Pastoral Report Articles 

  • 25 Dec 2017 9:02 PM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)
    A friend spoke of her husband's battle with kidney disease and her fighting red tape to get help. The process sounded mechanical. They told her if his papers were in order he would be  eligible for medical assistance; if not, then he would need to met their criteria. Sounded to me like starting a car in cold weather. You need an good battery or a tow. 

    How much of healthcare has become that way? And perhaps getting other types of assistance? We need the right paperwork to get the wheels moving. Those of us needing help must wait for a computer output that will be forthcoming only if every dot and tittle's correct on the input. Meanwhile, my friend scrambles to get the right input as her husband suffers. 

    She is intelligent, tenacious, and resourceful, and so I'm confident she'll get it right. Let's hope that others less endowed with these qualities can obtain the expert help they need with their paperwork. 

    As chaplains, we do advocate for those in need where we can. In a larger sense, we can also 1) assure those we cannot help that humans are still in charge, 2) loosen the criteria that deny help where we can, and thereby 3) keep the machines in their place. Those three objectives would be fine holiday gifts that will last all year long. 


    Dominic Fuccillo is a retired Clinical Chaplain who lives in Littleton, Colorado.

  • 12 Dec 2017 11:49 PM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    “The century-long clinical pastoral movement sparked by Anton Boisen was and continues to be a long struggle to implement ethical and effective therapeutic approaches for working with suffering people, particularly those suffering mostly in their minds. Boisen himself learned from Freud … that a disordered mind, at least in some cases, was the result of a struggle to find integration in the face of powerful internal conflicts.”1

     “Any reader might be puzzled by the recurring centrality of sexual issues in the history of the century-old clinical pastoral movement. …

    The clinical pastoral movement, like Sigmund Freud, simply brought the issue out of the closet and into the light of day, at least in its early decades. …

    Therefore, let it be said loud and clear, that the clinical pastoral movement is not an outlier in its peculiar helter-skelter history of attempting to sort out virtue from vice in the sexual arena.” 2

    Recovery of Soul … merits inclusion in “The Great Books of Clinical Pastoral Chaplaincy”. You need to read it – along with Raymond’s other three books.3 Some years ago, Perry Miller, Raymond Lawrence, and I co-authored “Discrete Varieties of Care in the Clinical Pastoral Tradition”.4 That, too, still makes for good reading. In our editing, Perry and I were wise enough to retain Raymond’s unique verbiage, as he has a great way with words. That’s a point I want to emphasize – that Raymond’s rhetorical/ pedagogical style connects with the reader. He makes a fairly objective assessment of a situation – then adds a last phrase that tells us his real opinion about what he just wrote. Yes, the book is Pure Raymond. It is sort of like there is a “snarky Raymond” rendering the last word about what “academic Raymond” wrote. The method works.

    Classic guidance for preachers says, “Tell ‘em what you’re gonna tell ‘em, tell ‘em, then tell ‘em what you told ‘em”. A colleague’s foreword to Recovery of Soul … warns that Raymond “pulls no punches,” “acknowledges all our brokenness,” yet “points out the redemptive power of love” – and that he “does not suffer fools lightly” but “acknowledges that he, too, has worn the foolscap”. Raymond himself provides a preface about his main trusted historical sources plus a prologue about grasping the clinical pastoral task. Thirty-one pithy chapters either set stages or ruminate over the works and quirks of Anton Boisen, Helen Flanders Dunbar, Seward Hiltner, Russell Dicks, Wilhelm Reich, Armen Jorjorian, George Buck, Joan Hemingway, Donald Capps, Myron Madden, and Wayne Oates – with Raymond’s own story tossed in – weaving the history of professional chaplaincy around these bits of real lives in real contexts.

    Raymond devotes a specific chapter to “The Creation of The College of Supervision and Psychotherapy (CPSP)” in 1990. “Creation” indeed is the right word. The chapter includes a copy of the short but powerful CPSP “Covenant”—which is well worth digesting. Take a close look at it. CPSP, as “a theologically based covenant community, dedicated to ‘Recovery of Soul’,” took a shape and form that definitely was something new in the clinical pastoral world. As Raymond notes, “unbeknownst to us at the time, we were reenacting history. By the seat of our pants we were reasserting the philosophy and values of Anton Boisen and Helen Flanders Dunbar”. All became clearer starting around 1999.

    Another chapter lists “10 axioms … for guidance in assessing and adjudicating alleged sexual violations by clergy”.

    Raymond’s final chapter – “Last Words” – provides a clear, logical, and convincing summary of his wide-ranging argument about the conflicting forces that drove the field to where it is now. If nothing else, read the last chapter – but you really should read the whole book. Actually, let me suggest a course of reading that honors the “complex, accursed, and redemptive” story, as Raymond phrases it, of how clinical pastoral chaplaincy developed over the last 100 years. 7

    Read Recover of Soul … now, but, if you get the chance, go back and read, in order,
    first my writings (with the story starting around 1906),
    then Allison Stokes’ book (focusing on the 1940s and 1950s),
    then Edward Thornton’s book (overviewing all through the 1960s), then Raymond’s new book again plus maybe his three previous books. 8

    Powell’s, Stokes’s, and Thornton’s studies of the movement are more academic, by design, but Raymond’s is both more insightful and more of a joy to read.

    As soon as the planned new editions of Boisen’s books come out, read those, too. You won’t at all regret that decision. You will be amazed at the depth of Boisen’s thinking.

    The Exploration of the Inner World: A Study of Mental Disorder and Religious Experience (1936);
    Religion in Crisis and Custom {A Sociological Study of Mental Disorder and Religious Experience} (1955);
    Out of the Depths: An Autobiographical Study of Mental Disorder and Religious Experience (1960). 9

    Let me repeat: “If nothing else, read the last chapter” of Recovery of Soul …. It should become a common reading for anyone involved in clinical pastoral chaplaincy. “That [Freud-Boisen-Dunbar] thesis asserts that healing comes when an intelligent and informed pastoral person listens carefully and mostly silently to the accounts of a suffering person. And in that listening always keeping the unconscious and its perverse and unpredictable ways clearly in view – at least in the corner of the eye – and observing whatever connections can be made that might promote healing. … And we must add, supplemented by attention to community building, a calling in which religious communities have historically demonstrated some expertise.” 10

    1. Recovery of Soul …, p.176. It should be noted that Boisen himself called for the recovery of zeal, inner experience, and faith – for a “living fellowship with a certain body of beliefs in which there is room for growth and for discovery”. Boisen AT. Religion in Crisis and Custom …. (1955); pp.232, 237.

    2. Recovery of Soul …, pp.175-176.

    3. Lawrence RJ. Nine Clinical Cases: The Soul of Pastoral Care and Counseling (2015).
    Lawrence RJ. Sexual Liberation: The Scandal of Christendom. (2007).
    Lawrence RJ. The Poisoning of Eros: Sexual Values in Conflict. (1989). All are available on Amazon. If possible, read the books in the order of their publication.

    4. Miller PN, Lawrence RJ, Powell RC. “Discrete Varieties of Care in the Clinical Pastoral Tradition.” J Pastoral Care Counsel. 2003 Summer;57(2):111-6; re pastoral care, counseling, & psychotherapy; abstract:; full text:

    5. Taking a look at the following examples of “academic” comments followed by “snarky” comments, note that they almost constitute a concise summary of the entire book.

    p.6. “… he abandoned French [literature] altogether and began majoring in forestry. The sexuality of trees would not disturb his psyche.”

    p.8. “… Boisen never had any psychoanalytic treatment subsequently. (Of course, neither did Freud have any psychoanalytic treatment! It seems that the only real treatment for either man was what he gave himself.)”

    p.22. “… the battle was over the question of the role of the pastor, whether pastors were going to be psychoanalytically oriented therapists in their own rights or adjuncts to the real therapists, the physicians. This ongoing dispute could by now be called another Hundred Years War.”

    p.31. “Kinsey could have walked over to Boisen’s childhood home. The ghosts there might have told him a lot about sex.”

    p.31. “… Hiltner deserves great credit for a willingness to face the sexual music publicly as a prominent religious leader and scholar. Apparently, no one else had such nerve.”

    p.48. “… he could talk for hours about the wonder of dialogue but was completely inept at engaging in it.”

    p.69. “The following pages will elaborate on some of the evidence of this developing state of affairs – or should we say, this developing crisis.”

    p.81. “My colleagues seemed quite delighted with the change [toward diversity] …. After all, what could be more boring than working exclusively with Protestant heterosexual males?”

    p.83. “… now that they [women] were included they found passivity at the helm. Passivity is worse than hostility.”

    pp.88-89. “… some of the most vicious women in their dealings with strong heterosexual males were themselves proponents of a liberated sexuality ….  The times were crazy-making.”

    p.112. “They had found something life giving in this connection to Anton Boisen and Sigmund Freud. But while they were followers of Boisen, he was not leading.”

    p.140. “Their hearts were in the right place, but their brains were obviously in neutral.”

    p.170. “… she too is theologically untrained, and it shows.”
    My point, again, is a “snarky” comment seems to help one to remember the more “academic” comment.

    6. Recovery of Soul …, pp.155-156.

    7. Recovery of Soul …, p.xx.

    8. Revised and updated editions of my main writings – each with extensive new documentation – are to be published in the next year or so.
    Powell RC. C.P.E. [Clinical Pastoral Education]: Fifty Years of Learning, through Supervised Encounter with “Living Human Documents” (1975); the initial print run was for 10,000 copies; reviewed in J. Pastoral Care. 1982;36(3):210; reprinted, 1987; translated into Spanish, 2009, by Chaplain [Maria] Magdalena Garcia [Orozco], at the request of Chaplain [Romulo] Esteban Montilla as Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE): Cincuenta Años de Aprendizaje: A través del Encuentro Supervisado con Documentos Humanos Vivos.

    Powell RC. “Questions from the Past (on the Future of Clinical Pastoral Education)”. [ACPE] Conference Proceedings: 1-21, 1976.

    Powell RC. Anton T. Boisen (1876-1965): “Breaking an Opening in the Wall between Religion and Medicine”. AMHC Forum 29(1), supplement, 1976; the initial print run was for 2,000 copies; reviewed in J. Pastoral Care. 1982;36(3):209.

    Powell RC. “Anton T. Boisen's ‘Psychiatric Examination: Content of Thought’ (c.1925-31): An Attempt to Grasp the Meaning of Mental Disorder.” original version: Psychiatry 40: 369-375, 1977; abstract on the internet at

    Powell RC. “Empirical Theology, 1916-1946: A Note on the Contribution of Anton T. Boisen.” original version: Chicago Theological Seminary Register 67: 1-11, 1977.

    Powell RC. “Whatever Happened to ‘CPE’ – Clinical Pastoral Education?” 1999; original version on the internet at (an update on “Questions ….”)

    Powell RC. “Emotionally, Soulfully, Spiritually ‘Free to Think and Act’.” original version: Journal of Religion& Health 40(1): 97-114, 2001; original version on the internet at .

    Powell RC. “Religion in Crisis and Custom: Formation and Transformation – Discovery and Recovery – of Spirit and Soul.” original version on the internet at ; translated into Spanish, 2011, by Chaplains Rafael Hiraldo Román & Jesús Rodríguez Sánchez, with the assistance of Chaplain R. Esteban Montilla, as “Religión en Crisis y en Costumbre: Formación y Transformación - Descubrimiento y Recuperación - de Espíritu y Alma”; on the internet at  .)

    Powell RC. “Anton Theophilus Boisen (1987-1965), Clinician.
    I.   Assessment:  Persistent and Provocative ‘Co-operative Inquiry’: Empathic and Enlightening ‘Exploration of the Inner World’.

    II. Therapy:  Patient and Creative ‘Co-operative Interpretation’: ‘Thinking and Feeling Strongly Together about Things that Matter Most’.” 2012. to be published.

    Stokes A. Ministry After Freud (1985). A new edition is forthcoming.

    Thornton E. Professional Education for Ministry: A History of Clinical Pastoral Education (1970). For an appreciation of how Thornton’s insightfully conflicted thinking about the primacy of “clinical pastoral transformation” presaged, in a way, the controversy leading to the founding of the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy, see Powell RC. “Discerning Spirituality in Everyday Life – and Allowing Oneself to Be Transformed.” 2008; on the internet at

    9. See . Each of these will be cleanly composed editions, with scholarly introductions, forewords, and afterwords.

    10. Recovery of Soul …, pp.181-182.

    Robert Charles Powell, MD, PhD

    Editor's Note: 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 search field, located in the upper right corner of the website, 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 his name, above. -- Perry Miller, Editor

  • 05 Dec 2017 3:05 PM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    The current campaign to denigrate Muslims on the grounds that some Muslims have turned violent is reminiscent of the Nazi pogrom against the Jews. We must do all in our power to neutralize this perverse and irrational campaign. In fact Islam is a religion of peace just as is Christianity. 

    At times in history Muslims have shown themselves to be even more generous and peaceable than Christians. In the time of  the Crusades, for example, Muslims often responded more peaceably under stress than the thuggish Crusaders who were invading the Middle East. 

    The fact is that every religion harbors murderously violent persons such as those Muslims who brought down the World Trade Center. Christianity is no exception to such aberrations. 

    Current attacks on Islam itself and on Muslims in general must be neutralized by us by every means possible. Every Muslim in this country surely now feels like the United States is increasingly an inhospitable place to live. We are called upon to reassert hospitality to our Muslim brothers and sisters in our respective communities.

    And we are called upon do all in our power to embrace our Muslim colleagues in the CPSP community, and to express our solidarity with them. Anything less would be a betrayal of all that we stand for. 

    This incipient war of Christians against Muslims is a despicable development in our country that must be neutralized to the extent that we are able by compassion and support of the Muslim communities in our midst from all members of the CPSP community.

    Raymond J. Lawrence
    General Secretary 

  • 01 Dec 2017 11:04 AM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    A history and memoir of the clinical pastoral movement by a key leader is the first book published by the newly launched CPSP Press.

    "Recovery of Soul" by CPSP founder and general secretary Raymond Lawrence offers a critical and often personal take on the movement that has given us modern day chaplaincy and clinical pastoral education. Written from the vantage point of an insider with a half-century of experience, the book offers an unvarnished and penetrating look at the movement from its beginning by Anton T. Boisen in the early 20th century.

    The book is available now on and will soon be available at​

    CPSP Press is committed to bringing into print a small list of significant new books as well as reprints of out-of-print titles of importance in the clinical pastoral field. David Roth serves as its general editor and publisher.

    "For many years we talked about creating a CPSP publishing house. At long last it has become a reality," said CPSP founding member and leader Perry Miller. 

    The announcement of future CPSP Press titles is expected at the CPSP Plenary in Oakland, CA, in March 2018, when two books by Boisen will appear in new editions under the Verbum Icon imprint.

  • 29 Nov 2017 7:22 PM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    The following is a brief excerpt from the 90-minute seminar I presented in 2012 in Malibu and in 2015 in Chicago on “Anton Boisen (1876-1965): Clinician”:

    “The Rev. Dr. Anton Theophilus Boisen (1876-1965), according to a recent book, ‘was not at all interested in psychotherapy …’. [Myers-Shirk SE. Helping the Good Shepherd: Pastoral Counselors in a Psychotherapeutic Culture: 1925-1975. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009. p.30]. How anyone could have studied Boisen’s writings and come to such an erroneous conclusion I do not know. Boisen definitely was interested in psychotherapy. That being said, neither I nor anyone else, apparently, directly has portrayed Boisen in his role as a clinician.”

    “One part of the problem, of course, is that Boisen already is viewed as a sociologist/ psychologist of religion, as a theologian/ psychiatric investigator – not to mention as a language-teacher/ translator/ forester.  Another part of the problem is that Boisen believed in treating ‘official’ patients and novice theologs in the same manner. He believed in trying to point those who were suffering, bewildered, or vulnerable – for whatever reason – in the right direction – in fact, in trying to get them to aim high – but he was not going to do the work for them or to hand them ready-made answers.  Becoming one’s best as a clinical pastoral chaplain was an individual task, albeit one that benefited the entire world. Too many would-be clinical pastoral chaplains, he believed, wanted ‘to be told at once what to do’ – and wanted ‘rules of procedures … [to] apply’. He believed they should discover for themselves the meaning of the different forms of illness and that psychotherapy depended less on technique than on caring relationships between people. [Boisen, Exploration of the Inner World, pp.239, 240] Boisen did not try teaching psychotherapy per se; he did try encouraging 

     genuine interest in     

    the patient and his [or her] problems

    – as well as [in]   

    the discovery and solving of    

    the patient’s actual difficulties

    [Boisen, The Exploration of the Inner World (1936), p.245]


    Robert Charles Powell, MD, PhD

    Editor's Note: 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 search field, located in the upper right corner of the website, 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 his name, above. -- Perry Miller, Editor

  • 21 Nov 2017 6:47 AM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)
    Katie Boner was named President-Elect of the Utah Hospice and Palliative Organization at its two-day annual annual conference on November 8. 

    She is the first chaplain to be selected for the top leadership role in the organization whose membership includes nurses, physicians, social workers and others in the specialty organization devoted to alleviating suffering and providing end-of-life care. 

    Boner is a board certified clinical chaplain and pastoral counselor, a member of the Salt Lake Avenues Chapter of CPSP, and serves at OneCare Home Health and Hospice in Draper, UT.

    Katie Boner

  • 15 Nov 2017 8:37 PM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    The NCTS event held November 6-7, 2017, was designed for supervisors-in-training, pastoral counselors, psychotherapists, CPE interns and residents, clinical chaplains, and CPE training supervisors to examine behaviors and practices as it relates to living in a world turned upside down by political, cultural, racial and social change.  As care givers, trainers and supervisors in institutional and congregational settings the CPSP membership were invited to examine our use and understanding of authority, leadership and meaning in a world of radical change.  Guest presenters from the A.K. Rice Institute included Howard A. Friedman, PhD, Frank Marrocco, PhD, and Kimberley A. Turner, PhD, M.Div.  While exploring the unconscious life of social systems was the primary focus of this year’s gathering, particular attention was given to engaging the unconscious and covert processes in group and organizational life; the dynamics of authority and authorization; power and other differences within and among diverse groups; and the group processes of negotiation and interpretation to facilitate collaborative learning.

    I imagine that the learning varied among individuals, as well as, among the different groups.  For me, this event’s learning surpassed that of any of the previous ones I have attended. This time, it had more to do with me being better able to know and claim my own identity and authority as opposed to previous times when I may have quickly agreed with a group in order to belong.  Here is how I understand my unconscious process.  I spent the majority of my professional life as part of a professional culture that practically demanded compliance in order to be successful. Selection for promotions and positions were based on a perceived common value and divergence was not tolerated inside the structure. It has had a profound effect on how I see the world and how I engage the professional world around me.  Then, I understood power as hierarchically formed in a system in which people and positions are arranged according to their importance and perceived value.  Today, when I consider cultural differences and individuation it gives rise to creating new understandings and in some cases, some misunderstandings. New understandings and misunderstandings makes it difficult to hold boundaries established in a context of conformity; it makes the world appear up-side down.

    NASA astronauts train for the challenges of living and working in space. They become accustomed to the effects of weightlessness and often work up-side-down in and out of the space station. Astronaut Scott Kelly now officially holds the record for the longest consecutive amount of time spent in space by an American astronaut.   He spent a total of 342 days on the International Space Station before returning to earth.  Unlike astronauts, we don’t train for living in an up-side-down world. Perhaps we should.  Drs. Friedman, Marrocco, and Turner successfully created a training environment that simulated a world turned up-side-down. There were no clear levels of power and no structures to promote boundary setting. But the groups soon began to create boundaries based on the cues that were being transmitted and interpreted internally. It didn’t take long before groups formed around ideological likenesses and in some cases dislikes. Even at the invitation to break free of a group boundary to form a different boundary, groups were reluctant to do so. Without exception, the values that the groups initially formed around remained the values that held the group together.

    Scott Kelly is no longer in space so he doesn’t exercise on a treadmill turned upside down.  I imagine he, like me, will never see the world the same again.  Good teachers understand the power of altered perspective. Perhaps ours is first and foremost a profession about teaching others to embrace versions of a world up-side-down to show how it can be understood by exploring the different connections between people, culture and society.


    The Reverend Dr. George Akins, Jr., is a recently credentialed Diplomate Supervisor in the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy. He is also credentialed as a Clinical Chaplain and as a Pastoral Counselor at Capital Health Regional Medical Center, Trenton, New Jersey.  Reverend Akins is an ordained Elder in the Church of God in Christ and currently serves as senior pastor at the Refuge Temple Church in Englewood, New Jersey. He earned a Doctorate of Ministry from Drew University, a Masters of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary and a Masters of Science in Telecommunications Engineering from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He spent over 26 years in the US Army as a communications officer and as a program manager for new systems acquisition.

    He enjoys his pastime riding his Yamaha V-Star Cruiser or in the cockpit of the flying club airplane. He and his wife, Lisa, parent three adult children and three grandchildren who live in Henderson, North Carolina; Nashville, Tennessee and Manassas, Virginia.

  • 14 Nov 2017 9:28 PM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    “Individuals are stormed at, from the outside as well as the inside, by random cultural snippets of belief, disbelief, and unbelief. Their … consciousness … becomes a battleground on which …  [these] shiftingly contend.”  [Paul Pruyser]

    Between June 2011 and September 2013, Pastoral Report published five of my essays on “Tolerance and Encouragement” – essays that were hoped to help the clinical pastoral field move ahead – out of a time of turmoil and toward a time of renewal. As context for the current essay, I encourage you to take a new look at the previous essays.

    I just finished reading the closing, summarizing section of Paul Pruyser’s Between Belief and Unbelief (1974) – a section titled, “Toleration of Beliefs and Belief in Tolerance” – and realized that I had to try conceptualizing one more essay. Notice that I said “try” – as I am having difficulty wrapping my mind around the task.

    Clinical pastoral chaplaincy is charged with ministering to all who are suffering, bewildered, or vulnerable – regardless of faith or lack of faith – regardless of belief, disbelief, or unbelief. The field seems to have mastered that task in regard to religion. A new question – that has been growing louder over the last two decades – is can the field lead the way – at least in some small part – in regard to politics – again, regardless of belief, disbelief, or unbelief. Can clinical pastoral chaplaincy indeed be called upon to engage all? – or, at least, make an effort to engage all? “All” includes both the entire world’s people – from Afghanistan to Iraq to Syria to North Korea and everywhere else – and the entire country’s people – from conservative to independent to moderate to liberal and every viewpoint between.

    Pruyser telegraph’s his thesis in the very opening pages of his book, but the message really hits home in the concluding pages, from which I would like to quote.

    “On what grounds is toleration to be fostered, given the fact that the very word ‘toleration’ implies an attitude of disapproval, dislike, or condemnation of the things one is asked to put up with under its banner? Indeed, how can toleration be fostered if all of us treat our own beliefs as love objects and the divergent beliefs of others as objects of hate? …”

    “Noble as patient forbearance may be, it falls short of espousing tolerance as a positive virtue in its own right. I sense a difference between toleration and tolerance: the former is ‘putting up with something despicable,’ and the latter is ‘letting be with respect to the nature of divergent states of being.’ … What is the source of the reverence toward otherness that is implied in ‘letting be’? …”

    “Tolerance can be born only from some such confrontation [with ‘the ultimate power of the cosmos, of G-d, of fate, or, in abstract terms, the noncontingent’] in which the person gains insight into the extent of his [/her] self-inflation, the tenacity of his [/her] omnipotent strivings, and his [/her] penchant for one-upmanship over his [/her] fellowman – and grants other people with other beliefs the respect they deserve. …”

    “Such an affirmation of reality, with the humility and renunciation it entails, is an important condition for the practice of tolerance taken in the positive sense of willingness to let be – for some things simply must be, such as an enormous diversity of belief systems.”

    As I suggested above, the question of tolerance – broadly conceived – has been growing louder over the last two decades. Pruyser named the problem almost five decades ago. Certainly, the question did not pop up just this last year or so.

    I’ve given the previous essays as well as this one the covering title of “Tolerance and Encouragement”. In the previous essays, the word “encouragement” was meant to suggest support toward positive transformation and growth. That does seem to be the challenge. Can we reorient our thinking toward cooperative productive change? How can we, in this time of widespread turmoil, engage the entire world’s people and the entire country’s people in positive transformation and growth?



    The photo is from the year of my first public lecture about the background of clinical pastoral chaplaincy:

    1972, “From Religious to Medical Psychotherapy: The Emmanuel Movement, Boston, 1906 to 1910.” presented before Cheiron: The International Society for the History of the Behavioral & Social Sciences, Calgary, Alberta.

    2011, “Tolerance and Encouragement [I]: Among the Roots of the Clinical Pastoral Tradition.” on the internet at
    [explores the intriguing circumstances of the contested ordination of Anton Theophilus Boisen, founder of the clinical pastoral chaplaincy movement]

    2011, “Tolerance and Encouragement [II]: At the Core of the Modern Clinical Pastoral Tradition.” on the internet at

    2011, “Tolerance and Encouragement [III]: Within a Covenant of Mutual Accountability.” on the internet at .

    2013, “Tolerance and Encouragement [IV]: Having Strong Feelings – Without Being Self-Righteous.” on the internet at .

    2013, “Tolerance and Encouragement [V]: Making Room for Divine Presence – instead of ‘Paging’ Him or Her; Interfaith? Multifaith? Engaging Others in Their Faiths.” on the internet at .


    Robert Charles Powell, MD, PhD

    Editor's Note: 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 search field, located in the upper right corner of the website, 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 his name, above. -- Perry Miller, Editor

  • 23 Oct 2017 8:20 AM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    A new voice has suddenly appeared on the pastoral scene - or new to me at least. Susan E. Myers-Shirk, professor of history at Middle Tennessee State University, with the imprint of the prestigious Johns Hopkins Press, has written Helping the Good Shepherd: Pastoral Counselors in a Psychotherapeutic Culture 1925-1975. The work has a publication date of 2009, which is puzzling, making me feel like Rip Van Winkle. The book has been circulating for about eight years but I cannot find any significant evidence of its effects on either the clinical pastoral or the academic world, which I consider regrettable. This a very important book.

    Myers-Shirk is not a clinician, but an academician. We can hope that this fresh new face in academia will signal the beginning of a new era of conversation between clinicians and academicians. I recall the old days when Paul Tillich, Reinhold Niebuhr, Seward Hiltner and many others from their academic perches enriched the clinical world with their support, consultations and dialogue. Those days seem to be history. But clinicians need academicians. To keep themselves honest. And academicians need clinicians to help keep their feet on the ground, not an easy assignment in either case.

    A major fault of clinicians is that they do not read. But they do need to know the historical sources of clinical training, just as Christians need to know the Bible and church history. People are continually reenacting the past when they do not know the past. And reading Myers-Shirk is a good place to start for accessing clinical pastoral history. In reading her they will meet their forefathers, warts and all. Catching a glimpse of Carl Rogers, John Sutherland Bonnell, Rollo May, the Menninger brothers, Charles Holman, Harry Stack Sullivan, Carroll Wise, Eric Fromm, Hobart Mowrer, Samuel Southard, Knox Kreutzer and countless others of our academic progenitors is important and edifying for every pastoral clinician. They were not all in agreement by any means. Some of them were out in left field for sure, but they attempted to speak to pastoral clinicians. Reading Myers-Shirk is an inexpensive way to briefly meet these luminaries and others, and to catch their drift without spending a year in the library.

    But the most blessed aspect of this work is that the author does not run down the vacuous rabbit trail of the recent frenzied spirituality movement. She sticks to concepts and approaches to pastoral work that can be identified concretely, and as she would say, in a manner of speaking, “scientifically.” There of course can be no science of spirituality. There is no there there. I have hopes that Myers-Shirk will be the prophet many of us have longed for, one who will help restore meaning to pastoral, as well as thinking, to the work of the good shepherd.

    Of course I cannot put all the blame on clinicians for their failure to attend to the academicians. The charges can go both ways. Academicians have in turn generally neglected to accredit clinicians. Even Myers-Shirk neglects to mention the three preeminent clinician writers who worked within her stated time boundary, namely Edward Thornton, Robert Charles Powell, and Allison Stokes. The time has come to end the Cold War between pastoral academicians and pastoral clinicians.

    Myers-Shirk acknowledges that she follows in the tradition of E. Brooks Holifield, and we have to presume that she adopted his practice in giving a wide berth to clinicians generally, including Boisen himself, whom he awards only a few desultory pages in his well-regarded A History of Pastoral Care in America. To her credit, and to my surprise, Myers-Shirk on the other hand gives Boisen by name the entire first chapter of her book, and fully ten percent of its pages. While she does not own this as a revision of Holifield, the words speak for themselves. 

    In one important matter, however, Myers-Shirk is simply incorrect, having I presume listened too credulously to Holifield. She contends that Boisen was negative toward Freud and the psychoanalytic approach. She missed the fact that Boisen’s reading of Freud’s Introductory Lectures while in psychiatric confinement changed his life and led to the creation of the clinical pastoral movement. (But who would guess that a sometime psychotic would be reading Freud in psychiatric lock-up? And who would guess that this would change his life permanently and for the better?)

    Boisen was very uncomfortable with the implication of sexual liberation in Freud, but even more troubled by evidence that pastoral clinicians became more liberated than Freud himself. That development threatened the abstemious Boisen mightily, and made him quite uncomfortable with Freudians, but never enough to dislodge him from a commitment to Freud’s therapeutics nor to the abstemious Freud himself. In the post Boisen era the negativity toward  sexual freedom - or should we say male sexual freedom - and Freud, spread like a virus. Myers-Shirk seems to have picked up some of that virus from her mentor, Holifield. And we note that Myers-Shirk ends her book with a paeon to Howard Clinebell who was the chief symbol of the rightward drift away from both Boisen and psychoanalytic theory. 

    Another criticism I have, though somewhat minor, is that Myers-Shirk misses the dialectic between training and education that was at the heart of the Boisen movement from the beginning, and remains today a key to the riddle of the movement’s internal struggle. Boisen instituted clinical training. Cabot and his followers, who are dominant today, instituted clinical education. The contrasting innuendo of these two key concepts is a golden thread for understanding the strife that is currently taking place among pastoral clinicians. 

    One could say that the central story of the clinical pastoral movement is what to do with the inconvenient bodies of Boisen and Freud. The history of the movement is an explosive mixture of profound indebtedness, profound resentment and deep denial about the importance of both men. Boisen and his mentor Freud are dead, but they simply won’t go away, or stay dead.

    Clinicians don’t write and academicians don’t make a vocation of relating to suffering persons. Thus clinicians and academicians do not easily engage in conversation. But both tribes benefit by engaging the other with seriousness. The first thing that we clinicians can do to promote this reunion is to do more reading. And a good place to start is with Myers-Shirk.

    I see this work as an excellent companion to my own soon-to-be published work which is a perspective from inside the clinical world, Recovery of Soul: A History and Memoir of the Clinical Pastoral Movement. One could say, I believe, that Myers-Shirk as an academician gives an outsider view of the clinic that correlates with my insider view. And like any outsider, she misses some important matters. But like any competent outsider, she also provides a valuable wider perspective.

    Clinicians will not assent to all her claims. Who would expect that? However, they will find her breadth of reading and her wide knowledge of the field mostly correct, quite constructive and edifying. This book should be required reading for every member of CPSP, and indeed every pastoral clinician.

    Overall, Susan Myers-Shirk presents herself as an emerging and promising authority in the field of pastoral care, pastoral counseling and pastoral psychotherapy.   


    Raymond J. Lawrence
    General Secretary

  • 20 Oct 2017 6:56 AM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)
    Suddenly day turned into night and the wind began to blow as never seen and heard before. We have experienced many tropical storms through the years, sudden winds of 45-miles per hour are not uncommon. But this was different, the fury of nature seemed unstoppable and relentless. For almost 24-hours the sound of the steady wind hitting and breaking windows, trees and electric poles, blowing branches, walls and ceilings made us believe that we were living an alternate reality, a nightmare. Not a moment of truce in the midst of the fury of the forces of nature. Nature does not make reasonable decisions, does not measures its forces or capability for destruction, it just does what it was created to do in order to maintain ecological balance. We were hostages, victims, while guilty of the magnitude of a hurricane that feeds itself from the hot waters of the ocean caused by the global warming.

    While the wind kept blowing indiscriminately, many people had to fight to keep the water out from their houses, others had to evacuate in the middle of the 140 to 175 miles per hour winds frightened by the threat of drowning in their own homes; others had to resist with all their strength for hours to protect windows and doors that were pulled by the wind like a mighty powerful giant who had clung to it without letting go.
    When the wind and the rain had stopped we decided to go out of the house; devastation, deforestation, and desolation was the view all around. Streets were inaccessible by flood or debris. With only one radio station transmitting in the island, news started flowing slowly. Thousands of people had lost everything, no electrical power, and water in 100% of the country. A sense of desperation, frustration, and impotence felt over everyone like a heavy cloth imposed by inevitable circumstances. But in the midst of this terrible experience, a question arises: where is God and what does he intend with all this? A brief and obscure moment of grieve was interrupted by the decision to stand up resilient.

    When existential questions arose the book of psalms whispered in my ears: "I had fainted unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” (Psalms 27:13) CPE’s emphasis on helping people find God in the midst of their moment of sorrow will be instrumental for our patients and everyone touched by our pastoral care. Confronting our difficult situation with the assurance of God’s presence may make a difference between hope and despair, resilience and surrender.

    Nonetheless, we have witnessed a reborn spirit of solidarity, a new sense of gratitude, a spirit of compassion that transcends differences and physical obstacles. Families have been reunited and neighbors have reconciled differences. People share the only gallon of water they have and shelter neighbors and friends even when they have been laid off from their jobs and have not received a paycheck in weeks.

    Two weeks after the hurricane we were able to reposition our CPE Interns in their practical scenarios, but this particular situation demands that we take CPE and our pastoral duties also to refugee sites and other communities with special needs. We have also incorporated to our curriculum readings in Chaplaincy and Spiritual Care in Disasters.

    Our CPE Interns, Chaplains, and Pastors are doing an enormous effort to accompany people in their moment of loss while they carry their own burden. That is why we would like to broaden our efforts to offer conferences and small group therapy to avoid and treat compassion fatigue.

    Our resources are limited but along with an ecumenical effort and the help of the municipal government of Toa Baja we were able to distribute hundreds of ”care kits” and food to those who have lost their houses. Our next step is to raise resources to schedule free conferences to train ministers and lay leaders with basic technics and resources in pastoral care in disasters and also to continue giving out “care kits” and food among those severely damaged. Any contribution you would like to send will be distributed through the Accredited CPSP Training Center ICET and the Church of the Nazarene at Levittown. To donate please follow the link below.

    Let us not become weary in doing good,
    for at the proper time we will reap a harvest
    if we do not give up." -- Galatians 6:9


    Rev. Dr. Ivelisse Valentín Vera
    CPSP Diplomate CPE Supervisor