What about Pastoral Supervision of the Field of Clinical Pastoral Chaplaincy? by Robert Charles Powell, MD, PhD

24 Apr 2012 11:45 PM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

What about Pastoral Supervision of the Field of Clinical Pastoral Chaplaincy?”
– Comments Honoring the Rev. Dr. Kenneth Holt Pohly –
delivered in Pittsburgh, PA, on 28 March 2012 at the Plenary of
the College of Pastoral Supervision & Psychotherapy
Robert Charles Powell, MD, PhD

– on the 110th anniversary of Helen Flanders Dunbar’s birth.

– on the 150th anniversary of the birth of Dunbar’s & 
the movement’s patroness, Ethel Phelps Stokes Hoyt (1877-1952)

– on the 135th anniversary of the birth of Anton Theophilus Boisen’s & 
the movement’s conceptual forbearer, Elwood Worcester (1862-1940).

– on the 70th anniversary of Religion in Illness and Health, 
written by Dunbar’s student & Boisen’s understudy, Chaplain Carroll A. Wise.

– on the 65th anniversary of Dunbar’s best-seller, 
Mind and Body: Psychosomatic Medicine.

– on the 65th anniversary of The Journal of Pastoral Care & 
The Journal of Clinical Pastoral Work 
[these into the eventual Journal of Pastoral Care & Counseling].

– on the 35th anniversary of Pastoral Supervision: Inquiries into Pastoral Care,”
written by Kenneth Holt Pohly.

– on the 25th anniversary of the infamous “Underground Report” – 
that was circulated among all North American clinical pastoral supervisors & 
that lead directly to the founding of the CPSP.

– on the 20th anniversary of the 1st CPSP Plenary 
(& the 22nd anniversary of the founding of CPSP).

– on the 10th anniversary of organization by Chaplain Foy Richey (1943-2011) of the 1st joint meeting of the CPSP & The American Association of Pastoral Counselors. 

– on the 10th anniversary of the reaffirmation by the CPSP Governing Council that, when war is a consideration, vision must precede action [cf, Proverbs 29:18]


The primary task of pastoral supervision is … 
to help its participants be clear 
about who they are, 
so they can 
become more [consciously] competent,
confront crises more constructively, and
do ministry more effectively.

Dunbar considered becoming 
"free to think and act” …
as a basic goal. … [and 
as] an accomplishment open to all.

It is exactly the task of a … pastor
inspired by prophetic thinking and acting 
to keep the ideal and reality together.


The Helen Flanders Dunbar (1902-1959) Award for 
Significant Contributions to Clinical Pastoral Training 
came into being in 2002 – 
ten years ago – 
on the 100th anniversary of 
Dunbar’s birth.

This year marks 
the 85th anniversary of 
her earning her Bachelor of Divinity degree from Union Theological 
and of 
her not being eligible for religious endorsement within her chosen faith group, 
as she was a woman.

Dunbar knew who she was. 
She knew for what she stood. 
She accepted that she would 
never be a pastor – 
let alone a chaplain – 
yet she faithfully 
supported Anton Theophilus Boisen’s notion of 
a professional, clinical chaplaincy, and thus 
had a tremendous impact on the field.

Eighty years ago there was a crucial split 
in the nascent field of clinical pastoral chaplaincy.

One group of well-meaning chaplains chose to focus primarily on 
skill development, problem solving, and the enablement of ministry.

Another group of sound chaplains chose to focus primarily on 
relationship, empathy, and transformations through mutual engagement.

Yes, other words might better describe the two groups – the two factions –
but the fact remains that they were different and are different.

A certain productive tension enveloped the two groups for thirty-five years.

Then they merged, forty-five years ago, 
somewhat submerging the Boisenesque/ Dunbaresque values.

Then they un-merged, going separate ways,
with The College of Pastoral Supervision & Psychotherapy truly finding its feet
twenty years ago.

The field of clinical pastoral chaplaincy is prospering,
but 
it is hurting;
it is struggling.

Perhaps it is time to consider some variety of “pastoral supervision” for 
the clinical pastoral field itself.

Can we help the components of the field to become 
clearer about who and what they are?

The CPSP Covenant specifies that 
“Our calling and commitments are … first and last theological. 

We covenant to address one another 
and to be addressed by one another 
in a profound theological sense.”

Do clinical pastoral chaplains – especially those in CPSP – have a responsibility to support and protect the institutions of ordination and religious endorsement from recent efforts to dispense with these – from recent efforts to remove faith group accountability?

The CPSP Covenant specifies that “We believe we should make a space for one another and stand ready to midwife one another in our respective spiritual journeys” – as “we believe that life is best lived by grace ….”

Do clinical pastoral chaplains – especially those in CPSP – have a responsibility to support and protect the efforts of so-called “non-main-stream” faith groups to enter the fold?

The CPSP Covenant specifies that 
“we believe it essential to guard against becoming 
invasive, aggressive, or predatory toward each other”.

Do clinical pastoral chaplains – especially those in CPSP – have a responsibility
to re-double their efforts to nourish such hospitality among cognate groups, 
to support and protect a standard of tolerance and encouragement within, 
for example, the COMISS Network – 
the former “Commission on Ministry in Specialized Settings”?

The CPSP Covenant specifies that 
“We value personal authority and creativity” – that 
“We are invested in offering a living experience … 
within a … supportive and challenging community of fellow pilgrims”.

Do clinical pastoral chaplains – especially those in CPSP – have a responsibility
to re-double their efforts to revive the productive – 
rather than the destructive – 
tensions that once enlivened the field?

Indeed, “What about Pastoral Supervision of the Field of Clinical Pastoral Chaplaincy?” – 
an application of “spiritual care and guidance” [Pohly, 2003, p.2] to the current complexities?

Today’s Dunbar Awardee opened the whole constellation of these questions thirty-five years ago – 
in a tentative volume titled, Pastoral Supervision: Inquiries into Pastoral Care.

That book went through at least two revisions and expansions, exploring the “search for a sacred center out of which … 

life as persons and [life] as … organization[s] must flow”. [Pohly, 2003, p.14]

As today’s honoree phrased it, “Our own identify formation must be in place 
if we are to be helpful in helping others find theirs”. [Pohly, 2003, p.14]

CPSP invited today’s honoree to speak in 2003 – but he was unable to make the trip. 

We honor him today, and, 
in this era of expanded communication, 
we need to consider making good use of his provocative wisdom 
whether in person or otherwise.

We need to revisit the vision he supported of supervision as
“reflection, empowerment, and transformation”. [Pohly, 1993, p.72]

We need to revisit the appreciation he had of supervision as covenant, relationship, incarnation, plus 
an optimal amalgam of judgment and grace. [Pohly, 1993, pp.102-8]

Please join me in congratulating CPSP’s eleventh recipient of The Helen Flanders Dunbar Award, 

The Rev. Dr. Kenneth Holt Pohly, 
who greatly broadened and deepened our grasp of
supervision – and what it can be.


Chaplain Pohly is an enjoyable person to talk with on the phone, 
but medical issues prevent him from being with us in person today. 

The award and your good wishes will be conveyed to him 
next Monday evening at his home in Dayton, OH.

Let us be thankful to be alive, sustained, and enabled to celebrate our relationships this day.

Shalom.


Endnotes:

In the opening list of anniversaries, the last item is a reference to http://www.cpspoffice.org/the_archives/2002/10/the_cpsp_govern.html

In the opening quotations, the first is found in [Pohly, 2003, p.3]

Kenneth Holt Pohly. “The Soul of Pastoral Supervision.” keynote address delivered before the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy, March 20, 2003. http://www.gbhem.org/atf/cf/%7B0bcef929-bdba-4aa0-968f-d1986a8eef80%7D/DS_SOULOFSUPERVISION.PDF

The second is found in [Powell, Emotionally; citing Dunbar "What Happens at Lourdes?," p.226.]

The third is found in [Annemie Dillen, Anne Vandenhoek. Prophetic Witness in World Christianities: Rethinking Pastoral Care and Counseling. Berlin: LIT Verlag, 2011. p.239

The distinction may be academic, but the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy held its 1st plenary March 12-15, 1992]

The main reference for this manuscript, of course, is 

Kenneth Holt Pohly. Pastoral Supervision: Inquiries into Pastoral Care (Houston, TX: The Institute of Religion, 1977) [Transforming the Rough Places: The Ministry of Supervision, 1st edition (Dayton, OH: Whaleprints, 1993); 2nd edition (Franklin, TN: Providence House, 2001) [“This paper is a summary of this book”: “The Purpose and Function of Supervision in Ministry.” J Supervision & Training in Ministry. 1998;10 http://www.gbhem.org/atf/cf/%7B0bcef929-bdba-4aa0-968f-d1986a8eef80%7D/DS_SUPERVISIONINMINISTRY.PDF 

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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.