Monday, February 25, 2008

Pastoral Sensitivity and CPE

After reading Jim Berkley's post on the bedside manner of John Calvin, I came across this post that gave the following video clip:


It's a perfect example of what the powers posers that be are demanding of mainline seminarians. It's not that CPE isn't useful for certain people - or that nothing can be gained from it by everyone. It's just that it is farcical to think that CPE gets anyone closer to the heart of Christian ministry (which - in more honest times - was called the "cure of souls"). It's also symptomatic of institutions which have converted to chaplain-mode. After all, if you don't believe that God actually does rescue his elect from the jaws of death, there's nothing to do but hold collective hands and say "hush" as the night closes on.

Mainline pastoral care classes try to teach you to be polite and sincere. Yet they are sincerely wrong and politely dying. People on the precipice of death need to know that you don't have time to play around with the "gospel of nice" - it's time to find out if the man who returned from the dead can get you to and through death's door with integrity.

20 comments:

Bill Crawford said...

wow

Chris said...

The world hasn't forgotten what its problem is...but the mainline seems to have forgotten the only lasting answer. God help us discover that we have been building a place called Ichabod.

will said...

ouch.

that is far too accurate.

Anonymous said...

did you get ordained yet? haven't read you in a while...

Chris said...

Anon,

I've transferred to the Anglican Church. After Easter, my diaconate will be brought into apostolic succession through the imposition of hands. A few months later, I'll be ordained to the presbyterate.

Benjamin P. Glaser said...

Boy the Anglicans do have prettier names for thing!!! ;)

I'll just be a Licentiate/Probationer in some months to come.

PJ said...

Thank you so much for the You-Tube link. I remember almost cheering when I saw that episode of ER -- somebody really gets it. And the character Jonathon Banks plays was not treated like some cardboard Bible thumper either; the show portrayed his struggle with respect and sensitivity.

It reminded me of a quote I read about 20 years ago about CPE -- I think it was Will Willimon -- "If I'm sick in the hospital I don't want some quivering mass of availability who is present with me in my pain. I want someone who's going to reach up into heaven and claim the power and healing promises of God for my body and soul."

Benjamin P. Glaser said...

I really like William Willimon is awesome. Love his book "Peculiar Speech: Preaching to the Baptized".

Chris said...

Anonymous,

If you're really a past seminary colleague, would you do me the courtesy of emailing me? Just use my old campus email, but sub out gmail for lpts. I have a really bad history with "anonymous helpers" at LPTS.

Ben,

Those are just the biblical names for the offices (same ones the Reformed churches have - with the exception of making a harder distinction within the presbyterate between overseers and other presbyters). Now as to my title once ordained: curate. That's an aptonym for this post.

Toby Brown said...

I got a D in pastoral care in seminary...

A badge of honor!

Chris said...

Toby,

I used to joke with med-school chums that C = MD^2. The same can be said of most pastoral theology classes D = MDiv.

I also took a hit in practical theology at LPTS. One teacher was what one of my feminist classmates termed "an emotional assassin." She had it in for me, but I didn't know it. She was so talented that I was on the ground before I could even hear the shot ring out.

Another seemed to have a problem with the way I used a laptop for taking notes (she was a neoluddite, but also accused me of "hiding" behind it???). She said I used it to hide or to "have access to facts and figures that weren't in the assigned reading." (You can't make this up, folks.)

Then there was the preaching prof who gave me a D on a sermon on John 10 when I reiterated that Jesus was the way and the only gate, all other paths being false. He upbraided me for preaching such a narrow message.

Yes, folks...these are the professors that turn out tomorrows pastors.

Benjamin P. Glaser said...

I got an A- in Pastoral Care :)


Of course I did not have a "Traditional" Pastoral Care class.

You should have seen the libs squeal when the Prof. (Dr. Barnes) spoke against Empathy.

Chris said...

Ben,

Is the minus from where you missed the humility practicum? :D

In all seriousness, you have some good staff up there for practical. We didn't really have a pastoral theology class: just IPT (Introduction to Practical Theology) which was neither introductory, nor practical, nor theological. It was a warmed over review of systems theory (useful in its own way, but not really counting as pastoral theology).

Dave Moody said...

I saw this video last week on webelf. It has haunted me for the past few days, in conversations with folks who aren't quite asking the same questions, but only b/c they can't articulate them, yet. It was the subject of our lectionary time this AM (three PCUSA guys, and an LCMS colleague).

Its what happens when a therapeutic gospel hits the wall of eternity. The therapist has nothing to say. And we're left with, "Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner."

Thanks for highlighting this Chris.

Viola said...

Chris,
I saw this over at Michael Kruse's blog. As I said there I know its only a TV program but it made me want to weep. Perhaps because its true about to many in the Church.

Rob said...

CPE depends on your supervisor, though; I had a better experience than that.

Doug Hagler said...

Boy, I can't wait to start CPE. Whatever I do, it'll be wrong.

Chris said...

Doug,

Not only will it be wrong...but all of your "peer mentors" will have both an intimate knowledge of what would have been the right response AND a good understanding of what pathological psychic underpinnings you used to reach your wrong decision.

CPE = Churlish Peer Evaluation

Tim said...

Chris, I was watching this episode of ER when the exchange happened. My thoughts were very much along the lines of yours: with the current state of so-called "pastoral care", the only answers are none answers and they don't do the soul much good. Instead (as older works like The Pastor in the Sick Room point out), the terminal stages are often moments when individuals have come to grips with mortality and are open to the gospel (more so than perhaps they have been at any other point in their lives). They need to hear the truth, not warm and fuzzy New Age bunk.

My complaint about American religion is that we care more about people's feelings than their souls.

Anonymous said...

How many reformed Anglicans are there? So you are not in the Episcopal Church? Are you in one of those congregations with a bishop in Nairobi? I thought the Anglicans were dug in deeper in the cultural wars than we are.