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The College of Pastoral Supervision & Psychotherapy is a theologically based covenant community, dedicated to "recovery of the soul" and promoting competency in the clinical pastoral field.

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December 29, 2008

ORLANDO AND THE SCC : A Letter to the Community From Raymond Lawrence

<img The upcoming February meeting in Orlando of the so-called Spiritual Care Collaborative (SCC) is sound and fury signifying very little. Perhaps it will be a good time and place to meet some old friends. Otherwise, don’t be taken in by the hype.

The SCC is a circling of the wagons against the perceived threat of CPSP. It is an invention of the ACPE leadership originally, and its purpose is to recover ACPE’s previous monopoly in the training of clinical pastoral supervisors.

That defensive maneuver, with the dream of a restored monopoly, was the motivation for creating the SCC in the beginning, in the middle 1990s. The ACPE leadership has concluded that success by CPSP means failure for ACPE. We hope not. Diversity enriches the clinical pastoral movement. Monopoly stifles it.

We in CPSP do not intend to be threatening, but we do function on a radically different model, and we believe it is a model that the ACPE will need to adopt eventually if it is to prosper.

The ACPE certainly has not prospered. Created in1967 it now has about the same number of certified persons it started with. It began with about 400 and now has about 500. Not much growth over forty years.

We in CPSP always want to be at the table with our fellow professionals where that is feasible, but in this case, for the time being, the door is locked against us. We are not invited to the SCC meeting in Orlando.

I ask you to listen to the hype regarding the SCC and its upcoming meeting:

The SCC has presented itself as consisting of the six major organizations in the field of pastoral care and counseling. Really? “Major” in what sense? Certainly not in size. At last count CPSP certifies more persons than the ACPE.

The SCC misrepresents itself to the public as a group of organizations committed to one agreed upon set of “Common Standards.” The SCC has expended a lot of paper extolling its Common Standards. When you read the fine print you will see that the commitment to the Common Standards is a commitment that the six organizations intend to implement some day. That’s like the dictator who plans some day to implement democracy. The Common Standards as published by the SCC are the standards of no currently existing organization.

The much-touted Common Standards are in any case nothing to write home about. Among other things, they call for five-year peer review of certified persons in order to insure on-going quality. The ACPE put a five-year peer review requirement on its books, but does not enforce it. That said, peer review at five-year intervals is grossly inadequate. Peer review is a critical matter requiring a more diligence than the SCC has given it.

By contrast, CPSP implemented annual peer review at the time of its founding. We of course know that no system of peer review is fail-safe. However, annual review is certainly suggests more serious concern for peer review than a five-year review process.

The SCC is calling the Orlando meeting “the summit.” A summit is a peak, or highest point. We suppose this means that Orlando will be the summit of self-promotion by the ACPE.

While CPSP will have no official representative attending Orlando meeting, some CPSP persons will be attending simply because some of our members also belong to one or more of the SCC member organizations. We encourage our members to engage in dialogue with members of the participating organizations. We also urge our members to keep in mind that we have many friends in the various SCC organizations even if the official position of SCC is unwelcoming to CPSP.

Sometimes we feel a narcissistic injury when not invited to a party. But that’s not an appropriate response to the Orlando gathering. We in CPSP have created a responsible and caring professional community, one that upholds standards without abusing its members. We are a dynamic community. We nurture diversity, and we discourage group-think. Let’s continue our commitment to keep it that way.
Email: Raymond Lawrence,

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 2:16 PM

December 25, 2008



Kate DiCamillor's first sentence in her book, The Tale of Desperaux, begins with these words:

The world is dark, and light is precious.

Come must trust me.

I am telling you a story.

During this season I'm always on the hunt for a story which gives deep expression to humanity and human compassion- a story that might help us take heart and courage to live with generosity of life and spirit. I think I found such in Dick Gordon's The Story, an NPR production.

The show notes reads as follows:

Peter Turnley's work as a photojournalist for over 25 years has brought him to some of the most traumatized parts of the world. He's seen the excesses of war as well as the devastation following natural disasters. Yet he continues his work because extreme circumstances have also shown him what's best about humanity. He tells Dick Gordon about his 1988 trip to an earthquake zone in Armenia, and how a victim's kindness became a touchstone moment for him.

To listen to Peter Turnley's story, go to: The Story and click on Listen found in the top left sidebar and/or click here.
Please note, however, that Finding Humanity starts just a little over half way on the time bar (there are two interviews contained in the one link) so you will need to slide the time bar to locate the interview.

-- Perry Miller, Editor

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 12:46 AM

December 3, 2008



on a set of essays published in


Volume 38, Number 6, Nov-Dec, 2008.

By Raymond J. Lawrence

(This review is not intended to be exhaustive, but simply to highlight what seems to this writer to be the most useful parts of this collection, and to call attention to weaknesses and errors.)

The essays in this collection are the result of a collaborative undertaking between the Hastings Center and HealthCare Chaplaincy, Inc, of New York City, Gregory E. Kaebnick, Editor. The creation of this collection was funded by the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations.

The title of this Hastings Center collection is “Can We Measure Chaplaincy? A new professional identity is tied to quality improvement.”

The following articles appear in the collection:

”What Are We Doing Here? Chaplains in Contemporary Health Care” by Martha R. Jacobs

“Ethical Grounding for a Profession of Hospital Chaplaincy,” by Margaret E. Mohrmann

“Lost in Translation: The Chaplain’s Role in Health Care,” by Raymond De Vries, Nancy Berlinger, and Wendy Cadge

“Chaplaincy and Clinical Ethics:A Common Set of Questions,” by Martin L. Smith

“The Nature of Chaplaincy and the Goals of QI: Patient Centered Care as Professional Responsibility,” by Nancy Berlinger


The strongest article of the lot is the article jointly written by DeVries, Berlinger and Cadge. This is a seminal piece, every bit worth the price of the issue. This article highlights the critical issues in the chaplain’s identity. It points out that chaplains have a kind of vacuum identity, filling in voids left by other professionals. It points out overlapping identity issues, such as the fact that social workers and chaplains do almost the same tasks. The article also raises the critical question of the process by which a chaplain, as a religious professional, may approach persons outside the chaplain’s own religious tradition. This article sets the parameters of the chaplain’s identity issues, and the issues it sets out are yet quite some distance from resolution.

The Smith piece is also rich. It compares the parallel issues facing both chaplains and bioethicists, each group facing critical identity issues in the modern health care setting. This article, in my view, might spur more chaplains to take on the supplementary role of bioethicist. It would seem to be a natural progression, albeit requiring further study. Truth to tell, every competent chaplain is by definition part bioethicist. One would hope this article might spur chaplains further to develop more serious expertise in this emerging field. (Unfortunately, Smith repeats misinformation put forward in the issue’s lead article about the character of the so-called Spiritual Care Collaborative, and the role of the U.S. Department of Education and Medicare Reimbursement in chaplaincy training, an understandable error since that is not Smith’s field.)

The Mohrmann piece provocatively plays with themes of spirituality, pastoral identity, and the problem of the non-quantifiable character of chaplaincy work. Mohrmann seems a bit too quick in agreeing that chaplaincy is really a new profession, a contention that is very far from resolution.

The Berlinger piece argues, correctly, that chaplains should step up to the plate to support quality improvement, fully aware that this is a hazardous role to play in any institution.

The lead article, the piece by Jacobs is troublesome in a number of respects. It is clearly infected with the HealthCare Chaplaincy agenda, as one would expect from a staff person of that agency.

Jacobs argues blatantly that hospital chaplaincy is “a vocation in its own right,” a claim, even if desirable, is at best premature. She fails to point out that clinically trained religious professionals move easily back and forth between congregational work and hospital work. In what sense this would be seen as changing professions she does not discuss. A great deal more work is to be done if we are going to establish hospital chaplaincy as a distinct profession. The bald claim that it is already one hardly furthers serious discussion and evaluation.

Jacobs also tosses around “spiritual” rather freely, without revealing any clear definition as to what she may be referring to. She offers a lame definition that spiritual “has many definitions, all tend to have something to do with transcendence…” That is not much of a promising start in examining what might be meant by spirituality.

Jacobs writes at length on the subject of what a chaplain does, and the end result is passing strange. She describes countless acts that a chaplain might engage in. Yet for all that, and quite mysteriously, she never quite comes to the point of stating what the chaplain is expected to do, or what the chaplain’s role is. Jacobs tells us that chaplains make themselves available to patients and staff in a variety of ways. Sometime they hang around. Sometimes they help clean up the body of a deceased patient. Sometimes they sit in silence, or they sit on committees, and chaplains, she says somewhat awkwardly, “are genuinely good at death and dying.” But curiously, or should I say astonishingly, she never gets around to stating exactly what a chaplain does, or what the role really is.

More troublesome for us, Jacobs continues the recent drumbeat of the so-called Spiritual Care Collaborative (SCC), repeating the claim that SCC is the organization of the “six major” chaplaincy groups who commit to common standards. This claim is a continuation of HCC propaganda in support of the drive for monopoly on the part of the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE) in the field of clinical pastoral training (CPE). That pursuit of monopoly is the hidden agenda of SCC.

It is not clear how the six self-appointed groups got to be the six ‘major’ groups in the field. Certainly they are not major in size. Furthermore, membership in the six overlaps so that virtually every person involved belongs to at least two, and often three of the six, which artificially inflates their numbers.

The claim that the six member organizations subscribe to “common standards” is patently and purposely misleading. The six member organizations have merely agreed to “work toward” elevating their particular organization’s standards to the level of the touted common standards. Furthermore, the common standards themselves are hardly a distinguished or rigorous set of standards. Most notably, they fail to address adequately the critical problem of peer review. In brief, the common standards are to date no one’s standards. The so-called common standards exist purely for vacuous and imperialistic public relations purposes.

Jacobs also repeats the false claim promoted for more than a decade by the ACPE, in its own monopolistic self-interests, that Medicare pass-through funds are contingent on recognition by the U. S. Department of Education. This false claim was made originally by the ACPE in the mid-90s. It was false when it was made and is still false. It keeps being repeated by partisans in support of ACPE’s continued striving for restoration of its monopoly.

It is regrettable that a highly esteemed institution like Hastings has allowed itself to be party to furthering this misinformation, especially in the context of some very useful essays.

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 12:20 PM

December 1, 2008

Reflection on the Fall CPSP 2008 National Clinical Training Seminar by Sharon Hindle


The CPSP Fall 2008 National Clinical Training Seminar was held in Parsippany, NJ November 10-11, 2008.

Reflection has various dictionary definitions but I choose the following: an image, counterpart, a fixing of thoughts, careful consideration, synonyms include contemplation and observation. I think that a reflection is not always a mirrored image. So, I offer a reflection on our seminars, speaker and time together.

This year the gathering was in an alternate venue due to considerations made for Holy days for some of our members. Once we began the venue seemed so much less important compared to the incredible sharing and learning that began.

The cornerstone for CPSP is our CPSP Covenant. Not only did we read it aloud together, led by Francine Angel, CPSP President but acted it out within our collective time as well as our small groups. I experienced grounding reminders from those who are new to the professional caring for others as well as the wisdom of those more experienced. I found both qualities gifts as we remain, “….curious, teachable, compassionate, engaged…” [taken from the seminar papers].

One of our highlights was our guest presenter: Dr. Dale T. Irvin who is President and Professor of World Christianity at New York Theological Seminary. Dr. Irvin took us on a an in depth study of how the term chaplain came to be what we know it to mean now in our work, as well as theological reflections tying these themes together. Dr. Irvin was an engaging presenter and not only did I appreciate his presentation but heard much delightful feedback from many who participated in the NCTS. If I speak for those I heard and know, we all enjoyed and were educated by his presentation.


Of course, we had our small group presentations in the mornings. This was a working environment supported by our covenant process. Trust, vulnerability, sharing, learning, co-pastoral care-- all were apparent in my group; I assume others experienced a similar dynamic within their group. Tears, joy, profound care, new collegial friendships, re-covenanting, commitment, relief, restoration, precious discovery, unburdening, coming along side, sharing, learning--all were only a part of what I heard was experienced by the participants. Speaking for myself, and I hope for so many others, I also experienced gratitude for being in CPSP’s environment which reminds us to stay in relationship with one another.

Before departing this event we were addressed by Raymond Lawrence, CPSP General Secretary. He challenged us to be aware that our profession is one that begs us to continue the process of growing self-awareness that comes from not only support but challenge as is provided by context such as NYTS. This is one of the vital ways we refresh ourselves. May we always bring that refreshment for one another as CPSP members.

I offer this with the sense of the CPSP community that has been gifted to me. Peace to every one of you and I look forward to our next gathering.
Sharon Hindle,LC, BCC
Robertwood Johnson University Hospital
New Brunswick, NJ
Oncology and Palliative Chaplain

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 10:52 PM