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:



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


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.


Pastoral Care Books Arrived


The Pastoral Care book (titled, “The Art of Pastoral Care”) just arrived in the mail. It is written by Bob and Celia Munson, for use for CPO, Intro to Pastoral Care, and (perhaps) first unit of CPE. They are presently working on a follow up volume for advanced units of CPE.

At the present, the book is available on Amazon for about 9 dollars (US), and Kindle for $2.50. We are looking for more cost effective options for paper copies in the Philippines.

Fun in July

We had a busy first two weeks in July (2016). We had two simultaneous programs (not including the completion of Summer 2016 CPE program, that will have graduation on July 18, 2016).

July 4-14, we had training of 5 as part of our Ministry Heartlink partnership. Bob, Celia, and Edgar worked with this from Bukal Life Care, along with Dr. Waldo Raposa, Mosendes, and others from Minister Heartlink.

July 2, 9, and 16, we had Hospital Visitation Program training at Christ Life Community Church. Training was led by Bob, Celia, and German. We are greatly appreciative of the hospitality of Ptr. Boni and team.

Pastoral Care Versus Spiritual Care

pastoralThere is an on-going controversy regarding what term is preferable, “Pastoral Care” or “Spiritual Care.” For some people this has become quite a heated issue. I have no interest in stoking this fire, and certainly encourage ministers and lay ministers to use the term they prefer. The use of the term “spiritual care” is often driven by a desire to be religiously inclusive, or inter-faith. I can see how that could be useful for some; and many people who have chosen to use the term “spiritual care” over “pastoral care” for this reason. Many who are seeking to be more inclusive still use the term “chaplain, ” or “chaplain services”— a term whose provenance is even more exclusively rooted in Christianity than the term “pastoral.”

While a number of terms are acceptable, I prefer the term “pastoral” over “spiritual” myself, and that is the term we use at our training center in chaplaincy and care. Here are some reasons why:

  • History and Tradition. Pastoral Care has close to 2000 years of history (longer if one includes such writings as the 23rd Psalm and Ezekiel 34). This history provides valuable insights into the role of a pastoral care provider. Outside of Biblical writers, Tertullian, Augustine, Pope Gregory the Great, Luther, Calvin, Baxter, Boisin, and Hiltner (an important but highly abridged list) have given great insight into pastoral care over the centuries. The role of a chaplain is not only to  utilize one’s own faith community, but one’s faith tradition in the role of “curer of souls.” The term “Spiritual Care” lacks that tradition. In fact, the term “spiritual” is used differently than its historic Latin roots of “spiritus.” The term then had less to do with “ghost in the machine” then as energized meaning or purpose. The disconnection of the present meaning (or vague idea of meaning) of spirit from its historic (as well as Biblical) meaning provides not only confusion to the role of spiritual care, but a lack of sound history or tradition to draw from.
  • Metaphor. The role of a chaplain or pastoral care provider is highly abstract. Ministerial identity of any type is going to be abstract. Because of this, metaphors are often used to help us understand. A metaphor links an abstract term with a concrete term. The link is incomplete, since abstract objects are clearly not the same as concrete objects, but they provide wisdom if one takes time to reflect on the tension of the relationship. The term “pastoral” comes from the Latin term referring to “the role of a shepherd.” Thus, the term pastoral care, means care that is informed by the care that a shepherd provides his/her sheep. The term “chaplain” is not, strictly speaking, a metaphor, but has roots in a concrete object, a “little cape.” This is to remind us of the story of St. Martin of Tours, who gave half of his cape to a poor beggar, serving Christ in so doing. Other metaphor’s exist as well.  A particularly popular one is from Henri Nouwen– the care provider as a “wounded healer.” The term “spiritual” is an abstract term. Explaining an abstract concept with another abstract term is not particularly informative.
  • Breadth of Ministry. Pastoral Care, drawing both from its historical and metaphoric roots, is seen as fairly holistic. Emmanuel Lartey sees a number of functions that fall within pastoral care. The first four were identified by Clebsch and Jaekle in the early 1960s (drawing from historical pastoral care) but then adds more from himself, Clinebell, and Lester. These functions are SUSTAINING, HEALING, GUIDING, RECONCILING, NURTURING, LIBERATING, and EMPOWERING. Based, again on history and metaphor, these abstract terms can be seen to be applied broadly— not just to spiritual concerns (such as relationship with God or existential meaning), and not just psychoemotional concerns; but also physical. social, economic, and political concerns. Without its historical and metaphoric roots, it is not surprising that “spiritual care” is often narrowed down to only counseling. In fact, among those who hold to a perspectival or ‘level of explanation’ view of counseling, there is often even a separation between spiritual problems (needing spiritual care counselors) and psychoemotional problems (needing psychotherapists). We are holistic, integrated, beings, so sub-specializing problems has drawbacks, and greatly reduces the role and impact of ministers.
  • Identity. While the goal in chaplaincy is to be inclusive, this inclusivity is tempored by ministerial identity. A chaplain or religious care provider is supposed to be ordained or affirmed or commissioned within a specific faith community. That faith community has both breadth (an existing community of those who share this faith) and depth (a trail of belief, faith, and membership of this community through time). This identification is a source of strength, not weakness. We are not able to believe in nothing… we are to help people find meaning, and we cannot help others find meaning unless we in some sense or understanding of existential meaning/purpose. For Christians, it is pretty obvious that such a multidimensional identity connects us with millenia of pastoral care. For Jews, the metaphor of the shepherd as a care provider is also strong. Muslims can also connect to this metaphor, and it seems reasonable that many other faith groups can as well. The term pastoral care seems highly appropriate for ministerial identity. Other religious groups (and even atheistic or freethinker chaplaincy groups) may still find value in the metaphor of the shepherd, and they should feel welcome to use the term. After all, many non-Hindus practice Yoga without feeling the need to change the name, and many Hindus practice Yoga without feeling the need to use a different name, to express solidarity with non-Hindu Yoga practitioners.

Of course for those bothered in some way by the term “pastoral care,” they should feel perfectly free to use another term such as “spiritual care” or “religious care” or “chaplaincy care” or something similar. For us, the value outweighs its limitations.

Robert Munson, ThD, Administrator, Bukal Life Care


Lay Shepherding Program in Bocaue

Bob and Celia Munson and Mariz Eustaquio led training in Bocaue, Bulacan, August 15-16, 2015. The training is in Lay Shepherding, with the primary goal of establishing a structured and ethical Lay Shepherding program in the church. We had a great time, and Ptr. Renato and his wife Joy, along with other members of the church were wonderful hosts. 16 church leaders, mostly from Vineyard Christian Church of Bocaue, were trained in the program. We pray that it will help them in their growth in lay shepherding, both as in internal ministry, and an external ministry. Additionally, we pray that it will help us improve our training program. We have already made a few minor changes, and are looking forward to formalizing the structure in the next few weeks.

Select members of the team will be doing CPE or CPE with Celia starting in the last week of September.

If you are interested in principles of lay shepherding and how to establish a layshepherding program in your church, contact us at bukallife@gmail.com.