Pastoral Report Articles 

  • 19 Jun 2013 12:13 AM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    whence you have come,
    wither you go, and
    Whom before you must stand.

    Let us try, for a moment, to take the spirit of this admonition to heart – to keep realistic focus on 
    (a) whence we have come – what hard-won progress seems to have been made
    (b) wither we go – what potential progress seems to remain, and 
    (c) Whom before we must stand – that we are held accountable.

    Yes, the ultimate “whence” and “wither” is “dust” to “dust,” but we are called upon to make a “difference that makes a difference” along the way. That is the problem – and it is not as simple as it might sound.

    We will be judged. In advocating for a cause, in formulating a purpose, we, too, must make judgments. We must try, however, to avoid assuming that the ultimate standard by which the world will be judged is known. Some have sought to see “the judgment of G-d.” Talk about an elusive goal. The prophet Jonah, too, had sought to see the judgment of G-d – upon Nineveh – but, as a mere mortal, he was unable to anticipate – or appreciate – the breadth – and depth – of that divine judgment. Seeking theological insight is important. Fostering others’ seeking may be even more important. Knowing with certainty that you or I have found and understand the answers may be something else.

    We are called upon to act in the face of uncertainty, knowing that we are inadequate – but probably the best available – knowing that we do not know the end of the story – or even where it lies. All too often religious organizations have marched confidently forward, under-appreciating that mortals might not have all the answers – let alone even know all the questions. The world is complex – especially once we get down to working side-by-side with individual people – and we need gadflies from all sides to remind us, about what we do and do not know.

    That, to me, seems to be a recurring, underlying theme of the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy plenaries: our need for gadflies – preferably humble ones. Anton Theophilus Boisen, who founded the movement for professional chaplaincy, considered it

    ever the task of the church to
    disturb the consciences of men [and women] in regard to
    the quality of 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.

    But, turn toward what? turn whither? It is easier to fulfill exact commandments – to obsessively tithe of mint, anise, and cumin – the minutiae – to act as if we know with certainty what to do. It is harder to fulfill inexact commandments – to faithfully perform mitzvah – gut-level efforts of justice and mercy – to act even while accepting we do not know for sure what to do. We must act – but in a world of “unknown unknowns,” with minimal reassurance that what we do is right.

    Perhaps it is but human nature to move on from addressing the most obvious national – and international – crises toward more circumscribed societal crises. Perhaps at times we seem to have fallen into the trap of becoming more focused on abstract populations rather than on individual persons of flesh and blood. Certainly Boisen and his colleague, Helen Flanders Dunbar, tried to avoid that trap. The CPSP held its first plenary meeting twenty-one years ago, having begun organizing – looking for that “something” not to be found elsewhere – two years earlier. Those “spiritual pilgrims” who banded together in the CPSP sought to help each other in a very personal way to work toward a difficult to define “recovery of soul,” so that they could better serve their people, better handle crises big and small. Theirs has been a messy journey – but a real one. While earlier generations of the faithful could feel they were standing on the “solid ground” of their religious traditions, the recent generations were coming face to face with a recognition that religious traditions themselves might be in crisis. Can we not at least try to work with each other and the world as it is within our uncertainty? I don’t have all the answers. Perhaps you need to consider the possibility that you don’t either.

    May the CPSP be blessed with a multitude of “productively disturbed believers” – open to exploring crises both within and without – struggling within an awareness of what they do not know!


    During the 2006 plenary of the CPSP, when an earlier version of these thoughts was presented – in the midst of a somewhat heated discussion about a then current event – “the war” – that was impacting most if not all of us – an experienced chaplain raised a hand and commented: 

    I think what you’re trying to say is that
    we need to figure out
    how to have strong feelings 
    without being self-righteous. 

    That chaplain knew better than I did at the time what I was trying to say. Some of these ideas – especially Boisen’s views – were explored in a much lengthier essay presented the year before: “Religion in Crisis and Custom: Formation and Transformation – Discovery and Recovery – of Spirit and Soul.” [click on “Materials”]; [click on “Materials”]; 

    (translated [2011] by Chaplains Rafael Hiraldo Román & Jesús Rodríguez Sánchez, with the assistance of Chaplain R. Esteban Montilla, as “Religión en Crisis y en Costumbre: Formación y Transformación - Descubrimiento y Recuperación - de Espíritu y Alma”; .)

    The following are the bibliographic details of the cited items:

    The opening quotation is from Akavia ben Mehalalel, Pirkei Avot (“Ethics of the Fathers”) 3:1; the passage is included in most Jewish prayer books.

    In the 1st paragraph, the allusions are to The Bible, “Genesis” 3:19 and to William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience, “Lecture XVIII” (London: Longmans, Green & Co, 1902).

    In the 2nd paragraph, the reference is to The Bible, “Jonah” 4:5. 

    In the 4th paragraph, the patched together quotation is from Anton Theophilus Boisen, “Evangelism in the Light of Psychiatry,” J Relig. Jan 1927;7(1):76-80, p.76; Boisen’s language comes from a well-known 19th century paraphrasing of The Bible, “Romans” 13:11– for example, in the work of evangelist Charles G. Finney [Lectures on the Revivals of Religion, “Lecture X: To Win Souls Requires Wisdom” (NY: The New York Evangelist, 1835)].

    In the 5th paragraph, the references are to The Bible, “Matthew” 23:23 and “Micah” 6:8, plus to Donald H. Rumsfeld, US Department of Defense news briefing, 12 Feb 2002.

    In the 6th paragraph, the allusions are, of course, to “The Covenant” of the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy.

    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.


    EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the fourth essay in a series -- and one might want to take a second look at the earlier three published during 2011:

    “Tolerance and Encouragement: Among the Roots of the Clinical Pastoral Tradition.” 
    “Tolerance and Encouragement: At the Core of the Modern Clinical Pastoral Tradition.” 

    “Tolerance and Encouragement: Within a Covenant of Mutual Accountability.” 

  • 17 Jun 2013 9:31 AM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    Out of our great love and respect for Myron C. Madden, the genuine patriarch of CPSP, and our love for his wife Ann, four members of the CPSP community attended his Memorial Service, held in historic St. Charles Street Baptist Church in New Orleans. They were Brian Childs, George Hankins-Hull, Pat Davis and I.

    Myron was pastor of St. Charles Street Church before he became director of Chaplaincy at New Orleans Baptist Hospital, and began his clinical career. He was a member of that church when he died.

    Former colleagues from Baptist Hospital and the St. Charles Street Baptist pastor conducted the service. A full choir sang, and a reception followed. Robert Pearce, who succeeded Myron as Director of Pastoral Care at Baptist Hospital, was the master of ceremonies. He pointed out that three giants in our field had died within one week, Myron and Will Campbell, who was Plenary speaker in 2006, each died on June 4, and the radical Catholic priest Andrew Greeley on May 30.

    Ann greeted us warmly at the reception, and told us again how much his participation in the CPSP community meant to him. Myron was our perennial Plenary Chaplain until very recently when he became unable to travel.

    The CPSP delegation warmly reconnected with former ACPE colleagues and friends in attendance: Robert Pearce, Gene Huffstutler, Bill Carpenter and Jenny Thomas.

    The Memorial Service bulletin included the following words written by Myron in To Love and Let Go:

    “Love carries the pain of separation; the sweetness of the present is shadowed by a divided path ahead... Love yearns to own and possess and control and hold, but love knows it must yield, and loose, and unbind, and let go.”

    Myron now belongs to history, but the memory of him will remain in our hearts.

    Raymond J. Lawrence, CPSP General Secretary

  • 12 Jun 2013 9:42 AM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    I would like to second the call of Ron Fuhrman to re-examine the CPSP statement on marriage equality. To begin, I confess that whilst fairly new to the CPSP family (Centennial Chapter member 2010) and that I do not entirely understand or have knowledge about how such statements or proclamations are made there are several questions that come to my mind.

    First, was the statement written by merely the two executives listed, or in some executive session, or crafted in larger, broader context of the CPSP community? Comments already made seem clear that the statement itself is not representative of the belief and value system of the entire membership of CPSP and there has been a modest decorum of response from differing sides. I also (personally) think some of the language of the statement is not well thought out and I wonder how “helpful” it truly is to those the statement is intended for. But, greater than this, the integrity of the CPSP organization is at stake when the voices (executive or not) of a few with power begin making statements aimed at being representative of a large whole without due diligence or due process. CPSP and its executive leadership down to its chapter membership is beholden to a greater sense of accountability - to one another and to the constituencies we serve.

    Second, why was the statement made at this time? The answer to this question, of course, may be easily understood with a response from the executives writing and publicizing it. 

    But why March 14, 2013? What is the significance? What is the meaning of making a proclamation on this date? Is it in response to an offense? A reaction to another date or statement of historical import? And why are we responding now (2013) to a congressional action made in 1996? It all seems like the CPSP statement is a “Johnny-come-lately” type of action. The declaration coming before the annual Plenary raises its own questions for me as to its validity. Is it reflective of a shift in leadership? Values? Direction? Or, is it about something else?

    As such, the timing of the statement is curious to me because it seemingly dwells in relative obscurity with no real meaning or purpose apparent. This leads to a third question that remains for me, and perhaps one that for the entire membership of CPSP, ought to be the most troubling. By making such a statement (without collegial collaboration and dialogue and without any seeming intentionality as to the timing or date of declaration) is CPSP cowing to the same political antics that have been characteristic of its predecessor, ACPE? Of course, this implication has huge ramifications, especially in light of the recent request for a special assessment of CPSP members for replenishing the legal fund. And, for me, it begs the question of what type of an organization am I part of? I understand that CPSP, in a sense, is undergoing an organizational-type of puberty as it grows and matures and in such times there can be misguided moments and desired outbreaks (rebellions) and undesired outbreaks (acne) that occur as part of the process. But, we do well in those types of moments to minimize exposure and strengthen and affirm the unique characteristics which set our organization apart from others. CPSP beleaguered relationship with ACPE and with the organizations and institutions from which our younger organization is attempting to prove credibility and solidarity do not need such frivolous statements made without good thinking - no matter how well-intentioned they may be.


    Brad Kenney
    Centennial Chapter, Colorado

  • 12 Jun 2013 9:35 AM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    Thank you for the bold and prophetic declaration CPSP has released regarding marriage equality. Your public dismay over the injustices of DOMA, and the compelling ethical principles included in your statement will serve as a witness to truth and justice. You have taken a timely and courageous action which will embolden other pastoral care providers to join hands and hearts in the pursuit of marriage equality and family values.


    Paul W. Dodd, Chaplain (Colonel), U.S. Army (Ret)

    Tom Carpenter, Esq. (CAPT USMC 1970-1982)
    Co-Chairs, The Forum on the Military Chaplaincy


    Tom Carpenter is a former Marine, an A-4M and airline pilot, attorney, consultant and blogger. He served on the SLDN board for 16 years and was co-chair for 6 years. Tom is an Honorary Lifetime Member of OutServe and is presently co-chair of the Forum on the Military Chaplaincy. Tom lives in Los Angeles with his husband of 20 years, Art.

    Chaplain (Colonel) Paul W. Doddd, U.S. Army (Ret) served 31 years as a military Chaplain. He has served with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Area II Support Activity-Korea, Military District of Washington, 130th Station Hospital in Heidelberg, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and Brooke Army Medical Center. He retired as Command Chaplain of the U.S. Army Medical Command.

    Military decorations include six awards of the Meritorious Service Medal and the Legion of Merit. He is a Licensed Professional Counselor, a Fellow in the American Association of Pastoral Counselors, and a Clinical Member of the American Counseling Association. He has served on the Military Advisory Council for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, the Religion and Faith Council of the Human Rights Campaign, and is Co-Chair and Founder of the Forum on the Military Chaplaincy. Paul is the father of two daughters, Christi and Jeanna, and the grandfather of three grandchildren.

  • 11 Jun 2013 9:45 AM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    A Certified Public Accountant I'll call Deb recently showed me how she balanced the life score after a huge loss.

    Deb lost a leg and her job as supervisor of 35 others in a large accounting firm. When I first met her she expected to finish inpatient rehabilitation in about a week, and I saw her again for the last time the day of her discharge. Having long since left her church and, she said, been "scratched," she scratching church and maybe God from her balance sheet.

    Her nurse told me that Deb might benefit by talking with a chaplain, but did not say why. As directed, I donned gown and gloves to avoid infection but was told that a mask was not necessary as long as I kept my distance. I expected my first visit with her to be routine.

    After I knocked, she invited me in, peeked over a laptop, and laid down half-glasses. I was surprised to see the stump of her leg, covered by elastic, propped up on the bed on a pillow in front of her.

    "Please sit. Are you a pastor? she asked.

    "No, I am a chaplain. So how are you doing today?" 

    "Except for missing a leg and losing my job, I'm doing fairly well."

    "I am sorry to hear of those losses. What do you plan to do now? "

    "My father and stepmother invited me to stay with them in Texas."

    "Is that what you want to do?"

    "It is the most practical thing to do. My stepmother has family there, and it will be good to have caring people around."

    During this first visit and before the next, I began to imagine the hurt she was experiencing from both the loss of her job and loss of her leg. On the last visit she told me more about her job, explaining that she could not get disability income without resigning but that she would also not have been able to perform to her expectations. In both visits she talked more about her job than she did about the loss of her leg, rehab, and imminent move.

    "That will help. I hope that you will receive the care you need."

    "Yes, thank you! (brightening up a bit). Not to worry; I'll do what's necessary. I always have." (determined).

    She told me generally about her marriage, which had ended several years ago, and how she had became successful through hard work. 

    "Before you move, will you talk with someone about adjusting to leaving your job?

    "If you mean a pastor, no. I left my church at 23 years old. They have scratched my name from their book. I do have friends and coworkers here, though, and I have talked with them."

    "Do you believe that God has also 'scratched your name from his book'?"

    "I'm not sure, but it doesn't matter."

    During our second visit, when she was dressed and ready to leave the hospital, we went over the same ground as my mind traveled along my friendship with a couple from Deb's church denomination. The wife, who was my secretary, had taken care of her husband, who was being treated for Wilson's Disease soon after their marriage. I mentioned something about them.

    "Sure. (bitterly, I felt.) That's what the church teaches. In sickness and health."

    I did not respond, but continued thinking. After the husband's recovery his wife developed MS and he cared for her and their two adopted children during her illness, until she died many years later. He lived only a year after her death.

    "What happened to them?" I told her.

    "Sorry to hear that you lost your friends."

    "Thank you. I think of them often, of their love and the sacrifices they made."

    Because her expression of sorrow sounded more sincere than I felt mine had been about the loss of her leg and job, her balance sheet seemed more balanced than mine. I replayed her replies against my own. Her losses, and how she handled them, did not seem to require support as much as did her determination to overcome them. She also expected to receive physical and emotional support from parents and friends. Leaving church had left her on her own and off the "book," and she felt that help from God did not matter to her recovery. Not being a CPA, with her losses, I would hope for the grace of God as well as help from people, some from church.


    Dominic Fuccillo 
    Domenic is a CPSP Clinical Chaplain in Littleton, Colorado

  • 05 Jun 2013 9:50 AM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    Myron Madden died peacefully in his sleep early Tuesday morning. Myron was 95 years old. He had been alert and conversant the evening before, discussing with his wife Anne the need for them to plant two new fig trees. Ever reaching out to inquire about the feelings of others, he asked Anne how she was doing with all this sickness.

    Withe the death of Myron CPSP has lost its patriarch. Myron served many years, until he was unable to travel, as chaplain to our annual Plenary Meetings. He blessed us in so many ways. He urged us onward with a faith in the value of the kind of work we do that inspired us all.

    The following funeral arrangements for Myron have been announced:
    Visitation at Honaker Funeral Home in Slidell, Friday, June 7, 4:00-8:00 pm

    Visitation at Rocket Funeral Home, Ringgold, LA, Sunday, June 9,12:30-1:30 pm

    Burial at the Madden Cemetery near Fryeburg, LA, Sunday, 2:00 p.m.

    Memorial Service, St. Charles Avenue Baptist Church, New Orleans, June 15, 10:00 a.m.

    On the same day Will Campbell also died. Will was not an official part of the CPSP, of course, but he was really one of us. Will was a memorable speaker at the CPSP Plenary Meeting in Virginia Beach in 2006. His obituary can be read in the June 5 edition of the New York Times.


    If you wish to send condolences to his wife Ann, the address is 805 Jefferson Court, Slidell, LA 70458 or you can Email:

  • 15 Apr 2013 12:03 AM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    Chaplain on Demand!
    What Non-Pastoral Care Colleagues 
    Want & Believe They Need
    Robert Charles Powell, MD, PhD

    When is the last time you, the chaplain, asked your non-chaplain colleagues when they most wanted – 
    or believed they needed – 
    a chaplain on their unit?

    Recently a clinical pastoral chaplain friend and I stumbled into a situation where asking what I like to call “the right stupid question” provoked some startling answers. We asked the nurse/ managers in a number of intensive care areas at one medical center the following question:

    “If you had $500,000 to spend on pastoral care and counseling services – 
    and you did not have to answer to anyone about your decision – 
    when would you like to have your ‘own personal chaplain’ on the premises?”

    First let me provide some minor details about the medical center. This tertiary care facility – built around a clustering of 8 intensive care programs – functions as the regional referral and teaching center for a 6-campus system. The 70,000 emergency room visits, 20,000 admissions, and 69,000 pastoral care contacts per year keep 440 out of 560 beds full and 8 certified chaplains plus chaplain trainees busy.

    More formal research by trainees of the medical center’s pastoral care department, two years earlier, produced objective information that more chaplaincy coverage was needed on weekend afternoons as well as on Mondays and especially on Tuesdays. What distinguishes the informal inquiry reported in this short essay is that staff members of NON-pastoral-care departments were asked to produce – on the spot – subjective information about their wants and perceived needs.

    At the first intensive care area where staff members were queried, specifically and individually, about their professional perceptions of chaplaincy coverage needs, one informant wanted more chaplains available from 7 pm to 3 am, while another wanted more chaplains available from 2 pm to 2 am. Both informants began their comments by noting that no one before had ever asked their opinion. The spontaneously specific nature of their requests startled us – but this phenomenon repeated itself as we wandered around to other units.

    At the second intensive care area visited, an informant noted that expanding the availability of pastoral care staff around 2 am would help considerably. At the third intensive care area visited, one informant wanted more chaplains available between 7 pm and 7 am – perhaps including for group work nearby – when family members are staying for hours and hours in the waiting room, while another informant wanted more chaplains available between 3 pm and 3 am – perhaps including a “midnight lunch with the chaplain” – again as a means of helping to “take care” of those family members who are essentially living in the waiting room. Other intensive care areas had requests more specific – for example, around the times when their patients tended to be removed from life-support.

    Glancing over this ad hoc unscientific sample, the hours from 7 pm to 3 am stand out as the period when non-pastoral care clinical staff most wanted to have their “own personal chaplain” available. All intensive care areas were able to use the regular chaplaincy staff available in the medical center 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. When given the chance to fantasize about having total control over chaplaincy services in their intensive care area, however, the nurse/ managers in this busy medical center wanted and perceived they needed extra chaplaincy services in the hours around midnight.

    So, when was the last time you, the chaplain, asked your non-chaplain colleagues when they most wanted – or believed they needed – a chaplain around? It would be easy to ignore this essay as relating only to large medical center situations – but the fact is that this question probably applies to all settings where clinical pastoral chaplains work.

    As the saying goes, 
    “You can't always 
    get what you want, 
    but if you try sometimes, well, 
    you just might find you 
    get what you need”

    Who is the pastoral care department to serve? The chaplains and the chaplain trainees? Or the patients, their families, and the non-pastoral care staff?


    The song lyric at the very end of this article is from “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” lyrics by Mick Jagger & Keith Richards of “The Rolling Stones”. Recording released December 1969.


    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

  • 02 Apr 2013 12:06 AM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    Shedding Light on the Unknown –
    Without Presuming to Exhaust Its Meaning

    – Comments Honoring
    the Rev. Dr. Donald Eric Capps –
    delivered in Las Vegas, NV, 
    on 19 March 2013, at the Plenary of the 
    College of Pastoral Supervision & Psychotherapy
    Robert Charles Powell, MD, PhD

    Can each of us be 
    engaged and attentive enough to
    see and hear and understand 
    truths beyond the supposedly obvious?

    – on the 90th anniversary of The Joint Committee on Religion & Medicine’s beginning (1923) of focusing resources from the New York Academy of Medicine & the Federal Council of Churches on “the religious healing problem”.

    – on the 90th anniversary of [Helen] Flanders Dunbar’s beginning (1923) of the philosophical studies of “insight symbolism” that later would shape her holistic studies of supposed medical disorders that contained unappreciated layers of meaning.

    – on the 90th anniversary of Anton Theophilus Boisen’s beginning (1923) of the “dynamic psychology” studies of souls in the midst of their communities – research that paralleled his earlier (1908) “religious sociology” studies of individual worshipers in the midst of their contexts, as well as his still earlier (1903) “social ecology” studies of individual trees in the midst of their forests.

    – on the 80th anniversary of Dunbar’s de facto merging of Anton Boisen’s professional chaplaincy movement with her own “mind and body” psychosomatic movement – the one program being focused on education & the other being focused on medical research – but with both focused on healing & wholeness.

    – on the 70th anniversary of Dunbar’s Psychosomatic Diagnosis (1943), that focused on appreciating the tenuous equilibriums stirring around & within the body, mind, world & world-view – of both the person providing care & the person receiving care.

    – on the 65th anniversary of Boisen’s "The Minister as Counselor” (1948) an excellent summary about the need (1) to avoid “treatment without diagnosis” & (2) to appreciate “the symbols by means of which … [a person] seeks to reveal his [or her] difficulties to those who have eyes to see and ears to hear”.

    It might be hard to imagine either Flanders Dunbar (1902-1959) or Anton Boisen (1876-1965) writing a joke book – yet Sigmund Freud wrote a treatise on jokes – as did our newest recipient of the “Helen Flanders Dunbar Award for Significant Contributions to Clinical Pastoral Training”. All four – Dunbar, Boisen, Freud, and our newest awardee – were intrigued by the layers and layers of meaning lying within and around symptoms and complaints – the layers and layers of meaning frequently under-appreciated either by those who are suffering, bewildered, or vulnerable – or by those who are trying to work with these souls in distress – or by both. A main lesson from the writings of our newest awardee is that although you might think you have exhausted the meanings, you probably have not. Look more closely. Listen more closely.

    Frequently those who have studied jokes also have studied parables – as both types of storytelling tend toward at least double entendre and both aim to make an impact on the reader or listener – those who theoretically have “eyes to see” or “ears to hear”. Good parables are somewhat like good jokes in that they lead readers or listeners down a darkening, narrowing path, so to speak, then, unexpectedly, into an expansive world of light. Both good parables and good jokes are designed to produce a sudden “Ah hah!” – an enlightenmenta jolt in thinking. A difference is that a good parable perhaps more easily than a good joke encourages a multitude of interpretations – according to the degree to which the teller or writer really is trying to engage – trying to provoke attention – and the degree to which the listener or reader really is engaged – is paying attention.

    Just as a parabola – the path when, for example, a ball is thrown a long distance– is a path that is curved rather than straight, so, too, a parable takes a path that is “curved” – or indirect – not one that is “straight” – or direct – when connecting one person to another. Both words – “parabola” and “parable” – indeed are derived from the Greek for “throwing alongside”. This indirectnessunexpectednessis the whole point. A “direct” line is what it is – straight to the target – without much room for interpretation. A somewhat “indirect” line has room for several interpretations, and a notably “indirect” line has room for many interpretations.

    Dunbar elucidated this indirectness and potential expansiveness of interpretations long ago in her classic analysis of how symbols work – which she clearly believed provided guidance regarding how symptoms work. Dunbar gave the example of a “rock” – which I will quote: 

    A geologist … will note on the map the conventional sign [for a rock],
    thus using an
    arbitrary[-extrinsic] association …
    [a metaphor or analog–
    this stands – directly – for that –]
    as a shorthand representation of the datum.

    The artist on the other hand may sketch the rock, or write a poem 
    describing it in terms of other sense experience 
    [that is, as a metonymy or simile – a part representing the whole – 
    this is – somewhat indirectly – sort of like that –], 
    which then becomes a descriptive[-intrinsic comparison] … of the rock.

    Finally, the philosopher … may look through the object to … deeper meanings [–
    this is – notably indirectly – reminiscent and prescient of many thats ],
    such as the stability of eternal law, and so use the rock itself as [
    a symbol proper,
    that is, as]
    an [interpretive, semblance or] insight symbol. 

    Dunbar went on to suggest some additional possible deeper meanings in a specifically Christian context: 
    It [, the rock, as an “insight symbol,”] may stand for Christ,
    as in the familiar hymn Rock of Ages;
    or it may exemplify that which each soul should be to its fellows,
    as Christ himself used the symbol with reference to Peter;
    or finally, the rock may mean the foundation of the heavenly kingdom.

    In other words, an insight symbol invites layers and layers of interpretation, and once something is viewed as an insight symbol one is prompted to pursue layers and layers of understanding.

    Thus, apparently to quote Freud, “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar”. Sometimes, however, it is somewhat or notably much, much more. As Jesus explained, 

    This is why I speak to them in parables:
    because seeing they do not see
    and hearing they do not hear … .
    [He or she who has eyes,
    let him or her see.]
    He [or she] who has ears,
    let him [or her] hear. 

    That is, Jesus hoped to be quite clear to those who made the effort to engage, to pay attention, and to understand – but not necessarily otherwise. Boisen echoed this when he suggested that those who are suffering, bewildered, or vulnerable behave much the same way. He asked us to appreciate 

    the symbols by means of which [a person]
    seeks to reveal his [or her] difficulties to
    those who have eyes to see and ears to hear

    That is, those in need hope to be quite clear to those who make the effort to engage, to pay attention, and to understand – but not necessarily otherwise.

    Taking a fresh, in-depth look at the Biblical descriptions of Jesus’ healing ministry, our newest awardee noted that

    … Jesus’ cures … could be read as parables,
    as expressing symbolic as well as literal truth. 

    The patients’ neighbors and Jesus’ disciples saw and heard one thing, while Jesus, very engaged and very attentive, saw and heard something else – a lot else – and acted accordingly. Extending this to our current and daily work, the question concerns the extent to which those presenting with symptoms and complaints might be speaking in parables – might be knowingly – or unknowingly – telling us something more profound than is conveyed by the literal words.

    The lesson here is that Dunbar, Boisen, Jesus, our newest awardee – and certainly many others – have asked us to appreciate both the expansive nature of certain stories and the complexity of what we call healing. Dunbar certainly had a talent for recognizing what lay beneath, beside, and beyond the supposedly “obvious”. For example, patients with fractures were being used as controls for study patients who had conditions considered more likely to have psychological aspects. “Obviously” – so went the argument – “patients’ minds couldn’t cause bones to break”. Getting to know these patients more deeply than the average surgeon, Dunbar soon recognized that those with fractures were as “crazy” as anyone else – and thus was born her concept of “the accident prone personality”. “Obviously” – so went the argument – “babies can’t read nearby adults’ minds”. Getting to know these babies more deeply than the average pediatrician, she soon recognized that this just wasn’t the case – and thus were born Dunbar’s three books on children’s and adolescents’ minds and bodies. Can each of us be engaged and attentive enough to see and hear and understand truths beyond the supposedly obvious?

    Let me give but one simple – perhaps too simple – personal example. Many years ago a colleague described me as “someone who has a knack for subscribing to magazines that go out of business.” If I presented to one of you with that as a self-description – “I’m someone who has a knack for subscribing to magazines that go out of business” – what might you make of it? There is literal truth in it, of course: that the report, as an extrinsic association, stands exactly for what has happened. 

    There is an implied truth in it, also – that the example, as an intrinsic comparison, represents an array of problems. There are deeper, broader truths in it, too – that the expansive image, as fertile insight symbol, suggests a variety of views, including a negative one: that I make questionable judgments, as well as a positive one: that I’m “marching to my own drummer – that I hold fast to my own judgment, regardless of how others decide. That I “subscribe to magazines” probably fits comfortably with conventional myth about how quite conservative I am. That these are failing magazines probably jolts many a bit – especially since the story, as self-defining parable, shows how radical I might be. If you focused literally on me and my magazines you would be missing the point – missing the notably indirect message being conveyed – the story considered most important – consciously or unconsciously – by me.

    Our newest awardee’s early career included serious pondering about these so-called “parabolic events” – these parable-like episodes in peoples’ lives that seem archetypal – that seem like they might encompass layers and layers of meaning. Recognizing parabolic events is a kind of unique diagnostic exercise. Similarly, both Dunbar and Boisen championed really seeing those who were suffering, bewildered, or vulnerable as unique individuals and really listening to their stories. Like our newest awardee’s, theirs was a creative curiosity. Both Dunbar and Boisen actually SAW the obvious that others could not see, and they actually HEARD the obvious that others could not hear. They also had a way of allowing others to display their real selves and to convey their real views. Much of the Dunbaresque/ Boisenesque diagnostic approach begins in “being with” – until one finally sees and hears and understands what specifically is bothersome in a specific person’s mind, body, world, or world-view.

    Our awardee has suggested that Jesus employed a similar approach – “being with” so that He could, with greater depth, see and hear and understand – and heal. Jesus did not focus on the complaint or symptom as what Dunbar would call an arbitrary-extrinsic association or as what she would call a descriptive-intrinsic comparison. Rather, in His healing ministry, more usefully Jesus focused on the symptom or complaint as an interpretive-semblance insight symbol – as expansive and complex, with layers and layers of meaning. As Dunbar noted in regard to her work, 

    Therapeutic results [often] were noted as a consequence of the mere process of examination. 

    Apparently it was much the same, our newest awardee has suggested, in Jesus’ healing ministry – that therapy followed from an engaged, attentive diagnostic approach and that it might well in your ministry, too.

    So, on this, the 30th anniversary of his “The Parabolic Event in Religious Autobiography” (1983), which foreshadowed both his Jesus the Village Psychiatrist (2008) and his Laughter Ever After … (2008), grasping that healing can be effected by appreciating the complex worlds of meaning in supposedly “obvious” complaints & symptoms, please join me in congratulating the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy’s 12th recipient of “The Helen Flanders Dunbar (1902-1959) Award for Significant Contributions to the Field of Clinical Pastoral Training”: The Rev. Dr. Donald Eric Capps.


    The title is a paraphrasing of a sentence in Donald E. Capps. “The Parabolic Event in Religious Autobiography.” The Princeton Seminary Bulletin. 1983;4(1):26-38, p.27.

    This award is being bestowed on the 50th anniversary of our honoree’s graduation from divinity school & on the 30th anniversary of his 5-year stint as editor for the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion.

    Some additional relevant anniversaries are:

    – on the 105th anniversary of Religion and Medicine (1908), by professional chaplaincy’s 

    conceptual forebear, Elwood Worcester (1862-1940), an elder colleague of both Dunbar 

    & Boisen.

    – on the 85th anniversary of Boisen’s “The Sense of Isolation in Mental Disorder: Its Religious 

    Significance.” (1928) [Am J Sociol. 33:555-567] & his "The Psychiatric Approach to the Study of Religion” (1928) [Relig Ed. 23(3):201-207].

    – on the 80th anniversary of Dunbar’s “The Faith and the New Psychology” (1933), in Frank Gavin, 

    ed. Liberal Catholicism and the Modern World. Milwaukee: Morehouse Publishing, 1933; reprinted: Living Church. 1934;13:333-336; available on-line at , that called for further “development of the age-old techniques of religion in the light of the new understanding”.

    – on the 55th anniversary of Seward Hiltner’s Preface to Pastoral Theology … (1958), affirming that 

    a clinical pastoral task “begins with theological questions and concludes with theological answers” [p.24] regardless of the intervening “practical” steps.

    – on the 50th anniversary of Hiltner’s Constructive Aspects of Anxiety (1963), a small volume co-

    edited with Karl Menninger, emphasizing, as did Boisen, the possible value of crises.

    – on the 30th anniversary of Caroll A. Wise’s Pastoral Psychotherapy: Theory and Practice (1983).

    The following are the bibliographic details of the cited items:

    In the opening list of anniversaries: Boisen. "The Minister as Counselor.” J Pastoral Care. 1948;2(1):1-10, pp.4,9.

    In the 4th paragraph: Dunbar, Symbolism in Medieval Thought and Its Consummation in the Divine Comedy. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1929; equals her PhD dissertation, NY: Columbia University, 1929; reprinted, NY: Russell and Russell, 1961; reprinted again, Atlanta: SOLINET, 1994; pp.4, 8-9,11, 14, 19-20. Dunbar, "The Sun Symbol in Medieval Thought," Master's Thesis, NY: Columbia University (1924), p.65; the italicized and bracketed items are here added so that the passage may serve as a summary statement of Dunbar's comments on symbolism.

    In the 5th paragraph: Jesus, as cited in The Bible, “Matthew,” 13:13,43.

    In the 6th paragraph: Capps, Jesus the Village Psychiatrist. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008; pp.54-55. See also, Capps, The Poet's Gift: Toward the Renewal of Pastoral Care. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1993; p.1: “acts of pastoral care … are very similar to Jesus’ parables: these acts usually involve brief, time-compressed encounters and often occur in the context of a life crisis … ”; p.2 re parables: “they challenge our usual and routine ways of perceiving and construing our life experiences, enticing us into viewing them from a different angle or slant.”

    In the 10th paragraph: Dunbar, Psychosomatic Diagnosis. NY: Paul B. Hoeber/ Harper & Brothers, 1943, p.689.

    In the 11th paragraph: Capps, Laughter Ever After … Ministry of Good Humor. Atlanta: Chalice Press, 2008.

    Additional Note #1: While it now is easy enough to find general information on Dunbar’s life and work, as my writings on these topics have been available for some forty years, comments about Dunbar’s parents – that is, about her family context – currently can be found almost exclusively at the CPSP Pastoral Report. See, 

    “ ‘Be Strong! Take Courage! All Ye Who Hope in the Lord!’ ”
    [has passage & footnote re Edith Vaughn Flanders Dunbar (1871-1963)]

    “Clinical Pastoral Psychology of Religion: A ‘Peculiar and Dynamic Play between the Mundane and the Sublime’.” [has passage & footnote re Francis William Dunbar (1868-1939)]

    Additional Note #2: Toward better drawing the parallel between parables and jokes – a parallel clearly suggested by the newest Dunbar awardee – let me repeat a joke with which many years ago I felt an immediate connection. 

    A little boy stood on the front porch of his home crying and energetically ringing the door bell. Finally his mother answered the door and the little boy exclaimed somewhat confusingly, “The Dog! The Dog!” Toward clarifying the problem, the mother asked, “Did the dog bite you?” “No,” explained the little boy, “but he tasted me!” 

    The joke works because it joltingly provides a new view about the meaning of a dog’s licking of someone with its tongue – which generally is interpreted as a friendly gesture. When very young I was somewhat socially anxious, and the joke captured my issue precisely: that anyone who got close enough to be nice also was close enough for another motive – to be not so nice.

    Additional Note # 3: For the record, please let it be clarified that Professor Capps is not receiving the same honor twice. The centennial celebration he graced in 2002 at Columbia Presbyterian Center of the New York Presbyterian Hospital was “The Helen Flanders Dunbar (1902-59) Memorial Lecture,” published as, “John Nash: Three Phases in the Career of a Beautiful Mind.” J Relig & Health. Dec 2005;44(4):363-376.

    Additional Note #4: CPSP’s “Helen Flanders Dunbar Award for Significant Contributions to Clinical Pastoral Training” is bestowed only upon the living and only upon non-members of CPSP. Past recipients of the award include 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 E Thornton (7th; 2008), Rodney J. Hunter (8th; 2009), John E. Harris (9th; 2010), Orlo C. Strunk, Jr (10th; 2011), and Kenneth H. Pohly (11th; 2012).

    Additional Note #5: Any boldings occurring with quoted passages are by this author.

    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.

    Editors Note: The limits of the Pastoral Report's publishing platform do not afford the ability to fully duplicate the page layout of Dr. Powell's scholarly paper. The reader is encouraged to down the document.


    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.

  • 24 Jan 2013 11:57 PM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    Report from India and South Africa: “Devotional Care”: Rethinking Clinical Pastoral Chaplaincy Training Sites
    Robert Charles Powell, MD, PhD

    Centers for Devotional Care: Places to Take Shelter at Times of Profound Transition “providing even one more hour, one more person, and one more dollar to the caring can make all the difference.” 

    Blessed be the Lord, the rock wherein I take shelter – my shield and champion,  my fortress and refuge!
    II Samuel 22:3.

    Seek refuge in the Lord with all your being! 
    By the Lord’s Grace will you attain … the Imperishable Abode! 
    Bhagavad-gītā 18:62.

    Departure from this material world is the major transition facing all of us. Perhaps more than most, however, those within the Hindu or Vedic faith traditions tend to view this life as preparation for the next, for the new. Thus, when thinking about the upcoming founding of the first fully-accredited North American Hindu seminary, sustained thought has been given to founding simultaneously the first distinctively Hindu North American hospice – as an initial protective and supportive clinical pastoral supervision site for the novice pujaris (“priests”) – some of whom might later pursue elsewhere full clinical pastoral chaplaincy training, education, and transformation. This idea of pairing of seminary and hospice arose out of recognition that students from non-Judeo-Christian faith traditions faced extra challenges in consolidating their theological identities while serving under Judeo-Christian supervision in Judeo-Christian clinical settings. The idea was that after three to six months of faith-specific mentoring, these novice pujaris would be better equipped for making good use of non-faith-specific mentoring of their non-faith-specific service.

    Looking more closely at the actual rather than the theoretical aspects of so-called “hospice” or “palliative” care, it appeared that much of the care that was needed and valued occurred “in the vicinity of” but not necessarily “at” the supposedly definitive “end of life”. It also appeared that the kind of care provided by the best of such non-curative settings was exactly what was needed by the suffering, bewildered, or vulnerable – regardless of whether they were at the end of life.

    In a previous “Report from India” I quoted Henry T. Dom, regarding that “palliative care … should form part of the care of all who are ill, mentally or physically.” While departure from this material world may be the major transition facing all of us, overwhelming grief and other emotional disturbances – including pain and demoralization – are transitions almost as major facing some of us at some times. Having just returned from visiting and studying a Hindu “care center/ hospice” at Durban, South Africa, a Hindu “palliative care program” at Thane, India, and a Hindu “hospice” at Vrindavan, India, I now better appreciate the wisdom of Dom’s comment.

    “Devotional care” – as I will define further below – may well be important for more than just those who are soon to be leaving this life – and may well be important for conceptualizing the most ideal training sites – Hindu or otherwise.

    The following discussion of “devotional care” came together when one of my Hindu hosts asked me to try to explain what I thought I was observing about the best of Hindu approaches to non-curative care – how it differed from what I had experienced elsewhere.

    In thinking about “devotional care,” the word “sharing” comes immediately to mind – plus the notion that caring – every bit of it – is permeated by the moral principles of self-discipline, purity, compassion, and integrity. This might seem obvious, but a visit to many average care centers would reveal that it is not. In devotional palliative care the patient, the family, the fellow staff member does not have to want, need, formulate, and request caring; rather, caring just happens – an effort has been made to think out in advance what would constitute caring for this patient, this family, this fellow staff member so that each can be freed to do what needs to be done. This might seem too easy, too natural, but it is not the norm in many care settings.

    “Sharing” in devotional care encompasses “wisdom sharing,” “inspiration sharing,” and “devotion sharing”. Each staff member functions as an integral part of an organic unity. Each staff member teaches, encourages, and models a standard of caring – of the patients, of the families, of other staff members – and these lived values flow smoothly in all directions. One enters the sphere of devotional care and knows this is not “the outside world”. The devotional care center functions, so to speak, as a kind of temple.

    Devotion” in devotional care implies a consistent, act“ively focused, empathic form of caring. Each staff member behaves toward patients, families, and other staff members as if he or she were caring for the Deity – and how he or she believes the Deity would behave – and how he or she would want to be cared for by the Deity. Again, one enters the sphere of devotional care and one knows this is not “the outside world”. The caring is a kind of idealism made real – open from all sides to ideas about improvement. 

    “We don’t have time for that” is irrelevant; “We don’t have the staff for that” is irrelevant; “We don’t have the funds for that” is irrelevant. Individualized, personal caring of patients, families, and other staff members is limited only by the staff’s collective imagination and creativity. This may sound too simple – or too hard – but the devotional care model is to find the time, the staff, and the funds to do whatever needs to be done. This is not to advocate extravagance but to advocate active devotion; providing even one more hour, one more person, and one more dollar to the caring can make all the difference.

    Peace, quiet, and tranquility – with subtle invigoration – comprise the context of devotional caring. Each patient, each family, each staff member participates in sacred eating, sacred reading/ listening, and sacred ritual at least once per day – and, actually, there is no arbitrary limit on the provision of any of these. An effort is made to anticipate emergency and challenge – and to handle these as proactively and as smoothly as possible. It might at first sound counterintuitive, but the devotional care model is to meet emergency and challenge indeed with deliberate peace, quiet, and tranquility.

    Somewhere in her book, The Final Journey …, Sangita dasi casually comments that the experienced devotional care worker always has a supply of dark red sheets and towels on hand if bleeding is anticipated to be an issue. She also speaks of using conscious breath control – for the patient’s sake, for the family’s sake, and for the staff member’s sake – that each must be helped to maintain equanimity so that each can do what must be done. Again, this might sound counterintuitive, but the quiet chanting of the holy names – an integral part of devotional care – functions as a kind of encouragement to abide long enough to accomplish the task at hand – whether it be to live through some acute difficulty – or to let go of this material world.

    In regard to conceptualizing the most ideal clinical pastoral chaplaincy training sites, a key consideration is how best to integrate devotional care centers – places for the suffering, bewildered, or vulnerable to take shelter at times of profound transition – into the faith groups’ places of worship – or even the extent to which this can be done. Does one bring those needing care into the sanctuary – or bring the congregation into the care center? Perhaps both might be attempted. Two of the Hindu centers visited had altars in the devotional care area; all three were equipped to bring in members of the congregation – and one seemed to do this on a routine basis. All this being said, there appeared to be substantial room for further integration of a mandir’s daily activities into a devotional care setting – and vice versa. Certainly if, in support of North American Hindu clinical pastoral chaplaincy, a Hindu seminary and a distinctly Hindu hospice are to be developed simultaneously and contiguously, then efforts might be considered toward thoroughly integrating the two.

    Community outreach also needs to be an integral part of the devotional care program – whether by supervised theologs or by other staff. All three of the Hindu centers visited kept an intelligent eye and ear on their communities, but it was clear that more might be done in this area. One center adroitly side-stepped any suggestion that theological conversion might be a more potent motive than sincere devotional care by making it clear – repetitively, through concrete action – that it was prepared to assist any person in need in following his or her own religious customs. This reflects, of course, the requirement that clinical pastoral chaplains be well-grounded in their own specific faith traditions even while working with all who are in need.

    Obviously, this discussion applies to more than just Hindu communities and their beginning nourishment of clinical pastoral chaplaincy. I am eager to visit and study other hospice, palliative, or devotional care programs that might provoke further thought about what would constitute an ideal site for the training, education, and transformation of clinical pastoral chaplains.



    While the author has consulted with Gujarati Vaishnava, Guadiya Vaishnava, and Shaivite leaders, he is not himself of the Hindu tradition and any misunderstandings noted in this essay should be considered his alone

    In paragraph 1, the reference is to the “Hindu Seminary of North America,” a joint project since September 2011 of the Hindu Mandir Executives’ Conference and the Hindu American Foundation, which, like its sponsoring organizations, would be cross-sampradaya (cross “disciplic succession traditions”), serving all North American Hindus. The legal steps needed for establishing a non-Judeo-Christian seminary are substantial. In August 2012 the “Hindu Accrediting Association of North America” and the “Hindu Religious Endorsing Body of North America” were established – the first entity to develop a program for evaluating institutions of higher education (parallel to the Association of Theological Schools of the United States and Canada, whose charter specifies focus on Judeo-Christian institutions), and the second to provide cross-sampradaya evaluation of who should or should not be authorized to function as a Hindu chaplain away from mandir (“temple”) grounds and to those not of this faith group. Over and above the chartering of these legally required institutions, decisions will need to be made about the ongoing support of those who make it through a clinical pastoral chaplaincy program. Because some sampradaya practice strict celibacy especially in their male leadership ranks, it is anticipated that about 80% of fully certified Hindu clinical pastoral chaplains will be women. The need is both immediate and great. Based on the patterns seen with other faith groups, it is estimated that the North American Hindu community needs twenty-five fully certified chaplains right now – and fifty as soon thereafter as possible, in order to serve rural as well as urban settings.

    In paragraph 3, the reference is to “Report from India: A Pastoral Care Department that Runs Its Own Hospital.” (July 18, 2011)

    In paragraph 6, in reference to “devotional caring,” the phrase “self-discipline, purity, compassion, and integrity” – “tapaḥ śaucam dayā satyam” – is taken from Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 1.17.24 – of which there are many, many translations. Another common translation of the phrase is as “austerity, cleanliness, mercy, and truthfulness”.

    In paragraph 11, the reference is to Pattinson, Susan [Sangita dasi]. The Final Journey: Complete Hospice Care for the Departing Vaisnava. 2nd revised edition. Badger, CA: Torchlight Publishing Co, 2011. For my review, please see .


    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

  • 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,
    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.



    In the opening list of anniversaries, the last item is a reference to

    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.

    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 


    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.