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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 30, 2013

William Carr Responds to David Alexander's Comments on CPSP's Public Declaration Commitment to Marriage Equality


Dear Chaplain Alexander,

Hearty thanks to you for you thoughtful and well written essay in response to the CPSP left-liberal juggernaut!

I essentially agree with your remarks, and especially your effort to counter the very strong current within CPSP leadership, as well as the "liberal" culture as a whole, that demonizes those who dare to express alternate, non-politically-correct points of view.

It is quite startling that your remarks even saw the light of day in a CPSP publication. Is this a sign of hope that the Great Wizard of CPSP media has regained a measure of reasonableness, or, I suspect, merely a sop to feign an attitude of "tolerance"?

Best wishes and Easter blessings in advance of your May 5 Holy Day,

-Bill Carr, D. Min.
CPSP Diplomate and Founding Member

-Bill Carr, D. Min.
CPSP Diplomate and Founding Member

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 5:57 PM

March 29, 2013

Response to Public Declaration on Marriage Equality by David Alexander

The debate about what constitutes a marriage is an increasingly lively one in the United States and in a number of other places in the world. The debate, and perhaps even the liveliness of the debate, is of great importance, because marriage has proven to be among the most foundational institutions for the sustainment of human welfare and flourishing in global history, across all cultures.

My own experience has been that my fellow CPSP members from chapters in the United States, coming from different backgrounds and adhering to various faith traditions, hold conscientiously to a wide variety of perspectives on same-sex marriage, and indeed have a wide variety of perspectives on the essential nature of marriage itself.

I cannot necessarily speak for others, but I can speak for myself in saying that the March 14th, 2013 Public Declaration of Commitment to Marriage Equality posted on the Pastoral Report does not represent my voice either as an Eastern Orthodox Christian or as a member and Diplomate of the college.

I certainly affirm the principle that every human being is entitled to justice and dignity, and I would go further to say that this right is divinely given, and essentially inalienable. I also understand and am moved by the idea that all people should be treated equally under the law, and in almost all cases I am compelled to work for justice for those who are excluded or made vulnerable by the law, even giving such persons priority in my life and ministry in light of their vulnerability. On the other hand, I am not able to agree absolutely that all couples in every situation should be treated equally under the law.

For instance, it is illegal for first cousins to marry under the law in almost all states in our country. This is not particularly equitable treatment, and it could cause a great deal of confusion or anguish for such a couple. The cousins-couple who are in love are not allowed to marry, while their best friends next door, who are not related to each other, can marry. The law decides that it is improper for cousins to be married not only because historic social norms guide the hand of the law, but also because there could be procreative complications - complications which seem in themselves to offer a kind of natural deterrence to the union.

I feel a true compassion for people in this kind of situation. Their pain is not invisible to me. At the same time, I am compelled to support the legal deterrence of first cousins being married. I also support the legal deterrence of brothers and sisters, and mothers and sons, being married. I support the legal deterrence of men marrying young boys, and women marrying young boys. And, although I know it causes pain to same-sex couples to hear this, I support the deterrence of same-sex marriages as well. It is not because I harbor some kind of hatred toward certain couples. It is because I think that all of these potential unions undermine and could begin to deconstruct the age-old institution of covenantal procreative marriage, the strongest human fabric of developmental well-being in our society, and this moves me just as much as the plight of those who wish they could marry but currently can’t be married under the law.

Although the research is ever-developing, I tend to give credence to the assertion that healthy people are best developed as children in cohesive families headed by two biological parents in a relatively low-conflict marriage. This assertion is not only made at think-tanks or in partisan research findings. It is also corporately made by the adherents of my faith, which is millennia-old and has a lot of wisdom in its heart and in its bones.

There is infinitely more to be said here, and I am very open to the dialogue. I do not think my arguments here are world-class. I am simply trying to say something about the complicated nature of equality under the law, and about how I view the place of traditionally defined marriage in a healthy society. In fact, I do not think that there are any air-tight arguments on any side of this debate, but I do sometimes wonder if a voice of support for DOMA-type legislation, which is almost certainly a minority voice in the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy, might just be automatically labeled unjust, or bigoted, or ignorant, or archaic, or any number of other things.

I have a deep amount of affection for our organization, and for my mentor, Dr. Brian Childs, with whom I disagree on this issue. My voice is different than his, and it may be different than yours, but I think we can still work together. I think we can still work together to love all of the people we meet, upholding each one in dignity, and working for justice that will help both individuals and communities flourish.

David W. Alexander
CPSP Diplomate in Pastoral Psychotherapy
Chesapeake Chapter in Maryland.

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 11:29 AM

March 25, 2013



Presidential Address
March 18, 2013
Las Vegas, NV
Brian H. Childs, CPSP President

I have recently turned 66 years old. Recently I have been thinking quite a bit about my own death. I have come realize that I have lived more than likely the vast majority of my life years. Now this realization is not macabre. I am most grateful for my life. I have lived a good and full life. I have loved and been loved. I have been forgiven as I have forgiven. I have dear children and I have done the best I can in my work and my calling. Te Deum. Yet, I had always thought that I would die without ever having been to Las Vegas. Here I am. Likewise I had never ever thought I would be the President of the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy. Here I am. What curves life can throw even at the end of it all.

I am honored and pleased to be your President over the next two years. As I have prepared for this post over the year of my term as President elect I have come to focus on what I hope is accomplished by us all. I have three interrelated hopes for our successful work together. I want to outline them briefly with you today.

First of all I want us to work together to make peace with our sister organization the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education. I have very practical reasons for this hope. We need not nor should we suffer our shared ministry of caring and training with internecine squabbling and conflict. There is room for us all in our shared mission. But I also have some real existential interests in our mutual respect and cooperation. I have been a member of ACPE since 1972. I am, I suppose, ‘third generation’ in the clinical pastoral movement. I have known first generation grandparents. I was Seward Hiltner’s last Ph.D. student at Princeton and I worked closely with him and in fact was clinically trained by him when we shared a supervision group at Trinity Counseling Service in Princeton. I am pretty sure that I am the only person in this room who can make this claim. My clinical and pastoral theological teeth were cut within the ACPE movement and I was trained by some of the ‘second generation’ such as C. George Fitzgerald, Don Cabaniss and I worked closely with Jap Keith and my dear friend John Patton. ACPE is in my blood and ACPE is part of my birthright.

It is not right that there should be tension between us. I have over the past year along with our General Secretary and our leadership attempted to reopen our dialogue with ACPE. We have asserted that our Mediation Agreement of 2010 that was solemnly and duly signed by both of our leadership at that time remains in effect to this day and that the ACPE Motion 43 which claims that no CPE training center may be accredited by both ACPE and CPSP is inconsistent with the Mediation Agreement. We have appealed three times to reopen our talks so that we may mutually show our respect for our unique ministries but at this time ACPE is not willing to consider talking to us unless we agree to nullify the 2010 agreement while also forfeiting the right, which all citizens have, of seeking relief in the legal system to help enforce prior agreements. There would be no need to find relief in the court if we agree to what we agreed to in 2010. It really is that simple. It really is that clear.

I love ACPE and what it has afforded so many, not only those that she has trained but also those who have been the recipients of her grace and ministry. We must however also hold ACPE accountable. We the members of CPSP therefore must work together to hold our sisters and brothers accountable and that includes making sure that we have the means to find relief in the courts as, and only as, a last resort. It is for that reason that we are with gratitude expecting that every member of our organization make onetime dues assessment of $100.00 to supplement our reserves for our legal advisors. My sincere hope and frankly my expectation is that we need not use it for the purpose of pursuing a legal settlement. Finding relief in that way runs counter to our reconciling instinct. I promise you I will work diligently with our legal counsel as well as ACPE to come to a mutually agreeable and respectful continuation of our common mission with our nonetheless unique visions of that mission.

My second hope and goal by the completion of my term is related to some claims ACPE has made about their exclusive privilege for clinical pastoral education and training. We have resisted for a variety of theological and practical reasons going through the bureaucratic morass of training center accreditation and practice certification through governmental organizations. We have found that even with governmental recognition of ‘accreditation’ that does not preclude other similar organizations from having demonstrable comparable and qualified programs. The Department of Education makes that very, very clear. Nonetheless we are also dealing with a market that expects that some kind of certification and accreditation. This is particularly important when oftentimes the market knows it needs chaplains but is unclear about what it is that makes one qualified.

We now find that we must move forward with an accreditation process for our training and practice. We have a fiduciary obligation to our trainees and to our supervisors and psychotherapists and counselors that they have credentials that appeal to those hiring in the marketplace. We cannot tolerate claims from some quarters that our training is not up to par with their own because we do not have some kind of a seal of approval. For that reason we have engaged legal counsel with a specialization in this area to advise us on how to proceed. There will be soon be an independent accreditation commission incorporated, separate from CPSP, which will oversee that our training centers uphold the standards of our practice and that our practitioners maintain the highest standards of their practice. Further this independent commission will join in an association of similar accrediting commissions that oversee such organizations as AAMFT, and other near cognate organizations. Our legal counsel is now working with a task force to form the commission. It is the right thing to do and the time is right. In addition this commission will be available to other cognate groups, since the commission is an independent one, so that ACPE or other groups might appeal to it for oversight and accreditation of their own work. We in CPSP would welcome that cooperation and would see such cooperation a sign of our mutual respect and accountability.

In addition we have formed a task force of CPSP Diplomates and Human Resource professionals. This task force, led by John Jeffreys, has been contacting and will continue to contact healthcare HR professionals and their organizations to inform and encourage them to understand the values of the work of well trained chaplains and for the value of having training within their own organizations. This task force is also available to consult with training programs and chaplaincy programs within CPSP if need be when an organization’s HR department has questions or issues that need be addressed. The Human Resource experts on this task force have been valuable beyond words and they are committed to the work of CPSP.

Finally I want to express my hope that as a theological community we are more open theologically about our points of view and of our diverse faith and experiential journeys. Diversity does not mean that we somehow must speak in some generic spiritual Esperanto. What diversity means is the ability to speak and recognize differences while at the same time holding to a profound common notion: recovery of soul.

An example of this is the recent statement that our General Secretary and I published expressing our dismay with the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8 in California. We stated that we support civil marriage and that all persons who are in committed relationships, especially if those relationships include the raising of the next generation, deserve the right of equal protections and access of the law as well as responsibilities to the civil law. Now we know that there are members of our organization that have differing positions on the topic. We encourage and offer our organizational publication Pastoral Report for views different from ours on this topic as well as other topics that are part of our understanding of recovery of soul and clinical pastoral training and psychotherapy. I would like to talk to others with other well expressed theological positions. I believe those discussions and even debates can enrich us and carry us on in our journeys. Please let us sit down together.

I am humbled and somewhat anxious to be your president. I have already made some mistakes and I can promise you I will make some more. Nonetheless I will also commit to being honest with you; I will be industrious; and I will be your fiduciary. I also want to thank my Chapter, the Chesapeake Chapter, for their confidence in me such that our convener David Berg nominated me for this position. I will make sure that the members of CPSP not hold my chapter or David accountable for any of my mistakes. As for any of my successes: they belong to us all. Amen.

Brian Childs, CPSP President

--Brian Childs, CPSP President

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 11:13 PM

March 16, 2013

Charge to the CPSP Community Considering New Governance by Perry Miller


The creative, imaginative, innovative and courageous spirit of CPSP is to be alive in all discussions, decisions and implementations. 


CPSP began as and continues to be a daring experiment challenging the status quo, trusted norms, old thinking and ways of doing and being. 


Creating trouble is to be embraced as friend while playing it safe is to be captured by the the darker forces. 


Seek inspiration from the gods in their heavens as well as the homeless on the streets.


Honor madness...yours' within, that of your colleagues and the madness that will erupt as you work to do a new thing. Madness will be your genius. 


If your mission and work ceases to feel like play, you are off the mark. Creativity and imagination will have left your soul leaving only duty and obligation killing your spirit and dimming your vision.


Seek out the poets and dreamers within the CPSP Community and beyond as they hold the sacred stories of old and the vision of the new.


As said of old, "It is the crazy ones who believe they can change the world and they often do".


--Perry Miller, Editor

Perry Miller

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 5:49 PM

March 14, 2013



Commitment to Marriage Equality

The College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy (CPSP) declares publicly in the name of justice its dismay with the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) passed by Congress in 1996 and the subsequent Defense of Marriage Act laws passed by some states designed to penalizes persons due to their sexual identity.

The College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy endorses the right of civil marriage and that it should be available to all who wish to make this relational commitment.

The basis for this endorsement rests on two basic principles:

• Every human being is entitled to justice and dignity as a given right and that we have an obligation to respect and defend the dignity of every human being and of every loving relationship including the relationship of raising future generations,

• That every couple, including same-sex couples, should enjoy the liberty of equal justice under law including the legal protections, benefits, and responsibilities of civil marriage.

The Covenant of the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy supports this position in that it values relationships, encourages our relational and spiritual journeys, and values diversity with equality.

Brian Childs, President

Raymond J. Lawrence, General Secretary

Brian Childs, President

Raymond J. Lawrence, General Secretary

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 10:39 PM

Doctoral Program Acquires a New Name and a New Website by Dr. David


As previously announced, a CPSP and GTF-affiliated doctoral program in Clinical Pastoral Supervision was successfully launched in August of 2012 with a Summer Intensive week of studies held at Codrington College, an Anglican Seminary in Barbados, West Indies. The foci for this week of studies were group formation, group theory and practice, and intercultural relations theory. Our host for this week of studies was the Rev. Ian Rock, Ph.D., Principle of Codrington College.

In September the fall semester got under way with a cohort of five students who meet weekly for doctoral seminars online. Seminars are lively, the dialogue is engaging, and the doctoral program is now at the mid-point of its second semester. In its fall meeting at Little Rock, the CPSP Executive Committee expressed its delight with the progress of the doctoral program, but it also became clear that CPSP itself was not in a position to provide ongoing management of a doctoral program. Our faculty was therefore encouraged to incorporate the doctoral program as a separate entity that relates to CPSP in a manner similar to the way its CPE programs do.

The Institute for Psychodynamic Pastoral Supervision

With this solid vote of affirmation from the CPSP Executive Committee, the doctoral program was incorporated in January, 2013 as The Institute for Psychodynamic Pastoral Supervision, LLC. The founding officers and faculty in IPPS, LLC are Dr. David Franzen and Dr. H. Mac Wallace. Other faculty are Dr. Joel Harvey and Dr. Cesar Espineda. Practically speaking, the effect of this change upon our students has been imperceptible. For faculty the change has given us a real sense of ownership of the program while reaffirming our freedom to be educationally creative and responsive to the learning needs of our students.

Affiliation with the Graduate Theological Foundation

Collaboration with the Graduate Theological Foundation during this transition has not missed a beat. GTF has reiterated its excitement and support for our doctoral programs, and our Institute for Psychodynamic Pastoral Supervision enjoys the same P.R.I.M.E. relationship with GTF (“Partnering Resources in Ministry Education”) as we have had all along (Cf. the GTF website at We are delighted that the collaborative relationship with GTF is mirrored by our collaboration with CPSP.

The New Doctoral Programs Website

In March, 2013 we inaugurated our IPPS, LLC website which provides a wealth of accessible information about our doctoral programs. It is now possible to find answers to many of your questions about our academic offerings, and you can apply to the doctoral program on line. Inquirers will also find convenient links to the Pastoral Report and to the GTF website. Please find us on the web at You are welcome to browse and explore.

The Institute for Psychodynamic Pastoral Supervision, LLC Faculty:





For more information, visit

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 12:08 PM

March 12, 2013

SLOW by Ron Evans


It can happen on the way to the office.

An interview on the radio this morning about the slow movement caught my attention, so much so in fact I decided I should stop and reflect awhile, even write what came to mind.

As is usual, however, when an idea like this comes to me I at once determine I don’t know enough and should do some research. This once meant going to the library, finding a book or two on the subject in question, dawdling away a half hour or so and going home slower than I arrived. Or, depending on the subject –church issues, politics or just plain gossip -I had authorities to call to obtain their spin on the matter, all the while slowing the morning to a walk.

But not to day, rather I heard a voice say “go on line.” And I did. It might be argued this was my first mistake.

With a click or two, even on my antiquated system, I had enough information to make me an expert on the subject of slow or, to be more exact, the slow movement. You might say I was up to speed in minutes.

The movement has gone international with organizations of one sort or another in over 50 countries, every conceivable area of life affected and offering information on how to quickly slow down. But you sense the problem; I began to feel overwhelmed, inundated. So much to do. So little done. So far behind. How to begin. I was tempted to give up but after a time I regrouped, picked out one page that seemed promising, got rid of the rest and settled down to read, that is read as slowly as one ever does on the internet. One line here, one there. Like eating at McDonalds. But the article proved interesting. Between gulps I began to slow ever so slightly.

The slow movement began –that is if you ignore all the efforts over the centuries in various religious traditions to accomplish the same end -in Italy in 1986 as a reaction to fast food outlets. You can understand why. Anyone who has eaten at a fast food establishment –indeed the whole restaurant industry has been affected in a similar way -knows the speed at which you are expected to function. Get in line. Order. Sit down. Get your burger. Eat. Leave. What’s worse you know you are doing it and can’t stop. The market place requires of us speed and we do our best. All the forces of advertising and consumerism are intent on us keeping the pedal to the floor.

On the other hand the slow movement seeks to modify or reverse this obsession with speed. While it began as a reaction to fast food, the movement has now spread to include any area of life one can name –slow relationships, slow exercise, slow hobbies. Even slow sex and slow money, although I have to say that in these latter categories I could stand a little speed. Nevertheless, you get the point.

How does one go about slowing down in whatever it is we are about in order to enjoy and deepen the experience and in the process be easier on ourselves, the environment and the people around us? In other words, as an old priest put it, if I must go to heaven let me go by the longest possible route.

The expected response at this point is to provide a solution, a prescription for going slow. Three quick means to slow down. How to exercise—in a hurry. How to lose 50 pounds in a week. Without realizing it one falls into the trap. In a speed culture we automatically assume that we have to be fixers. Indeed, we must be fixers. If we are not, if we haven’t got a solution, and a quick one, then what’s the point. I’m not allowed to raise the problem if I don’t have an answer. Such a mentality, of course, simply enforces the status quo, demands I get in the race and run or keep quiet. And at some point wear out.

So how shall we respond? How shall we slow down? Or could it be that’s the wrong question? At least the wrong one to get hung up on.

The truth is I have no quick solution as to how to slow down. In fact, there is a good chance that when I sit down for lunch with Norma in a few minutes I will find myself, in spite of my best intentions, rushing through both the meal and the opportunity to relax that the food and her company presents.

And yet… .

Moments of slow do occur. When I examine these occasions more carefully, when the rush falls away and the deep breaths come and I realize I am in a different space, such moments seem often not to have been planned; they have happened, a byproduct of some other event or activity. It may even happen at lunch today.

Or take an area already mentioned -libraries.

Wander around in the stacks of a library, high stacks that extend a foot or two above your head so you can’t see anyone or be seen. I suppose it is as much a feeling of being alone as anything. It’s quiet, a kind of wilderness where strange discoveries are possible, although you don’t even have to take down a book if you don’t want to. No one says have a nice day, they just leave you alone. Nothing guaranteed, yet such places afford the opportunity for slow to break out. Libraries are more than books.

Librarians. Maybe it’s the books that do it to them, but librarians are different. If you need help, can’t find a book that is sitting there before you, find a librarian and she –most are women – will fuss about until she finds what you want. It’s like having breakfast back in the kitchen on the farm. Helping one find a book, talking to themselves as they puzzle over a volume that isn’t where it should be, treating a tattered bundle as if it had a personality all its own, this is all that matters to a librarian. Interruptions seem to make their day. Moreover, most librarians are not hung up on style. In fact they could be wearing overalls with their hair in a bag and weigh 300 pounds. Not to worry, their mind is on higher things. Librarians move at a speed that invites you to shift from high to second, maybe even low. Stick shift all the way.

And I have said nothing of the clientele that populate a library. There are some who, it would appear, use the library as a kind of headquarters, a stopping place downtown to rest awhile, warm up on a winter day or enjoy air conditioning in the summer heat. For some I suspect it is a home more comfortable than the one to which will return. There are old men such as myself who can’t master the new fandangled computer and need help. There are mothers with little children in the play centre and new Canadians learning the system. Indeed, we are a motley crew. But the library is safe and friendly, a place where driving in the slow lane is expected rather than frowned upon, a bit of time that, as if by chance, leaves you feeling better than when you came.

Of course, I know that everyone is not going off to the library, even to use the photocopier, let alone wander about the stacks and marvel at librarians. This is not my point. Rather, it is to say that there are places where we put ourselves where slow has a chance. It may be a library or a walk in the park. Listening to little children. Reading the obits. Sometimes it is simply in scraps of memory that return, reminders stored away for a time of needing.

For instance, Martin Luther. He was not the most pleasant of characters at times but he did accomplish some things of note. I have stored away a few of his quotes, one-liners that capture the moment. For instance, in keeping with his conviction that we are saved not by good works, that is by running faster and faster, but by faith, Luther wrote, “The gospel runs its course while I sit drinking my glass of Wittenberg beer.” Not only is this one of the finer things ever said about a glass of beer it puts everything in perspective. Luther also said “I have won more battles with the devil in bed next to Katy than I have at prayer.” How lovely is thy dwelling place, O Lord of hosts.

But even as I write this I am reminded that there are those who, either by temperament or circumstance, find it exceedingly difficult to enjoy the luxury of slowing down. And those of us with the most in life may well be in that number.

And yet… .

There is the story of a woman by the name of Sappho, a poet who lived around 3000 B.C. Much of her work has not survived, possibly due simply to the passage of time but also because she was a woman, probably lesbian, and not part of the establishment. Her work which does remain has a beauty and a wisdom all its own.

“I know,” Sappho wrote, “that in this world humans cannot have the best, yet to pray for a part of what was once shared is better than to forget it.”

As much as I love the line from Simon and Garfunkels song “Slow down you’re going too fast, got to make the moment last”, doing so is difficult. But surely to remember, to pray for what we once shared, is better than to forget it.

Ron Evans is a CPSP Diplomate living in Saskatchewan, Canada is a a published author. He has frequently presented his poetry and prose at meetings of the CPSP Plenary as well as contributed articles for publication in the Pastoral Report.

The following are two of his recent book publications:

Coming Home: Saskatchewan Remembered

The Sourdough Bagel: Confessions of a Loner Who Likes Company

Below are several of his articles published on the PR:

Five Books At One End of a Shelf

A Word From the Lord

To contact Ron Evans, click here.

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 6:27 PM

March 8, 2013

CPSP 2013 PLENARY UPDATE: Plenary and Workshop Schedules Updated


The 2013 CPSP Plenary and Workshop Schedules have been updated. It is important for attendees to review these updates that are posted below and plan accordingly.



Below is a copy of the 2013 CPSP Plenary Brochure with the Plenary and Workshop schedules updated.


George Hankins Hull
CPSP Plenary Secretary

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 12:06 PM

March 7, 2013

Report from the Diplomate Task Force by Dallas E. Speight

The CPSP Executive Committee met in Arkansas, October 11-12, 2012 and appointed two task forces (Pastoral Clinicians and Diplomates) to develop a new governance model for CPSP. Henry Heffernan and his task force have worked hard in looking at issues specific to Pastoral Clinicians and I (Dallas Speight) have been leading the Diplomate Task Force.

You will find a copy of the report from the Diplomate Task Force, which will be discussed at the upcoming Plenary, March 17, 2013, 7:30-9:30 p.m. We welcome any input or ideas that you might have after reviewing our work. Our task force will be the first to acknowledge that what is being presented is not a finished work, but a summary of ideas that we believe captures the essence of what we were assigned to do as well as the suggestions of many Diplomates.

Feel free to send your ideas and responses to us. Members of the Diplomate Task Force are as follows:

Dallas E. Speight, Chair, Email: Dee Jaquet, John Jeffrey, Email: Beverley Jessup,Email: Ed Outlaw, Email:

Please download and study the following documents in preparation for discussion at the CPSP Plenary or feedback via email to the leadership.



Dallas E. Speight, Chair, Email:

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 7:16 PM

March 5, 2013

The Humanology of Pastoral Care-- by Rev. William E. Alberts, Ph.D.

(Bill Alberts with his 18-months-old granddaughter, Aoife)

(This article is a condensation and update of an address presented at the January 20, 2011 Grand Rounds of Boston Medical Center’s Psychiatry Department)

I represent a profession that is naturally seen as embodying godliness. A godliness that is believed, by some, to be contrary to what it means to be human. A godliness in which the humanness of people like me must be suppressed rather than be a source of pastoral empowerment.

I attended a seminary that taught me much more about godliness than humanness. It taught me how to be holy not whole. I had courses in theology, Christology, Eschatology, Christocentricology, Methodistology, doctrineology, evangelismology, and Bibleology, Old and New Testaments. But there was little taught about humanology, i.e., feelingology, introspectionology, sexual orientationology, multiculturalology, interfaithology, human rightsology and peaceology. And I graduated cum laude-- ology.

I’m exaggerating some. Seminary greatly motivated my desire for an education, and helped to lay the foundation of my writing skills. It introduced me to pastoral psychology, which gave space and air to my humanness, and pointed me to Boston University Graduate School, where, in 1961, I received a Ph.D. in Psychology and Pastoral Counseling. Clinical supervisors in a variety of fields and settings introduced me to myself—as did a couple of different psychotherapists along the way. What began as an outward calling from above became an inward journey into self.

Thus for me, pastoral/spiritual care is rooted in the humanness of a chaplain. The inward journey where one becomes self-aware, and is in touch with and accepting of oneself. The more such self-awareness the better prepared one is to understand and accept patients and their loved ones as themselves, and to experience their reality not interpret it. We chaplains have to know where we—and our god—are coming from in order to know where patients and their families—and their god—are at. Self-knowledge helps one avoid the counter-transference of getting in one’s own way in living and working with and providing care for people—whether a chaplain, or other clergy person, or non-religious-oriented care-giver.

Pastoral/spiritual care, therefore, is not about the chaplain but about the patient. It is about the chaplain in terms of his or her awareness that it is about the patient. Thus caring is not about what the chaplain has to bestow on the patient, but about what the patient has to share regarding his or her reality. Chaplaincy is about empowering patients and their families not imposing any belief or value system on them. Respect for the patient’s belief and rights is fundamental. This emphasis is not to minimize the identity and faith of the chaplain. Rather, it is to stress the pastoral care qualities of self-awareness and inner emotional security that enable the chaplain to allow patients and their families to be who they are.

The hospital is a unique crossroads of humanity, as patients—and staff—represent the diversity and commonality of humanity. Everyone is mortal and becomes ill, and most receive a hospital’s specialized care—and, in time, everyone dies and is grieved by loved ones. And it is at the hospital’s crossroads of humanity that everyone’s common humanity comes to the fore and is to be honored. The hospital, therefore, is actually a global neighborhood, and calls for chaplains without theological blinders.

The following patient reveals much about the humanology of which I speak. A 47-year-old white patient, she was diagnosed with a large growth which she decided not to have treated with chemotherapy. The treatment would have prolonged her life temporarily, but at a cost that she was unwilling to endure. Thus her question to me was, “What do you tell someone who is going to die?”

A member of the Unity Christian faith, her question apparently was not motivated by a fear of dying and going to hell. She believed in the inherent goodness and unconditional love of her god, and thus in the inherent goodness of people, who are made in such a god’s image. Here, Jesus serves not as a personal savior but as a living embodiment and example of the divine essence, which a spiritually mindful person may attain. And prayer and meditation are the connection to a god who brings out and encourages one’s own innate goodness and love. And the bottom line is honoring and enabling the inherent humanness and goodness and rights of others.

“What do you tell someone who is going to die?” That is a very difficult question. I’m not sure what I would tell myself if dying were imminent for me. So my initial answer to her was theological—and heartfelt at best.

I shared with her my belief in a universally loving god. A god whose creative spirit is seen in birth and growth and renewal. I also said that such a creative universal spirit reveals that every life is equally precious and worthy. Aware that what she thought about her own dying was key, I then turned the question around: “What are your concerns about dying?”

The patient was concerned about her legacy, and about not having time to finish what she wanted to accomplish. She is a specialist in emerging technologies and knowledge management, a photographer, and a writer of non-denominational, spiritually mindful newspaper columns. I suggested that she might list her priorities, and seek to complete them as she is able—a suggestion she liked, but soon realized she was unable to pursue because of the toll her medication took on her energy and alertness.

She was not without support. Her minister and members of her church visited her. And she and her “Momma Bear” older sister transcended long-standing differences when the former visited her; and “it was good,” the patient said.

Earlier on, she requested a prayer, which I offered. She continued to hold my hand long after the prayer—revealing her need for something, and someone, to hold on to.

But it was the honest sharing of myself that, I believe, was my most helpful way of affirming her innate worth—and legacy as a human being. During my second visit, her curiosity about me led her to ask personal questions I’ve rarely encountered from patients. “Why did you enter the ministry?” I replied, “To impress my girlfriend at the time, who was very religious.” The patient smiled. I think I suddenly became real to her. I also think she realized that my honesty revealed she had suddenly become real to me. She perceptively said, “If it were not real, you wouldn’t have stayed in it.” She then asked, “How long have you been a minister?” I replied, “Sixty-one years.” She then asked, “Do you like it more now?” “I like it more the last 30-some years. I like who I am and what I do. I believe everyone is equally precious.” She smiled again.

Honesty is a powerful way of affirming a patient’s own inherent worth and goodness. The empowerment of honesty—the affirmation of trust and inherent worth bequeathed from one person to another.

The death of a loved one especially brings into sharp focus the humanness and love all people share. In my over 18 years as a hospital chaplain, I have been present, with families, at the bedside deaths of many religiously, culturally, politically and economically diverse people: “Don’t go, Mamma. Don’t leave me. I love you, Mamma.” “You were always there for me, dad. I will never forget what you’ve done for me.” “You are the best mother in the world. Whether we were right or wrong, you protected us. Always!” “God damn it! I love her so!” “Wherever you are in the afterlife, I shall find you, my darling.” “Momma, Daddy is waiting for you up there, and wondering what is taking you so long,” a tearful son said, chuckling sadly at his dying mother’s bedside.

So many human expressions of love’s universal grieving after-shocks: anguish and anger, crying and cursing, screaming and shaking, silent and solemn, stroking, hugging and comforting. Human love transcends culture, color, religious belief, political ideology, economic status and sexual orientation. People with less love as deeply as people with more. As with birth, death reveals the humanness all of us share, and love is at the heart of that humanness. To hear each other’s laughter and to see each other’s tears is to experience each other’s humanness.

A hospital is a global neighborhood that brings into sharp focus the humanness everyone shares: a precious insight, the embracing of which facilitates competent patient care by all staff, and, likewise, the understanding that makes possible truly democratic and just relationships between people and nations. Patients and their families come together at the hospital’s crossroads of humanity and remind us of what our global neighborhood looks and feels and is like—like every one of us.
Appreciation is expressed to Rev. Dr. Perry Miller for his editorial assistance with the address in advance of its presentation at Boston Medical Center.

Bill Alberts, CPSP diplomate and member of the Concord, NH chapter, was a hospital chaplain at Boston Medical Center from December 1992 until he retired in July 2011. His book, A Hospital Chaplain at the Crossroads of Humanity, a collection of stories of his visits with patients, is available on He is a frequent contributor to Counterpunch, called “America’s Best Political Newsletter” by Out of Bounds Magazine His e-mail address is

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 10:38 AM

March 4, 2013

Palliative Care Chaplaincy Specialty Certificate Launches


Training Designed to Strengthen Quality of Palliative Care; Classes start in March 2013

New York (February 21, 2013) – HealthCare Chaplaincy and The California State University Institute for Palliative Care – two leaders in their fields – have joined forces to create a new online certificate course to support chaplains and other spiritual care providers with the delivery of palliative care to patients and their families in hospitals, hospices, long-term care facilities, and elsewhere.

Created by a team of national experts, the nine-week curriculum strengthens the quality of palliative care by providing a foundation of knowledge and practice built on the applicable areas of the National Consensus Project’s Clinical Practice Guidelines for Quality Palliative Care and the National Quality Forum’s National Framework and Preferred Practices for Palliative and Hospice Care Quality.

This course will be valuable to any chaplain who wants to increase their skill and expertise in the field of palliative care regardless of what setting they serve in. It will also provide in-depth continuing education for other health professionals interested in the integration of spirituality in the care of palliative patients. Additionally, the course will assist Board Certified Chaplains desiring to work towards meeting the competencies required for specialty certification by their professional association.

The course is designed also for other health care professionals who want to gain expertise in the importance of spirituality in palliative care.

All who successfully complete the course will receive a joint certificate of completion from HealthCare Chaplaincy and the California State University Institute for Palliative Care, which is offering the program through its award-winning online learning system.

“This online certificate program is an exciting and important move forward in the field of palliative care,” says Michael W. Rabow, MD, director, symptom management service andprofessor of clinical medicine at University of California, San Francisco.

The Rev. Dr. David C. Johnson BCC, president-elect of the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education and past president of the Association of Professional Chaplains, says, “The field of professional chaplaincy has lagged in distance-learning for some time. This program with its online platform is a huge leap forward for our profession.”

“The training I gained from the course’s pilot program has proven invaluable as our palliative care program is seeking Joint Commission certification,” says Libby Caes, M.Div., BCC, oncology and palliative care chaplain at University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics, Madison, Wisconsin.

The curriculum is based on interactive, text-based modules that are faculty-led and collaborative. Modules and authors are:

· “History and Philosophy of Palliative Care” by Betty Ferrell, RN, PhD, FAAN, professor and research scientist at the City of Hope National Medical Center

· “Social and Cultural Influences on Palliative Care” by the Rev. Sue Wintz, BCC, HealthCare Chaplaincy
consultant for chaplaincy care practice and managing editor PlainViews®, past president of Association of Professional Chaplains

· “Ethics and Common Palliative Care Issues” by Nancy Berlinger, MDiv, PhD, deputy director & research scholar, The Hastings Center

· “Ethical/Critical Reasoning Using Cases” by Gary E. Myers, MDiv, PhD, deputy director, continuing and professional studies at HealthCare Chaplaincy and Rabbi Nathan Goldberg, BCC, HealthCare Chaplaincy, Association for Clinical Pastoral Education certified supervisor, Columbia University doctoral student in adult education

· “Chaplain Leadership as Mentorship” by the Rev. George Handzo, BCC, HealthCare Chaplaincy senior consultant for chaplaincy care leadership and practice, past president of Association of Professional Chaplains

· “Professional Wellness While Working in Palliative Care” by Martha Rutland, D. Min., BCC, ACPE, director of Clinical Pastoral Education, VITAS Innovative Hospice Care, director of CPE at VITAS

· “Family Systems and Group Facilitation” by Shirley Otis-Green, MSW, LCSW, ACSW, OSW-C, senior research specialist, Division of Nursing Research and Education, Department of Population Sciences, City of Hope National Medical Center

· “Spiritual, Existential and Emotional Issues” by Christina Puchalski, MD, director of GWish, professor in the departments of Medicine and Health Sciences, George Washington University School of Medicine and Gary E. Myers, MDiv, PhD, deputy director, continuing and professional studies at HealthCare Chaplaincy

· Palliative Care: Science and Religion Together Again” by Linda Emanuel, MD, PhD, HealthCare Chaplaincy, senior vice president for research & education, director, Buehler Center on Aging, Health & Society – Institute for Public Health and Medicine Northwestern University

Coordinators for this new program are:

· Helen McNeal, BBA, executive director of the California State University Institute for Palliative Care. She previously was the vice president responsible forThe Institute for Palliative Medicine at San Diego Hospice, overseeing all professional education and research programs.

· Gary E. Myers, MDiv, PhD, deputy director, continuing and professional studies at HealthCare Chaplaincy. Dr. Myers, who is the course’s teaching faculty, is a member of the adjunct faculty at Drew Theological School and the former executive director of the Grace Counseling Center.

The first course offering, limited to 30 people, will commence in March 2013 and will run for nine weeks. Course registration and schedule can be found at Course fee is $799.

About HealthCare Chaplaincy & the California State University Institute for Palliative Care

HealthCare Chaplaincy in New York is the leading national multifaith organization for the integration of spiritual care within health care and palliative care through scientific research, professional education and clinical practice. It provides professional chaplaincy services—one of the most cost-effective resources to increase patient, family, and staff satisfaction—in major metro New York hospitals and long-term care facilities. Since 1961 it has helped close to 6 million patients, loved ones and hospital staff find meaning and comfort – whatever their beliefs, values or culture. It is developing the National Center for Palliative Care Innovation, including an enhanced assisted living residence.

The California State University Institute for Palliative Care is the first statewide educational and workforce development initiative focused on palliative care. Founded by the largest higher-education system in the U.S., the Institute is addressing the growing need for professionals who can help individuals and families managing serious and chronic illnesses achieve quality of life along with quality of care. The Institute is leveraging the CSU’s renowned faculty expertise, its interdisciplinary curriculum, and its role as one of the largest producers of health care graduates in California to develop the palliative care workforce needed for today and tomorrow.



Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 8:15 AM