Pastoral Report Articles 

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

    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
    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

  • 10 Oct 2017 8:36 AM | Perry Miller, Editor

    "We have nothing to fear but fear itself," came to mind during the shocking news from Las Vegas. Roosevelt's wife, Eleanor, wrote, "You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.' You must do the thing you think you cannot do." 

    Comebacks take a long time. Facing fear and "doing the next thing" sounds old and hollow in the midst of tragedies we are now facing. Fear last Sunday seized 22,000 at a concert, and the next thing was blood. How long it will take survivors and loved ones to recover is hard to know. It has been a  long time for those in my community of Columbine. Many have helped them with the next thing.
    Knowing that we can help makes Eleanor's and Franklin's fear advice sound better. We're the next thing after an attack of fear. If we only knew how to prevent an attack, we could be the thing before fear. 

    Dom Fuccillo is a retired chaplain who lives in Littleton, Colorado. Eleanor Roosevelt quote from, You Learn by Living. Westminster John Knox Press, 1960.

  • 09 Oct 2017 4:59 PM | Perry Miller, Editor

    Leadership and Followership: The Exercise of Authority in Turbulent Times
    A Conference in the Tavistock Tradition
    January 17 - 21, 2018
    Dover, MA

    Leadership in organizations—businesses, schools, hospitals, agencies, places of worship, government—can be invigorating, compelling, bewildering, and maddening.

    What may be too often overlooked or misunderstood is the role of powerful emotional experiences in leaders and their followers. Passionate commitment, indifference, and a range of other emotions play a more significant role than we might appreciate.

    Imagine that we could build a temporary institution where we could learn about the “under the surface” forces that influence how we come alive at work or find ourselves less present and engaged. What would we learn about the complexity of group membership and institutional dynamics? What new perspectives would we have on how we might take up leadership roles?

    Working over five days, we will create this special institution together to explore how group and institutional pressures influence how we lead and exercise authority.

    Join this intensive conference sponsored by the Center for the Study of Groups and Social Systems (the Boston affiliate of the A.K. Rice Institute). 


    For more information and to register please see the attached brochure or visit the website:

    This conference is endorsed by the A. K. Rice Institute as consistent with its educational standards for Group Relations training in the Tavistock tradition.

  • 27 Sep 2017 9:18 PM | Perry Miller, Editor

    The Congress of the APCPCC meets every four years and this year met in Jakarta, Indonesia. Once again it was a treat to be in a country where I was typically the tallest man in the room. The next such meeting will be in Australia, in 2021, where there will be more very tall registrants. There also will be other gatherings of pastoral clinicians scheduled in the interim.

    I was very wary of attending the meeting at all. Given the current White House resident and his pronouncements on Muslims, I was not sure I wanted to be a visitor in a country with an 85% Muslim population. And initially I was very wary of walking the streets alone. But what I found was that the Indonesian people generally were exceedingly hospitable and cordial, and that even strangers on the street, most of them Muslim, recognized me as a Westerner and greeted me warmly.

    On the plane to Jakarta I was seated next to an Indonesian woman named Liana who befriended me, generously sharing her snacks with me. As the flight was ending she offered to have her son, who was picking her up, deliver me to my hotel, an offer I could not refuse. I was already wary of this strange country with a language I knew nothing of. The drive to my hotel was at least an hour in heavy traffic. Jakarta with a population of about 20 million is the third largest city in the world.

    Rather than dropping me at the hotel door, as they well could have, Liana and her son escorted me to the check-in desk. On reporting that I had arrived for the APCPCC meeting, the clerk responded that the meeting had been canceled. The desk clerk had no other details. As my mind was spinning, wondering how I would spend the next week alone in Jakarta, Liana's son had the presence of mind to peruse my stack of documents and managed to find the phone number of the president of the APCPCC. He phoned him. The conference had moved. The new hotel was more than an hour's drive to another part of this enormous city. 

    They might have put me in a taxi, but they drove on. To be taken care of in such a generous way by strangers was humbling and astonishing, and especially in a country I had been wary of visiting. When we finally arrived Liana and her son escorted me in. The Secretary General of the APCPCC was waiting for me at the entrance, another warm act of hospitality. I will never forget such treatment by strangers. 

    Another little vignette also lodges in my memory symbolizing my visit to Jakarta. I went to a park concert of Muslim music with some of my pastoral colleagues, and during the intermission a young man brought his infant daughter up to me and asked if he could make a photograph of the three of us seated together. Of course, I agreed. Then I asked one of my colleagues take a similar photo with my own camera as well. (See below.) What this meant to this young father is passing comprehension, but I was very moved. The toddler was friendly as well, cooing at me and laughing, likely picking up something unconsciously from her father. English was not spoken; the non-verbal communication was powerful. This young father seemed to be expressing some kind of trust in and affection for a strange American he had never before met. Was this a blessed counterpoint to the vicious anti-Muslim rhetoric coming out of Washington? 

    The local leadership of the Congress was also extraordinarily gracious. Given the fact that I showed up without registering, they had every cause to punish me. Instead they openly welcomed me and were gracious to a fault. I must especially thank John Livingstone Wuisan for his welcome. He is the secretary general of the national board of Indonesia’s Pastoral Association and chairman of the APCPCC Organizing Committee.

    The attendance was something over 100, almost all Indonesians. Two registrants were from Hong Kong, one from Australia, none from the Philippines, and as far as I know, none from Malaysia. Perhaps there were a few others from outside Indonesia that I did not meet. 

    I must be critical of the mostly top-down communication at the meeting. The several speakers had some important information to share, but generally the communication was one way. The speakers allowed for questions from the audience, where, as usual, the most verbose questioners dominated the conversation. The communication structure was problematic overall. There was no structure for peer dialogue except informally at coffee hour and meals. I made good use of those times, with pleasure.

    The most troubling part of the meeting, from my perch, was the consistent declaration of Protestant evangelism. Each day opened with an evangelical Protestant worship service, complete with sermon. This signals, at least non-verbally, that Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and what have you, are unwelcome. Of course the clinical pastoral movement has traces of this kind of religious domination and exclusionism in the U.S. as well, but it is muted there. This Christian domination was overt. Americans have set the bad example in this case, and this matter needs to be addressed by all before it poisons the entire clinical pastoral movement.

    I predict that the clinical pastoral movement will die on the vine if it does not find a way very soon to embrace fully all religions of every sort. Or better still, perhaps the cure is to embrace no religion at all, but to embrace only the discipline of pastoral care and pastoral psychotherapy. This would mean relegating religion to the closet where arguably it belongs. And there is nothing wrong with closets. The Muslims of Jakarta put Islam in the closet when they so warmly greeted me on the streets, in the parks, and in the restaurants of Indonesia’s capital city. I am grateful that they did so.


    Raymond J. Lawrence
    CPSP General Secretary

  • 25 Sep 2017 9:13 PM | Perry Miller, Editor

    Join us for National Clinical Training Seminar-South: Who Am I? Who Are We? The Dynamics of Group Function, October 30-31, in Stockbridge, GA. 

    Informative guest speakers, case presentations, and group dynamics are some of the experiences that attendees can expect. Learn how to understand change, while further developing yourself in your role in life. Participants will learn through participation -- this is a working conference. 

    Primary Speakers

    Raymond Lawrence, CPSP General Secretary, Episcopal Priest and author of The Poisoning of Eros, Sexual Values in Conflict; Sexual Liberation: The Scandal of Christendom; Nine Clinical Cases: The Soul of Pastoral Care & Counseling; and many other publications.

    David Moss, Ph.D., Licensed Professional Counselor, Episcopal Priest, and author of The Organization & Administration of Pastoral Counseling Centers, and many articles and publications.


    For more information about this event, the hotel, or to register for this conference, please visit our NCTS-South Event page. 

    We look forward to seeing you at NCTS-South!

  • 21 Sep 2017 9:11 PM | Perry Miller, Editor
    We have received word of the death of Richard Liew at his retirement home in Arizona. He apparently suffered a blow to the head from a fall that resulted in fatal cranial bleeding. Life support was removed on Wednesday September 20.

    Richard was among the earliest of those ACPE chaplain supervisors who joined CPSP. He quickly became a key leader. He emerged as a key leader both personally and financially. He was made the sixth CPSP president, for the 2004-06 term. 

    Richard was a strong force for clinical pastoral training, especially in the New York area. Later in life, he directed programs at Westchester Medical Center, and until retirement at Episcopal Health Services in Long Island. Subsequent to his retirement he developed training programs in Malaysia, assisted by his new wife Annie.

    Since 2009, Richard has not been active in CPSP. My last conversation with Richard was early this year when I invited Richard to be an honored guest at the March Plenary Meeting. 

    Many of us have missed Richard in recent years. Unfortunately we will now miss him more. We extend our condolences to his wife and family.

    Raymond J. Lawrence
    General Secretary

  • 20 Sep 2017 8:49 PM | Perry Miller, Editor

    The College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy has always recognized the need for flexibility in our certifying process including educational requirements for our certification categories.  The standard for Board Certified Clinical Chaplain, certified Pastoral Counselor, and all Diplomates is that each candidate is to hold a Master of Divinity, or equivalent, from an accredited seminary or theological school.  In addition, over time, considerable confusion and debate has emerged as to just what M.Div. “equivalency” means. For a long time a common standard did not exist to guide assessment of equivalency, much less an equitable and consistent application of assessment. Therefore, CPSP has established a task force to help set guidelines and procedures for assessing determining equivalency of the M.Div. degree. 

    After much research and deliberation, we on the Equivalency Committee have decided to propose two sets of guidelines for evaluating M.Div. equivalency.  The first would be for those from Western faith traditions who have something other than an M.Div. that might be considered equivalent to the M.Div.  The second would be for non-Western traditions that emphasize a “mentored transmission” of the learning and formation needed to achieve the level of competency within those traditions to act independently as ministers of their traditions in public ministry (as opposed to private devotion).  I will discuss both of these sets of guidelines in turn, and later we will post the proposed guideline documents for review and discussion from the CPSP community.

    Regarding  Western faith traditions, I will discuss what we mean by that term, what we mean by M.Div. equivalent, what the proposed basic evaluation guidelines are, and how these guidelines would be applied.  I will then briefly describe the process for evaluating “equivalent” or “commensurate” theological training for those in “mentored” faith traditions, most of which are of Eastern origin.  Last, I will address why it is imperative that continue to require some type of theological education for those seeking board certification. 

    By “Western” religious traditions, we mean those from such faith group as most Christian and many Jewish traditions.  Most of these traditions recognize the Master of Divinity as the definitive course of academic training for their ministers.  While some may not require the M.Div. for ordination, even most of those faith groups still tend to regard the M.Div. as the desired or preferred level of academic achievement.  The Master of Divinity degree is the “gold standard” by which academic preparation and education for ministry is measured in the broader Western religious world. It is also the standard required for certification by the other pastoral care cognate groups.

    Given that, what does “M.Div. equivalent” really mean?  That question has been a source of much confusing on the part of chapters and candidates seeking certification.  I have spoken to one chapter convener who insists that any master’s degree from an accredited institution of higher learning is what is required and nothing else.  By that meaning, if a person has a Master of Science in engineering from a CHEA accredited university, then that serves as the equivalent.  Another convener advocates that the M.Div. equivalency means a person has earned a D.Min., Ph.D., or Th.D., but never took the M.Div. along the way.  For another perspective, as I was serving as the outside consultant to one chapter’s certification committee, a candidate for BCCC was adamant that he had the equivalent of the M.Div. because he served as an associate pastor to “Bro. ____” for ten years and that he had read a slew of religious books are articles.

    Others have objected to the word “equivalent” itself.  I tend to agree with that objection.  After all, one Master of Divinity from a certain school really is not “equivalent” to a Master of Divinity degree from a different school or seminary, even if both institutions are CHEA accredited.  Therefore, how can an educational experience that does not earn the M.Div. itself be in reality “equivalent” to the M.Div.?  I actually prefer the term “commensurate” with the M.Div., or even the term “comparable.”  However, “equivalent” seems to be the standard operative term used by most all of the pastoral/spiritual cognate groups.  The main consideration, though, at this time, is that the current set of CPSP standards read “equivalent.” Therefore, unless and until we change the standards, our committee is forced to stay with the term “equivalent” or “equivalency.”

    Bear in mind that an equivalency of a Master of Divinity is a serious, graduate level status supported by graduate level education that the committee can evaluate as being on the par with the graduate M.Div. degree.  Sunday school classes, lay training events, continuing education credits, undergraduate courses, and the like do not count toward the equivalency.  Only graduate level work will be considered, as the M.Div. is a graduate level degree.

    So, how do we determine what educational experience is equivalent to the Master of Divinity degree?  The Equivalency Committee has answered that question in this way:  In the case of those from Western faith traditions, “equivalent” to the M.Div. means:

    1. A master’s degree, other than the M.Div., from accredited college or university in religious, theological, or spiritual studies consisting of 72 semester-hours minimum. OR
    2. A master’s degree, other than an M.Div., from accredited college or university in religious, theological or spiritual studies consisting of less than 72 semester-hours minimum, but with additional graduate theological semester-hours that bring the total to a minimum of 72 semester hours. OR
    3. A minimum of 72 graduate theological semester credits or 108 quarter credits, in religious, theological, or spiritual studies from an accredited college or university.

    In light of that, how do we evaluate if a candidate’s educational experience is “equivalent” to the M.Div.?  Well, as we keep in mind in any of the three cases above, we would evaluate M.Div. equivalency based on the specific criteria.  Therefore, the 72 semester hours of graduate theological work should include the following:

    1.  Twenty-four (24) graduate semester credits in theological, religious, or spiritual studies (with certain categorical requirements spelled out further in the guidelines).
    2. Twenty-four (24) graduate semester credits in chaplaincy, religious or spiritual care, counseling, and/or practice (again with specific categorical requirements further defined).
    3. The additional twenty-four (24) graduate semester credits may be from any area listed in 1. or 2. above or any accredited graduate level study or degree program appropriate to chaplaincy or supervisory clinical pastoral education (e.g., education, counseling, etc.)

    The committee for equivalency had developed a work chart for evaluating a candidate’s courses according to the above guidelines. The candidate needs to assume the responsibility to use his or her transcripts and complete the work chart by placing each course in the proper section.  The candidate should then send the work chart along with working copies of transcripts to the chair of the Equivalency Committee.  The candidate also should have official transcripts sent directly from each institution to the committee chair as well. No equivalency will be considered until the candidate submits a complete work chart and all transcripts.

    The above definition and set of guidelines is substantially comparable to what other pastoral/spiritual care cognate groups recognize as being “equivalent” to the Master of Divinity. This is important, not only for cognate group parity, but also for considerations by agencies such as the Department of Education.

    The second process for “equivalency” is set forth for those in non-Western traditions that emphasize a “mentored transmission” of the learning and formation needed to achieve the level of competency within those traditions to act independently and publicly as ministers of their traditions.  That last phrase is the key.  Some traditions may call that “ordination” while others may not.  Some traditions may also use the term ordination to mean something above and beyond that.  The key concept, as we understand it, is the preparation and mentoring necessary to be acknowledged by the faith tradition as someone who can “minister to the public in an independent manner” (i.e. without direct supervision of their ministry) in their particular faith tradition. 

    It is important to note that most frequently, vocational education and formation within what might be called “Eastern religious traditions” takes place within the format of mentored, disciplic transmission over a number of years. Because this training takes place outside of the model of the contemporary western university or seminary (as reflected in most accredited theological institutions), it is rare for candidates to be able to produce transcripts for verification of examination of their theological preparation. None-the-less, noting the importance of all candidates for CPSP certification (at all levels) to be able to interact on a peer level in collegiality, in both chapter and career life with other CPSP credentialed professionals, a method for examining and vetting equivalency in depth, and breadth, as well as duration of theological preparation, remains essential.

    Generally speaking, within most (Eastern) mentored spiritual traditions, in lieu of receiving an academic degree or diploma, the verification of having completed a terminal course of theological preparation will be ordination, initiation, or empowerment to the fullness of ministry. That is, admission to the clerical level wherein the candidate is duly authorized by their faith tradition to independently practice their ministry and represent their faith tradition to the public at large. In a sense, it is this qualification that delineates the aforementioned peer status in a multi-faith community of pastoral professionals.

    However, evidence of appropriate ordination, initiation, or empowerment alone does not satisfy requirements for evaluating theological preparedness in pursuit of CPSP certification. Therefore, candidates for certification will be required to submit a comprehensive portfolio (in place of academic transcripts), detailing the duration, depth, and breadth of their theological preparation, as appropriate to their spiritual tradition.  In the guidelines for assessing equivalency to the M.Div. for those from Eastern mentored traditions, the committee has outlined the details of how that portfolio is to be compiled is outlined.

    Finally, why do we want to continue to require theological preparation for those who present themselves for certification?  Some have argued that perhaps it is time to consider doing away with the requirement for any type of theological education at all.  Some advocate simply saying we accept any master’s degree in a “related” field, such as a Master of Science in Counseling, a Master of Psychology, a Master of Social Work, a Master of Divinity, a Master of Arts in Theology, a Master of Education, etc. The argument goes that any of these degrees prepare one for much of the work that we do. Therefore, let us lay aside the theological requirement and embrace these other degrees as adequate preparation for chaplaincy, pastoral counseling, pastoral supervision, or pastoral psychotherapy.

    In answer, I would refer the reader to the article “Increasing Trend to Secularize Chaplaincy” written by George Hull and published June 29, 2016, on Pastoral Report. In it, Hull argues that this movement to the more secular idea of “spiritual” as opposed to “religious” or “pastoral” diminishes chaplaincy to a “generic practice.”  Hull contends, “The promotion of spirituality results in diminishing the role of the hospital chaplain as a religious professional in favor of that of a generic approach which in the end a social worker or nurse can provide.”  We agree.

    Now, let us recall the first paragraph of the CPSP Covenant which reads:

    "We, the CPSP members see ourselves as spiritual pilgrims seeking a truly collegial professional community. Our calling and commitments are, therefore, first and last theological. We covenant to address one another and to be addressed by one another in a profound theological sense.” 

    We are “spiritual pilgrims” to be sure.  However, we are “first and last theological.”  If we move away from requiring our candidates for certification to have significant theological education, then we will have ceased living out who we are and who we are called to be.

    Candidates wishing to be considered for equivalency should contact the chair of the Equivalency Committee, Al Henager, with questions, a copy of the requirements, clarifications of the process, a copy of the equivalency work chart, etc. at:

  • 19 Sep 2017 10:41 PM | Perry Miller, Editor

    The Red Cross is in need of trained Spiritual Care volunteers for Florida and Texas...


    The Red Cross has an immediate need to deploy an additional 43 trained Disaster Spiritual Care (DSC) Volunteers to Florida and Texas. We have been incredibly grateful to the more than 55 of you who have deployed across Texas and now in Florida following Hurricane Irma we have a combined need for a 4th Wave of support in Texas and Wave 2 in Florida. Between each disaster we are requesting a total of 43 DSC trained Volunteers. 

    The Red Cross Exchange System is back up and running. Here is what we need from you: If you are a DSC trained Red Cross Volunteer 

    Option A: 1) Update your availability to deploy in the Volunteer Connection Exchange system. 2.) Contact your local chapter to assign you to one of the 43 open positions either in Florida or Texas. (Please Note: If you are a Red Cross DSC supervisor, please choose one of the open supervisor (SV) roles.) 

    Option B:  If: 1) you have completed DSC training; 2) are now registered with the Red Cross and 3) you are willing and able to deploy immediately for up to 14 days, then send the following information to:

    This temporary email account has been created specifically for this deployment only for those able to immediately deploy.

    1. Name as it appears in your Red Cross Volunteer Connection account
    Last Name:
    First Name

    2. Red Cross Region (required):

    3. Your Red Cross Member Number (required):

    4. Confirmation that you can deploy/travel within 24 hours?  Yes/No

  • 12 Sep 2017 7:57 PM | Perry Miller, Editor

    Hurricane Harvey shifted my attention from home projects again to the sky. After the eclipse and in between watching weather reports, I finished reading a new book by Neil DeGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist who explains the stars. He also says a few things about our situation on earth. 

    We do not ponder the universe on a daily basis. No patient I have visited talked about the physical heavens, although not a few spoke of the other kind, sometimes in more detail than I could bear. Mostly they talk about getting well and leaving the hospital. Tyson says, "The cosmic view comes with a hidden cost. … sometimes I lose sight of earth." Natural disasters caused by Harvey and eclipses do make us look up. Usually, though, we do not lose sight of earth, and we try not "to space out" as others talk about their problems here-- a good listen helps them.

    "Sometimes," Tyson continues, " I forget that every day -- every 24-hour rotation of the earth -- people kill and get killed in the name of someone else's conception of God, and that some people who do not kill in the name of God, kill in the name of needs or wants of political dogma." As chaplains we're well aware of these earthly concerns, including the fact that suicide is also a killing. 

    He also forgets that "powerful people rarely do all they can to help those who cannot help themselves. As citizens we witness that indifference and, as chaplains, we intervene on behalf of the weak; all too often as both we fail to convince. 

    "However big the world is," he concludes, "-- in our hearts, our minds, and our outsized digital maps [including those of Harvey] -- the universe is even bigger. A depressing thought to some, but a liberating thought to me." And he liberates a problem I think is as difficult to solve as the math he so easily explains: "Children do not yet know that the world doesn't revolve around them. … Part the curtains of society's racial, ethnic, religious, national, and cultural conflicts, and you find the human ego turning the knobs and pulling the levers." As a first step toward its solution, I would suggest, as he does, to imagine a world in which this problem would shrink  -- or never arise -- so that "we could celebrate our earthly differences while shunning the behavior of our predecessors … ."

    Because I love celebrations, I hope that we will soon get to work on planning that one. 


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

    Dr. Tyson's book is Astrophysics for People in a Hurry. Norton, NY, 2017. He writes about the matter discussed here on pages 194-197.