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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.

« September 2009 | Main | November 2009 »

October 25, 2009



Editor's Note: The web publishing platform used by the PR does not allow for adequate presentation of the above announcement. Please download the file below and distribute to colleagues and friends.
Download file

Perry Miller, Editor

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 8:02 PM

October 23, 2009

Bryan Bass-Riley New Standards Chair

As the new chair of the standards committee for CPSP, I have been charged by the Governing Council to review our standards and recommend changes to them. As I begin this task, there are four guidelines that are informing the way that I think about standards:

1) Standards need to accomplish 4 things: provide guidance to Chapters in how they function, allow Chapters sufficient leeway to address people and situations individually without being hamstrung by unnecessary rules, ensure enough uniformity in practice to ensure consistency in quality of certification practices, and be in keeping with our commitment to travel light.

2) In places where our standards and practice are not consistent, both the standard and the practice need to be examined in light of our commitments as a community that are spelled out in the Covenant. Ultimately the Covenant should guide the decisions about what is changed and what remains.

3) Statements in the Standards that seem to be superflous need to be eliminated. Streamlining the Standards will make them easier to understand and use and will also make them "lighter."

4) Standards are a public declaration of the quality and consistency of our programs and provide a public defense against those who publicly seek to malign our programs.

In reviewing the standards, I am seeking to ensure that these four guidelines are consistently informing our standards.

The following changes to the Standards were approved by the Governing Council:

• Eliminate statements in the Standards that limit equivalency for CPE units for certification to only one.

• Including the CPSP Covenant as a part of the Standards to emphasize their centrality in our life together.

• Amend the current third paragraph of the introduction to the Standards to state:

CPSP Standards provide guidance to chapters and other CPSP structures as they do their work of certifying and recertifying persons, accrediting programs, and upholding ethical standards. They assure sufficient consistency in practice and application so as to insure the quality and effectiveness of CPSP certified individuals and accredited training programs. It is understood that the Standards will not address all possible situations involving individuals, and in cases where the Standards fail to address specific individual circumstances, the spirit of the Standards, informed by conversations with consultants and informed by the CPSP Covenant, will be applicable. CPSP Standards are reviewed at least biannually by the CPSP Governing Council and updated as necessary. In situations or relationships where it appears that CPSP Standards are in conflict or contradiction to the CPSP Covenant, the spirit of the CPSP Covenant takes precedence.

I invite the CPSP community to join in this endeavor of reviewing and updating our standards. Please contact me and let me know what you would like to see in our Standards. What for you are the essential functions of our Standards? What in our Standards do you think need to be changed, eliminated, or maintained?

Also, I would like to create a Standards Committee so that this work is not mine alone. I would like this committee to be representative of our membership, including members at all levels of certification. If you are interested in serving on a Standards Committee, please contact me.

In order to facilitate these conversations, I have established an e-mail address specifically for communication to the Standards Committee. The e-mail is I look forward to hearing from our community.

-Bryan Bass-Riley

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 9:41 AM

October 22, 2009

Faithful Reform in Health Care


John DeVelder informed the PR that the next meeting of COMIS on January 10-11, 2010 will feature Rev. Linda Walling of Faithful Reform in Health Care as keynote speaker. She will address how we need to raise the voice of people of faith to under gird the health care debate.

Recently, Faithful Reform in Health Care held its National Day of Remembrance to remember the 45,000 people who die each year because they lack insurance that provides access to needed health care.

Please read the vision statement by clicking on the link below:

Perry Miller, Editor

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 10:22 PM

October 20, 2009



The College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy, meeting in its Governing Council in Carteret New Jersey on October 15, asks our political leaders to establish without delay a health care system that is affordable, comprehensive, and universal. We consider this a moral imperative of the highest urgency.

That the wealthiest nation in history withholds medical treatment from poorest and weakest of its people, or impedes the delivery of that care with bureaucratic complications, is a moral blight on this nation.

The requirements of justice and equity, which are the bedrock of any nation worthy of respect, demand that medical care be accessible to all. The universal medical care provided to members of Congress ought to be the minimum level of medical care offered everyone in this wealthy nation.

We call on members of Congress and the Administration to act on this demand without further delay. A failure to do so will subject this nation to a severe and negative judgment of history.

Raymond J. Lawrence
General Secretary

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 5:24 PM

October 18, 2009

Mary Davis Resigns as Chair of Standards

The Governing Council of CPSP meeting in Carteret New Jersey, October 15-16, expressed its appreciation to Mary Davis for her many years of service as Chair of Standards Committee. The community has appreciated Mary's strong voice and tireless work on a task that is arduous, with few rewards. For now Mary will devote her energy to her work with the Texas Chapter. We thank her for her work and wish her well.

Raymond Lawrence, CPSP General Secretary

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 9:48 PM

October 3, 2009

UPDATE: National Clinical Training Seminar

The National Clinical Training Seminar is fast approaching, November 9, 10, 2009. The NCTS will begin at 10:30 a.m. on Monday and end at 12:00 on Tuesday.

The schedule is posted with this announcement. We have two presenters from the CPSP community:

The Reverend Curtis Hart: (Presenting “Clinical Ethics for the Pastoral Care Giver”) is an Episcopal Priest and Lecturer in Public Health, Medicine and Psychiatry, Division of Medical Ethics at Weill Cornell Medical College. He is a Diplomate in CPSP. He has taught Medical Ethics to second year medical students at Cornell, served on the Ethics Committee at New York Presbyterian Hospital, and has been both a member and Vice Chair of the Institutional Review Board-Committee on Human Rights in Research at Weill Cornell Medical College. Respondents: Dr. Hollis Huston and Dr. Ed Pehanich.

Rabbi Gary Lavitt: Presenting, “Extemporaneous Prayer—Not Conventional for Most Jews”. Director of Pastoral Care at the Hebrew Home and Rehabilitation Center in Hartford Connecticut, and a Board Certified chaplain with NAJC. The respondents are: Dr. Cecily Broderick Y Guerra and Rev. Amy Reichman.

Each participant is asked to bring clinical material to present in your small group. This seminar will be an opportunity for members of our community to come together and share in a rich learning experience. Diplomates, Supervisors in Training, Pastoral Counselors, Clinical Chaplains and CPE Residents and Interns will converge on Carmel Retreat and immerse in an opportunity to challenge, support, learn, and engage in theological reflection.

We the members of CPSP take seriously, “the mutual accountability and collegiality among its members.” All roads lead to the Fall 2009 National Clinical Training Seminar.

The Schedule for the Fall NCTS even can be downloaded: DOWNLOAD SCHEDULE

Francine Hernandez,
Coordinator, NCTS

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 8:24 AM

CPSP PEOPLE IN THE NEWS: Steven Voytovich, CPSP Diplomate


Steven Voytovich, a CPSP Diplomate, is the Director of the Clinical Pastoral Education program at St. Raphael Hospital in New Haven, CT.

Earlier this year Steven Voytovich was the guest lecturer at the Vladimir’s Orthodox Seminary (SVS) were he connected the value of clinical pastoral training to theological education. Rev. Voytovich said:

There was a time when I wondered ‘Could I simultaneously be a CPE supervisor and an Orthodox priest?’ but I soon realized that my clinical pastoral education allowed me to deepen my faith, and to express the theology I espouse in an operational sense... But, even if you are not headed toward an institutional setting, CPE training can help you grow in your ‘pastoral identity,’ imparting skills and talents that shape you as a pastoral care giver and that become part of your life journey.

It seems the seminary is also doing its part to connect theology with the clinical practice of ministry. The director of Field Education at SVS, The V. Rev. Harry Pappas, states:

The SVS administration and faculty are considering transforming the current field education program into some form of CPE, in a creative way that would include both institutional ministry and parish ministry...

To read the full article click here

Perry Miller, Editor

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 5:33 AM

October 1, 2009



John Maurice (Jack) Gessell died July 1 at the age of 89. A memorial service was held for him September 27, at the University of the South's All Saints Chapel in Sewanee, Tennessee. He is survived by his long-time friend and colleague, Thomas Edward Camp, and a brother and sister.

Jack was emeritus Professor of Pastoral Theology and Christian Ethics.

The clinical pastoral movement has lost a strong and faithful ally. During Jack's working years he served on various ACPE committees and advocated for the clinical training movement at the School of Theology, University of the South. In recent years, in retirement, he has been a strong supporter of and consultant to the Rev. Jonathan Clark's CPSP programs at the seminary.

The following homily was given at the memorial service by the Rev John Lane Denson III.

(A homily at the Requiem for John Maurice Gessell All Saints Chapel, University of the South, 29ix09 Sewanee, TN)

Good humor together with the faith which is its ironic companion are two of God's great gifts of the security to make us human. Sooner or later, I witnessed the both of them in my every encounter with Jack Gessell. It was no wonder to me that a similar ambiance surrounded him in his final clinical space as he quite literally seemed to welcome whatever with the faithful assurance and anticipation of which his choice for our Old Testament proper Lamentations speaks: "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; (for) great is thy faithfulness" (Lam 3.22f).

Colleague Mary Miller of his beloved Episcopal Peace Fellowship describes something like this about him as both a combination of "joy and stubbornness."

Being present there with him at such a time recalled for me a story that is told of Bob Hope on his death bed. His family was gathered around him giving him one more of the audiences which he so dearly loved. Someone asked him where he might wish to be buried and suggested several likely and prominent places. After a few moments of silence, he smiled and said... "Surprise me."

In the introductory Apologia of his collection of essays, "Grace and Obedience," Jack quoted Frederick Buechner, "that all theology, like all fiction, is at its heart autobiography, and that what a theologian is doing essentially is examining as honestly as he can... his own experience... and expressing in logical abstract terms the truths about human life and about God that he believes he has found implicit there." (G&O, p 1)

Jack knew early on in his life that he wanted to be a theologian. He wrote, "And so malgré moi (in spite of myself), I became a theologian, not out of some intellectual compulsion, not by reflective choice, but out of an existential demand to be able to make sense out of a world which would otherwise be nonsense." (G&O, p 2) No one knew better than Jack that faith has its own moments of nonsense.

In this same apology, he included among his roots the "liberal midwestern culture in which he grew up... Yale University, and the Episcopal Church. Socially," he wrote, "I am a classical liberal; philosophically, a post-Kantian critical realist; theologically, I stand in the reformed tradition." (G&O, p 3)

Reading that, I wondered what on earth I from an altogether different culture am doing standing here, but then it dawned on me whether these roots of his might also be a part of the reason why he often scolded me for wearing bowties with button-down collar shirts.

From his University experience and as a new priest, he began serving in small parishes in Virginia and Massachusetts. He tells of a parishioner and friend there asking him to make sense of the Doctrine of the Atonement. "I found that I could not," he wrote. "I, who had received one of the best theological trainings of my time, a product of the peak achievement of the great classical period of American theological education following the war, had failed."

But "later in that same parish," he continues, "I came to confess that I after all had learned more theology living among those people than I had in all of the years of graduate training at the University. But those years had prepared the ground," he adds. "It was a training in humility" (G&O, p 5).

I cannot help but believe that this realization was creative to his remarkable appreciation of life's irony that led to such rich times we all of us experienced as his colleagues and friends. Times that were also so invaluable and enduring for his students as their mentor. One of his faculty colleagues said of him, "Jack was a priest who wasn't afraid to tell the truth, who knew what the fifth baptismal* promise meant, who was a reticent but pleased mentor to so many, who taught people what it meant to care for the poor and marginalized... he was fearless, and he was my hero." [*Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?]

In the Journal of Jack's beloved Cumberland Center for Justice and Peace, Journalist David Bowman tells of Jack's early schooling in Minnesota and Kansas.

[He does not mention -- but I will -- that among Jack's earlier skills, he was a cheerleader at Topeka High School, a role he was never all that pleased to be reminded about sharing with a once-removed occupant of the White House.]

Jack's understanding of humility as essential to the theological enterprise recalls for me a story about the great pianist Vladimir Horowitz. In an interview, Horowitz was asked to define music. He answered that music is made up of little dots on a page, some black and some white. He said that almost anyone can learn to "read the dots," then duplicate them somehow, perhaps, like an expert typist might unravel shorthand.

But this is not music, Horowitz hastened to say. For there to be music, one must first discover what is "behind the dots and even so how they are connected. Then one must not merely reproduce them, but render them in one's own way with spirit and imagination through whatever instrument -- the voice, the strings, or the winds. Only then is there music," he concluded.

All theology like all fiction -- and dare we add -- even all music is autobiographical.

We can live our theology by the numbers and as straitlaced as possible, no matter what the cost. Many do that quite successfully with absolute certainty and want to be sure that others do the same. We can take life's great creative treasures simply and on their face. We can take its culture, its art, its poetry, its music, its languages, its liturgies, and just "read the dots." We can so take the very Holy Scripture that commissions us a church, that charges, baptizes, and claims us as its disciples of peace and justice. But in so doing, we can as well render them all as shallow as the rites on the pages of this liturgy, never reading behind the dots at all.

John Maurice Gessell, theologian, read behind the dots and threw his life into what he read there. While he served his parishes, he completed a PhD under Richard Niebuhr at Yale. As most of you know, he joined the faculty here at the School of Theology in 1961 and taught Christian Education and Pastoral Theology. From 1973 until his retirement he was the School's Professor of Christian Ethics. He was the first full-time faculty editor of The St Luke's Journal of Theology and drew up its statement of purpose that it would be "A Journal of religious thought for clergy and laity who wish to relate theological studies to contemporary issues." Later, it was my privilege to share with him the founding of Covenant (now The Covenant Journal) for which he agreed emphatically that the Baptismal Covenant would be its editorial grounding and for which he also wrote our statement of purpose that it "May provide a safe place, a place where truth can be told, a place where we can trust one another" (TCJ #1, 1997).

David Bowman continues telling of Jack's service in the Peace Corps in 1967, his work with military deserters who had taken refuge in Sweden during the Viet Nam war. He was president of the Franklin County Mental Health Association. He worked in East Africa studying the problems of developing countries.

Jack was a longtime member of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship and subsequently its national chairman. He received the acclaimed John Nevin Sayre Peace Award at the 1997 Philadelphia General Convention. One of his public comments bears repetition in our time and I recommend it for all to consider. He spoke of war as "an inappropriate adolescent response to enormous frustration. War is a failure of intelligence, imagination, and politics. It is the failure of the human spirit. Justice requires that we do better than this to secure peace in today's world" (an EPF newsletter, date unknown).

Such celebrations as this one in memory and appreciation are singular occasions that summon us through our friendship and professional collegiality with Jack. They assemble us to honor and remember the life of one of us who has died and remind us that one day, so will we. Death confounds us, and grief breaks our hearts, but inevitably they bring us together. They instantly surpass all divisions real and artificial and remind us if only briefly of the converse into which God's Holy Spirit calls us where we can join together ourselves as a healing sacrament of love and the justice which is its great social counterpart.

John Maurice Gessell need not be idealized or enlarged in death beyond what he already was in life, but to be remembered as a good and decent man, who...

when he saw wrong, worked to make it right and just...

when he saw suffering, worked to make it well and whole...

when he saw daemons, stood in their path and barred them from passing.

And when he read in John's gospel as we just now did that "this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day" (Jn 6.40), Jack embraced such assurance with all his heart.

Jack's ministry always brings to mind the words of Lutheran Bishop Krister Stendahl that "wherever the brokenness of the world is being mended, there is present the Kingdom of God."

His startling lack of pretense gave refreshing credibility to the academic vocation of priesthood, that it can be a practice of faith and also a "training in humility." He took the Great Commandment and its love child, the Baptismal Covenant, straight to heart as the reason God imagined us all into human being.

Perhaps the greatest tribute we could ever offer him and all whom he touched and to whom he reached out is not only to remember the joy, the service, and indeed the stubbornness we have known through him, but to turn and celebrate ourselves as instruments of that same healing toward others. Then and in this way may we read "behind the dots" and play the music we find there -- the great and swelling anthems of justice and peace. -- JLD
(The Revd John Lane Denson is Stated Supply for Calvary Church, Cumberland Furnace, TN, editor of The Covenant Journal, and writer of Out of Nowhere, a daily email essay. He may be reached at <>)

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 6:16 PM