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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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March 23, 2012

It is Humble to be Better ---by Bill Scar

<imgI do not offer "good" news, I offer something "better"; better news. There is no need to apologize for the statement that the CPSP is really committed to being and becoming a BETTER certifying body than any other cognate group. And, we believe that our way of organizing and certifying is a better way to achieve competence, accountability and support for professional pastoral care givers. Period!

Meanwhile, over the past 22 years, it seems that some of our members have forgotten that we are committed evangelists and not just a club that some consider easier to join.

Golda Meir once said, "Don't be so humble; you're not that great."

Humility was expressed as a virtue because of the sin or tendency of human nature to elevate itself above its proper place. The need to "lower" yourself was to counter the degree to which you falsely elevated yourself. Jesus encouraged the arriving guest to avoid sitting in the place of honor, not because it was good to be "humble" or because you might not deserve it, but because someone else of greater merit might show up and you would have to move your sorry self. To be "humble" is to be in touch with the very earth [humus] or substance of who we are, neither elevated and inflated nor demeaned and unworthy.

False humility and self-deception are failings of character that betray our ability to trust ourselves. In both failings we inevitably lose our sense of who we really are. In the case of false humility, we trick ourselves into believing that we will be respected and respect ourselves for denying what we really believe about ourselves and our values. In the case of self-deception, we destroy the very pathways upon which we journey in pursuit of our values.

We in the CPSP seem to be struggling in several ways to trust ourselves. We have been blessed with tremendous growth, but we have not evangelized enough and trusted ourselves to exercise the discipline that keeps up with growth. Yes, we are "catching up" and several of our leaders deserve great credit for their efforts to assure that our membership embodies true excellence, and is not just "good enough".

But "public relations" makes fools and liars of us all. A few of our leaders fear that to claim to be "better" will only provoke the public, but I think such concerns are as misguided as the prejudice that already exists in some circles. Our "audience" already mistakes our different way of organizing and living out our ethic as inferior and easy and lax! We do not drive away genuine supporters because we claim that our WAY of organizing is superior, so long as we affirm that the path we have chosen is far more difficult, and that this very difficulty is the key to more accountability and support for chaplains and their ministries.

During our recent five years of rapid growth we have been lazy in educating others. We have done a poor job of proclaiming our story and our mission and why we strive to function as we do. And guess what? That lack of energetic proclamation applies as much to our own increasing membership as it has to the wider world. We have assumed that everyone really understands how hard it is to fulfill our ethic. It does not help to further deny that our ethic and practice truly aims to be a "better" way, a "superior" way. While our Standards are essentially identical to all of the professional certifying bodies in the field of specialized pastoral care, we are the only cognate organization to place primary emphasis on functioning in Chapters and requiring annual re-certification. Why do it this way, a way which is far more difficult to manage and discipline in a growing organization, if we do not believe it is a better way?!

The weaknesses in our system were understood 22 years ago when it was first promulgated beyond the original few founders. They knew that it required "true believers". They knew that it required persons with both a greater sense of their own clinical selves AND a willingness, even a yearning, to engage colleagues in passionate and personal ways, without becoming predatory and divisive. They knew that the apparent "freedoms" in this way of functioning could be interpreted as "license" OR could become the foundation for greater inclusion and personal strength. Our "audience" has always envied the promise of our ethic and mission, even as they feared to abandon the systems they already understood. Even our honest and serious critics have wanted us to succeed but did not believe we ever would.

Have we succeeded? We continue the journey, with the pitfalls and joys that we find along the way. Some people outside the CPSP and some within the CPSP will say that it is better to be humble. I say it is Humble to be Better!

_Bill Scar
William Scar
Diplomate, CPSP
Diplomate, AAPC
Approved Supervisor, AAMFT
Program Director, Good Samaritan Counseling Center/SCIC

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 12:11 PM



Trying to figure out what clothes to pack for the 2012 CPSP Plenary, check Pittsburgh's weather.

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 11:39 AM

March 22, 2012

A POEM: Waiting to “Recalculate" BY Franklin Courson, Ed.D.

<img Author's Note: Last November I sustained a broken right forearm. It was a simple fall but I landed in such a way that I fractured the bone. For the next three months I was in a full arm cast which brought to an abrupt halt my work at the hospital not to mention daily activities such as driving, writing, typing, cooking and almost every other thing that one does with their dominant arm.

Shortly before having the cast off, feeling like I was on “house arrest” and frustrated on almost every front, I woke up one morning and slowly used the hunt and peck method with my left hand to put into words my frustration in hopes of seeing a “reason” for this suspended time in my life. The following poem came out. It says a lot about the grand plans that we make for ourselves and how they can be derailed out of control in a split second.

As a chaplain, I ended up “ministering” to myself through poetry. The lesson is universal, applicable to those in the hospital and those whose lives are put on hold. The Lesson within is also universal, namely, that while we think we know where we are going, our life work may be elsewhere.

Waiting to “Recalculate”

Speeding along the road I’ve finally chosen.
GPS taking me the fastest route.
By passing places and people I think I don’t need.
And then, along this back road “short cut”, I am stalled yet again by a herd of meandering cows.

I stop.
My car and I simply idle in neutral, burning gas and going nowhere fast.

Anger mounting.

Where are they going anyway?
There’s no road or path or barn anywhere in sight?
What do they know that I don’t?

Right arm broken so have to do everything with my left hand.
Have to do everything with the wrong hand.

Anger mounting.

Damn these cows.
Don’t they know they’re supposed to be somewhere important?
Don’t they know that someone needs them or that they have some vital work to do?
Do they even know where they are going?

This is going nowhere fast.
I’m stuck here like this for a while.
Where ARE they going anyway?

Use my wrong hand, AGAIN, to shift into Park and turn off the engine.
Left hand is getting better at doing stuff.
Maybe it’s not the WRONG hand after all, just a different hand.
A different way of doing things for now.
A different way of functioning?
Of looking at things?
A different perspective?
Definitely not what I am used to but I do get stuff done, right?
Takes a little longer.
Makes me do things a little differently.
Make that a LOT differently.

Cows still going nowhere fast.
In fact, they’ve stopped to think.
About what, for god’s sake?
They’re COWS for crying out loud.
What could possibly be of any importance in the world order that they need to stop moving and jaw about?
How much longer is this going to take?

Actually, they’re kind of interesting if you think about it.
The one with the one deformed horn (I guess she broke it somehow) seems to be saying something to that big brown and white one.
Wonder what’s so important, if anything?

Time check.

I’m late and won’t make it where I thought I would be by now.
That’s not what I wanted.
Or thought I wanted.
Either way, I need a new game plan.

Time to think.

Time to recalculate and adjust my destination or at least do a course correction.

They’re finally moving again.
A little different direction but they seem to know where they’re heading and will get there when they get there.
No sooner.
No later.
Right on time.
What other option is there, really?
“You can never be late”.

My left hand, now used to doing the work, reaches over and turns the ignition.
Reaches for the gearshift to put us back in Drive again.
GPS blurts out “Recalculating” as if it knows where I’m going.
At this point I sure don’t.
If only it was that easy.
I’m late.
I missed my appointment.
I watched a bunch of cows trudging along on no path in no particular direction, stopping to consult with each other only to resume their aimless trek heading to where they are ultimately “supposed” to be.
Am I missing something here?

Still haven’t shifted into gear.
What am I waiting for?
I’ve got places to go, people to see, things to do?
Well, don’t I?

Turn the GPS off because the destination and arrival time are no longer relevant factors.
Will reenter time and place later when I know.
Where am I in such a hurry to get now anyway?

Think I’ll sit here awhile longer.
Maybe a wise cow with a broken right horn will come by and we can have a chat about “stuff” and talk about getting where we’re going by a path that’s not on the map?
Maybe a shortcut?
Or maybe just a route that has some interesting things to see and a few cars and people to stop so they can think over something that they’ve been wondering about. You know: “Chew on it for awhile”.
Then they can use the correct hand to get in the correct gear (reverse can be interesting sometimes) and maybe do some off road driving just for the fun of it.

Cows aren’t so dumb. You just have to stop what you’re doing and “Chew on it” for a bit

Franklin Courson, Ed.D.
Associate Board Certified Clinical Chaplain
Pardee, Hospital
Hendersonville, NC

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 5:55 PM

March 14, 2012


<imgNarciso Dumalagen died in the early hours of March 4, in the Philippine Heart Center in Manila. He was afflicted with metastatic disease from liver cancer. He was 80.

Narciso (or Nars as many liked to call him) and I were good friends for half a century. We trained together in 1967, in Houston, under the supervision of the legendary Armen Jorjorian, and stayed in contact ever since. I visited several times recently with Narciso and his wife Mining before she died in 2007.

Coincidentally, I arrived in Manila on March 1, for meetings, and heard immediately that Narciso had been hospitalized. I was taken to see him the next day. He was clearly dying, though he recognized me and spoke my name. His son Armenito and others were caring for him. Narciso has two children, each named after beloved mentors, Armenito after Jorjorian, and Lorraine, who now lives in Toronto.

When the history of clinical pastoral training is written, Narciso will be a major figure in the Southeast Asia. He succeeded the late Al Dalton as Director of Chaplains at St Luke’s Hospital, Manila, in 1968. St Luke’s is said to be the preeminent hospital in southeast Asia. In later years he retired and started his own consulting business. Finally he opened a school and church for disadvantaged children which called the Garden of Life. There, in his last days, as he weakened, he was patriarch.

In recent conversations with him, Narciso expressed his dismay that the clinical pastoral movement had gone off the rails in the Philippines. He believed that it had been coopted by ideologues, religious conformity and conventional piety. Though his influence had been far reaching, he felt that the clinical pastoral movement had gone into retreat.

Narciso was a great spirit and a dear friend. He has many proteges throughout Asia. His impact on the clinical work of the minister was far reaching. Like each of us eventually, he now belongs to history.
Raymond J. Lawrence, D.Min.
CPSP General Secretary

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 12:25 PM

March 5, 2012



The College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy has experienced remarkable growth in its short, nearly 22-year history. This has especially been true in the last five years when both our membership and the number of our chapters have doubled. We are now more than 1,000 in all, gathered in over 100 chapters and chapters-in-formation. This growth has taken place in a time when some of the other major pastoral care organizations have witnessed their memberships shrinking and some have struggled financially.

Critics of CPSP have expressed theories on why we are growing so rapidly. One prominent leader in another certifying body insisted to me at lunch one day that it was because CPSP “has no standards and would certify anyone who showed up ready to pay their dues.” This certainly isn’t my experience. However, with enormous, rapid growth, it is possible for cases to arise where our high professional Standards (which are published online for everyone to read) are not uniformly applied. Bill Scar addressed this issue last Fall1. Fair but uncompromising solutions to remedy such cases are not far away. Even allowing for certain instances where Standards may have been compromised, this cannot begin to explain the College’s appeal.


It is important to make a distinction: while we do certify members and accredit training programs, CPSP is not a pastoral care professional organization of the same sort as the others. Our expressed vision, organization and principal aims are fundamentally different from those of organizations such as APC, ACPE, AAPC, NAJC, NACC and others. While we too are about the business of accreditation and certification, our identity is expressed in a unique Covenant that lays out our ideals and is fostered by and perpetuated in the small Chapters upon which CPSP is based. Ours is the only integrated community of pastoral caregivers of every sort at all levels of professional development. Certifying and accrediting in CPSP flows from and gives expression to this vibrant, organic community life that is ongoing and demanding in a way that enriches us all. I believe it is our unique Covenant and Chapter life that have fostered our remarkable growth. I happen to believe that our model is superior to the others inasmuch as it is more congruent with the work we do as pastoral caregivers rather than modeled after so many other disparate professional organizations.

The Covenant and Chapter have served us well for more than two decades. However, in 1989 no one foresaw CPSP becoming an international, multicultural community comprised of so many members and chapters, and as a result no provision was made to accommodate such enormous growth and to provide for necessary changes in governance. Now, however, it is time for us to make such provisions and doing so is not merely an option but a necessity. It is a matter of justice, proper representation and true accountability benefitting each individual, each chapter and the College as a whole, evincing and exemplifying our common ethic.


A common criticism made of CPSP by outsiders is that there is no “national headquarters” and no paid executive director. There is no home office and no centralized locus of governance. This is not an oversight. Ours is an intentionally decentralized global community made up of small, local ones that we call Chapters. Each member’s commitment to a chapter, where we are known to and by a small group of members, is absolutely fundamental to CPSP life. In fact, without being an actively participating member of a chapter one is not a member in good standing of CPSP and reason for having one’s credentials revoked and being dropped from the membership directory. While many of our members are strong individuals, CPSP is not for “lone rangers.” We are a covenant community for those committed to interconnectedness.

When CPSP began everyone knew everyone. The few chapters, nearly all on the East Coast, were in touch with one another both informally by and in a formal way through chapter conveners. With growth over time this evolved and changed. In the early days, the founders assumed the governing roles with the visionary Raymond Lawrence serving as General Secretary. This led to the existing structure where the General Secretary is surrounded by trusted colleagues in the Executive Committee, with chapter conveners serving as a Governing Council that is to meet a couple of times a year. Decisions that pertain to the whole of CPSP -- not just in the individual chapters – are made, at least in theory, by the Governing Council, a body that, at least in theory, includes representation from every CPSP Chapter.

Given our growth in numbers, we no longer are able effectively to govern this way – and the truth is that we no longer do. The demands of “traveling light” as set out in the Covenant along with the rapid growth of the community have made it at least impractical and probably impossible. As a result, the General Secretary along with the members of the Executive Committee and the President guide, direct and in effect legislate for the community. Once or twice a year the Governing Council, made up of a relatively small ad hoc group of representatives from Chapters who choose to participate, meets with the Executive Committee, the President and the General Secretary. Those meetings, which may last two hours, serve as an opportunity for those in attendance to hear directly from the Executive Committee about its work and to voice concerns. Initially well-conceived as a governing body in the CPSP Constitution, these days the Governing Council is not only utterly ineffectual but essentially powerless.


Because of the central importance of the Covenant in the life of the College, last Fall I offered a way for individual members and chapters to meditate upon it.2 My contention is that failing to make the time to deeply reflect upon and to share the inspiration and wisdom of the Covenant, both individually and communally, is a serious shortcoming. Equal in importance to the Covenant is the Chapter, the locus of life as we live it in CPSP. It is not possible to overstate the fundamental significance of these two hinges on which everything about CPSP turns.

While it is an innovation in the world of clinical pastoral care, the notion of truly chapter-based governance is far from new. In fact it is actually a very old, established, and successfully proven model of community. The Dominican Order, founded in 1215, has used it for nearly eight centuries very effectively. The Dominicans have never had a schism, never divided, and have managed their life and ministry quite effectively through the changes of time, in diverse cultures, all across the globe. As newcomers to chapter-based governance, we might benefit from the wisdom of their example and be encouraged by the longevity of its success.

Chapters, while each one is a unique, close-knit, small community, do not exist in isolation. The College is a community of inter-related small communities. From day to day and season to season CPSP’s life is lived out in a Chapter “locally” (though not all members of the Chapter may necessarily live and work near one another). If the local chapter were the extent of CPSP life we would be an association of independent professional common interest groups rather than one community of chapters. With our prolific growth this is precisely the challenge we presently face: to create a truly chapter-based structure that suits an already large and still quickly growing CPSP that serves the common interests of and maintains common Standards for all of us while encouraging, fostering and respecting the unique character of the local chapter.


A model for the present and future governance of CPSP that remains faithful to our ideals and unique tradition in the pastoral care movement need not compromise our Covenant or the centrality of the Chapter. Chapters should continue to be self-governing, as they are presently, in accordance with CPSP Standards. They should continue to meet as often as members thought worthwhile and practicable. Each Chapter should be the intimate community where CPSP members experience, share and grow in accord with the Covenant. In other words, the Chapter should remain the locus of CPSP life.

However, additional new structures that are congruent with the chapter need to be put into place. A design for governance, generally along the lines of the Dominican example, would include aggregate groupings of chapters into “provinces” that could but need not necessarily be geographical. Mandatory participation by each province in the Governing Council (or Governing Chapter) would assure full representative involvement in CPSP as well as better communication and greater accountability. I have put together a more detailed proposal along these lines and shared it among CPSP’s leadership. It has received thoughtful feedback. It will be on the agenda at the Executive Committee meeting before our Plenary in Pittsburgh.


It is clear that we cannot much longer continue growing without changing how we govern ourselves. Would it be simpler to abandon our present Covenant and Chapter-based community life and adopt a more centralized form more like that of the other organizations whose focus is strictly on certification and accreditation? Probably. The result, however, would be to cease being who we are as the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy. It would be to walk away from the vital community of which we are a part and in which we have come to believe. It would be to abandon the life that is so attractive and sustaining to so many. It would be to deny those for whom we care the richness of the wellspring that is our Covenant and Chapter life. It would be to surrender the ideals that at once challenge and undergird everything CPSP stands for. In the process, the whole pastoral care movement would suffer the loss of our distinctive voice and role. There is no reason to believe that doing so would assure higher standards of care by members or greater confidence that the Standards for certification and accreditation would be consistently applied.

Last November, Robert Charles Powell’s article challenged us who make up the College to become “a supportive and challenging community,” “willing to speak the truth” with “a compassionate heart.” He wrote,

[T]he central problem facing the College is learning how to deal constructively with the understandable difficulties in living up to its ideals. Acknowledgement – and correction – of shortcomings makes ideals all that more real. Denial – and evasion – of shortcomings – as if they simply were not supposed to happen – undermines the whole notion of commitment to ideals. The College formulated a revolution in the field of clinical pastoral chaplaincy. The challenge is how to re-vitalize – re-empower – atmospheres of self-criticism and self-correction.3

I believe that building upon the ideals of our Covenant and the experience of Chapter life while responsibly embracing our growth is both entirely possible and urgently necessary. Now is the time to take the required next steps. Acknowledging our own shortcomings and expeditiously putting into place an expanded form of Chapter-based governance will help to revitalize and re-empower us to faithfully respond to the call we have received as the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy.


1 Scar, W. “The College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy: Membership, Certification, and the Responsibilities of Growth.” CPSP Pastoral Report. 10 November 2011.

2 Roth, D. “On the Centrality of the Covenant.” CPSP Pastoral Report. 13 October 2011.

3 Powell, RC. “Tolerance and Encouragement: Within a Covenant of Mutual Accountability.” CPSP Pastoral Report. 01 November 2011.

David Roth, PhD
Convener, Nautilus Pacific Chapter

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 9:32 AM