I enjoyed Philip Turner's rant about the Episcopal Church in the United States ("An Unworkable Theology," June/July). I enjoyed it until he dragged Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) out behind the woodshed for a whipping. Turner uses CPE as a major example of the Episcopal Church's adoption of "the doctrine of radical inclusion," which seems to be about what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called "cheap grace"--forgiveness without repentance.
As a CPE supervisor I do not recognize Turner's description of our methods. He described a process in which people are called "clients" and the chaplain-interns "counselors," and the pastoral relationship is defined by "transference and counter-transference." Turner declares that "the dominant assumption" throughout CPE is that "clients have, within themselves, the answer to their perplexities and conflicts." "Successful adjustment," he claims, is the goal of pastoral care purveyed by CPE.
In fact, CPE students today are learning that there is no successful adjustment to suffering and to dying. CPE students are taught to assist the suffering in accessing their religious and spiritual resources, but often those resources are low or nonexistent because of the person's own neglect or the poor preparation for suffering and dying they have received from their congregations. "Unconditional positive regard" as a guiding philosophy died along with Carl Rogers.
I suppose we could argue about what good pastoral care, from representatives of Jesus Christ, should look like. I want my students to respect the sufferer, to be pastoral caregivers who give the sufferer attention unlike other attention they receive in...