Pastoral Report Articles 

  • 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.

  • 23 Feb 2012 11:42 PM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    Dear Editor:

    Thank you for publishing Al Heniger's essay on The Evolution of Palliative Care. I wholeheartedly believe that devoted care is the obvious ideal model upon which to focus.

    Please let me repeat the opening quotations in an article here last July -- along with the endnote explaining those quotations.

    Spiritual care comes from the heart after the head has done its homework.

    palliative care … should form part of the care of all who are ill, mentally or physically.

    The endnote was,

    "The opening quotations are from Henry T. Dom, Ph.D., as cited in

    Dom H. 'Vaisnava Hindu and Ayurvedic approaches to caring for the dying: An interview with Henry Dom.' by Romer AL, Heller KS. Innovations in

    End-of-Life Care, 1999 Nov;1(6); ;

    '…he is helping to create a palliative care unit for the newly established Bhaktivedanta Hospital in Mumbai, and is one of the founders of a

    planned hospice and residential home in Vrndavan, a small village in northeast India.' "

    The BhaktiVedanta Hospice in Vrindavan, India, opened in August 2010 -- followed by the similar BhaktiVedanta Care Center in Durban, South

    Africa in October 2011. Perhaps North America will be next to host a BhaktiVedanta Hospice.

    The next issue of the Journal of Pastoral Care & Counseling will carry my review of the BhaktiVedanta palliative care training manual:

    The Final Journey: Complete Hospice Care for the Departing Vaisnava. 2nd revised edition. Susan Pattinson. (Badger, CA: Torchlight Publishing

    Co, 2011). xviii+252pp. $12.95. (paperback).

    Robert Charles Powell, MD, PhD

    "Report from India: A Pastoral Care Department that Runs Its Own Hospital." 18 July 2011.


    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

  • 01 Nov 2011 11:36 PM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    Tolerance and Encouragement: Within a Covenant of Mutual Accountability---

    Robert Charles Powell, MD, PhD

    The College of Pastoral Supervision & Psychotherapy aspires to be “a supportive and challenging community,” “willing to speak the truth” with “a compassionate heart.”

    “A clinical pastoral chaplain must be someone who is 

    committed to continuing personal transformation.”

    “Our continuing vitality will be determined by our ability 

    to nurture a receptiveness to criticism … .”

    “We will have to be resolute and diligent if we want 

    to nurture a capacity for the self-critical in our midst … .”

    In 1975 I was invited to present a keynote address. I spoke on eight “Questions from the Past (on the Future of Clinical Pastoral Education)” – outlining how Anton Boisen might have critiqued what had become of clinical pastoral chaplaincy – asking “whatever happened to the development of a critical tradition?” I was not invited back.

    In 2005 I was invited to present a main opening address. I spoke on “religion in crisis” – on being keepers of our brother’s or sister’s religion – outlining how Boisen felt chaplains must promote “the finest potentialities of the human race” – across any and all supposed boundaries – while maintaining “a self-critical stance”. I was not invited back.

    This time I am invited to present views on what is wrong with CPSP. What did happen to the development of a critical tradition – a self-critical stance? Can the College admit that some members need patient, persistent collegial support toward further growth – and admit that some Chapters need clear rededication to providing that guidance? Are critics invited back?

    Boisen would ask: Can the College be frank about its shortcomings and failures? Can the College consider that some members may need to leave and some chapters may need to close? Can the College admit that not everything worth emulation lies within and that not everything worth scorn lies without? There is no substitute for facing the truth head-on. As Boisen would phrase it, Can the College repent “before it is too late”?

    The College spoke out against the world into which it was born. Now it must speak out against itself. The College that burst upon the scene twenty-some years ago was an improvement over professional chaplaincy’s past. The College that moves now into a new decade with new challenges must become an improvement over its own past – in order to fulfill the promise of its future. Chaplains joined because the College committed to a vision of a covenant community, in which members held themselves and their fellow members responsible. Chaplains will remain because the College can refine that vision and recommit to making mutual tolerance, encouragement, and accountability work.

    The College has struggled and accomplished much, trying to avoid mistakes made elsewhere. Witness “The Covenant,” that names specific areas known to be potential problems. Perhaps it was not considered consciously – or consciously enough – however, that there would be un-named, un-specified potential problems. Perhaps it was not considered consciously – or consciously enough – though, how to acknowledge any falling short of the College’s ideals, or how to embrace any inevitably needed change.

    Fortunately, many members and many chapters are doing well, progressing individually and collectively along their paths of spiritual growth. A member’s success – a chapter’s success – these are encouraging confirmation that the CPSP covenant community can work. None of this success is diminished one bit by acknowledgement that at times members and chapters fail.

    The College chose to pursue a model of local rule, through small-group “Chapters,” rather than central office rule. Championing local accountability, however, does not mean that well-considered monitoring by a central leadership team should be avoided. The goal was to expand the availability of clinical pastoral care, counseling, and psychotherapy services, but achievement of that goal becomes meaningless if the quality of such services is not maintained or enhanced.

    A personal, non-bureaucratic, non-parental approach only can work if significant amounts of time and energy are devoted to helping each other on a persistent, on-going basis. The College lives or dies according to how diligently each member accepts not only personal responsibility but also collegial responsibility – that each member indeed is – and must be – his or her brother’s or sister’s keeper. Yes, there are tensions inherent in this collegial accountability. No one “promised us a rose garden”.

    The College sought to break down arbitrary barriers that made it difficult for rural, non-mainstream, and otherwise marginalized clergy to enter the clinical pastoral field – and it succeeded in this regard. The College sought to assist non-North American clinical chaplains in forming their own indigenous national or regional associations – and it succeeded in this regard. However, breaking down arbitrary barriers does not mean that well-considered standards for initial and continued membership should be avoided – or that the serious consequences of chapters expanding, contracting, or disappearing should be down-played. The College is either a covenanted community or it is not. The College stands or falls according to the seriousness with which it takes The Covenant.

    Retrospectively one might recognize that focusing on covenant responsibility and on dispersed local governance was simple in theory but complex in lived actuality. One is hard-pressed to point to another professional organization that functions in this manner, so it would be a rare member who comes to the College already grasping intimately how it works. The simplicity is attractive to those who deal daily with impersonal, infantilizing bureaucracies. The complexity lies within all the joy and heartaches of working with brothers and sisters – growing up with brothers and sisters – truly as brothers and sisters, in the deepest meanings of those relationships. Retrospectively one might recognize that making this attractive organization work would be harder than it might at first sound. To continue reaping the many benefits will take dedication and re-dedication – perhaps even more dedication than had been expected.

    The College’s external struggles of the last two decades have discouraged any substantial amount of frank and open confession of its internal struggles. The College, understandably, had to “put its best foot forward” as it dealt with outside matters. Now it must take a look at its “dirty laundry” and deal with those inside matters that have been neglected too long. Concealment and avoidance out of concerns for external disparagement will not work as the College takes the next step forward. Abandoning all but the most perfect members and the most perfect chapters will not work either. Time and patience – a lot of time and patience – will be required to work with each other, toward helping each other and each chapter to become better than in the past. Let me repeat: abandonment of our brothers and sisters is not an option. While a struggling organization might have felt it had to avoid acknowledging any problems, a vibrant organization must be courageous enough both openly to acknowledge problems and openly to be dedicated to solving them.

    Among the barely mentionable items within the College has been the succession of leadership. A certain degree of responsible anarchy with a generally benign nominal leader plus a few “elders” on hand to arrange occasional “mid-course corrections” has worked well enough. Tension persists, however, as members contemplate the unknown – how the College will fare with a future nominal leader, who may or may not be generally benign, plus a younger leadership team, that may or may not appreciate the lessons learned through the histories of the College and its predecessor organizations. The College has been fortunate to have various members arise quite naturally into formal and informal guiding roles. It may be time – even past time – to begin the open conversation about how this ungoverned natural process relates to the need for a nominal leader plus a few “elders” at the top.

    In summary, the central problem facing the College is learning how to deal constructively with the understandable difficulties in living up to its ideals. Acknowledgement – and correction – of shortcomings makes ideals all that more real. Denial – and evasion – of shortcomings – as if they simply were not supposed to happen – undermines the whole notion of commitment to ideals. The College formulated a revolution in the field of clinical pastoral chaplaincy. The challenge is how to re-vitalize – re-empower – atmospheres of self-criticism and self-correction. The challenge, as Boisen phrased it, is how to mature in times both of crisis and of custom.


    See also 

    Powell RC. “Tolerance and Encouragement: Among the Roots of the Clinical Pastoral Tradition.” CPSP Pastoral Report. 06 June 2011.

    Powell RC. “Tolerance and Encouragement: At the Core of the Modern Clinical Pastoral Tradition.” CPSP Pastoral Report. 10 September 2011.

    The first opening comment is from “The Covenant” of The College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy; and

    Lawrence RJ. “Eleventh CPSP Plenary Meeting Report to the Community: 15 March 2001.” CPSP Pastoral Report 03 June 2003.
    [a reprinting of the 2001 presentation];

    See also, Boisen A. Religion in Crisis and Custom: A Sociological and Psychological Study. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1955, p.237: “a living fellowship with a certain body of beliefs in which there is room for growth and for discovery.”

    The second opening comment is from Lawrence RJ. “General Secretary’s Report to Plenary: 21 March 2003.” CPSP Pastoral Report 03 June 2003.

    The third opening comment is from
    Lawrence RJ. 2001, op cit; in other words, re-reading this entire earlier article is highly recommended.

    The 1975 reference is to Powell RC. "Questions from the Past (on the Future of Clinical Pastoral Education)" invited keynote address, presented before the “50th Anniversary of Clinical Pastoral Education” conference, Association for Clinical Pastoral Education, Minneapolis, 16-19 October 1975. 1975 Conference Proceedings: 1-21, 1976.

    The 2005 reference is to Powell RC. ““Religion in Crisis and Custom: Formation and Transformation – Discovery and Recovery – of Spirit and Soul.” opening address delivered August 2005 at the 8th Asia Pacific Congress on Pastoral Care and Counseling, Tsuen Wan, Hong Kong, China. on the internet at

    The reference to Boisen and “before it is too late” is to 

    Boisen AT “Evangelism in the Light of Psychiatry,” Journal of Religion. 1927; 7(1):76-80; pp 79,76.


    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

  • 10 Sep 2011 11:33 PM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    Tolerance and Encouragement:
    At the Core of the Modern Clinical Pastoral Tradition

    Robert Charles Powell, MD, PhD

    "The idea of an organized church ... marks the close of a living spiritual movement. The great ecclesiastical establishments are the dikes and the dams to retain the current that cannot be held by any such contrivances.”

    “Things which matter most must never be
    at the mercy of things which matter least.”

    Among the first things a scientist might expect out of others at a large gathering of colleagues would be an attempt to change his or her mind. Nonetheless, each clinical research scientist speaks openly, collegially about the tenets of his or her research team – and expects that others will articulate more or less clearly the tenets of their own research teams. While openness to others’ views is expected, only tenuous clarity and only tenuous certainty about one’s own views also are expected. Truths are assumed to have been almost found and almost understood. Scientists gather hoping for some productive challenging of their beliefs, and they certainly anticipate challenging others’.

    Among the last things a chaplain might expect out of others at a large gathering of colleagues would be an attempt to change his or her mind. That being said, certainly each clinical pastoral chaplain may speak openly, collegially about the tenets of his or her faith community – and certainly each would expect that others could articulate more or less clearly the tenets of their own faith communities. Notice that I said, “more or less clearly”. Such equivocation about tenets was fine for the scientists but it might be a problem for the chaplains. While openness to others’ views is expected, clarity and some degree of certainty about one’s own views also are expected. Notice that I said, “some degree of certainty”. Again, such hedging about views was fine for the scientists, but it might be a problem – or just the same problem stated another way – for the chaplains. Truths are assumed to have been found and understood. Chaplains gather hoping for – it is not clear for what they are hoping.

    Are gathered chaplains hoping for a challenging of their beliefs? for a confirmation of their beliefs? for an ignoring of their beliefs? or for what? Is it really “OK” for chaplains of diverse faith traditions to be meeting together, especially in intense, intimate soul-searching small-group settings, including “Chapter” meetings? Is there a religious endorsing body that would take a “Presby-gationalist” under its wing? Can we openly appreciate that many clergy change nuances of faith across the years?

    Clinical research scientists in general and clinical pastoral chaplains in general are very different. The scientists may or may not care if they are endorsed, while the chaplains certainly do. Not being endorsed, scientists are free to wonder openly about gravity or germs or whatever; being endorsed, chaplains are somewhat less free to wonder openly about G-d or the soul or the hereafter. Perhaps this difference in public freedom needs to be acknowledged – and consciously appreciated. That being said, perhaps there is some space in between the two broad conceptions of “the truth” – between “the truth that is being found” and “the truth that is found” – where both types of professionals can spend part if not all of their time. Stated differently, a recurring question has been whether scientists are allowed to dabble with certainty and whether chaplains are allowed to dabble with uncertainty – whether scientists are allowed to dabble with clarity and whether chaplains are allowed to dabble with doubt.

    In a way, “The Covenant” of the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy addresses, at least for clinical pastoral chaplains, these questions head-on.

    We believe we should

    make a space for one another and

    stand ready to midwife one another in

    our respective spiritual journeys.

    “The Covenant” appears to imply – and to accept – that there will be certain productive tensions between clarity and doubt, between certainty and uncertainty – that there will be “journeys” within one’s faith – what Anton Theophilus Boisen appeared to view as “becomings”.

    Both supporting and questioning feedback came to this author about the short essay, “Tolerance and Encouragement: Among the Roots of the Clinical Pastoral Tradition”. That essay noted how at the time of ordination Boisen and three of his fellow seminarians were considered “agnostic and undecided in their faith” – neither “affirming” nor “denying” certain theological touchstones. All four seminarians, nevertheless, went on to become energetic and creative leaders on behalf of religion. Which faith group would ordain or endorse them today is a question well-taken. An even thornier question is how to welcome into clinical pastoral chaplaincy those clergy whose faith groups do not have seminaries, let alone ordination.

    Most faith groups have become comfortable with at least some degree of ecumenicalism, granting that other faiths might have discovered at least some aspects of “the truth”. The “deep ecumenism,” as it has been called, has envisioned the possibility of “a common truth” underlying the varying emphases of differing religious traditions. The question is the extent to which some degree of variation can be accepted within a faith group – the extent to which one can both be a believer and be becoming a believer all at the same time – the extent to which one’s faith can be both mature and maturing all at the same time. This decision, of course, can be made only by an individual faith group itself.

    It might be worthwhile considering the seriousness with which Boisen, for example, approached some of the most important theological issues of his time – questions that his generation especially understood as “the things which matter most”. He did not just say, “I believe in the Virgin Birth”; Boisen thought about why Jesus came when He did and how this symbolized uniquely the coming of something totally new into the world. He did not just say, “I believe in the crucifixion”; Boisen thought about how sin demanded atonement and how Jesus courageously, knowingly accepted sacrifice for others. He did not just say, “I believe in the resurrection”; Boisen thought about Jesus’ understanding of it and how it held out hope for those fallen souls trying to enter a new path in life. He did not just say, “I believe the Bible is inerrant”; Boisen thought about how the scriptures old and new plus various interpreters were trying to capture the essence of spiritual wisdom; he thought about how various people – for example, those bewildered or suffering – might be understanding the scriptures that they read. If Boisen were up for ordination today, no doubt once again there would be “an earnest discussion” for “more than two hours” and much would be “said on both sides of the case”. Possibly some could be persistent enough and patient enough to work with him. Possibly some could have sufficient tolerance and encouragement about his continuing spiritual growth.

    Boisen’s paternal great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather were bishops, while his maternal grandfather and great-uncle were learned ministers. He knew the Judeo-Christian scriptures inside and out from an early age – which may have been why he viewed their message as complex. It might be worthwhile to consider how, possibly, his having been “agnostic and undecided” – yet theologically serious – allowed him to embrace and develop the notion of a clinical pastoral ministry to believers, non-believers, and those unable to believe alike. As both a clinical research scientist – we forget that, don’t we? – and as a clinical pastoral chaplain, Boisen lived emotionally and intellectually in and between both worlds, always focusing upon both G-d and everyday people. One can envision several religious endorsing bodies debating about which one would claim him. Imagine the questions he would ask if he served on a certifying committee himself. Very likely, of those who joined him in plenary and chapter life, as many would be challenged as would be confirmed in their faith. Perhaps that is why some appreciate Boisen as a valuable gadfly.


    The first opening comment is by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura (1874-1937), in the The Harmonist, January 1929; quoted by B. V. Tripurari , 11-18-2004, Vaishnava News Network; Compare this to Boisen’s distinguishing “between the ‘church,’ which he views as orderly, perhaps even by necessity boring, and the ‘sect,’ which he views as disorderly yet life-giving to religious practice”; “one could say that the church is ‘custom,’ that the sect is ‘crisis,’ and that they together account for the development of religion” [ Powell Robert C. “‘Chapter Life’: ‘Thinking and Feeling Together about the Things that Matter Most’ – ‘A New and Vitalizing Experience’. A Response to the Rev. Dr. Gebhart’s Call for an ‘Order of Pastoral Care’.” J Pastoral Care & Counseling. 2005;59(suppl), ftn.1; referring to Boisen’s Religion in Crisis and Custom: A Sociological and Psychological Study (NY: Harper & Brothers, 1955), pp.19, 66, 232, 239].

    The second opening comment is said to be by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749?-1832), but, thus far, a diligent search has not found the exact citation. Part of the phrase also formed the title of a widely-read book of the late nineteenth century, Things That Matter Most: Devotional Papers (NY: Fleming H. Revell Co, 1913), by John Henry Jowett (1864-1923), a British Congregationalist minister who served the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, New York City, from 1911 until 1917. (Like Boisen, Jowett must have been a “Presby-gationalist”.) The phrase was one of Boisen’s favorites. In his Religion in Crisis and Custom … he used both variants, “the things that matter most” (p.xiii) and “the things which matter most” (p.5). During an exploration of this phrase, it was noted that in earlier citations the phrase clearly refers to spiritual matters, while in later citations it could refer to almost anything. The older uses almost always end the sentence with the phrase – or occasionally add “to G-d”, while the newer uses almost always either add a few more words – generally mundane words – onto the end of the phrase – eg, “to me,” “to us,” etc – or insert a comment about what these “things” should be – instead of assuming that the phrase, “the things that/ which matter most,” has a definite and universal meaning. Boisen frequently used the phrase specifically to refer to “the ultimate realities of life and death” [Religion in Crisis and Custom … , p.3].

    Speaking to both the first and second opening comments, consider one of Boisen’s comments: “And even the Church … becomes overparticular about creedal conformity or ritualistic niceties and in other ways tends to substitute minor for major virtues and loyalties” [“The Problem of Values in the Light of Psychopathology.” Am J Sociol. 1932;38(1):251-268, p.158][obviously this is a reference to The Bible, Matthew 23:23].

    At the end of the second paragraph, “Presby-gationalist” refers to a common “inside joke” about the fact that Boisen served both denominations within Protestant Christianity. Actually, Boisen’s theology does not fit cleanly into any camp. He has been called an “evangelical liberal” and a “progressive empiricist” – both tags trying to capture his standing in the midst of many theological arguments during the first half of the twentieth century. Quite significantly, in 1925 Boisen helped to awaken the liberal wing of the Protestant churches to the possibility that their theology might be losing them adherents. A somewhat liberal journal commented as follows on one of Boisen’s first theological essays, published (unsigned) in asomewhat conservative review. “The author states that, as a result of rather extensive investigations, ‘I have been forced to the disturbing conclusion that wherever the liberal influence is strongest, there the influence of the church tends to be weakest’.” [“Current Events and Discussions.” J of Religion. 1925;5(4):419-423. p.419; “In Defense of Mr. [William Jennings] Bryan: A Personal Confession of a Liberal Clergyman.” The American Review. 1925;3:323-324.]

    The reference in the fifth paragraph is to this article: Powell, Robert Charles. “Tolerance and Encouragement: Among the Roots of the Clinical Pastoral Tradition” CPSP Pastoral Report. June 6, 2011.

    The reference in the sixth paragraph, about “deep ecumenism,” is to this book: Fox, Matthew. The Coming of the Cosmic Christ: The Healing of Mother Earth and the Birth of a Global Renaissance (NY: HarperCollins, 1988).

    The references in the seventh paragraph regarding Boisen’s views are mostly to his autobiography: Out of the Depths: An Autobiographical Study of Mental Disorder and Religious Experience (NY: Harper & Brothers, 1960), pp.106, 59, 79, 101, 105, 135, 141. Clearly Boisen believed strongly in the reality of both sin and salvation. See especially the following of his articles: “Evangelism in the Light of Psychiatry.” J Religion. 1927;7(1):76-80; “The Sense of Isolation in Mental Disorder: Its Religious Significance.” Am J Sociol. 1928;33(4):555-567; “Theology in the Light of Psychiatric Experience.” Crozer Q. 1941;18(1):47-61; “The Problem of Sin and Salvation in the Light of Psychopathology.” J Religion. 1942;22(3):288-301; "What Did Jesus Think of Himself?" J Bible Religion. 1952;20(1): 7-12; and “Inspiration in the Light of Psychopathology,” Pastoral Psychol. 1960;11(7): 10-18.


    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.

    The limits of the Pastoral Report's publishing platform does not allow for accurate formatting of this scholarly manuscript. Below is a PDF version of Tolerance and Encouragement: At the Core of the Modern Clinical Pastoral Tradition.

    Tolerance and Encouragement: At the Core of the Modern Clinical Pastoral Tradition

    -Perry Miller, Editor

  • 18 Jul 2011 11:21 PM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    Spiritual care comes from the heart after the head has done its homework.

    palliative care … should form part of the care of all who are ill, mentally or physically. 

    How many clinical chaplains of the Hindu faith are there in India? I know of three. How many are there anywhere else in the entire world? I know of five more. There may well be more, but the most probable answer to both questions still would be “very few”. Might the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy have something here to offer?

    How likely is it that a spiritual pilgrim – from North America, no less – would envision (1986), then develop in western India a 100-bed hospital (1998) followed by a 25-bed free-standing hospice (2008)? Might CPSP have something here to learn?

    On June 1st and 2nd 2011 the BhaktiVedanta Hospital, Thane, Maharashtra, hosted me for two 4-hour sessions. I had no special expectations for this spur-of-the-moment experience. I was both startled and fascinated by a hospital that appeared truly to live its motto of “Service with Devotion” – and to be shaped, top to bottom, by its chaplaincy program.

    This visit to an area just north of Mumbai (Bombay), India, came about somewhat by accident. During the 1980s I had wandered India for a total of 15 weeks – ending up being one of the last to travel the Asian Overland Trail – so I had been eager for some time to return. Then this last March I was invited to attend an Arya Vysya wedding in late May in Bengaluru (Bangalore), India – so I jumped at the chance to get back on the road. Scheduled to fly in and out of Mumbai, I had chosen a well-regarded guest-house near the airport -- for convenience more than anything else. I repeat: the resulting visit to a nearby “pastoral care hospital” came about unexpectedly.

    Around 2001 I had come across on the internet a taped lecture series (1996) on “The Cure of Souls in Vaisnava Communities” – an eight-session seminar that had been presented in Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh, India – the home town of Krishna (c. 3100 BCE) – about 670 miles northeast of Mumbai. The seminar was based, curiously enough, on The Exploration of the Inner World: A Study of Mental Disorder and Religious Experience (1936), the classic study written by Anton Theophilus Boisen (1876-1965), the founder of the movement for clinical pastoral chaplaincy. When I noticed on the internet that the seminar was being given again six months ago in Hilo, Hawaii – 14 years after the first time it was given – my interest revived. In mid-April I wrote to the Philadelphia-based author of the lectures, asking more about the seminar, the timings of its two presentations, the apparent Hindu interest in Boisen’s work, and a possibly correlated indication of Hindu interest in the clinical pastoral field.

    One thing led to another. Upon hearing that I was headed to India to attend a wedding and upon noting my many writings about the clinical pastoral movement, the seminar author’s secretary worked with a colleague in Santa Barbara, California, to prepare dossiers on me as well as on CPSP and the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education, forwarding these to the community where I would be staying. Six days before my arrival for a rest before the flight home – and while I was still traveling around South India – my simple reservation at a guest-house near the Mumbai airport got converted into an invitation for a comprehensive tour – totaling 8 hours over 2 days – of the clinical chaplaincy service at BhaktiVedanta Hospital, which served that area.

    I quickly realized, as hinted above, that an intriguing, Hindu-organized pastoral care program – open to assisting patients, families, and staff of all faiths – literally ran the hospital. Where should I begin? At first I was just amazed at how a warm, personal, caring focus permeated all aspects of the hospital’s functioning. Later I realized that the clinical chaplaincy staff had merely – but notably – placed a somewhat common Eastern pattern of temple life – “Satsang/ Simran/ Seva” – “wisdom sharing/ inspiration sharing/ devotion sharing” – on top of a meticulously created health care community.

    At the beginning of each of four daily work shifts, almost the entire hospital staff – about 45 people – meets quite publicly in the hospital lobby to hear a short sermon, to reflect on that and the day’s named challenges, then to participate together in a communal religious ritual. I experienced one of these sessions personally on the second day of my visit. The goal is that every staff member feel guided, inspired, and embraced, before embarking upon work with the patients. At the beginning of each meeting of the management team, one department head per week, in rotation, presents on a relevant clinical, spiritual, or management topic. That teaching is then discussed collegially before the management team addresses how together they are going to tackle the week’s specific issues. With facilitation by pastoral care staff, the senior physicians similarly meet together once a week, as do, separately, the junior physicians and the nurses. A staff member’s birthday merits an individual lunch with senior pastoral care and management personnel. Nineteen times per year hospital staff members and their families gather to enjoy a festive meal. Groups of staff members and their families take short and long spiritual pilgrimages together that have been organized by the hospital.

    The goal is that staff members feel as taken care of by the hospital community as they are expected to take care of the patients and their families. Management tries hard to model “service with devotion” toward the broader staff, so that clinicians can provide “service with devotion” toward those suffering, and so that there might be ripple effects into the larger community. “Bhakti” implies “sharing active devotion”. “Vedanta” implies “sharing respect for all in their spiritual growth, as equal children of the divine”. The hospital tries to live up its name.

    The specific pastoral care staff includes a director, an assistant director, a spiritual counselor, 5 assistants, and 2 trainees. The specific mental health staff includes four psychiatrists and two psychologists, with each of these two professional groups providing about 36 hours of service across the week. There appears to be easy referral back and forth between the pastoral care and mental health staffs. Medical and surgical specialty staff appear to be well-integrated into the community’s pastoral atmosphere.

    Peace and quiet – consciously aimed toward maintaining an air of tranquility – are hospital norms. Despite necessary scurrying in the intensive care areas, low voices and an avoidance of alarms are encouraged. The overhead speakers provide rhythmic chants and songs at a very low, non-intrusive, almost subliminal level.

    Pastoral care staff help patients and their families, in a hands-on way, to negotiate registration, admission, financial, discharge, and aftercare issues. On the inpatient wards – and to the extent possible in the outpatient clinics – pastoral care staff visit each patient a minimum of three times per day: once for the sharing of a small amount of blessed food, once for the reading from a holy scripture of the patient’s choice, and once for participation in a religious ritual. The hospital kitchen comes equipped with the needed altar and attendant staff. The hospital library stocks Hindu, Islamic, Christian, and other sacred texts. The chaplaincy office maintains a “mobile temple” or “shrine cart” that is taken to each bedside.

    Pastoral care staff personally attend to the global needs of all patients going to and returning from surgery. Considerable emphasis is placed upon helping patients at the end of life – and their families – toward attaining some degree of spiritual closure, according to the relevant religious customs. The pastoral care office maintains supplies of the specific holy waters used by the individual faith groups. If regular pastoral care staff are unable best to meet a patient’s needs, volunteers from the local university community are called upon to assist. Apparently it is not unusual for pastoral care staff or volunteers to remain for hours and hours with a patient and/or family if that seems the best thing to do. A “Grief Room” and home visits provide extra amenities for the families of those dying or deceased. Group and individual teaching sessions on religious topics are made available to patients, families, and members of the local community – with special attention being paid to the needs of the pregnant, the adolescent, and the elderly.

    Undoubtedly I have left out much about BhaktiVedanta Hospital. I am speaking about what I heard, saw, and personally experienced during two 4-hour sessions across two days. The pastoral care staff recognizes the need for more clinical chaplains and more assistants within the Hindu faith community – in India and elsewhere – for example, North America. They also recognize that their model – of literally running the facility – cannot be replicated entirely in most settings. They do believe, however, that their vision of a more encompassing pastoral approach can be realized to a greater extent than many would have thought. The clinical chaplains I met would fit easily into most North American health care settings. The question is whether North American – and other Indian – health care settings can ponder what it truly might be like to stay focused on body, mind, AND spirit. #


    The opening quotations are from Henry T. Dom, Ph.D., as cited in

    Dom H. “Vaisnava Hindu and Ayurvedic approaches to caring for the dying: An interview with Henry Dom.” by Romer AL, Heller KS. Innovations in End-of-Life Care, 1999 Nov;1(6); ;

    “…he is helping to create a palliative care unit for the newly established Bhaktivedanta Hospital in Mumbai, and is one of the founders of a planned hospice and residential home in Vrndavan, a small village in northeast India.

    Regarding BhaktiVedanta Hospital also see

    Regarding the hospital’s pastoral orientation as within the Bengali Gaudiya Vaisnava tradition of Hinduism see:

    Regarding the magnitude of the potential need for chaplains within the North American Hindu faith community see ; The Huffington Post; 28 April 2011.

    David Briggs: “Hindu Americans: The Surprising, Hidden Population Trends of Hinduism in the U.S.” “… In what it calls the first effort to conduct a Hindu census in the United States, the Santa Barbara, Calif.-based Institute of American Religion discovered some 1,600 temples and centers with an estimated 600,000 practicing Hindus. That number could easily rise up to the estimated 1.2 million who self-identify as Hindus in national studies by adding in the mostly Indian Americans who limit their involvement to private spiritual practices or celebrations of semi-secularized holydays such as Diwali, said J. Gordon Melton, the institute executive director. Melton announced the results of the census at the recent annual meeting of the Association for the Study of Religion, Economics and Culture in Washington. … In its census, the Institute of American Religion found 258 traditional Hindu temples with an estimated 268,000 adherents. The study estimated there are also 400 temples and centers from Hindu sub-traditions that have an estimated 282,000 participants and some 940 centers with an estimated 55,000 members associated with smaller movements across the country. …”

    The author and his hosts are aware that some degree of controversy still surrounds one of the original inspirational mentors of BhaktiVendanta Hospital. An investigation by the United States government cleared this person’s name twenty-one years ago, but in this age of internet files a controversy can take on a life of its own. This unique hospital seemingly run by a pastoral care department can only do as it has been doing: keep building a solid reputation of service and innovation independent of whatever did or did not occur twenty-five years ago and 7,874 miles away. 


    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

  • 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.