Addressing Questions of Suffering

Here is a quote by Howard Stone from “The Word of God and Pastoral Care”

Over the years, while making pastoral carecaution2bagainst2bbad2badvice visits and especially hospital visits, I have sadly encountered many people whose well-meaning friends and acquaintances have responded to their why questions with theological answers that left them terribly upset and proved actually to be destructive: ‘This is God’s punishment on you and for your sins.’ ‘This is God’s will; you have to accept it.’ ‘This has happened to bring you to the Lord.’ ‘God wanted your dear one with him in heaven.’ ‘If you hadn’t skipped out on your wife, this wouldn’t have happened.’ ‘If you had stayed home with your children where God wants you to be, they wouldn’t have started taking drugs.’

More recently I have also come across another whole class of answers — more psychological than religious — to theodicy issues: ‘You are responsible for your illness.’ ‘You are sick because of your destructive thoughts.’ ‘The cancer inside you is pent up anger; you’ve got to release it to get well.’ ‘You are what you eat; if only you had cut out salt and exercised more.’ Some people are so eager to give their answers that they scarcely wait for the questions to be asked. The results are often quite grim.

When I first began pastoral care work, I would have thought such pronouncements were rare, or occurred only in the more conservative denominations. Not so! Things such as this happen everywhere, regardless of the conservative or liberal orientation. Simplistic and damaging answers flow from well-meaning people at a time when their hearers are in considerable distress, vulnerable, and unable to talk back. I raise the issue here because if ministers care only for people’s emotional pain and do not respond theologically to the issue of theodicy, parishioners will inevitably get their theological education elsewhere, and it may not be the kind we would have wished for them. In other words, if ministers will not respond, sooner or later, to the vital questions of theodicy, neighbors and friends are likely to do so, and not always in a helpful manner.                                       –page 165

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Pastoral Theology at PBTS

Dr. Doug Dickens of Gardner-Webb University is spending 2 weeks at Philippine Baptist Theological Seminary (PBTS) to teach a module in Pastoral Theology. Dr. Dickens is a Diplomate Supervisor of Clinical Pastoral Education/Training with CPSP in the US. We have found his previous visits a great blessing and are thankful for spending time with us.

 

7 Rules of Pastoral Conversation

Theologian Max Warren (1904-1977) came up with 7 Rules for Interreligious Dialogue (IRD). Each of these are quite valuable. But each of them seem also to provide the basis for an equivalent rule for Pastoral Conversation. So we will list each rule both for IRD and for Pastoral Conversation (PC).

Rule #1:  Acceptance of our Common Humanity

IRD.  Dialogue is not between two ideologies or religions, but between two people… created in the image of God. 

PC.  The client is not a label or a category of person. The client is a human being created in God’s image… fearfully and wonderfully made.

Rule #2:  Divine Omnipresence

IRD.  Entering into a dialogue, one is not entering alone. God is there, and has prepared the situation long before one arrived.  

PC.  Expect that God is present in every pastoral conversation and before every conversation.

Rule #3:  Accepting the best in the other

IRD.  Don’t focus on what is bad about other religions… also freely acknowledge their good points. Be open to admit failings in one’s own faith as well.

PC.  Enter the conversation non-judgmentally. The client is not defined by his or her weaknesses and failures. Acknowledge you have weaknesses as well… as a ‘wounded healer.’

Rule #4:  Identification

IRD.  Attempt to understand them as if you were one of them. Think incarnationally.  Imaginatively “walk in their shoes” to understand what they believe, why they believe it, and why it makes sense to them.

PC.  Try to understand the client’s situation through the eyes of the client. Seek, as much as possible, to understand what he/she is going through.

Rule #5:  Courtesy

IRD.  Dialogue with identifiable respect– identifiable by the other in ones words, demeanor, and actions.

PC.  Respect your client, and demonstrate that respect in word and deed.

Rule #6:  Interpretation

IRD.  Sharing one’s faith to another is not one of proclamation or didactics. Rather it is one of interpretation… contextualization… translation. Attempting to make one’s faith understandable within the symbol structure of the other, NOT one’s own structure.

PC.  Demonstrate God’s love and message for the client in a manner that the client can identify with and respond to. This means focusing on how he/she thinks and feels rather than how you think and feel.

Rule #7.  Expectation

IRD.  God is at work in the dialogue, and one should be expectant that this work will ultimately bear fruit in one way or another… in the other AND in oneself. 

PC.  God ultimately is the great healer. As such, recognize that God is the one who is at work and will continue to work long after the conversation is over.

While it is certain that these are not all the rules associated with pastoral conversation (for example, a good 8th rule is that one should listen more and talk less), these 7 still are a good starting place —both in interreligious dialogue, and pastoral conversation.

Pastoral Care Conferences

There are a couple of major Pastoral Care Conferences in Baguio City, in the next few months.

A.  April, 2017. Information below:

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B.  January 2018. The Grimes, Relationship Trainers and Consultants will join the Lide-Walker Bible Conference, at Philippine Baptist Theological Seminary, Baguio City.

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These are partnerships between Philippine Baptist Theological Seminary and Bukal Life Care

 

Training Visits

We recently enjoyed the visit of Dr. Raymond Lawrence, General Secretary of CPSP, to our headquarters in Baguio City, Philippines, as well as his work with our friends and partners at St. Andrews Theological Seminary in Manila, and Central Philippine University in Iloilo.

But we have others coming as well.

January 16-20, Dr. Ryan Clark, member of the Board of Trustees of CPSP-Philippines will be in Baguio for a short visit. He is coming at the invitation of our partner, Philippine Baptist Theological Seminary to teach a short course, “Intro to Pastoral Care and Counseling.” During his visit we will also have our Board of Trustees meeting of CPSP-Philippines.

April 10-28, Dr. Doug Dickens, Diplomate of CPSP, will be in the Philippines, Baguio and Manila to provide training. He will be teaching two modules at PBTS, tentatively “Pastoral Theology” and “Crisis Counseling.” He will also holding a seminar in pastoral care. More information to follow.