General Secretary’s Report to the Governing Council, October 2020

Editor’s note: Last Fall’s bi-annual report from the General Secretary was not previously published and appears now belatedly. 

 

Raymond J. LawrenceExactly a century ago this month, on the 6th of the month, Anton Boisen was arrested by six policemen at his family home, and taken to psychiatric lock-up for a year and a half. While incarcerated, he got no therapy. The doctors only wanted to tell him what he should do, that is to lower his rigid sexual standards, advice he flatly rejected. But he read Freud’s Introductory Lectures while in lock-up, and from that reading went on to change American religion in the 20th century. More later about that. We should all be grateful to Robert Powell for calling our attention to that anniversary.

It is now time to remember past president Ken Blank, who died Sept 13. Ken joined CPSP very early in our history, about the third year I believe, and was made President the eighth year, in 1998. Ken’s uniqueness was his ability to work across organizational boundaries, with ACPE in particular, helping to keep communications open. We need that. Since his decline, no one else has filled that valuable role. Amazingly, he held offices in both organizations simultaneously, demonstrating his ability as a listener and conciliator. His health failed him in recent years, and he was not able to be very active. Remarkably though, he was present and in good spirits at this year’s New York Plenary in March. His decision to fly across the country in such a fragile condition showed how much he cared about this community. He will be deeply missed.

It is also time to remember Ron Evans, who died on October 1. There was a zoom funeral on Thursday, the 19th. Ron also joined us very early, in 1994, at the Greensboro NC Plenary. He shared with us his spirit and wisdom at many plenaries until Parkinson’s immobilized him. He was a dear friend who was a peer in training with me in 1967 at St Luke’s-Texas Children’s Hospital, Houston, more than half a century ago. Late in life he became a writer, published a newsletter, The Sourdough Bagel and several monographs. Reminiscing in his old age, he said if he had it to do over again, he would ask to be a clown and join the circus. As it was, he said, in his own inimitable words, “I only got as far as the Church.”

I ask that we take a moment of silence to remember Ken and Ron, and what each of them meant for us.

 

I would like to introduce Co-Presidents-Elect Patty Berron for the Clinicians and Bryan Jones for the Diplomates. We wish them and us a time of prosperity and productivity in our joint mission.

No man is an island; neither is a woman. We are responsible for ourselves, our communities, the CPSP community, and the ambient culture as well. We think of the coronavirus as the new plague. Indeed it is, but there’s a worse plague among us. It’s name is “white racism,” and it is growing. Those among us who are white can speak with more authority than the victims can speak. And we must. This steady drum beat of executions of African Americans, and of Hispanics and Asians, with impunity must be confronted. This virus will destroy us quicker than the coronavirus. Of course, virulent white racism is nothing new to native Americans who have suffered it for 400 years. “The only good Indian is a dead Indian,” we Americans used to say. Some still do. And many of us meant it. Now our southern border is a venue of resurgent white racism - now targeting Hispanic-Americans as well, many of them fleeing persecution and poverty in Central America, for which our national policies are largely responsible. We now have concentration camps on our southern border, with young children, including toddlers, housed in cages, separated from their parents. And now we hear credible reports of forced hysterectomies of young women in these camps. For this resurgence of White Racism and this Nazification of our immigration service, Adolf Hitler would be proud of us. I urge every Chapter in our community to take time to reflect on our escalating white racism targeting African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, and Asians, and to consider how we might address it therapeutically and politically. We are responsible for what kind of society we live in.

After 30 years, if my memory serves me, only one ethics complaint has been filed among us. Now, in the past ten months a flurry of ethics complaints have been filed amongst us, ethical complaints against each other. None were sustained. They all amounted to harassment. But I take such complaints to be a signal of trouble in our midst. We must examine this epidemic of infighting, and address the causes of such a sudden eruption of hostility and discontent among us. We in CPSP do not need a circular firing squad. We do not need to begin killing each other off.

To that end, I am establishing a “Blue Ribbon Commission,” so-called, to examine and attempt to resolve any disaffections, complaints or accusations insofar as we can access them.

A “Blue Ribbon” Commission, as commonly defined, is authorized only to research, interview and recommend. It has no judicial, administrative or disciplinary authority. It cannot compel witnesses or testimony. No one will be coerced into testifying about anything.  The Commission will seek only to understand the flurry of ill feelings, from accuser and accused, and what they might signify, and to suggest a way forward if that is possible. The Commission will be, as it were, a kind of vestibule into ethics. If two persons are able to settle grievances in the vestibule, they need not enter into an ethics complaint process. When the Commission completes its work on a particular matter, any resolution, assessment, or recommendations for action will be presented to me as General Secretary and where appropriate to the Executive Chapter, and Governing Council.

I have asked Francine Hernandez to undertake the task of Chair of this Blue Ribbon Commission, and she has agreed to serve and to appoint members of the Commission as she deems appropriate when a case might arise. The Commission is authorized to examine both official and unofficial public allegations of potential wrongdoing. The Commission is authorized to invite anyone it wishes into a voluntary consultation. I request that the Commission hear from anyone with a complaint who  wishes to register it. And I am asking Francine to use every safeguard to protect personal reputations. It is easy to complain about someone’s behavior based on personal fantasies.

Ultimately, with facts in hand, insofar as we can discover facts, our purpose will be to seek reconciliation and healing. The Blue Ribbon Commission will be neither a judiciary process, a trial, a witch hunt, nor an an instrument for impugning reputations. I request that this Commission operate in the strictest confidence. Individual reputations may be at stake, as well as the reputation of CPSP itself. In summary, this Blue Ribbon Commission is mandated to seek only truth and reconciliation, not punishment.

With the concurrence of the Executive Chapter, I am appointing David Roth, Parthenia Caesar, and Patty Berron to explore and communicate with the community at large in order to see what might need updated in our By-laws, and to report to the Executive Chapter and ultimately back to the Governing Council meeting next spring. As you know, David Roth with David Baker were the co-authors of the current By-laws, created in 2014, and they have served us well over six years, so I believe Roth is the best person to chair the business of proposing updates or revisions to the By-laws. The entire community is invited to suggest changes in the By-laws by communicating with David, Parthenia, or Patty.

With the concurrence of the Executive Chapter, I am appointing David Plummer, Brian Jones, and Patty Berron to a Task Force for clarification of appropriate sexual boundaries in our communal life.

I am appointing Matt Real to chair a newly created CPSP Leadership Succession Team. The team’s task will be to devise a succession plan for a next generation of leadership. I took this initiative only because on a few occasions recently I see in the morning paper that everyone who died the day before is younger than I. But when I show up on the obit page some morning there should be no cause for alarm. Associate General Secretary, Cynthia Olson will have authority to convene the Executive Chapter and continue our business.

I am establishing the Leadership Succession Team only because it is time to think more seriously about the next generation of leaders in this community. We need to be bringing up the next generation in a more deliberative manner, as many in leadership age out. Let me add: this is not a retirement notice, or projecting anything about a time line. That will take care of itself in due course, unfortunately.

Last October I appointed Ed Luckett to the position of Acting Administrator, and subsequently, proposed him to you for affirmation as Administrator. Ed has accomplished more over the past year than I thought possible. His main burden among many burdens was and is to take us through the USDE process and seek recognition as an accrediting agency. He went to Washington early in the year and got the process started. He first discovered that there is an organizational waiting list for reviewing applications, which was 3 1/2 years long, but now down to 3. So we are now “in the queue,” as the Brits say.

To receive USDE recognition we are going to have to conform to certain government regulations. Rebels that we have been, that might be distasteful. The late great John Edgerton, President 1996-98 will from that other world will be disappointed in us. However, we simply need to make jobs more accessible to our membership, and USDE recognition will do just that. It seems to me a non-negotiable.

We are blessed to have Luckett rise to the occasion and take on this task. He is doing the kind of negotiating with the government that is above my pay grade and probably most of the rest of us. Ed has worked the US Army and Air Force systems for decades, so he knows how the machine  works.

I am proposing that the Spring meeting of the Governing Council be set for Sunday March 14.

I am proposing that a decision on our 2021 Plenary Meeting date be delayed until the end of the year, and that a target of sometime in April or May be set for our 31st Plenary. The delay will allow us to observe the progress of the virus awhile longer, and to decide later whether it will be feasible for some of us or all of us to gather in person for Plenary, or whether we will be forced to hold a fully cyber meeting. Our marquee guest will be Joanne Greenberg, the author of the enormously popular very instructive I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, an autobiographical account of Greenberg’s four-year inpatient treatment by Freida Fromm-Reichmann at Chestnut Lodge near Baltimore in the late 1940s. Greenberg is 87 years old now, but vigorous and full of herself. Professionally, she is a Ph.D. anthropologist and taught at the university level for many years. In addition to Rose Garden, she is the author of more nineteen other books too numerous to name. Her books are for sale on the internet.

A word of appreciation to Mario Ceballos who is in a leadership role with the Seventh Day Adventist. He has communicated to David Plummer that he is offering us secure storage space in Washington DC for our critical document. We appreciate very much his generosity, and the generosity of the Adventists.

In early 2017 we created the CPSP Graduate Institute, for the purpose of offering a Doctor of Ministry degree. After a false start, we finally got underway in the fall of 2018. We have successfully now graduated 36 students in three Cohorts, two of which are still in the process of winding down.

Why did we create the Graduate Institute? The short answer is twofold: Cost and content. One cannot find today a credible D.Min. degree that is affordable for most of us. Any credible program costs $12,000 and up, and mostly very much up. Our tuition currently is set at $6800. It will very likely be increased in the near term. The second and more important reason we created this degree program is that one cannot find any other doctoral program that takes seriously the clinical pastoral training revolution, its history, its practice, and its philosophy - and its impact on pastoral work in the world at large. Amnesia has set in in Academia regarding the clinical pastoral discipline. And Boisen himself is a forgotten person. This degree addresses that widespread ignorance head on.

 

Raymond J. Lawrence, General Secretary
Santa Clara, CA
October 20, 2020