Pastoral Report Articles 

  • 12 May 2014 9:42 PM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    It's magic: Michael Eselun at TEDxEncinitas 0:00 / 17:10

    Michael Eselun is a CPSP Board Certified Clinical Chaplain and a member of the Los Angeles, CA Chapter. He serves as the interfaith chaplain for the Simms-Mann/UCLA Center for Integrative Oncology.


    Michael Eselun, BCCC Chaplain

    Michael Eselun, a CPSP Board Certified Clinical Chaplain, serves as the interfaith chaplain for the Simms-Mann/UCLA Center for Integrative Oncology. He has worked extensively in oncology, hospice, palliative care and with acute psychiatric patients. He's been invited countless times to speak to students, doctors, nurses, social workers, and faith communities about his work as a chaplain, on death and dying and the spiritual dimension of the cancer experience.

  • 11 May 2014 9:44 PM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    Brian H. Childs, PhD will be retiring from Maryland Shore Regional Health where he served as director of clinical ethics and spiritual care since 1998.

    This is what the institution had to say about Dr Childs:

    Dr. Childs is a guiding light at Shore Regional Health,” said UM Shore Regional Health Chief Medical Officer William Huffner, MD. “His longstanding commitment to the well-being of our caregivers and community has made a lasting impact on our team’s dedication to quality patient care. We sincerely thank Brian for his service and wish him well in his retirement.

    For more details go to The Compass, the Maryland Shore Regional Health's webiste.

    Perry Miller, Editor


    Those wishing to contact Brian Childs can do so at:

  • 05 May 2014 9:49 PM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    Standing in the Midst of Hopelessness and
    Hearing that G-d has Embraced Us
    in Spite of Ourselves

    – Comments Honoring the Rev. Dr. J. Harold Ellens –

    delivered at the 22nd Plenary Meeting of the 

    College of Pastoral Supervision & Psychotherapy, Virginia Beach, VA.

    “There is a discernible interaction between
    experiencing G-d’s unconditional acceptance,
    experiencing the therapist’s transference acceptance, and
    experiencing the ability to accept and change oneself … .” 1

    “Dunbar … . held that becoming 

    ‘free to think and act’ was 

    an accomplishment open to all … .” 2

    – on the 235th anniversary of John Newton’s “Amazing Grace”.

    – on the 85th anniversary of H[elen] Flanders Dunbar’s Symbolism in Medieval Thought ….

    – on the 65th anniversary of Seward Hiltner’s Pastoral Counseling.

    – on the 55th anniversary of Wayne Oates’ Introduction to Pastoral Counseling.

    – on the 25th anniversary of Carroll Wise’s The Meaning of Pastoral Care.

    – on the 10th anniversary of Perry Miller’s “A Reflection on CPSP’s Chapter Life”.

    – on the 5th anniversary of the CPSP report, “Task Force on the Future”.

    Forty-five years ago – in 1969 – I first became curious about the work of Helen Flanders Dunbar – when I learned that this pioneer in psychosomatic research had a bachelor of divinity degree. The next five years of my life then were devoted to demonstrating that Dunbar’s earning of a theological degree was no accident. While Anton T. Boisen was the indisputable founder of the movement for professional chaplaincy – specifically, clinical pastoral chaplaincy – it was Dunbar who – from 1931 until 1936 – ran both the psychosomatic and chaplaincy movements, side by side, out of one office. Dunbar had no problem viewing therapy as all encompassing – of religion and medicine – of all of religion and all of medicine – of mind and body.

    Who of us has not – at more times than we might want to remember – needed therapy? Who of us has not – at more times than we might want to remember – been among the world’s suffering, bewildered, or vulnerable souls?

    Dunbar’s was an almost medieval view that healing and wholeness are available to all those seeking help – even us – if those offering help will but listen closely, calmly enough to their or our stories, help them or us rediscover their or our forgotten strengths, and guide them or us back toward the path to full recovery. Once the path is seen clearly, Dunbar believed, the world’s suffering, bewildered, or vulnerable souls can be trusted to take it. That is, Dunbar’s view was that healing and wholeness were available to all who once were lost, but now were found – to all who were blind, but now could see.

    Dunbar’s patroness, Kate Macy Ladd, focusing on health, concluded that

    “health is more than freedom from sickness” [-- that it] resides in 

    the wholesome unity of mind and body … and … in 

    the patient as an individuality.” 3

    She bridged the chasm between mind and body, focusing clearly on the individual as a whole.

    Dunbar herself 80 years ago – supported by research – declared that

    “In health or in illness it is the whole person that is involved. Thus, 

    mental and physical health are indivisible.”4

    She bridged the chasm between the mind’s health or illness and the body’s health or illness.

    Today’s Dunbar Award honoree, focusing on illness, has suggested that 

    “Illness … is [but]

    an alternative stage in the experience of growing toward our destiny … .” 

    "a process of divergence from the idealized line of growth … .” 

    [a process] “which induces various unexpected kinds of growth … .”5

    Accepting the unity of mind and body, as well as the unity of the mind’s health or illness and the body’s health or illness, our honoree went on to bridge explicitly the chasm between illness itself and health itself. That is, in our honoree’s view,

    “both illness and health are facets of 

    the growth process that constitutes life … .”6

    This emphasis on the legitimacy of illness as part of life – as nothing of which to be ashamed – is quite significant. This alone, as part of our honoree’s “psychotheology” of healing, perhaps is worthy of the Dunbar Award. Our honoree, however, has done much, much more. After earning a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and classics, our honoree went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in theology and Biblical studies. After earning a doctoral degree in psychology of human communication, our honoree went on to earn a doctoral degree in Second Temple Judaism and Christian origins. After writing The Night Side: The Problem of Evil (1974), our honoree went on to write “Preparation for Combat: Emotional and Spiritual” (1984). Yes, our honoree co-authored Turning Points in Pastoral Care: The Legacy of Anton Boisen and Seward Hiltner (1990). Both The Beauty of Holiness … (1985) and The Destructive Power of Religion (2004) occupied our honoree’s attention – as did the heavily documented best-seller, Sex in the Bible (2006), followed up by The Spirituality of Sex (2009). Our honoree still found the time to translate Friedrich Schleiermacher’s mid-19th century treatise on practical theology (2011).

    Our honoree also has devoted a lifetime to explaining explicitly, with increasing clarity, the notion of “universal, unconditional, and radical forgiveness of all humans, forever, from beginning to end” – that both the ill and the healthy do enjoy divine unconditional acceptance, should enjoy the chaplain’s transference acceptance, and may come to enjoy their own acceptance of themselves and change. That is, like Dunbar, our honoree fervently believes that healing and wholeness are available to all. 7

    Please join me in welcoming our 13th recipient of the Helen Flanders Dunbar Award for Significant Contributions to Clinical Pastoral Training: the Rev. Dr. Dr. J. Harold Ellens.

    1 Ellens, JH. G-d's Grace and Human Health. Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1982, p.135. 

    2 Dunbar, HF. "What Happens at Lourdes? Psychic Forces in Health and Disease." Forum, 1934;91:226-231, p.226; expanded upon in Powell, RC. “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. Mar 2001;40(1):97-114, p.98; .

    3 Ladd, KM. Letter of gift [April 24, 1930]. in Act of Incorporation and Mrs. Ladd's of Gift. New York, The Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation, 1930, p. 7.

    4 Dunbar, F. “Public Health Aspects of Psychosomatic Problems.” Am J Public Health. Feb 1945;35:117-122, p.118.

    5 Ellens, JH. “Toward a Theology of Illness.” J Psychol Christianity. Winter 1984;3(4):61-73, 1984, pp.73, 72. 

    6 Ellens, 1984, p.61.

    7 Ellens, 2013:


    Robert Charles Powell, MD, PhD is the leading historian of the clinical pastoral movement. Recently, Dr. Powell has been instrimental in the launch of the Boisen Book Project.

    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.

  • 05 May 2014 6:56 PM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    Helen Flanders Dunbar Award Lecture
    CPSP 2014 Annual Plenary
    J. Harold Ellens, PhD

    The Significance of Anton Boisen for American Religion


    From the beginning of Jesus' ministry the Jesus Movement introduced a new way getting at the issues of "people-care." Second Temple Judaism and hence the mode of the Pharisees assumed that to induce vital psychospiritual health it was necessary to start in the theory of an apocalyptic world-view; that is, the notion that God is engaged in a cosmic war with the forces of evil, the battlefield being human history and the human heart. Then it was important to deduce the theological and moral implication of such a theoretical perspective and impose those claims upon persons and societies. Thereby appropriate behavior could be induced in society from the top down, and that would be internalized as psychospiritual renewal.

    Jesus insisted from the outset that the Pharisees, with their 613 laws for behavioral improvement, had the formula of spiritual renewal exactly upside down. His program asserted that you cannot change the inner psychospiritual world by imposing laws, regulations, and codes of conduct, from the outside in, that is, from the top down. Jesus was sure that it is necessary to change people on the inside and then their external behavior will more likely line up with their inner psychospiritual renewal. It is clear from Jesus' ministry, and from the key to it that St. Paul expressed in Ephesians 2 and Romans 8, that the only way to effect that interior psychospiritual change, which both he and the Pharisees desired to see, is to get across to persons the fact that God's grace is radical, unconditional, and universal. Jesus clearly believed that anyone who really gets that point will turn his or her face to God with the cry, "If that is how God feels about me, I want to be God's kind of person."


    The Pharisees and Rabbinic Judaism wanted to affect psychospiritual renewal from the top down. They constructed a theoretical world view, apocalyptic in Jesus' time and humanistic in Rabbinic Judaism after 600 CE, from which they derived the theological and moral implications they were sure would induce genuine inner psychospiritual health. Jesus' program was to do people-care from the bottom up. He started in the real life situation of the persons whose lives he touched. He sat where they sat. He started where they were. He changed lives existentially and pragmatically. He does not seem to have worried much about the theological or ethical implications beyond some notion about God's universal reign for which he hoped. He assumed, I believe, that those things would take care of themselves if people got the point that God's forgiving grace was unlimited and would, in the end, be triumphant for every human being. Paul drew up the theological and moral implications of that and provided Christianity with a framework of coherent thought, focusing rather than eclipsing Jesus' central message.

    One could epitomize the differences between Jesus' program and that of the Pharisees by noting that the latter operated out of the primacy of the Mosaic Covenant of legal prescription for a particularistic community (Expd 20, Deut 5, and Lev), while Jesus spent his life and ministry making the claim that the people of God could not achieve psychospiritual health unless they returned to the primacy of the Abraham Covenant of radical, unconditional, and arbitrarily universal divine grace (Gen 12 and 17).

    From the onset of Jesus' ministry until the Council of Nicaea the Christian churches were doing people-care from the bottom up, drawing from that process its implications for theological construction and ethical imperatives. From Nicaea to Wittenberg and Luther's 95 Theses, the church did theology and people-care from the top down, positing orthodox theological principles and deducing from those dogmas the church's ethics, liturgy, and methods of ministry. From Luther at Wittenberg to Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion, Protestantism did things from the bottom up. From Calvin's Institutes to Boisen's first psychotic episode the church did its work again from the top down. From Boisen to the present moment the church has faced a critical choice of doing theology, pastoral ministry, and clinical work from the bottom up or becoming increasingly irrelevant. 

    The pastoral care movements have attempted, with greater and lesser effectiveness, to carry forward Boisen's program of doing theology and ministry from the bottom up. The institutional church has generally persisted in its top down approaches, holding largely to an orthodox or at least a philosophically defended ideology. The results are the church's increasing irrelevance, witnessed in the growth of the community of those who assert that they are no longer religious but are spiritual.

    Thus for 17 centuries, since the formulation of the dogmatic ideology of the Ecumenical Creeds, and with the exception of a brief moment in the Reformation era, the church has done theology from the top down. Since the work of Sigmund Freud was officially codified Psychoanalysis has done psychology from the top down, from ideology to clinical application. That is why the treatment models of Psychoanalysis and Behaviorism do so poorly in the clinic. Anton Boisen changed the world of psychology and religion by doing both theology and psychology from the bottom up, as it always should be done everywhere, and always should have been done throughout Christendom. 

    Boisen's perspective was not without precedent. The Gifford Lectures that William James (1842-1910) delivered at Oxford in the first years of the 20th century certainly provided a pragmatic model for thinking about psychospirituality. The productivity of the empirical laboratory work of G. Stanley Hall (1844-1924) and the productive empirical self-exploration of Anton Boisen investigated the practical implications and applications of James' perspective. James' way of urging a bottoms up approach to psychospiritual reality is described simply in his article, "Pragmatic Theory of Truth", and his major work entitled Pragmatism.1 His most readable explication of his surprising approach, asserting the empirical reality of experiences of inner psychospiritual illuminations, paranormal events, constructive life-changing forces, and personal conversions, is, of course, his Varieties of Religious Experience.

    Boisen seems to have followed the model James crafted and championed, and by it Boisen changed forever the world of theology, pastoral care, and American religion. He used his own life of inquiry and pathology as the empirical data with which to work. A particularly good assessment of this fact can be found in the incisive volume, Turning Points in Pastoral Care, The Legacy of Anton Boisen and Seward Hiltner.3 Boisen, who lived a surprising 89 years (1876-1965), suffered five psychotic episodes in his life, of which three required fairly extended hospitalization. The first was the worst and occurred when he was 44. "[I]t started Boisen on a journey - we might even say an obsession - that lasted the rest of his life ... Boisen ... decided to rework his personal statement of belief ... This ... triggered a flood of ideas ... of grandeur and world destruction, of life and love...."4 

    His crisis experience proved to be a source of illumination that set the course for the rest of his life. He determined to devote himself to analyzing "acute psychological disturbances so as to understand such phenomena, as well as understanding himself. He hoped thereby to increase our ability to provide definitive care to persons in such crises. In this process he developed a taxonomy of core factors that produced a form of pastoral care and psychotherapy, in which psychospiritual need came to be addressed from the bottom up. It involves addressing the pathological experience from inside its own dynamics, working from that locus upward and outward to definitive understanding, restored function, and meaningful life.

    First, Boisen discerned that some forms of psychópathy, particularly those with prominent expressions of anxiety, were not necessarily or inherently detrimental. He was sure that, instead, such crisis experiences were actions by a person's core self attempting to redesign his or her personality around more profound core values. "He found that disturbances are usually precipitated by immediate situations, but under the surface lingers a deeper, more important problem, specifically a sense of failure for not living up to introjected standards and, therefore, a sense of isolation from 'the fellowship of the best.'"5

    Second, since the fellowship of the best is the experience of our relationship with God and the godly community, psychological crises like that which he experienced seemed to Boisen to be a deeply valuable process of personality upheaval and spiritual resolution. Third, Boisen did not focus upon psychotherapy or psychoanalysis as the road to healing. Instead he was certain that the mental illness itself was a process that led to the healing of the dysfunction and the distress. "He did not dismiss other forms of healing (in fact ... he contributed substantially to them), but he explored the means - an extraordinary means - that he himself had experienced. In the process, he calls us back to the paradoxical truth that we are healed by being broken, that by being shaken to our bootstraps we are made whole."6

    Beyond the contribution Boisen made to our self understanding and ministry from the bottom up, is the part he played and the intense struggle he waged to give some permanence and institutional form to the psychospiritual gifts he gave us. In his attempt to create formal models for explicating the interface, Lawrence calls it the marriage, of psychology and spirituality, Boisen sired a clinical pastoral movement in 1925 that soon embraced numerous clergy of compatible disposition.7 It operated initially as the Clinical Pastoral Community (CPC). He was careful to avoid the reduction of psychology by giving priority to religion, or religion by giving priority to psychology.

    This CPC divided over a conflict between Boisen who had some appreciation for Freud and Psychodynamic Psychology, on the one hand, and his former Harvard Colleague, Richard Cabot, on the other, who referred to the field as sick-iatry. Boisen became the spiritual and philosophical leader of the Council of Clinical Training (CCT) even though he was somewhat hesitant to be wholly identified with its nature and development. Cabot and crew established the Institute of Pastoral Care (IPC). Lawrence notes that the IPC emphasized clinical skill development while the focus of the CCT was upon personal transformation, in Boisian terms.8 These organizations reached some degree of stability and rapprochment by the 1940s and became one part of Boisen's legacy in our midst.

    The work of the CCT led in the second generation to the leadership of Charles Hall who became the executive of a new form of the institution, namely, the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE), with which we are all familiar. The ACPE program soon became a prominent part of Theological Seminary programs. Seward Hiltner, an early student and colleague of Boisen, became a significant sponsor of ACPE programs at the outset, as well as the aegis for the founding of the American Association for Pastoral Counseling (AAPC), though he eventually became disillusioned with both and disassociated from them by the late 1960s.

    My personal exposure to both the AAPC and the ACPE occurred as part of my experience as an Army Chaplain during the years from 1956 to 1980. I affiliated with both organizations but quite quickly became disillusioned with both. I dissociated from the AAPC for what seemed to me to be an effete role in the area of pastoral care because it had created neither a coherent practical clinical basis nor a sound theological basis for defining its nature and role. I was a consummate Boisian and felt that the AAPC had forgotten its roots. I became disillusioned with the ACPE and dissociated from it early because of five reasons. First, it had become isolated from the issues of ministry and any sense of association with the church as the Christian Community. It had become a law unto itself, so to speak. Second, it had become an ideology without significant memory of its Boisian roots or meaningful theological consciousness. Third, it had lost a clear sense of ethical perspective. Fourth, it had become autocratic with a radical shift from people-care to promoting its own existence for the sake of its own existence as institution. Fifth, it had lost itself in bureaucracy.

    Because I had disaffected from the AAPC by the late 1960s and from the ACPE by the mid 1970s I suffered the great misfortune of not realizing or knowing about the heroic development of the CPSP, with which I should surely have felt great affinity, had I been aware. Thus it is a stunningly gratifying providence that I had the good fortune to become acquainted with Raymond J. Lawrence at a Learned Societies Conference some eight years ago. And I am greatly honored to be your guest at this fine gathering today. Boisen's momentous experience and insights moved and shook the American world. You, the CPSP, have rescued and preserved the true legacy of Anton Boisen. We are indebted to him, and I to you, for this delightful shared moment and for our vocations as those called of God in people-care.


    Our practice of theological education, our understanding of the inner nature of our psychospiritual existence as persons and community, our ministry as pastors and clinicians, our notions about the nature of the church, and our models of mental illness have all been radically changed by the new perspective that Boisen gave us as a result of his crises in 1916 and the years following. He distilled a few basic themes but has thereby contributed to the enhancement of many aspects of modern day pastoral theology, pastoral psychology, pastoral care, and pastoral counseling.

    I close with Aden's poignant and challenging remark ... "we should turn back to Boisen, recognize our debt to him, and reconsider how his thought is relevant to our day, especially since he can serve as a corrective lens to our own myopia."9 We live in the light of the Boisen legacy. We cannot afford to fail in understanding and appreciating it. We must examine it critically and celebrate it. It is a major part of what defines who we are today.

    J. Harold Ellens, PhD

  • 01 May 2014 7:22 PM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    On Friday and Saturday, April 25 and 26, forty-seven (47) ministers and chaplains met at Piedmont-Henry Hospital in Stockbridge, GA (greater metro-Atlanta) for an initiation and training event. Three Chapters, Atlanta (GA), Atlanta South (GA), Columbia (SC), collaborated to sponsor this SPRING EVENT. 

    There were two focuses of the conference: “Medical Ethics: Death and Dying in America and the Chaplain’s Role.” Dr. Brian Childs, the president of CPSP, Ethicist, and University of Maryland Professor, was the presenter. He is the Director of Ethics at Shore Regional Health Center and professor at the graduate school of the University of Maryland University College. 

    A second focus was the gathering of CPSP members in the south-east for networking and initiation of persons interested in the College. Participants from Georgia, South and North Carolina met to hear updates and news from the CPSP President and to participate in discussions regarding CPSP membership and issues regarding training and Chapter life. Many participants are active members in CPSP, but most were students and persons interested in learning about the College.


    Evaluations of the event included: “Very relevant;” “Heard a lot, got to meet a lot of people; encouraged and motivated;” “very helpful, both academically and professionally;” “Invigorating;” and, “spot-on.” Participants left the conference wanting more which is the best way to dismiss

    Robert L. Griffin
    PACE Counseling and Training Center
    MFUMC, 151 Macon Street
    McDonough, Georgia 30253
    Phone: 404-444-8248

  • 09 Apr 2014 7:24 PM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    MARCH 31, 2014
    Raymond J. Lawrence, General Secretary

    Myron Madden has been our wisest pastoral resource. He died last June 4. Brian Childs and I attended his funeral, along with three other CPSP persons. There were also five pastoral clinicians present who were not part of CPSP. The church should have been packed with pastoral clinicians at his funeral. Myron was a giant in our field. We will not see the likes of him again soon. Fortunately we in CPSP had the best of him in his last two decades of life. He functioned as chaplain to every Plenary until his health failed him at age eighty-eight. What he meant to us cannot be measured. And I have letters describing how much we meant to him as well.

    It would be a mistake to claim blithely that Myron was widely recognized and honored. He wasn't recognized and honored as widely as he deserved to be. He was recognized and honored by too few. He was too much Freud and too much Shakespeare for typical Christians. And he was too brilliant and insightful for most pastoral clinicians. Tulane University Medical School hired him to teach their young psychiatrists, but the Christian seminaries kept him at arm's length.

    In 1999, Myron wrote about his experience attending Wayne Oates' funeral in Louisville, Kentucky. Wayne had been his sometime-mentor, older brother, and finally his dear friend. As you may know, Wayne Oates was rejected much of his life by the clinical training movement as well as the seminaries and the religious community at large. Again, too much Freud. Myron noted that Wayne's mother seminary sent no representative to honor and claim him as one of their own as they laid him in his grave. Myron added that it could be said of Oates, as it was said of another, that "he came unto his own, and his own received him not." So, too, could the same be said of Myron.

    In my early years as a clinical supervisor, in the 1970s, I used to contrive ways to be placed on an ACPE Certification Committee assignment. Those certification reviews were never casual. They were intense and dangerous. Most people were not certified on the first committee review. Myron was at his best in those reviews. Invariably Shakespeare, Freud, or the Bible—or all three— typically were woven into the review process as Myron engaged the soul or psyche of a candidate.

    Through the years of my friendship with Myron, he constantly hounded me to read the novels of Pat Conroy. I resisted Myron's overtures. I thought Myron was referring me to fun reading that would not have the weight of Freud or Shakespeare or the Bible, Myron's three warhorses. Barely a couple of years ago I finally did read the just-published East of Broad, and it stunned me. I finally understood Myron's fascination with Conroy. Conroy probes with exquisite skill and courage the dark recesses in human relationships. That's what was attractive to Myron, and also made Myron such a good therapist. Then last year, alas too late for Myron, Conroy published his memoirs, The Death of Santini: The Story of a Father and His Son. Conroy had what may have been one of the most narcissistic and abusive fathers ever to have been documented. Though Conroy describes his family life like it was in all its perversity, he never gave up the paternal relationship. He continued to honor his father even while describing in delicious detail his extraordinary perversity and abusiveness. So now I'm going to read pages 117 and 118 from The Death of Santini for Myron. Maybe you will be able to hear him laughing. (Reading not included in this posting.)

    According to Myron, our focus as human beings and professionals is always about selfhood and relationship. Ideology and theology exist only in service to selfhood and relationship.

    The loss of Myron is huge. We will all have to work harder in the time ahead to carry forward the light and wisdom that he embodied.

There is a lot of unrest in CPSP at present. I don't like guns, and certainly don't like violence, verbal or physical. But as Ralph Waldo Emerson said in 1861, "I do love the smell of gunpowder." When people feel strongly enough to fight for something, it means they care, even if it's just themselves they care about. That's at least a start. Too many people don't care about much of anything. That's much worse. We have a lot of people in CPSP who care about something. Some of them may be misguided. I myself may be misguided. But if you care about something, that's a good start. We're going to have some heated exchanges at this meeting, and there is nothing wrong with that. Nobody’s going to get hurt, if I have any say so in the matter. We will keep our hearts and minds on the Covenant. The Covenant trumps every rule and every standard. We will, of course, struggle over matters that we disagree on, but I believe we will, in the end, love and care for each other, and we will do just fine.

    What other group do you belong to in which you can put in writing in the most scathing terms your view that the leadership is misguided, perverse, and ought to resign, and live to tell about it? You can't do that at the office; or at church; or in the garden club. We are a tolerant, accepting, and non-reactive community. Let's keep it that way.

    While some of us claim to be concerned about the future of our community, I am not. But I do want to share with you this morning my perception of the big picture in the clinical pastoral movement. It is a picture that I see with growing alarm. You yourselves will need to decide whether my perceptions are accurate, or perhaps simply the views of an aging male for whom the dreams of earlier years have materialized in only the most fragmentary ways.

    Eighty-nine years ago this coming summer Boisen ran his first clinical pastoral training unit. (He did not call it CPE, but rather Clinical Pastoral Training.) He enlisted four trainees, three men and one woman, Helen Flanders Dunbar. These summer interns did not sign on as chaplains, but rather as orderlies, making beds, delivering towels, and sometimes emptying bedpans. As orderlies, they conversed with patients during the day and in the evening participated in clinical seminars on what they had learned from patients. Their assignment was to understand the dynamics of the troubled mind and how they might be of therapeutic help as pastors.

    Boisen organized this program because he had been a psychiatric patient a couple of years previously, and no one in the psych hospital would sit down and listen to him. The staff, including the psychiatrists, wanted to give him quick advice and send him on his way. No one had time to listen to him tell his story. He knew in part what was wrong with him. His troubles had begun stemming largely from what his parents had done to him, and he wanted to tell someone of his continuing torment. He wanted to—as we like to say—process his story.

    Much of what I observe today in the clinical pastoral movement at large, including CPSP, is a betrayal of Boisen's training approach. Instead of ministers in mufti, disguised as orderlies, we have become purveyors of religion and religious ideology…chaplains as spiritual head-trippers. We in the clinical pastoral movement today have become advocates of spirituality, peddlers of religion, low-paid liberal evangelists, hoping to entice people to become more spiritual, whatever in God's name that might mean. This is Boisen turned upside down or inside out. He sought to understand the human journey in all its interiority and mental suffering, not to patch it over with religious salve.

    A part of the eclipsing of Boisen was the shift of clinical training programs from psychiatric hospitals to general hospitals. Today there are very few psychiatric hospital training programs. For Boisen, that was the only place to be. It's easier in a general hospital to be friendly, say a prayer, and move on. Psychiatric patients don't usually put up with that sort of thing. They'll tell you what they really think, and leave you like a puddle on the floor. The general hospital permits a more superficial sort of pastoral care and counseling than the typical psychiatric hospital.

    Another force that diminished Boisen to some extent was the assault on Boisen by Richard Cabot who had earlier been his principal supporter. Cabot had no interest in psychiatric issues, considered psychiatry bogus, and sought to train ministers to be helpmates of physicians, whom he considered the authentic healers. The Cabot philosophy eventually gained preeminence in the ACPE, a state of affairs that still prevails. I recently reviewed a case in which the chaplain asked a patient if she had an active spiritual life, and the patient replied, "Do you mean do I talk with spirits?" That's just what the chaplain deserved. Two things are wrong with the question the chaplain asked. One is that people do not know what we are talking about by spiritual. We don't even know what we are talking about with such language. The currency of our language is debased. The second thing wrong with the question addressed to the patient is that it communicates that the chaplain has in mind something that he wants to patient to be doing. It is not our business to be promoting a program of behavior. Perhaps, but only after we have been significantly apprised of the patient's situation, we may—may is determinative here—have some recommendations in the behavioral arena. If we have as our objective in relation to patients to lead them to be more spiritual, we will be lost before we begin. Lost in words without clear meaning, and lost because we are prescribing before we diagnose. This is professionally fatal in a clinical setting.

    We are being misled by the pundits in our field. The book, Paging God: Religion in the Halls of Medicine, was published two years ago to some fanfare. The metaphor, paging god, is obscure. Does it mean that the medical staff pages god and they get us? Or, does it mean that they page us and we then page god? Either way, it is a catastrophic metaphor for anyone who aspires to be a serious pastoral clinician. The author does not grasp the significance of the clinical pastoral training movement and certainly doesn't understand Boisen.

    Now, if you work in a medical setting and you own this book, Paging God, or are thinking of purchasing it, I have some unasked-for advice. Wrap this book in brown paper or keep it hidden in your desk, out of sight. If a medical clinician sees the title and gets the notion that you are in the business of paging god, or worse, that paging you is tantamount to paging god, you will never be taken seriously in that institution. Whatever, whoever god is, and that is a matter of many differing views, he or she is certainly no cosmic bell-hop. God assuredly doesn't answer pages.

    The late and great and wonderful Lutheran pastor Paul Scherer, whom I had the joy of knowing, once said that God answered every prayer, and virtually every answer was a great big 'No.' I always think of that when someone tells me that they will be praying for me.

    We know of course that people in desperation often cry out to god. If I were falling from an airplane at twenty-five-thousand feet I would likely be the first and loudest one praying, but I doubt it would avail me anything. People in extremis sometimes cry out to god, and we should sit with them patiently until the hysteria passes. There is no good reason why we should pile on, adding to their panic.

    The author of Paging God is quite affirming of American middle-class religion and of chaplaincy, but it's not the chaplaincy we inherited from Boisen. The book notes approvingly a Unitarian chaplain who carried with him a pocket full of rosaries in case he met a Catholic patient. No mention was made of any extra pockets for comparable Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Eastern Orthodox, or Protestant religious artifacts. And what about agnostics? They are our largest clientele. The chaplain who carries gifts for persons of only one religious tradition is going to get a very bad reputation very quickly. And if she carries gifts for every tradition in her many pockets, she's going to get a worse reputation.

    You don't need clinical training to learn to say prayers, or to learn how to distribute religious artifacts. By handing out religious artifacts one shows one's hand as one who espouses conventional religious beliefs and practices, already tilting the pastoral relationship toward "don't tell me your doubts, disbeliefs, or agnosticism," which everyone has. The patient is not going to disclose religious doubt to a peddler of religious artifacts…or to purveyors of spirituality. The axiom is: We approach patients without memory or desire. If we bring our own agenda to the pastoral counseling relationship, it is contaminated from the start.

    On any journey it is often difficult to decipher exactly where one is at a specific time, and whether one is on course, or drifting. But my reading is that the clinical pastoral movement, that is almost a century old, is off course, and drifting. Boisen's monumental discovery—simple though it was—was that troubled persons need to be heard as they try to make sense of complex life experiences and self-defeating life choices. Though Boisen seems never to have found a competent counselor or therapist for himself, he nevertheless went on to train others to be just that. So when he was released from psychiatric lock-up, he signed on as chaplain at a psychiatric hospital and offered patients what he never got for himself, an intelligent, sensitive, and psychiatrically informed listening ear. Then he started training other ministers, and thus began clinical pastoral training.

    Boison said that Freud was exactly correct: that Freud's talking cure was the treatment of choice for most human inner conflict; and that the proper role of religious authorities is to listen and to make connections. The talking cure is the nature of our work, if we're competent clinicians. Today the talking cure has mostly been turned on its head. Now, in most of our field, the chaplains talk (either to god or the patient) and the patients listen.

    A major blow to Boisen's heritage occurred fifteen years ago when the principal leaders of the clinical pastoral movement beseeched the JCAHO, requesting them to delete "pastoral counseling" as the description of the chaplain's role and asked that they replace it with "spiritual care." Two things are wrong with that.

    1. Our profession gave away the powerful concept of 'pastoral,' shepherding the sheep, a metaphor rooted in every culture, connoting nurture, vigilance, and protection. We replaced it with 'spiritual,' which fuzzily connotes something up there or out there, certainly out of this world.

    2. Second, it gave away 'counseling' and replaced it with 'care,' a much less weighty mandate.

    The wholesale abandonment of our roles as pastoral counselors has been a catastrophic blow to our work, and I sometimes wonder if we can recover.
    The deceptive argument made in support of erasing 'pastoral' and replacing it with 'spiritual' was that spiritual was more compatible with a variety of faith traditions. It was a phony argument. First of all, the label chaplain was not critiqued at all, and it is the most specifically Christian label of all the common terms, referring to a medieval Christian chapel. Secondly, we fool ourselves when we accredit all forms of religion with the benign label 'spiritual' as if they are all equally truthful. It's a shallow accommodation. All religions are not equally truthful or beneficial. Some are worse than others. I won't get into that. Furthermore, spiritual as a label leaves agnostics and atheists at the station. I happen to know the secret lives of many of you, and I am not afraid to say that we have a significant number of agnostic clinicians among us, and some of our best clinicians are in that group.

    The wider clinical pastoral community of which we are a part is no longer serious about the issues that Boisen gave his life for. It has traded in Boisen for the popular saccharine comfort food of spirituality. I fantasize that a suitable inscription to chisel into the tombstone of the clinical pastoral movement might be: "Here lay those who first sat at the feet of Anton Boisen but who later resorted to paging god."

    We in CPSP must keep the Boisen flame burning. And we can.
    As good pastoral clinicians we can do this. We can listen rather than talk, and we can make connections where we see connections. We can descend into the messiness of human relationships, and leave the gods and their spirituality to take care of themselves, something of which they are quite capable.

    Our arena as pastoral clinicians is -to examine how we blindly reenact the abuse we received from our parents and authorities and how hard it is to remember the love they offered us, even in its fragmentariness and brokenness. -to parse how we hurt each other, and hurt ourselves. -to parse how we sometimes love each other, and sometimes hate each other and often don't know the difference -to explore as we listen to ourselves and others the depths of our envy and resentment -to observe how we screw each other in both senses of the word, and what malign or benign motives drive us to do such things -to explore how it is and how it came to be that often the most difficult person to love is ourselves ! -to expand this brief list until we understand in depth the meaning of all our behavior.

    This is a large and profound mandate. But this is our arena. This is where Boisen lived and worked. This is what Myron Madden taught us to do.This is our arena. Let us go and do what these great souls who preceded us taught us to do.

    Raymond J. Lawrence, CPSP General Secretary

    Raymond J. Lawrence,  
    CPSP General Secretary

  • 08 Apr 2014 7:30 PM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    NCTS-East will address the theme "Disaster Spiritual Care – The Chaplain’s Response". Linda Walsh-Garrison, BCCC will be the principle presenter.

    Reaching out to those in need in the face of overwhelming disasters, terrorist attacks and spontaneous mass injuries is both humbling and life-giving. As chaplains, sometimes we are called to be in places where there is great loss and pain and through these individual moments, we help create a safe place for survivors to feel the depth of their pain without embarrassment or alienation; promoting healthy recovery. Very few individuals across our nation are trained with the degree of expertise and training that you bring. Yet, in the face of overwhelming disasters and loss of life, few of us are prepared to handle and coordinate the massive effort and courage, that it takes to manage teams of chaplains through the minute-by-minute challenges that are encountered by volunteers and survivors alike. Many of us will learn for the first time when it affects our neighborhood.

    We are glad you are taking the time to attend this seminar; our participants bring a wealth of excellent talent and insights. Your facilitators in this workshop bring a tremendous wealth of knowledge and experience in the field of Disaster Spiritual Care.

    Linda Walsh-Garrison, BCCC is serving as CPSP liaison to the American Red Cross (ARC). Her broad responder experience include Children Disaster Services, member of the ARC National Spiritual Care Development Team and lead coordinator of the successful Disaster Spiritual Care Pilot Program launched in San Diego CA. Trained in Post Traumatic Stress Injuries (PTSI) and family resilience, she serves the armed forces as an advisor to the White House Committee on Military Families, Military Chaplain Services, and in “Chaplains Caring for Veterans & Families” - a collaboration of military/vet/civilian chaps educating faith-based leaders to connect with warriors and those serving with PTSI at home. Chaplain Walsh-Garrison has recently relocated to Ogden, Utah, in the venue of hospice-care serving three states. Her personal focus is studying the unique response of veterans and survivors of traumatic events to clinical therapies at end of life, and the resiliency of caretakers after prolonged, slowly progressing deaths.

    The venue is the Loyola Retreat House (Jesuit) in Morristown, New Jersey. It is about 20 minutes outside of New York City.

    As always, the central focus of the gathering will be the presentation of clinical case material in a small psychodynamic group process.

    Francine Hernandez, NCTS-East Coordinator

  • 06 Apr 2014 7:33 PM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    From the Boisen Book Project:

    "The Boisen Books Project will reintroduce Boisen to a new generation in the 21st century. As relevant today as when they were first published, Boisen’s three major books will appear, one-a-year, beginning in Spring 2015, marking the 50th anniversary of his death in 1965."

    This is great news for all of us in the clinical pastoral field who have been shaped, guided and inspired by Anton T. Boisen's writings.

    No doubt many have been instrumental in launching this enterprise. At this writing we know that CPSP's David Roth, PhD and Robert Charles Powell, MD, PhD were a part of the creation of the Boisen Book Project.

    The website for the project pays tribute to Dr. Powell: "The new editions will each include a new Introduction by renowned historian of the pastoral care movement and psychiatrist Robert Charles Powell, MD, PhD, as well as a new foreword and afterword."

    Keep checking with to learn more and for pre-order information. 

    Perry Miller, Editor
    Pastoral Report

  • 05 Apr 2014 7:35 PM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    I am currently enrolled in a multi-faith chaplaincy program at Hartford Seminary in Hartford, Ct., having completed my first Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) unit last summer. It was during this time that I came across Rev. Alberts’ book entitled, A Hospital Chaplain at the Crossroads of Humanity.

    I found this book to be extremely rich in content and purpose. Each story drew my interest for the encounters were so beautifully described in terms of their simplicity and realism. Dr. Alberts shares his experiences as a chaplain, and what it means to be open and present to the divine encounters in hospital chaplaincy in the most human manner. Each story illustrates invaluable lessons on the many ways a chaplain can respond to patients, with sacred yet simple acts of being totally present and in listening without judgment. It is through these acts that one is able to "empower the patients and their families." This allows the chaplain and patient to recognize the divine at work within the patient’s life.

    Dr. Alberts’ stories reveal his experiences of learning to show his humanity, naturalness, and humility with patients and, in so doing, be present with the patients wherever they are in their suffering and spiritual journey. This book goes beyond any religious tradition or social condition, making the lessons applicable to all types of encounters.

    The book is truly a gem. I highly recommend it for all those seeking a deeper encounter with others, whether as a chaplain or in other care giving vocations.
    (Editor’s note: The book is available on, and on Kindle books.)


    Paul Uccello is a graduate of Hartford Seminary in Hartford, Connecticut, and for many years has had an interest in understanding faith traditions other than his own (Christian). To that goal, he received his MA in Religious Studies from Hartford Seminary in 2007. He is currently completing a graduate certificate program in Multi-faith Chaplaincy at Hartford Seminary. His previous vocation for the past 30 years has been in an executive management position for a major aerospace corporation. He has a MS in Management and a MBA from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

  • 03 Apr 2014 7:38 PM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    The Peace Corps is looking for 3 Disaster Preparedness and Response Program Officers for the Philippines for 6 months disaster response to Typhoon Yolanda starting this May. What they indicate is that they prefer returned Peace Corps volunteers for this short-term job. Sometimes they also take those who have not served in the PC yet, especially for these disaster response manager jobs.

    Here are the links to Peace Corps Response:

    Contact Us

    Peace Corps Response
    1111 20th St. NW Washington , DC , 20526

    855.855.1961 ext. 2250
    E-mail Us

    JOHN STANGLE is a former Peace Corps volunteer. I also have done the SAIR and Red Cross Disaster training (did the first one in 1999).