcing readers to consider several incongruent pronouncements on the same topic – that is, forcing initially complacent or confused readers to follow the logic, to think. While a hallmark comment of our era, “I voted for it before I voted against it,” initially prompts derision, deeper thinkers are forced to consider why a person viewed one proposition in two opposite ways. Similarly, while many think they know the thesis of our honoree’s best-known work, closer readers are forced to notice that he has changed his mind at the end. Indeed, our honoree actually contributed to a series titled, “How I Have Changed My Mind,” thus consciously joining a tradition of teaching through counter-arguments dating back to Karl Barth’s three essays on How I Changed My Mind, and even further back to Augustine’s Retractions critiquing his own work 6 More than just changing his mind, our honoree has, time and again, tried to discern the call and allow himself to be transformed.

    Our honoree had been preaching since 1942, learning, successively, “the doing,” then “the knowing,” then “the being” of his ministry, but some thirty years along the way – thirty-five years ago this month, he tells us – he experienced a profound personal awakening and transformation, in which he allowed himself to become, in his words, “unselfconsciously immersed in a longing love for G-d.” During earlier years, living in the “absence of G-d” brought him discomfort, but now, awakened, he “experienced the absence of G-d as acute pain.” “After waking up,” he tells us, he first saw “the next problem” as “staying awake.” Soon, however, he realized that all states of awareness were to be appreciated as part of one’s spiritual journey. Eventually he understood that “spirituality thrives” not only in the “desert and wilderness” times of our lives but also in the “garden” of everyday experience. 7 After two decades of promoting academic educational techniques for “producing” “pastoral identity” in chaplaincy trainees, he did an abrupt about-face, abandoning educational techniques per se. He re-conceptualized his role as one of helping others, during their journey through everyday life, discover and recover “a quality of life centered in seeing the unseen Spirit”. 8

    Dante’s Comedy, depicting the depths and heights of a spiritual pilgrim’s journey and transformation, captivated our honoree, like Dunbar and Boisen before him, and thereafter he was never quite the same. Dunbar’s work on symbolism, of course, was and is world famous. Boisen had his Beatrice and kept Dante’s picture on his wall. Our honoree valued Dante’s pilgrimage, from hell through purgatory to heaven, as “a story that helps make sense out of life.” 9

    Our honoree’s frequent reference to St. Paul’s admonition – that we be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds, so that we might discern the will of G-d – is echoed, he discovered, in Dante’s portrayal of the pilgrim finally opening up to renewal – to transformation – to discernment of then conformation to the will of G-d 10 Our honoree viewed studying Dante’s Comedy as perfect for a group experience that would help chaplaincy trainees better appreciate “the spiritual journey – their own and that of their parishioners.” 11 Through Dante our honoree discovered then conveyed the power of the story and of story telling. He re-conceptualized his role as one of helping others discover that “the ultimate meaning” of one’s spiritual journey would be in discerning spirituality in everyday life, in “allowing” oneself “to be transformed.” 12 His notions of professional training, of professional education, gave way to ones of professional transformation – Boisen’s “becoming” – as the model for an ongoing process in clinical pastoral ministry. 13

    As I reminded this group last year,

    Twenty-five years ago, an editorial, 

    “The 'Secret' of Clinical Pastoral Education" noted that 

    the soul of the process HAD been in that supervisors' goal was 

    "not education but transformation – 

    transformation of themselves first of all and ultimately of their students." 

    Consigning, however, 

    this “mystery of the laying on of CPE hands” to the dustbin, 

    the editorial went on to praise "objectification, quantification, and verification."

    That brief essay, in a nutshell, 

    defined a key tension that has remained within the movement – 

    how to function as a knowledgeable professional AND to retain one’s soul. 14

    Notice how the argument starts one place – praising the notion of spiritual transformation as one becomes a clinical pastor – then goes somewhere else – praising the notion of objectification, quantification, and verification – prompting us to ask if these programs must be opposites. Our honoree’s essay should have provoked a lot of discussion. As best I can tell it did not. Perhaps, however, his essay was the one more item that led toward the first Plenary of the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy ten years later.

    This evening, we are honored to have the Rev. Dr. Edward Everett Thornton as the 7th recipient of The Helen Flanders Dunbar (1902-59) Award for Significant Contributions to the Field of Clinical Pastoral Training.

    Let us give thanks for being alive, sustained, and enabled to share together this day.

  • 11 May 2007 10:47 PM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    [CPSP Plenary 2007 – introduction to Heffernan’s acceptance of HFD Award] 

    “How to Function as a Knowledgeable Professional AND Retain One’s Soul”

    -- Comments Honoring Chaplain Henry G. Heffernan – 

    delivered at the Plenary in Raleigh, NC, on 29 March 2007

    The “Helen Flanders Dunbar (1902-1959) Award for Significant Contributions to the Field of Clinical Pastoral Training” was established 5 years ago, on the 100th anniversary of Dunbar’s birth and on the 10th anniversary of the 1st Plenary of the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy. Yes, while the initial CPSP organizing meeting occurred on St. Patrick’s Day, 1990 – over a cup of hot tea, I am sure – the 1st full “gathering of the community” occurred two years later, 15 years ago.1 Yesterday, at the beginning of this meeting, this collegial band of spiritual pilgrims, intent on growing together in covenanted, professional, and personal relationship, entered its 16th year.2

    Two years ago, the Dunbar Award recipient left us with the curious quotation highlighted on this year’s plenary brochure. Referring to clinically trained, educated, transformed chaplains as “responsible scavengers,” the suggestion was that they have survived because they know how to search, salvage, purify, and transform the elements of the world into that which nurtures and sustains life.3 As a trained, educated, transformed historian who has been learning from chaplains for over 35 years, I hope to share some of these skills and to have become adept at searching through lost tradition, salvaging neglected gems, purifying muddled thoughts, and transforming all into that which might nurture and sustain.

    Let me now note and weave together a number of significant anniversaries worth celebrating today.

    1927 – Eighty years ago, Dunbar graduated from Union Theological Seminary, New York City, where William Adams Brown taught “systematic theology” – then viewed as discerning axioms of faith – and Harry Emerson Fosdick taught “practical theology” – then viewed as concerning the art of ministry. Brown’s The Life of Prayer in a World of Science came out a dozen years after Fosdick’s immensely popular The Meaning of Prayer, and the same year as Dunbar’s now lost [during a flood] Bachelor of Divinity thesis, “Methods of Training in the Devotional Life …”, the spiritual search of the soul for God.4

    1927 – Again, eighty years ago, Dunbar completed her now often reprinted Doctor of Philosophy dissertation, “Symbolism in Medieval Thought ….” This arresting study of Dante’s Commedia elucidated, in many ways for the first time, the continuing power of “insight symbolism,” to recreate and expand meanings, to reach out “toward the supersensible,” to “give a glimpse of the beyond,” and to effect individuals’ “adjustment to the Infinite.”5 Certainly there was a theologian within her. While Presbyterians and Methodists had women as ministers by 1927, Dunbar’s resonance with the multi-layered medieval mass led her to align, doctrinally, with “high church” Episcopalians – which meant that ordination would not have been even an option for her until the mid-1970s, over a decade and a half after her death.

    1927 – While Dunbar focused on the integrating aspects of religious ritual, her colleague, Anton Boisen, then twice her age, focused on the attempted integrating aspects of some types of mental illness. His “Evangelism in the Light of Psychiatry” is a classic. Guided by an interview outline Dunbar and he had prepared together several years earlier, Boisen tried to emulate “the careful, painstaking, systematic methods of the psychiatrist,” and thereby to elucidate some of “the spiritual laws with which theology deals.” [p.79] His close observations of the mentally ill, you may recall, suggested that emotional “conflict and disturbance are not in themselves evils, but may be attempts at a needed reorganization of the personality.” That is, disintegration sometimes had to precede further integration. Boisen considered it “ever the task of the church to disturb the consciences of men [and women] in regard to the quality of the life they are living” – “awakening the careless and indifferent to the deeper meaning of life” – “in order that they may turn before it is too late and be made whole.” 6 Healing and wholeness was the central focus of Dunbar’s life. Boisen and Dunbar, it was said, sought to approach theology “from the ground up and not from the clouds down.”7

    1937 – Seventy years ago, Dunbar’s article, “The Psychic Component in Disease …” similarly carefully reiterated that the goal is not so much to “treat” the suffering person – to “do” something to the person – as it is to alert him or her to the fact that something is amiss, that something must be changed, and that outsiders, at best, might serve as guides. “A good rule,” she reminded, “is to observe all things and [to] do as little as the situation permits …”. Dunbar had great faith in people’s abilities to think and act on their own once they were emotionally free to see things as they really were. In this complex article, Dunbar spoke of all illness as going “through a reversible phase before becoming irreversible,” just as her colleague, Boisen, had emphasized that one must “turn before it is too late.”8

    1942 – Sixty-five years ago, a protégé of both Dunbar and Boisen, Carroll Wise, published Religion in Illness and Health – a classic in its own right – which focused on the usefulness of symbol and ritual in pastoral care – what Dunbar’s era called "the relation of religion to health" as "a factor in directing and controlling emotion.”9 That same year, Dunbar and colleagues founded “The American Society for Research in Psychosomatic Problems” – now known as “The American Psychosomatic Society.” Our country was in the opening months of a foreign war. The National Research Council wanted data on mind-body interaction – and it wanted the data “now”.10 The mobilizing troops also wanted a lot of chaplains. Close to 9,000, with varying degrees of clinical pastoral training were sent abroad without delay. Dunbar’s fingerprints were all over both projects.11

    1947 – Sixty years ago, Dunbar’s Mind and Body: Psychosomatic Medicine hit the bestseller lists. Your Child’s Mind and Body, Your Pre-Teenager’s Mind and Body, plus Your Teenager’s Mind and Body followed at intervals soon thereafter. Just as American culture absorbed a memorable version of Freud’s psychoanalytic notions, it soon absorbed a memorable version of Dunbar’s new psychosomatic notions, including her focus on recognizing patterns, for more effective intervention, and on helping a person find the path to his or her own healing.12

    1957 – Fifty years ago, Dunbar first reported her research on centenarians. We will come back to this. While her colleague, Boisen, made it to almost age 90, and 50 years ago this year, Chicago Theological Seminary honored him after his 80th birthday as a Doctor of Letters, Dunbar made it to only age 57. Her 105th birthday would have been next May 14th. The College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy was among the first – besides Dantean scholars who kept buying her 1st book – to honor Helen Flanders Dunbar.

    Now let me jump ahead quite a bit, before jumping back.

    1982 – Twenty-five years ago, an editorial, “The 'Secret' of Clinical Pastoral Education," noted that the soul of the process HAD been in that supervisors' goal was "not education but transformation – transformation of themselves first of all and ultimately of their students." Consigning, however, this “mystery of the laying on of CPE hands” to the dustbin, the editorial went on to praise "objectification, quantification, and verification."13 That brief essay, in a nutshell, defined a key tension that has remained within the movement – how to function as a knowledgeable professional AND retain one’s soul.

    1987 – Twenty years ago, during Christmas week, the 1st issue of the infamous Underground Report arrived in the mailboxes of supervisors of clinical pastoral education. As most of you know, the short essays and many letters appearing in subsequent issues of this renegade publication led directly to the founding of the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy.14 These chaplain supervisors valued knowledge and professionalism, but they also longed for a committed community of colleagues that would foster creativity and growth.

    1992 – Fifteen years ago, as we noted earlier, the CPSP held its first plenary gathering of the community.

    2002 – Ten years later, 5 years ago, once again, our country was in the opening months of a foreign war. The CPSP Governing Council noted Solomon’s prophetic warning, that vision must precede action.15 The pastoral care community was not being called upon to provide almost 9,000 chaplains, as it had 60 years ago. Chaplains were called upon to provide vision – even action. Apparently the pastoral “vision thing” – and action – is still “in committee”. The challenge has not gone away.

    Now let me jump back, before ending up at the present time.

    1937 – Seventy years ago, tonight’s honoree attained the age of reason.

    1962 – Forty-five years ago, he was ordained as a Roman Catholic priest in the committed community of Jesuits.

    1967 – Forty years ago, as best I can tell, tonight’s honoree began toying with a versatile programming language the computer world calls “MUMPS” – officially the Massachusetts General Hospital Utility Multi-Programming System – which made many healthcare information systems possible. Our honoree views himself as a simple, clinically trained parish priest. Apparently for 40 years, however, various communities have been served by someone who appreciated both silicon and communion wafers.

    2007 – This evening, we are honored to have Chaplain Henry G. Heffernan, as the 6th recipient of the Helen Flanders Dunbar Award for Significant Contributions to the Field of Clinical Pastoral Training. We are especially honored since this may well be the year that we see the full fruition of a project he has been working on for several years, the “Ideal Intervention Paper,” a structured description of a patient visit that attempts to capture, nourish, and sustain the soul of pastoral care – albeit it with an eye on research.

    While previous clinical pastoral notes focused on what actually occurred in the interaction with a specific actual patient, the Ideal Intervention Paper asks the chaplain or chaplain-trainee to reflect upon the clinical visit but then imagine what might be a more ideal pastoral intervention – for future patients with “closely similar characteristics, spiritual needs, and existential problems”. 16

    As best I can tell, this approach starts with only the broadest of assumptions about what might be best, and then lets the serious interaction of one human with another help elucidate what might be most useful. Priority is given to respecting the mystery of transformation, while making some movement toward, in an appropriately loose sense, objectification, quantification, and verification of what seems to support positive change – healing and wholeness. Again, as best I can tell, the Ideal Intervention Paper has nothing to do with “so called” third parties. It has everything to do with relationship, of the suffering person – including those like him or her in the future – and of the attending chaplain – including those filling that role in the future.

    The earliest eras of professional chaplaincy spoke of trying to discover the axioms of faith, the art of ministry, and the laws of the spirit. This new era of professional chaplaincy might entail the re-discovery of how – in a more effective way – to help those suffering to find deeper meanings of life. The Ideal Intervention Paper appears to start with real, engaged service, move toward active inquiry, move on to contemplation, and move still further toward guiding a future generation. The problem continues to be how to function as a knowledgeable professional AND retain one’s soul.

    Let me now begin to pull to a close.

    A moment ago I referred to Dunbar’s research 50 years ago on centenarians. Five years ago I suggested that, if the clinical pastoral community hoped to be flourishing at the 100-year mark, it might want to internalize some of the values Dunbar outlined as characteristic of centenarians.17 As I quickly list her findings once again, I would like you to consider the extent to which CPSP might want to sign on to these values. Also, I would like you to appreciate the degree to which these attributes characterize our honoree.

    Based on her research on almost 100 centenarians followed for 10 to 25 or more years, Dunbar concluded that they tended to 

    nourish inventiveness, 

    embrace change and unknowns,

    take catastrophe in stride,

    avoid frustration in life,

    not avoid making fresh starts, and

    foster self-observation, 

    while remaining





    straightforward, and


    For the clinical pastoral community, that challenge, too, still stands. Perhaps CPSP will choose consciously to embrace some, most, or all of these values. Perhaps our honoree, Chaplain Henry G. Heffernan, can help to show the way.




    1. 12-15 March 1992.

    2. The concise phrasing, “covenanted, professional, and personal relationship,” is from James Gebhart, “Presidential Address [to CPSP, March 2005],”

    3. The original story of the pastoral scavengers is from Valerie DeMarinis, Critical Caring: A Feminist Model for Pastoral Psychology [Louisville, Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993], p 12.

    Robert C. Dykstra’s 2005 Plenary address, “Who We Shall Be,” was drawn from the manuscript of his then soon-to-be-published anthology, Images of Pastoral Care: Classic Readings [St. Louis, MO: Christian Board of Publication, 2006]; this edited volume includes readings by Anton Boisen, Alastair Campbell, Donald Capps, James Dittes, Robert Dykstra, Heije Faber, Charles Gerkin, Brita Gill-Austern, Karen Hanson, Seward Hiltner, Margaret Zipse Kornfeld, Bonnie Miller-McLemore, Jeanne Stevenson Moessner, Henri Nouwen, Gaylord Noyce, Paul Pruyser, and Edward Wimberly.

    4. “Methods of Training in the Devotional Life Employed in the American Churches.” From references elsewhere we know that her thesis, which was destroyed, with many others, when the seminary library basement flooded, focused on the use of ritual. Seminary records indicate that William Adams Brown had her in at least two courses and one tutorial. 

    5. H. Flanders Dunbar, Symbolism in Medieval Thought and Its Consummation in the Divine Comedy. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1929 [= PhD dissertation, New York: Columbia University Press, 1929] reprinted New York: Russell and Russell, 1961, and again by Atlanta, GA: SOLINET, 1994; pp 11,14.

    6. Anton T. Boisen, “Evangelism in the Light of Psychiatry,” Journal of Religion 7(1):76-70, 1927; pp 79, 76.

    7. Anton T. Boisen, “Exploration of the Inner World,” Chicago Theological Seminary Register, 17, 1927; p 11. Yes, Boisen used the title for an article a full 8 years before he used it for his most famous book.

    8. H. Flanders Dunbar, “The Psychic Component in Disease: From the Point of View of the Medical. Social Worker’s Responsibility. Bull Am Assoc Med Soc Work 10: 69-80, 1937; pp 76, 70.

    9. Carroll A. Wise, Religion in Illness and Health. New York: Harper's Brothers, 1942. See also, Malcolm B. Ballinger, “My Interest in Pastoral Psychology,” [go to “News”]: “Section II of his [Wise’s] book was based on the experience and symbols in religion in the experience of Mary Jones.”

    Helen Van Voast and Ethel P.S. Hoyt, "History of the [Joint] Committee on Religion and Medicine of The Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America and The New York Academy of Medicine, 1923-1936," ?1936, p 9; in folder "Religious Healing, 1923," Subseries 6, Association for Clinical Pastoral Education records, Archives & Manuscripts Department, Pitts Theology Library, Atlanta, GA.

    10. Psychosomatic Medicine 5(1):97, 1943;

    11. William J. Hourihan, compiler, Brief History of the US Army Chaplain Corps, Chapter 6. United States Army Chaplain Center and School, Fort Jackson, SC,

    12. Flanders Dunbar, Mind and Body: Psychosomatic Medicine. New York: Random House, 1947; as a "Book-of-the-Month Club" selection, this had numerous printings; a "new, enlarged" edition was issued in 1955.

    Flanders Dunbar, Your Child’s Mind and Body: A Practical Guide for Parents. New York: Random House, 1949.

    Flanders Dunbar, Your Pre-Teenager’s Mind and Body, edited by Benjamin Linder. New York: Hawthorn, 1962.

    Flanders Dunbar, Your Teenager’s Mind and Body, edited by Benjamin Linder. New York: Hawthorn, 1962.

    13. Edward E. Thornton. J Pastoral Care 36 (3): 145-146, 1982, p 146.

    14. The web page has a number of quotations from the Underground Report; note also footnotes 42-53 there. While most of the “old folks” of CPSP know that Raymond J. Lawrence, Jr. was the founder of the Underground Report, this fact is here recorded for the benefit of newer members and posterity.

    15. “The CPSP Governing Council Meeting in Washington, DC Issues Position on War with Iraq,” October 15, 2002.; Proverbs 29:18: “Where there is no vision, the people perish ….” 

    16. Henry G. Heffernan, “The Ideal Intervention Paper Exercise: The Learning and Maturing Experience for the CPE Student,” “preliminary draft,” May 2006, See also his “An Approach to the Specification of Chaplain Visits,”; “Update on the ‘Structured Descriptions’ Project, with a Draft of a Student Manual.”; “Update on the ‘Structured Descriptions / Ideal Interventions’ Project” [which has links to printable PDFs for "A Databank Resource for Pastoral Research: Detailed Descriptions of Chaplains’ Visits with Patients" and "The Terminology and Concepts of Pastoral Practice,"]; and “A Report on the Pilot Phase of the Ideal Intervention Paper (IIP) Project: Introducing Pastoral Research into Clinical Pastoral Education,” October 2006, [has printable PDF].

    17. Robert Charles Powell, “‘The Continued Ability to Create and Invent’: Going for One Hundred Years of Clinical Pastoral Transformation,” The First Annual Helen Flanders Dunbar (1902-1959) Award for Significant Contributions to the Field of Clinical Pastoral Training, 3/21/02, Virginia Beach, VA, at the Plenary Meeting of the CPSP, citing, Flanders Dunbar, Psychiatry in the Medical Specialties, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1959, pp 465, 461, 464, 153, 459, 460.

  • 27 Sep 2006 10:41 PM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    Thoughts upon Chaplain Anton Boisen's "Empirical Theology": 
    Honoring the 60th anniversary of Boisen's Problems of Religion and Life 

    Dear Editor:

    Recent efforts to measure, weigh, and cut chaplaincy down to size have been predominantly by and for the benefit of external agencies. These efforts, mostly by managerial technicians, have become so insistent across the last twenty years that one can easily forget how similar  yet psychologically and morally very different  actions used to be carried out, primarily by humanistic artists, almost entirely with and on behalf of the actual persons in need.

    The founder of a clinically trained, educated, and transformed chaplaincy, Anton Theophilus Boisen, argued that in pastoral caring one needed to gather and interpret the facts  to take a systematic look at ones community , at  families,   and at certain individuals in need . He argued that one needed to do this

    (1) to ascertain if the pastor  has overlooked  significant areas of need, and 

    (2) to certify that the pastors knowledge is being constantly tested and increased.

    Both the ascertaining and the certifying  the measuring, weighing, and cutting down to size  were not to occur externally but rather internally  to become clearer in the midst of  actual service to human beings in need. [italics mine] The key words here are significant and increased.

    For a good century or so before Boisen, clergy had been admonished, via dry-as-dust lectures and books on pastoral care, to do this or that for an abstract group of persons in need. Few teachers before Boisen appear to have gone out among individual persons in 

    need to ask what assistance might actually be most relevant for their lives. Significant was to be induced by listening to the people involved rather than deduced from academic lectures.

    That is, within what Boisen called empirical theology, the measuring, weighing, and cutting down to size were (1) toward shaping the discrete varieties of pastoral care to the community needs and (2) toward shaping the pastor involved into the actual community chaplain needed.

    Robert Charles Powell, MD, PhD


    Boisen, Anton Theophilus: Problems in Religion and Life: A Manual for Pastors, with Outlines for the Co-operative Study of Personal Experience in Social Situations. New York: Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, 1946; pp.7, 7-8, 6.

    Robert Charles Powell: "Empirical Theology, 1916-1946: A Note on the Contribution of Anton T. Boisen." invited address, presented before the Autumn Convocation, Chicago Theological Seminary, September 1976. Chicago Theological Seminary Register 67: 1-11, 1977.      

    Robert Charles Powell: A Call for Chaplaincy that is NOT Measured, Weighed, or Cut Down to Size: Thoughts upon Chaplain Robert Mitchell's Article. CPSP Pastoral Report, July 27, 2006.

  • 27 Jul 2006 10:37 PM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    Dear Editor:

    A recent episode of "Agnes," a refreshingly insightful US comic strip, has the heroine expounding on the topic of a "moral compass"  and ending up noting her "faith yardstick," "devotional scale," and "battery-operated spiritual hedge trimmer." There's nothing like starting with a reasonable notion  that we should proceed deliberately  and driving it into the ground. [Tony Cochran, Creators Syndicate, Inc, 17 June 2006;]

    As Chaplain Robert Mitchell paraphrased in his well-taken article  "Chaplaincy: The New Profession?"  some of "the most significant parts" of pastoral practice "don't lend themselves" well to "easy measurement and analysis" [aprs Della Fish & Colin Coles, 1998]. Some of the most significant aspects of pastoral care, counseling, and psychotherapy  and of clinical pastoral education  don't fare well with "tools" such as Agnes', that attempt to measure and weigh religion or to cut relationship down to size.

    Managerial technicians approach persons in need without doubt or humility, as if it were really easy to know what is wrong and what to do. Humanistic artists approach persons in need with faith in their working through together, grasping the importance of valuing what is not easily known. Ignorance is bliss. The less one truly knows, the more everything seems clear-cut. Wisdom is  certainly not based on the latest equivalents of a "faith yardstick," "devotional scale," or "battery-operated spiritual hedge trimmer". The more one truly knows, the more everything seems complex.


    Robert Charles Powell, MD, PhD is the leading historian of the clinical pastoral movement. As a practicing psychiatrist, his writings reflect his daily investment in his daily clinical practice of providing psychotherapy and care to his patients.

  • 16 Jan 2006 10:16 PM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    8th Asia-Pacific Congress on Pastoral Care & Counseling

    By Robert Charles Powell

    Opening address, The 8th Asia Pacific Congress on Pastoral Care and Counseling,

    Tsuen Wan, The New Territories, The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, 

    The Peoples Republic of China, August 8, 2005.

    Honoring the 18th Anniversary of the Founding of the Pastoral Care & Counseling Association of Hong Kong.

    ABSTRACT: Anton Theophilus Boisens first major study, The Exploration of the Inner World: A Study of Mental Disorder and Religious Experience (1936, 1952, 1962, 1966, 1971), and his last, his own case history, Out of the Depths: An Autobiographical Study of Mental Disorder and Religious Experience (1960) are classics. Three other of his works, however, are not to be neglected: Religion in Crisis and Custom: A Sociological and Psychological Study (1955, 1973), Problems in Religion and Life: A Manual for Pastors, with Outlines for the Co-operative Study of Personal Experience in Social Situations (1946), and the hymnal he edited, Lift Up Your Hearts: A Service Book for Use in Hospitals (1926), later re-titled, Hymns of Hope and Courage (1932, 1937, 1950). Boisens research and teachings concerned how persons and societies reorganize  for the good or for the bad  in response to crisis. He used and encouraged theological reflection to generate hypotheses, then followed a patient stance of co-operative inquiry with those troubled in spirit or soul, toward finding a point of effective intervention that would promote constructive resolution. The current essay aims to demonstrate the special relevance of Religion in Crisis and Custom, a study of the formation and transformation of spirit and soul, to our turbulent times.   

    There exists today a great need for carrying forward the empirical study of human nature in its various aspects to  the higher reaches and broader perspectives with which religion is concerned. [p.190, Religion in Crisis and Custom ; italics mine]

    What is needed is the attitude of humility which is willing to put religious insight to the test. [p.202, RCC; italics mine] 

    I seek the basis of spiritual healing 
    in the living human documents 
    in all their complexity and 
    in all their elusiveness and 
    in the tested insights of the wise and noble 
    of the past as well as of the present. 

    [pp.248-9, The Exploration of the Inner World ; italics mine;
    while Boisen maintained some skepticism about the work of
    theologian Emmanuel Swedenborg, which he definitely studied,
    one has to wonder whether Swedenborgs notion of
    inner exploration influenced the title of this book; see p.71-2, EIW]
    we turn to the laboratory of life and examine the experiences of 
    those who are  under the strain of moral crisis. [p.41, RCC; italics mine]

    Without true understanding
    it is impossible to render effective service,
    only as one comes in the attitude of service 
    will the doors open into the sanctuaries of life. 
    [p.5, Problems in Religion and Life ; italics mine]

    The great opportunity comes not to those who live in cloistered academic seclusion but to those whose knowledge is being constantly tested and increased through actual service to human beings in need. [p.6, PRL; italics mine]

    A remarkable book from fifty years ago, Religion in Crisis and Custom , still speaks to us, across place and time. Having some two decades earlier examined personal crisis in depth, the studys author, the Rev. Dr. Anton Theophilus Boisen (1876-1965), now went on to tackle social crisis, observing that religious experience arises spontaneously when men and women are forced to think and feel intensely regarding the things that matter most. [p.xiii, RCC; italics mine]  Let me repeat that, that religious experience arises spontaneously when men and women are forced to think and feel intensely regarding the things that matter most.

    As your Congress President, the Rev. Dr. Ernest Y. Wu, noted in his letter of invitation, the recent global scenarios of drastic financial ebb and flow, of political bitterness and terrorism, and of wars and aftermath of wars  not to mention, of tsunamis and earthquakes  have troubled people throughout Asia  and indeed throughout the world. That these crises have troubled people must surely stand as understatement. Who among us can forget the chilling images of skyscraper towers crumbling to dust or of tsunami-hit villages swept to sea? Who among us was not forced to think and feel intensely regarding the things that matter most? We may not want to be reminded, but the fact remains that incidents of sudden, catastrophic terrorist and natural destruction  far too many of them in Asia  have become more frequent over the last five years. [US State Dept, Patterns of Global Terrorism, reports re 1985-2004; the 2004 tsunami rapidly killed about 300,000; the last times devastation of this magnitude and velocity had been encountered were the1976 earthquakes in China, the 1970 floods in Bangladesh, and the astounding 1959 floods in China  as noted by The Disaster Center, a private think-tank] Within  such context this Congress addresses President Wus question, of how we and our people can maintain our buoyancy  and lift up our spirit  so that we can continue to focus on a more abundant life of faith, hope, and love.

       Boisens research, spanning fifty years, argued that as one stands face to face with the ultimate realities of life and death, religion and theology tend to come alive. [p.3, RCC] By religion he meant not a system of beliefs and values, but, in its creative stages, those experiences that

    (1) are characterized by the sense of identification with a fellowship that has the capacity to be universal and abiding  and that

    (2) are preferentially promoting unification with the finest potentialities of the human race. [p.100, PRL; p.305, EIW] 

    By theology he meant the attempt  either individually or collectively  to organize and scrutinize these experiences and the associated beliefs regarding 

    (1)  the end and meaning of life, 

    (2)  the spiritual forces which operate within us, and 

    (3)  the relationships which exist between their various manifestations  . [p.306, EIW]

    Notice how, instead of speaking in terms of his own religion, an evangelical liberal version of Christianity, Boisen, viewing himself as an explorer and investigator, attempted to find objective terms that could apply to any religion and to any theology. Following St. Thomas Aquinas, he considered theology itself to be the queen of the sciences. [St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, 1 question 44 article 2] Boisen further held that

    (1) by examining the beliefs of troubled individuals, each in its own context amid the complex entanglements of actual life, and 

    (2) by taking into account the consequences which have followed from particular choices and reaction patterns, it would be possible to arrive at some valid generalizations

    (1) regarding the nature and function of religion, and 

    (2) regarding the conditions under which maximum self-realization is 

    likely to be achieved. [p.191, EIW]

    In Religion in Crisis and Custom  , a masterpiece of extended theological reflection, Boisen tried, as empirically as possible, to delineate to what extent and under what conditions crisis experiences  standing face to face with the ultimate realities of life and death  are associated with religious awakening  maximum self-realization  and under what circumstances [crisis experiences are associated] withdisaster. He recognized that crises may break as well as make  both individuals and groups. [p.4, RCC; italics mine] That the impact of crisis could go either way he considered to be the price we have to pay for being human  with the power of choice and the capacity for growth. [p.5, RCC]   

    Religion in Crisis and Custom .  What did Boisen intend to imply by the juxtaposition of those words crisis and custom? Spirit and Soul. What do I intend to imply by the juxtaposition of the words spirit and soul? These issues are, I believe, connected. It might go without saying that neither term in the two pairs can easily stand alone: the recognition of crisis lies within the context of appreciating what has become custom, and the value of spiritual awakening may depend somewhat on having experienced soulful repose. While for most of us, let me hope, custom is normative and crisis unusual, we must strive hard to grasp that for some persons and some societies at some times unfortunately crisis has become normative and custom unusual. For the small child both of whose parents died from terrorism or a tsunami, which has become more real, the critical trauma or the customary life? In contrast, most of us, let me hope, have lived long enough in what Boisen would call the static phase, a time of habit and custom, that we are ready to be jolted into the creative phase, a time of reorganization albeit through crisis. [pp.33,38, RCC] He viewed, for example, established churches as products of custom and upstart sects as products of crisis, with the interaction between churches and sects as accounting for the development of religion. [p.239, RCC] While meeting and resolving crisis,assimilating lessons learned into custom, is ever a task of organized religion, Boisen pointed out that the door should always be left open for the prophet when he comes. Social crisis may provoke the prophetic, and the prophetic may provoke personal crisis. Perhaps we are fortunate that the troubles of the world have, as Dr. Wu noted, troubled people around us. Have you and I been troubled enough?

    Before examining the notions of spirit and soul, as well as their correlates, spiritual formation and pastoral care, let us take a closer look at the word crisis. In the medical sense  and indeed the concept originated in the era of the great physician Hippocrates  crisis is seen as the turning point in disease, a bad time that is coming, but whose coming is accepted, even encouraged, for, if the patient does get through this inevitable difficult period, health does lie ahead. [Epidemics, Prognosis, Regimen in Acute Diseases] It is in this sense that Boisen viewed crisis, whether personal or social: as an experience to be embraced. He considered that it is ever religions task to disturb the consciences of men and women  to induce crisis, if you will   regarding the quality of the life they are living, and regarding their failure thus far to achieve their true potentialities. [p.41, RCC] He observed that in periods of normality, men and women do their thinking in an accepted currency of ideas, and their attention is free to apply itself to the commonplace duties of life.  Boisen went on to explain that, and I quote,

    In time of crisis, however, when their fate is hanging in the balance,  [men and women]  are likely to think and feel intensely. 

    Under such conditions new ideas come flashing into the mind, often so vividly that they seem to come from an outside source. 

    Crisis periods have therefore creative possibilities. 
    They are also periods of danger. [pp.68-9, RCC]

    Whether it be terrorism or tsunami, the deep emotional stirring provoked may serve as a stimulus for either beneficial or malignant reorganization. According to Boisens studies, and I quote, when the process is induced within a social matrix  and follows accepted patterns, the danger of personality disorder is at a minimum.  

    When, however, the intense emotions generated in such experiences comes under wise leadership, then an important and vital religious movement is likely to result. 

    In either case a leveling process [eventually] takes place. 

    The eccentric and regressive movements are leveled up and become respectable, while the forward-looking prophetic movements are leveled down and become conventionalized. [pp.93-4, RCC; italics mine]

    That is, as Boisen noted, whether regressive or progressive, a sect, a new group, under a slightly new belief system, ultimately, under wise leadership, becomes or rejoins an established church, an established religion. The religiously quickened ultimately find words to instruct the next generation, and the new entity born of crisis becomes part of custom.

    Boisen's earlier research regarding personal crisis is far better known than his later research regarding social crisis, and our current task is to focus on the social response to sudden, catastrophic terrorist and natural destruction, but it may be worthwhile to review quickly his writings on disorganization  the discovery of special insight  and reorganization  the recovery of equilibrium. Crisis periods are characteristic of normal growth. [p.42, RCC] That must be accepted. Worldwide, the normal crises of personal development are integrated socially through religious ceremonies, such as weddings, funerals, etc. Personal character and social culture develop through the overcoming of difficulties. [p.43, RCC]  Boisen distinguished four main reactions to crisis. Ponder these, as they are reviewed, in terms of how this or that society might respond to the abnormal crises of sudden and catastrophic events:

    Surrender  an embracing of the unacceptable, leading to a loss of self respect; Withdrawal  seeking satisfaction in avoidant fantasy, leading to a loss of hope; Concealment  depreciation of others, substituting minor for major virtues, escape into beliefs unshared by others, and bids for undue attention; Frankness  accepting responsibility for ones shortcomings and for ones failures.

    Without naming specific societies  as all have erred at some point in time  it can be recognized that each of these responses  surrender, withdrawal, concealment, and frankness  has been employed at different stages of social crisis in recent years. To adopt Boisen's phrases, we are called upon to seek the tested insights of the wise and noble of the past as well as of the present. [pp.248-9, EIW, italics mine]  The challenge is to bring these social crises under wise leadership, such that an important and vital religious movement  [might be more] likely to result. [pp.93-4, RCC; italics mine]   

    Within chaplaincy, such leadership manifests itself, at times of custom rather than crisis, through everyday ministrations to parish congregants, but also through patient supervision of younger theologians.  In both cases there is a complex task at hand. Let us now examine the phrases spiritual formation andpastoral care. Across this last decade there has been an accelerating trend toward dropping the phrase pastoral care and counseling in favor of the phrase spiritual formation and care  as if the two notions could be either equal  just a change of words  or entirely opposed  the one being clearly not the other. [See the following caveat re spirituality; while spirituality is all too often viewed as unambiguously positive, one must recall that, as Boisen  would have admonished, there can also be negative manifestations in some people, in some societies, at some points in time. Raymond J. Lawrence, The Trouble with Spirituality.] Perhaps a not unreasonable solution was that of one chaplaincy group which renamed itself the Association of Pastoral and Spiritual Care and Counseling  supposedly toward satisfying both the primarily western contingency that identified with the pastoral, nurturing aspect, and the primarily eastern contingency that identified with the spiritual, awakening aspect of chaplaincy work. [Emmanuel Y. Lartey, Global views for Pastoral Care and Counseling ] While the stereotypes are more likely provocative than accurate, it may well be that the more chronically over-stimulated and scattered West is longing for a recovery of soul just as the more habitually calm and reserved East is seeking an invigoration of spirit. It would be easy enough to argue that all of us could benefit from both. Just as Boisen taught down to earth pastoral care to young clergy through their supervised encounter with living human documents, so that they might develop into mature living souls, one could also say that he encouraged transcendent spiritual formation through orchestrating their supervised encounter with the divine, so that they might experience the quickening spirit. [1st Corinthians 15:45 And so it is written, the first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam [was made] a quickening spirit. 1st Corinthians 15:47 The first man [is] of the earth, earthy: the second man [is] the Lord from heaven.]

       As I have discussed at length elsewhere, there is a vast literature regarding the spiritual in contrast to the soulful aspects of religious ministrations to those who are vulnerable or broken. [see Matthew Cohn, A Brief Review of Biblical Psychology, 2003, on the web at] Boisens student, colleague, and mentor, Dr. Helen Flanders Dunbar (1902-59), at the outset of the movement for a clinically trained chaplaincy, conducted a classic program of inpatient research on healing, comparing the invigorating role of spiritual stimulation, attempting to connect with the transcendent, to the quieting role of induced soulful repose, attempting to connect with ones own essence. She ultimately concluded that the spiritual and soulful approaches used together offered the most promise for mobilizing and restoring the healing processes as we know them. She recognized that there was a time for new insight and awareness just as there was a time for tranquility and equanimity. [compare the complementary Buddhist meditation techniques of Vipassana and Samatha]  Dunbar was herself most intrigued by the therapeutic values of the various forms of worship  liturgy and hymnody, the exercise of private devotions, and the contemplation of religious symbols and architecture, [her only manuscript regarding this, however, was lost in the flooding of the basement at Union Theological Seminary, New York, NY; see her classic volume, Symbolism in Medieval Thought . . . ; yes, this is the Flanders Dunbar, BD, PhD, MD, MedSciD who is generally considered the founder of the American Psychosomatic Movement  parallel to Boisens movement for clinical pastoral training, which she shepherded to its success; see Powell, Healing and Wholeness ] She also encouraged Boisen in the continued refinement of his chaplaincy hymnal, that first carried an inspiriting title, Lift Up Your Hearts . . . , but later reflected the merged  soulful plus spiritual  approach under the title, Hymns of Hope and Courage . . . . In one of his later books he spoke of the attitudes of  calm reassurance that  make it possible for the healing forces to operate, and of the message of  joy that triumphs over pain, of  life that springs eternal, which has untold power to help. [p.86, PRL]

    Again, while these distinctions between soulful and spiritual today may seem more provocative than entirely accurate, they were quite meaningful years ago, and they may help us grasp some otherwise unexplained trends in the worldwide responses to terrorism and the tsunami. After 9/11, the Western emphasis, it would seem, was on containing potentially retaliatory fervor. After the tsunami, the Eastern emphasis, it would seem, was on stimulating regional awareness of ones neighbors. One part of the world sought a reconnection with the depths of the ordinary; the other a contact with the heights of the extraordinary.  May their souls rest in peace was a prayer for those who died on 9/11. May our spirits seize the occasion was a hope of those who survived the tsunami. [pp.135-6, 157-8,196-8, RCC on East versus West; Thomas More, Soul Talk, 2003] The resting in peace being sought was not one of slumber but of the peace that passeth understanding, the sense of wholeness within. [Philippians 4:7] This seizing the occasion being sought was not one so much of action as of  seeing face to face interfaith relationship. [1st Corinthians 13:12] Those in the West, it would seem, were called upon to look inward, to consider the mote within ones own eye.[Jesus, as recorded in Matthew 7:1-5; compare this with the Buddhas similar admonition, as recorded in the Dhammapada 4 (50)] Those in the East, in would seem, were called upon to look outward, to consider the broader ramifications. This is a very complex area of thought, but it is clear that soul and spirit have very different implications, both in the scriptures of the various religions and in common usage. [According to the Jewish Kabbala, the ruach (literally, wind), the distinct personality, so to speak, is viewed as an intermediate entity, flitting back and forth between alliance with the nefesh (literally, rested), the earthy, soulful essence that keeps one physically alive, and alliance with the neshama (literally, breath), the transcendental, spiritual essence that pulls one toward God. During moments of specifically religious observance, while there is an aspect of rest (nefesh), there is predominantly spiritual expansion (neshama). Jews consider themselves spiritually connected to all peoples of the world, because they believe that all humans, whether they know it or not, share neshama, this potential for an awareness of God. Simcha H. Benyosef, The Additional Shabbat Soul] In either case, however, soulful and spiritual suggest purposeful, mindful engagement.

    Stepping outside what has become customary, uninvolved existence, allowing the challenge of potential crisis, and the time to engage, is a prerequisite for personal and societal growth. What do I intend to imply in the title of this essay by the juxtaposition of the words discovery and recovery, as well as of the wordsformation and transformation  all of which relate to this notion of growth?  These issues are, I believe, connected. It might once again go without saying that neither term in the two pairs can easily stand alone: the longing for recovery lies within the context of appreciating the past joy of discovery, and the nature oftransformation depends somewhat, quite obviously, upon the nature of ones original formation. Notice how both discovery and formation seem to hark back to an earlier time in life, while both recovery and transformation seem to speak to a later period. Most important for us is that we consider that societies as well as persons both form and transform -- discover new truths and recover old ones  sometimes through their own conscious intention and sometimes through being provoked.

    Getting involved, while appreciating the risk of rejection, is exactly what Boisen would advise and did. Viewing himself as a sociologist, he read widely about other cultures, and throughout his life he could strike up a conversation with anyone. More than read or talk, though, Boisen listened. Despite his many social anxieties, he had a way of helping individuals and communities to convey their real concerns. Let us take a quick look at some of the prompts that made up the clinical interview used by Boisen and his theological students with patients on the hospital wards. The right question  sincerely asked  might start someone thinking and feeling and talking for quite a while.  Imagine yourself having several days to engage with an individual or a community about even one of the following questions: 

    Have you been worrying about something? 

    Have you ever felt that you were different from others?         

    Have you been having any unusual experiences?   

    Have you felt that something strange was going on, 

    something you could not understand?   

    Did it seem to you that something was about to happen?                                            

    Have you ever felt that God was displeased with you? 

    What is your idea of why we are in the world?                                                

    Have you ever thought of dying?

    What is your idea of this universe in which we live?

    What reasons do you have for believing in God?

    There were other questions  and Boisen had no qualms about eliciting a complete sexual history  or asking about almost anything, for that matter  but you might admit that his questions were probably more interesting and more productive of meaningful conversation than those asked by the average physician, the average ward attendant, or maybe even the average minister. [Powell, 1977, ATBs Psychiatric Exam] Within this interactive process, Boisen tried to bring patients to that sense of social support which gives peace in the midst of conflict  that is, he tried to calm them down, but he also tried to reinforce those tendencies which make for progressive unification on a basis conceived as universal and abiding  that is, he tried to spur them onward. [p.268, EIW] He viewed this engaged rather than sterile interview as co-operative inquiry  beneficial to both parties, but also as part of an overall empirical theology, an effort to build up a body of organized and tested experience relating to the religious life and the laws that govern it.[p.157, The Present Status of William James ; Boisen always used the spelling co-operative rather than the spelling cooperative, and that convention will be followed in this manuscript]  He viewed this engaged, sincerely questioning approach as a means of helping patients carry through their attempts at reorganizing their lives in response to disintegrating crises, but also as ultimately advancing the cause of society and religion.

    What Boisen in his era would have called conversion or spiritual awakening, frequently sudden, via religious quickening, is perhaps what in this era would be called spiritual formation or spiritual transformation, frequently viewed as the endpoint of a process. In the best of all worlds, Boisen envisioned all of us  both personally and socially  as making an honest and thoroughgoing commitment to what he called the heroic way of life. [p.206-7, RCC] Notice that this is not a static but rather a dynamic notion  commitment to an ongoing way of life, to a becoming.This was a key concept in the theology he felt most useful to persons and societies in trouble  that they be viewed not as they are now but as what they are in process of becoming that they be honored for doing the best they can with the resources at their command. [p.51, RCC, referenced to John Dewey, Reconstruction in Philosophy. New York: Henry Holt, 1920, pp.176ff] The yesterdays demand attention only insofar as they are influencing the todays and determining the tomorrows.[p.99, PRL] Boisen, focusing on the becoming, viewed transformation of the personality as the end of all vital religious experience, and he viewed support for the re-creation of religious faith as a special task of the clergy. Thus he might set out to help the troubled in their formation of spirit and soul, but his real focus would be on their ongoing transformation across time. [p.178-9, RCC]

    Let us take a closer look at Boisens comment about the re-creation of religious faith. While usually we view this in terms of personal spiritual formation and transformation, is this not what has happened across millennia, centuries, decades, and even just a few years as different societies, different faith groups have struggled with their own internal crises? Despite the fact that we do not generally stop to think about it, there has been a continual, global re-creation of religion. In virtually all cases, the splinter sect has caused the original church todiscover new insights and to recover old ones, with a net benefit to society. That is, this re-creation of religious faith is both

    (1) the effect of men and women feeling forced to think and feel intensely regarding      the things that matter most, as well as 

         the things that matter most, as well as 

    (2) the cause of further personal and social spiritual transformation.

    It could well be that a persons initial spiritual formation and later transformation are quite different  perhaps better, perhaps worse  according to whether that personsreligious tradition itself is in crisis or custom. Historically, as we have noted, the trend has tended to be positive, but that does not guarantee a positive outcome for the recent re-creation of religious faith occurring as Islamic Jihad. Surely this could bear a great deal of further study  now, and not in the distant future. In any case, Boisen viewed the guiding of this transformation of religion as a responsibility of the clergy. While it would be easy to argue that each faith group should tend its own garden, perhaps it is worth asking if the current religions have any responsibility for assisting all of the worlds people toward what Boisen spoke of as identification with a fellowship that has the capacity to be universal and abidingand toward what he spoke of as promoting unification with the finest potentialities of the human race. [p.305, EIW; italics mine]

    Let me give but two examples, while fully knowing that each is imperfect. When the United States government, after the liberation of Afghanistan, found itself with detained combatants who turned out to be underage, illiterate, and ignorant of the religious tradition that nominally provoked their carrying of arms, it accepted the responsibility to protect them as children, to teach them to read and write, plus to bring in Moslem clergy with whom they could study the Koran. Surely such outreach must be rare in the annals of history. Perhaps it may help build a bridge later between the religions of custom and this religion of crisis  this sect of a church in crisis. A second example would be the work of the Mennonites, a branch of Protestant Christianity. Before, during, and after the main thrust of the recent struggle in Iraq, this faith group, itself opposed to participation in all wars, has continued its valuable work helping Iraqi farmers. While the chance of Mennonite relief workers converting Muslims theologically is remote, their chance of having positive effect on the development of a Muslim sect is great. Chaplaincy work in general, of course, stands as one of the rare and notable situations in which practitioners of one religion might be called upon to assist the adherents of another religion in the practice and perhaps deeper understanding of their faith.

    While the initial tendency is to view growth and transformation, whether personal or societal, as uniformly positive, the fact is that growth does not always proceed steadily in one direction. Growth frequently involves taking two steps forward, then one step backward. Keeping this in mind, we need to allow ourselves and our religions some room for misunderstanding the true nature of things and for losing the intended path. To not allow this is to set up ourselves and our religions for a potentially devastating sense of failure if the choices made later turn out to need some correction. Boisen wrote extensively about this problem of disintegration in response to self-perceived failure and threatened isolation. [Personality Changes ]

    One of Boisens core observations was that the sense of personal failure was the driving force behind many crises. While he focused primarily on the personal, he recognized that this factor might also apply to the social. Boisen emphasized that the sense of personal failureis not necessarily an evil. When frankly recognized and intelligently handled, it becomes a precondition of growth. [p.46, RCC] Of course, frankly recognizing and intelligently handling it is most of the problem. We could say that the Western world failed to protect itself from terrorism or that the Eastern world failed to protect itself from the tsunami, but we could also ask, are these not worldwide responsibilities? Is it not now becoming clear that the West needs the help of the East and that the East needs the help of the West?  that the East can help the West dissipate the powers of terrorist destruction just as the West can help the East dissipate the powers of natural catastrophe? What if the East recognized the terrorist attacks of 9/11 as their problem to solve? What if the West recognized the washed away towns of 2004 as their problem to solve? What if the East and the West forgot which is East and which is West?  There is a need for all of us to begin thinking more globally. Boisen called for an effort at mutual understanding and helpfulness in the pursuit of a common goal. [p.260, RCC; italics mine]

    What if, however, no one or no group frankly and intelligently tried

    (a) to understand things as they really are and

    (b) to promote transformation of all toward their finest potentialities? 

    Whatever the actual personal or societal response to crisis, one of Boisens main concerns was that there might be no constructive response. Let me repeat that: one of his main concerns was that there might be no constructive response  thatno one and no group might get involved. He considered that the real evil for a person or a society would be the failure to grow, the failure to obtain ones true objectives in life. [p.207, RCC] He had no illusions about what he called the herculean task, but his approach was just to get started with the person or society at hand  which he did. Boisen assumed that everyone was capable of theological reflection, and that everyone had some kind of beliefs, perhaps not well formulated, regarding the end and meaning of life, the spiritual forces which operate within us  [as well as] the relationships which exist between their various manifestations, . . . . [p.306, EIW]  He had no qualms about arousing the sleeping conscience as long as one recognized that an individualized task of reconstruction must then begin. [p.281, EIW] While Boisens research used a standardized set of provocative questions that he and Dunbar devised, as noted above, he was quite adept in any case at just sitting down with someone and drawing out his or her views about the things that matter most  the ultimate realities of life and death. He did this within a respectful atmosphere of what he called, co-operative inquiry  a kind of blending of the two parties into a research team regarding the problem at hand. Boisen taught his students to try to get involved with others active or latent curiosity about their beliefs  amid the complex entanglements of actual life[pp.191,182, EIW; see, John Dewey, A Common Faith. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1934, p.32, "There is but one sure road of access to truth  the road of patient, cooperative inquiry operating by means of observation, experiment, record and controlled reflection"; perhaps also of interest: John Dewey, The Field of Value, in Raymond Lepley, Values: A Cooperative Inquiry. New York: Columbia Univ Press, 1949]

    The question is, can this drawing out of others views about the things that matter most  the ultimate realities of life and death  be carried out on a societal as well as on a personal level? Can one society or one religion successfully engage another society or religion within this atmosphere of co-operative inquiry? Boisen thoroughly believed that through suffering together, getting down to work on real problems, the strain is shared and social support is afforded, with the net result being steadying and constructive. Can this tried and true approach to persons be applied to societies and religions? Preliminary research on the recent incidents of sudden, catastrophic terrorist and natural destruction, shows that those persons immediately wrestling with the task have fared the best  which is exactly what Boisen would have predicted. Could this hold for societies or religions  that those immediately tackling the real problems, open to assistance among equals toward resolving the problems, would fare best in the near future? Crisis experiences, in Boisens view, reveal hidden elements of strength and of weakness. [p.45, RCC]

    Boisen maintained that cultures developed best through the overcoming of difficulties [p.43, RCC] Some of the difficulties currently facing the world, however, are of an unprecedented magnitude. Boisen observed that war, for example, as a personal and social calamity, seemed to be an exception to the rule that crisis could stimulate useful religious concern. [1945, What War Does to Religion]  As he asked, What important religious movements have grown out of a war  ? [p.5, RCC] He concluded, however, that religious growth of a personal and social nature might occur when the reaction to national disaster was self-blame rather than hating and blaming the enemy  that examining the beam in ones own eye had to precede considering the mote in the others. [p.6, RCC; see note above] In his view, war, like an acute psychosis in an individual  is an attempt at reorganization which may either make or break, depending on the honesty and fair-mindedness which we face and eradicate the long-standing evils  the complex forces common to us all  which have been responsible for the problem in the first place. [pp.7,97, RCC]  That is, we must strive to maintain perspective and a self-critical stance during the current global war on terrorism. Even a natural phenomenon, such as the 2004 tsunami, brings its own challenges  especially to the extent that there are contributing non-natural factors and complications. When the reaction to catastrophic terrorist and natural destruction brings excessive self-blame or excessive acceptance, that can derail useful religious concern, discouraging an engaged response.

  • 15 Jan 2006 10:15 PM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    At the last Asia Pacific Congress on Pastoral Care and Counseling, in Perth, Australia, in July 2001, the Rev. Dr. Emmanuel Y. Lartey outlined prophetically some of these problems we now face. He spoke of  rapid change and flux in the social, economic, cultural, religious, political and personal spheres, producing confusion, uncertainty, fragility, and vulnerability. He emphasized that these conditions exist to different degrees all over the globe  simultaneously  that it was not the case that any one of these conditions exists in isolation in one geographical area or cultural context. While Lartey called for all of our assumptions to be critically appraised, he also cautioned that it was not true that the condition critiqued ceases to exist. What are we to do? Sounding very much like Boisens call for an empirical theology fifty years earlier, Lartey called for a post-modern, global view of pastoral care and counseling, encompassing both individuals and societies, focusing on the specific. He called for a return

    (1) from the general to the particular,

    (2) from the universal to the local and contextual, as well as

    (3) from the timeless to the timely.

    Lartey also spoke bluntly of the problem that not all approaches are positive  that developing religious beliefs can be sometimes creative and other times lethal. He raised the issue of universal responsibility  of chaplains as agents of respect for the whole-created order of the world. He noted that in response to the need for multi-faith initiatives some religions, just as Boisen would have predicted, are responding to the crisis courageously and innovatively, while others are frozen with fear, dread and anxiety. Lartey called upon chaplains to engage critically and empathically, encouraging and empowering others to work towards creative change of community-destroying structures. While not quite showing the appreciation of empirical method  the attitude of humility which is willing to put religious insight to the test  that characterized Boisens work, Lartey did call for collaborative work with disciplines outside of theology, toward achieving holistic health for the entire planet. [Lartey, Global Views for Pastoral Care and Counseling ; italics mine] The question becomes, can we step outside our own religion to engage all other religions?  Can we listen to the others, speak to the others, and nourish a reasonably objective appreciation from both sides as to what is working and what is not?

    We may need to begin closer to home, to gather strength for taking on the world. Boisen called for the recovery of zeal, inner experience, and faith [p.232, RCC]  for a living fellowship with a certain body of beliefs in which there is room for growth and for discovery. [p.237, RCC; italics mine] One organization, a theologically based  covenant community, has been trying to foster this nurturing environment by actively bringing together groups of chaplains who desire to grow richer in spirit and in soul. [The College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy, PO Box 162, New York, NY, 101098, USA; on the web at] Let me quote from their Covenant, but as I do so try to imagine these admonitions not as applying to individuals but as applying to societies and religions  indeed to all the societies and religions of the world.

    We  see ourselves as spiritual pilgrims 

    seeking a truly collegial  community. 

    We commit to being mutually responsible to one another for

    our  work and direction. 

    We commit ourselves to a galaxy of shared values 

    that are as deeply held as they are difficult to communicate. 

    Again, try to imagine these admonitions as applying to all the societies and religions of the world. Let me continue to quote:

    We place a premium on 

    the significance of the relationships among ourselves.

    We value personal authority and creativity.

    We believe we should make a space for one another and
    stand ready to midwife one another
    in our respective spiritual journeys. [italics mine]

    That is the phrase that most caught my attention: We  stand ready to midwife one another in our respective spiritual journeys.  That is, we, or our societies and religions, will help each other through our spiritual transformations, or, in Boisens terms, our re-creations of religious faith. Let me again continue to quote:

    Because we believe that life is best lived by grace, 

    we believe it essential to guard against becoming 

    invasive, aggressive, or predatory toward each other. 

    We believe that persons are always more important than institutions  .

    We are invested in offering a living experience 

    that reflects human life and faith within 

    a milieu of a supportive and challenging community of fellow pilgrims. [italics mine]

    Does not this covenant sound like Boisens living fellowship with a certain body of beliefs in which there is room for growth and for discovery? [p.237, RCC] Imagine the impact a loose worldwide network of such interfaith groups could have. Just two years ago this covenant community of chaplains underscored its conviction that a clinically trained person is one who is committed to continuing personal transformation. [see the General Secretary's report, 21 March 2003, The College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy.  Since these chaplains have already been very active in encouraging the formation of indigenous pastoral care and counseling associations throughout the world, it would not be much of a stretch to envision them as committed to working toward a continuing transformation of the world.

    As you will recall, Boisen observed that, worldwide, the normal crises of personaldevelopment are integrated socially through religious ceremonies, such as weddings, funerals, etc. Another of the questions facing us now is, what means do we have for integrating the normal crises of social development? Is each society and each religion left to struggle on its own? Remembering Boisens research on four main reactions to crisis, is there a way that part of the world community  perhaps a network of clinically trained chaplains  might help groups avoid

    surrendering to hatred,

    withdrawing into lust and greed, and

    concealing ones inadequacies through delusion,  

    but rather succeed in

    viewing frankly the true nature of the situation, 

    such that exceptional crisis might provoke insights that can be integrated into customary life?

    Eighty years ago, nowhere in the world did there exist a clinically trained chaplain. Now there are thousands. The movement for clinical pastoral and spiritual training, education, and transformation was ecumenical from the start, and began to spread worldwide within several decades. These programs, however, need to embrace clergy of even more faith groups and to be established in even more nations. Perhaps one of the most important projects to be tackled would be the translation in paraphrase of Boisens call for clinical work, A Challenge to the Seminaries, into as many languages as possible. [Boisen, 1926, in Christian Work 120: 110-112; reprinted in the Journal of Pastoral Care 5: 8-12, 1951]  Think of the potential impact on our current crises if there were clinically experienced chaplains attached to every  and I do mean every  theological school in the world, commited to nourishing the wisdom of perspective and a self-critical stance.[compare Larteys speech from the last Congress, 2001,cited above, in which he spoke of the post- modern approach, in which one attempts to maintain the stance of   being in critical vein or in questioning mode.]

    Religion in Crisis and Custom. Let us return to the title of Boisens last monograph, published fifty years ago this year. The first major thrust of this presentation outlined  religion during crisis and custom  the personal discovery and recovery of spirit and soul during extraordinary as well as ordinary times. The second major thrust, however, began a careful consideration of religion itself in crisis and custom the re-creation of religious faith in societies as new revelations and insights initially rest uncomfortably with older ones, during extraordinary as well as ordinary times. Boisens view of transformation  for both individuals and societies  focused on struggling together, on striving to maintain an honest and thoroughgoing commitment to a process of becoming  on becoming the best one can conceive. Boisen emphasized that failures were part of the price paid for attempting to grow  to become  but that daring efforts must be attempted nonetheless. The burden  the challenge  is large, but appears unavoidable.  We must indeed, as this Congress is charged, maintain our buoyancy  and lift up our spirit  as we shoulder the immediate worldwide task with which we are confronted. What is being asked now is whether we can come to view our religions, individually and collectively, as having universal responsibilities to promote what Boisen called  the finest potentialities of the human race. [p.305, EIW; italics mine]

    My questions, once again, are beginning to outnumber my answers. The conclusions from my several historical presentations to the clergy are, however, beginning to add up. A few years ago I noted a first challenge from the past, exemplified by the work of Boisen, that we

    (1) maintain the courage to espouse beliefs not initially shared by others. 

    [Powell, 1999, Whatever ] Somewhat later I noted a second challenge from the past, exemplified by the work of Boisens colleague, Dunbar, that we 

    (2) maintain the willingness to tackle the apparently impossible task. 

    [Powell, 1999, Emotionally ] Still later I noted a third challenge from the past, again exemplified by the work of Boisens colleague, Dunbar, that we 

    (3) maintain the continued ability to create and invent.

    [Powell, 2002] Before formulating  actually, resurrecting  a fourth challenge, let me note several things about the Rev. Dr. Anton Theophilus Boisen in the light of these first three challenges.

    He sized up a moral problem, putting insights into print for evaluation by colleagues, and stood strong by his convictions.

    He took charge of situations, overcoming the shyness induced by severe mental illness, and started what had to be done.

    He remained intrigued by situations, reflecting on complex confusion until finding clarity, and proposed a solution.

    I am sure that Boisen would have thoroughly enjoyed reflecting theologically upon recent world events and the ways in which the religious community has or has not engaged and responded. There is no question in my mind that we would be hearing his prophetic voice. In Boisens absence,

    (a)     can the suffering world  not just your region or your community  but the world  depend upon you to provide the wise leadership needed? 

    (b)     can the broader world depend upon you to size up problems, take on the tasks, and remain intrigued? 

    (c)     can those parts of the world that seem foreign depend upon you to stand strongly by your convictions, get to work without excuses, and encourage novel approaches?

    Each time I speak to the clinical pastoral community as an historian, so it seems, I discover and recover one more piece of wisdom from your past. During his latter years Boisen spoke of  the broader perspectives  with which true religion is concerned. [p.393, What War Does to Religion. this longer version of Chapter VI, RCC is strongly recommended.] He thought deeply about the hardships of the 1930s, the moral issues of World War II, and the worldwide aftermath of war, recognizing the temptation for each party involved to focus primarily on its own situation. Following the precedent of the prophets, Boisen saw the need for clergy to take the lead in expanding and questioning peoples views. This time, the challenge from the past, a fourth, is that the worldwide clinical pastoral and spiritual community

    (4) maintain the wisdom of perspective and a self-critical stance,

    as it takes seriously the call to transform the world, in times both of crisis and custom.

        Thank you for inviting me to share my thoughts on the formation and transformation discovery and recovery  of spirit and soul.  Shalom                                              

    Out of the depths have I cried unto to thee, O Lord.  Psalm 130:1 in the Protestant Bible; 129:1, De Profundis, in the Catholic Bible.

    A Book which We have revealed to you, in order that you might lead mankind out of the depths of darkness into light  . al-Qur'an 14:1.

    Endnote for the General Reader:

                    The Rev. Dr. Anton Theophilus Boisen (1876-1965) is generally credited as the founder, in 1925, of the trained chaplaincy, for hospitals, prisons, the military, and other institutions.  These specially trained ministers also now offer pastoral care, counseling, and psychotherapy within parish settings. What eventually became the worldwide movement for clinical pastoral education actually grew out of a delusion Boisen had in 1920  about having broken an opening in the wall which separated medicine and religion. Yes, this was initially a delusion, as Boisen was, at age forty-four, in the midst of his first of six periods of profound psychosis. What makes Boisen different from so many others who have suffered with schizophrenia is that he devoted the last half of his life to working out the practical implications of his delusional insight. The training program he developed for theological students in 1925 has since been copied by most American seminaries, has spread throughout Europe, and is now spreading throughout Asia. His best known book  his first  that has been republished five times  is The Exploration of the Inner World: A Study of Mental Disorder and Religious Experience (1936), which is still widely cited in the literature of religion and psychology. A close runner-up would be his last book, Out of the Depths: An Autobiographical Study of Mental Disorder and Religious Experience (1960). Each of his books  and he wrote three more  has become a classic in its own right.                                                                              


    Benyosef, Simcha H.:  The Additional Shabbat Soul, in Living the Kabbalah: A Guide to the Sabbath and Festivals in the Teachings of Rabbi Rafael Moshe Luria. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group, 1999. Chapter on the web:

    Boisen, Anton Theophilus, editor: Lift Up Your Hearts: A Service Book for Use in Hospitals. Boston: Pilgrim Press, 1926, later re-titled, Hymns of Hope and Courage, 1932, 1937; 4th edition, Chicago: Chicago Theological Seminary, 1950.

    Boisen, Anton Theophilus: Out of the Depths: An Autobiographical Study of Mental Disorder and Religious Experience. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1960.

    Boisen, Anton Theophilus: Problems in Religion and Life: A Manual for Pastors, with Outlines for the Co-operative Study of Personal Experience in Social Situations. New York: Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, 1946; during World War II, a 1941 lithograph version was in circulation.

    Boisen, Anton Theophilus: Religion in Crisis and Custom: A Sociological and Psychological Study. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1955; reprinted, Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1973.

    Boisen, Anton Theophilus: The Exploration of the Inner World: A Study of Mental Disorder and Religious Experience. Chicago: Willet, Clark & Co, 1936; reprinted, NY: Harper & Brothers, 1941, 1952, 1962, 1966; Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1971.

    Boisen, Anton Theophilus: Personality Changes and Upheavals Arising Out of the Sense of Personal Failure. American Journal of Psychiatry 5: 531-551, 1926; reprinted, American Journal of Psychiatry 151(6 Supplement): 125-33, 1994 [reprint supplement also issued as a hard-cover book, Arlington, VA: APPI, 1994].

    Boisen, Anton Theophilus: The Present Status of William James Psychology of Religion. Journal of Pastoral Care Counseling 7:155-162, 1953.

    Boisen, Anton Theophilus: What War Does to Religion. Religion in Life 14:389-400, 1945.

    Dunbar, Helen Flanders: Symbolism in Medieval Thought and Its Consummation in the Divine Comedy. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1929; reprinted, NY: Russell & Russell, 1961.

    Lartey, Emmanuel Y.:  Global views for Pastoral Care and Counseling: Post-modern, post-colonial, post-Christian, post-human, post-pastoral.  Address given at the 7th Asia Pacific Congress on Pastoral Care and Counseling, Perth, Western Australia, 15th July 2001; on the web at

    Lawrence, Raymond J.:  The Trouble with Spirituality. Contra Mundum: A Journal of Theological & Clinical Reflection, issue #91, January 12, 2001; hard copy: P. O. Box 2535, Times Square Station, New York, NY 10108; on the web: 

    More, Thomas: Soul Talk. Comments during an interview by Rachel Kohn, on the radio program, The Spirit of Things. 30 March 2003; on the web:

    Powell, Robert Charles: Anton T. Boisen (1876-1965): "Breaking an Opening in the Wall between Religion and Medicine, pp.47, special supplement to the AMHC Forum, 29(1), October 1976 [Association of Mental Health Chaplains > Association of Professional Chaplains].

    Powell, Robert Charles: Anton T. Boisen's Psychiatric Examination: Content of Thought (c. 1925-31): An Attempt to Grasp the Meaning of Mental Disorder. Psychiatry 40 (4): 369-75. 1977.

    Powell, Robert Charles: Healing and Wholeness: Helen Flanders Dunbar (1902-1959) and an Extra-Medical Origin of the American Psychosomatic Movement, 1906-1936. Ph.D. dissertation, Department of History, Medical Historian Training Program, Duke University, 1974.

    Powell, Robert Charles: "Questions from the Past (on the Future of Clinical Pastoral Education). Keynote address, presented before the 50th Anniversary Conference, Association for Clinical Pastoral Education, Minneapolis, October 1975. 1975 Conference Proceedings: 1-21, 1976.

    Powell, Robert Charles: Whatever Happened to CPE -- Clinical Pastoral Education?  Keynote address,  presented at the 9th Plenary Meeting, of the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy, March 1999, Virginia Beach.                                                                                                                                                   


    Dr. Robert Powell is a renowned scholar in the field of the Clinical Pastoral Movement. The Pastoral Report is honored to have been given permission to publish Formation and Transformation  Discovery and Recovery  of Spirit and Soul: Religion in Crisis and Custom .

  • 15 Jan 2006 10:08 PM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    Religion in Crisis:
    Am I my brothers keeper?
    a third report out of
    the 8th Asia Pacific Congress on Pastoral Care and Counseling,
    held 7-11 August 2005 in Hong Kong

    Dear Editor:

    When fate decreed that I should take Jim Gebharts place as lead speaker at The Asia Pacific Congress, the organizing committee, including our good friends, Chaplain Patty To, Sister Agnes Ho, the Rev.Dr. Ernest Wu, and the Rt.Rev.Dr. Thomas Soo, asked me to keep an eye on the conference theme about Spiritual Formation of the Human heart: Tested Models of Pastoral Care and Counseling, but also to speak directly about the reality of the 2004 tsunami and of the war on terrorism.

    Once again it did not hurt to consult the work of Anton Theophilus

    Boisen, who thought quite deeply and wrote extensively about the Depression and about the Second World War. My presentation drew heavily upon his insights. Sharing speaking duties with several Buddhist colleagues also forced me to think outside the confines of the Judeo-Christian tradition. I hope that the readers of the

    CPSP Pastoral Report will find this essay thought provoking.

    Let me jump to the crux of the argument:

    It could well be that a persons initial spiritual formation and
    later transformation are quite different  according to whether
    that persons religious tradition itself is in crisis or custom.
    Historically  the trend has tended to be positive, but that
    does not guarantee a positive outcome for the recent
    re-creation of religious faith occurring as Islamic Jihad.

    In any case, Boisen viewed the guiding of this
    transformation of religion as a responsibility of the clergy.
    While it would be easy to argue that each faith group should
    tend its own garden, perhaps it is worth asking if the current
    religions have any responsibility for assisting all of the worlds
    people toward what Boisen spoke of as identification with a
    fellowship that has the capacity to be universal and abiding
    and toward what he spoke of as promoting unification with
    the finest potentialities of the human race.

    The audience in Hong Kong seemed most touched by the power of one specific idea:

    that of embracing all of the worlds faiths within the CPSP Covenants pledge to
    stand ready to midwife one another in our respective spiritual journeys.
    Are we the keepers of our brothers or our sisters religion?

    Should we intervene  and, if so, in what way should we intervene 
    if we see our neighbors religion in crisis?

    Robert C. Powell, MD, PhD

  • 03 Jun 2003 12:54 AM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    I have been thinking about leadership as a task: We are all leaders in particular contexts, or we would not be here. But I am thinking specifically about leadership in CPSP, undoubtedly related to thoughts about my own mortality.

    I am aware, with some nostalgia, that the founding generation, which was old to begin with, is passing on. That?s the way the world was created. We have threescore and ten, or four score, and some get a little extra, but not much. In twelve years I will have had my fourscore, if I make it that far. CPSP is not going to get much more out of me.

    I cannot think of anything more important than the emergence of strong, wise leadership for the decades to come. Without it, we will be a forlorn community. We see the crisis in our national life and on the international scene, the fruits of unwise leadership, overly cautious or incautious, bullying or indecisive. The whole world is anxious this week because of the flaws in the leadership of nations.

    Competent leadership consists of: 

    -strength that does not bully. 

    -a caution that is not afraid to act boldly.

    -a vision of what is up ahead that protects a community from too many bad surprises. 

    -and perhaps most importantly of all, empathy for the weakest among us.

    None of us exercise competent leadership consistently. Like our time on the baseball diamond or on the links, some times in the batter's box are better than others. Our batting average or golf score is just an average. Sometimes just showing up is an act of leadership.

    In 1990 fifteen persons showed up to create CPSP ex nihilo. Many others said they would come. We expected 30 to 40. Each one of those fifteen was very important. We knew we were contemplating a potentially dangerous course. Had we been fourteen instead of fifteen, we may have opted to withdraw from the field.

    Following the organizational meeting, five dropped out before a shot was fired. Two dropped out a couple of years later, two died, Al Anderson the year before last, and Don Gum last year. Two are in semi-retirement, still with us but not active, and four of the original fifteen are still active and present with us: Perry Miller, Bill Carr, David Moss, and I.

    Don Gum is second of the fifteen to die, after Al Anderson. The river of life takes us one by one. Don was a flawed and broken person. He also had a considerable energy and creativity. He accomplished more than some of us who have no discernable major flaws. And he showed up. Ninety percent, they say, is just showing up, and he showed up. You have to wonder, if he had not shown up, whether we would have this community that surrounds us. We were conscious of how few we were, and fourteen is a lot fewer than fifteen. Besides, Don was a strong leader in the wider community, and President of the College of Chaplains, which gave us some political cover. We needed it, particularly given some of the other characters we had aboard. Don was second president of CPSP. In his own idiosyncratic and sometimes disconcerting ways he contributed to our well-being. I think it appropriate that we stand for a minute of tribute to Don. May he rest in peace.

    The six of us who remain are mostly ?has-beens.? The sun is setting on us. As a tribute the six who are still with us, I read this poem which was sent to me by my friend Deryck Durstan, attributed, I think falsely, to Dr. Seuss:

    Dr. Seuss on Aging

    I cannot see.

    I cannot pee.

    I cannot chew.

    I cannot screw.

    Oh, my God, what can I do?

    My memory shrinks.

    My hearing stinks.

    No sense of smell.

    I look like hell.

    My mood is bad ? can you tell?

    My body?s drooping.

    Have trouble pooping.

    The Golden Years have come at last.

    The Golden Years can kiss my ass.

    I do not suggest we venerate the fifteen, or the remnant thereof. Many others who came into CPSP later have contributed even more to our prosperity. To name only a few, I point to Myron Madden, Ben Bogia, Richard Liew, and Ken Blank. George Hull, Beng Imm Low, and Henry Uy put this meeting together. Foy Richey has demonstrated considerable energy and leadership in his role as President. John deVelder negotiated our place now as a sponsoring organization of Journal of Pastoral Care and Counseling, and is Vice President of the JPCC's Board of Managers. All members of CPSP will now receive a subscription of the JPCC from this point on. I also want to commend Jim Gebhart, who has conducted in a highly effective manner a major revision and upgrading of our Standards and at the same time entered into conversations with the DOE on the subject of recognition of CPSP.

    CPSP is not just another organization. We represent specific values that should never be negotiated away: Three principal values called CPSP into being, values that remain central to our existence as a community: 

    1. A return to theology.

    2. The conviction that a clinically trained person is one who is committed to continuing personal transformation.

    3. A commitment to a communal, participatory political structure in our own organizational life.

    1. A return to theology.

    Recovery of soul is the metaphor that we have used to highlight this issue. The return to theology is not a cheap shot at psychology. A minister who is not broadly familiar with psychology, who is unaware of the significance of Freud and his revolution, is by definition unlearned and predictably incompetent. But psychology is not our home. Theology requires obedience to the requirements of love and justice, whereas psychology claims to be a science, and as a science has a tradition of relative non-commitment to specific values.

    Our knowledge of the human heart is deepened by the contribution of Freud and his heirs. It is in parsing the inner world of the human heart/soul where psychology and religion meet. But Solomon was psychoanalytically informed almost 3,000 years before Freud. He was called wise because he knew the workings of the human heart and its recesses. He knew that a woman who really loved a newborn child would rather see it raised by an abductor than slain, and thus he deciphered who the real mother was. He knew a woman who would allow the child to be put to the sword rather than have her aggressiveness thwarted was unlikely to be the mother.

    As David was dying Solomon's half brother, Adonijah, who thought he should be king instead, made an attempt to roll over Solomon. He lost. Solomon was merciful, and released him on good behavior. "If he proves to be a worthy man, not one of his hairs will fall; but if he is wicked, he will die." Shortly, however, Adonijah asked permission to marry Abishag. Abishag was the beautiful young maiden, sought for through all Israel, who was commissioned to minister to David's in his last days, in the hopes that she would revitalize him with more salutary effect than chicken soup. Abishag?s ministrations notwithstanding, David soon died. When Solomon heard of Adonijah's request, to take Abishag to wife, the merciful Solomon's response was swift and decisive. He summarily ordered Adonijah to be put to death. Solomon knew that the symbolic power of Adonijah's wish to have his father's last consort, and Solomon saw that Adonijah's political ambitions were still active, even after having been pardoned. Solomon was wise in the ways of the human heart.

    Theology as a discipline differs from psychology in that it deals in the question of what is commanded. In this regard we are informed by Karl Barth, for whom obedience was a central issue of attention in theologizing. The Talmudic tradition also emphasizes the matter of obedience in a dramatic way. But the truth is that all religion is built on one or another call to obey what is commanded. Anton Boisen himself gave a particular spin to the issue through his vision that he and we must break down the wall between medicine and religion, not that he thought that to be the only thing commanded, but rather a singular command in addition to other commandments. Every clinical case, therefore, should be examined under the auspices of the question of what is commanded, of the patient, the physician, the medical team, the family members, friends, and chaplain.

    Parenthetically, we know that people tend to think of what is commanded in terms of commandments, often prohibitory commandments. What has come clearer in recent years is that story and narrative are sometimes more effective bearers of what is commanded.

    This focus on what is commanded is not taking place in most clinical pastoral training. I know from my travels. What generally passes for theologizing is an embarrassment, or should be. What we typically observe under the label of theologizing in clinical pastoral training programs is free association on biblical texts. What biblical passage does this case bring to mind? The response of course is, nine times out of ten, the Good Samaritan or the Prodigal Son. This is the inflation of the value of free association beyond all reason.

    Another common gambit in launching into theologizing is to pose the question, ?Where is god in this case?? This could be called the search for the absent god. She is in the cafeteria, perhaps. Wondering where god is, say during the holocaust is a poignant undertaking, and not an unworthy venture. However, it is quite secondary to the primary theological question, "Adam, where art thou?" In other words, where are you in relation to what is commanded?

    Most theologizing is limited to the task of establishing contact with one's feelings, which is certainly a commendable enterprise. Not to be in touch with one's feelings is dangerous to oneself and others. However, contact with one?s feelings is not the alpha and omega of theological reflection. Serious theological reflection calls for examination of the context of feelings and the requirements of love and justice.

    Take, for example, the Iraq War: We may have feelings about the war. We may be filled with pride and patriotism, or have feelings of revulsion at the pretext for the war or the destruction and loss of life involved. Theological reflection on the war would mean an exploration of the requirements of the commands for love and justice, a process that goes beyond a simple exploration of feelings.

    Serious, disciplined theological reflection in clinical training is rare, replaced generally by a mix of 19th century piety, medieval catholicism, and pop psychology. (I refer you to a recent article in the Journal of Religion and Health that encourages patients to meditate on the 19th century hymn, "In the Garden.")

    A psychologically informed minister is a blessing to any community, and a minister uninformed psychologically is a potential menace. A minister who does not know how to think theologically is even more of a menace. Recovery of soul in CPSP means in part the recovery of a capacity to theologize.

    2. A revivified personal authority founded on the requirements of continuing personal transformation.

    The clinical training movement has been haunted from its beginning by the conflict between the exploration of the self and the development of pastoral skills, the one rather inward looking, and the other more outwardly oriented. Each is important in its own way. Each wishes to assert preeminence. Boisen and Dunbar were unequivocally on the side of person transformation and Cabot and Giles on the side of skill development. The movement has never really faced up to the conflict, but generally has sided with Cabot and Giles. They sell better in the marketplace. While Boisen lived the personal transformation agenda was preeminent. When he died the tide began to turn.

    A focus on personal transformation is quite problematic politically. Until a little past mid-century pastoral clinicians tended to be characters. They were wild. They defied convention. Smoked themselves into lung cancer, drank into alcoholism, and misbehaved generally. And how we miss them. The rough-hewn idiosyncratic and often obnoxious characters many of whom were still around mid-century were almost nowhere to be found, replaced by the politically correct and experts in public relation.

    I have been to a trainload of meetings of Boisen's followers in the past four decades, and 

    I have the impression that with more and more persons who are allegedly clinically trained, I have the distinct feeling that nobody is home. They have the appearance, in the wonderful words of Harold Bloom, of a "rabblement of lemmings." If you pretend to follow Boisen you are obliged to become so uniquely yourself that you become a distinctive and memorable person.

    In clinical pastoral training that is faithful to its origins, the question, "Who are you?" takes precedence over the question, "What skills do you possess?"

    Much foolish talk abounds of late deriding the notion of "outcomes" in clinical training. Of course we expect outcomes. Who can imagine a supervisor saying: "Come join my training program. We will have no expectations for what you will accomplish by so doing." However, because some of our colleagues have transformed outcomes into paint by numbers process does not invalidate the necessity of holding to a concept of desired outcomes. One of our desired outcomes is that of personal transformation, and more specifically, a transformation that penetrates the typical narcissism and grandiosity that seems inevitably to accompany a call to the ministry. The late Reuel Howe was a professor at Virginia Theological Seminary during the middle of the last century, and someone who appreciated the value of clinical pastoral training. He wrote in vivid language about his idea of desired outcomes in clinical training: 

    "I want [the students] "dunked" -plunged deeply into life, brought up gasping and dripping, and returned to us humble and ready to learn.  Until all students are faced with the tragedies, the contradictions, and the stark questions of life, they cannot understand the need for redemption or God's redemptive action. I want my students to lose, as soon as possible, their easy faith, their ready answer. I want them to lose their personal conceits and their illusions about themselves, their illusions about their fellow men and their illusions about God. I want their assumptions about the ministry and their assumptions about how they are going to conduct their ministry completely destroyed."

    Howe sought explicit outcomes, but the outcomes he sought are more difficult to codify than some of the more specific, concrete skill acquistions. A silly check list will not measure what Howe was seeking.

    3. A more communal political system in the clinical pastoral community itself

    Soon after CPSP appeared on the scene, one of our collegial organizations made an effort to replicate the Chapter model, and called for support groups among clinical supervisors. Such groups did in fact spring up in various quarters. Such groups will not accomplish much. They forgot what Paul Tillich wrote in Love, Power and Justice, that love and power must not be separated in a particular structure, or the structure is lame. Support groups with no power are effete. Chapters are not support groups, though they should have some of the marks of a support group. They have also the power and obligation to pass on the credentials of all its members annually, to guarantee the continuing education of all Chapter members, and to monitor the ethical conduct of all Chapter members. Chapters which are not performing all these tasks are not fulfilling their mandate and are subject to discipline by the Council.

    We should never evolve into a guild, (groups with exclusive rights of trading in a particular field) in the sense of creating a lock on the profession, so that anyone who wishes to work must come through us. Such guilds poison the well, are unbecoming to our calling. Such a lock on the right to work breeds strife and anxiety, domination. One of the main sources of antagonism toward CPSP was that we had breached the guild. DOE has a policy not to recognize only one organization in a given field.

    Paid bureaucracy is poisonous. A highly paid bureaucracy is highly poisonous. For thirteen years CPSP has not paid a dollar to any one of its leadership, not even for secretarial services. We do need to hire secretarial support. However, I urge the next generation not to salary its key leadership, but to pay only for administrative support, not for leadership. The minute you begin to pay my salary, the minute my own personal goals and ambitions become entangled with the objectives of the community. I have never had to consider implications for my personal income in making a leadership decision in 13 years.

    Chapters in CPSP place the balance of power close to home. We practice home rule.

    We believe power and authority belongs in the context of a community where we are known, not in the files of some bureaucratic official in a faraway city who may or may not know me, but certainly does not know me well.

    We convened this meeting under the dark shadow of a declaration of a new morality in our national leadership: the declaration of international martial law.

    The President disclosed in his State of the Union speech that he had assassinated in Yemen a significant international terrorist. Five others who were in the car that was targeted, and were also killed. The guilt of the alleged terrorist has not been documented, and certainly not vetted by accepted standards of due process. The guilt of the unidentified companions obviously has not been established, except by association perhaps. The President boasted in his speech that these people are no longer a problem to us. This is martial law, and it is a radical departure from national policy and morality. Covert assassinations by our government are not new. They have been staged by former Presidents. Eisenhower ordered the assassination of Patrice Lumumba of the Congo. Kennedy tried to do the same to Castro. The Diem brothers of Viet Nam were killed by the CIA, though Kennedy probably thought they would simply be removed from office. Chile's army chief of staff was kidnapped and murdered on directions by Nixon and Kissenger. The democratically elected President of Chile, Salvator Allende, was attacked and killed by forces in alliance with the CIA. All these covert assassinations, and others as well, have heretofore imputed shame to the perpetrators. The new policy is that there will be no shame. Assassinations will continue, and they will be shameless. The new claim of the ruler's right to execute without due process throws us back historically several hundred years. It has been thought for some time now that such action is an improper arrogation of power. The current President has dismantled enlightenment principles of justice and due process and has replaced them with brute force of American hegemony. By so doing he has made us citizens of a terrorist state.

    The character of our national life cannot but rub off on us. Ask any German who lived through the Nazi era what it meant to be a German in the 30s and 40s and subsequently. One did not have to support Hitler to be stained by his perversity and destructiveness. As Americans we will not escape the stain of George Bush's assassinations, or other forms of aggressiveness. Travelers abroad are already trying to distinguish between being American and supporting Bush. Such protestations go only so far.

    Self-awareness, examination of and reflection on our covert motives and unconscious agenda, deep self-scrutiny of the intricacies of what makes for a loving and just decision---these are the warp and woof of the clinical process. This process may be more difficult to parse in the immediate years ahead. They are inimical to all that we stand for in CPSP: self-deception, self-inflation, unreflective grandiosity, and more especially, to bullying of the weak by the strong. The former leads to the wisdom of King Solomon; the latter to the foolishness of King Herod.

    Under the Nazi regime in the 30s Karl Barth called on faithful people to go on doing theology as if nothing had happened. Of course, something was happening, and he knew it, but he stayed his course. What Barth was calling for was the importance of staying focused even though the world seemed to be collapsing around him. Indeed he was himself dismissed from his teaching position and driven out of Germany for his opposition to the Nazis.

    It is not clear how the new character of our national life under the current administration will impact CPSP as a community. It need not blur our vision. But the cost to us of remaining faithfully theological and clinical, of remained focused, may be significantly dearer in the time before us.