The Road Ahead: An Interview with Raymond J. Lawrence, General Secretary
by Bill Scar, Editor
I was just recently invited to become the new Editor of the Pastoral Report, the primary and traditional medium of communication within the College of Pastoral Supervision & Psychotherapy. Such a privilege demanded an affirmative response. Yes! Yes! Yes! were the words from my heart and what remains of my mind. We have important work to be doing, and I want to be fostering the best possible and highest quality vehicle for sharing the news and views of the members of our College and developments in our treasured field of specialized pastoral care.
And my second thought was to begin my tenure with an interview with my colleague and friend, the Rev. Dr. Raymond J. Lawrence, who, with Dr. Perry N. Miller and Robert Clayton, were founders of the College. And Raymond has functioned as its General Secretary since the beginning. After my own three decades of membership, I have my thoughts about the role of our ministries in the chaos of today’s world, but… What is important to Raymond at this point, and where does he see our energies going?
Raymond readily agreed to entertain such a conversation for the Pastoral Report, and the results were enlightening and timely. Raymond is now again challenging the members of the CPSP to fulfill their responsibilities for renewal in our field and care for our own colleagues. Our community must now rise to the occasion and demonstrably take responsibility for the road ahead. The following are newsworthy excerpts from my dialogue with the only person we have known as the General Secretary.
E: Thank you for agreeing to have this open-ended conversation as part of the renewal of the Pastoral Report.
RL: I was pleased that you accepted the invitation to function as the new Editor of Pastoral Report under the auspices of the Communication Committee. The timing fits the needs of our community when professional communications are becoming more and more difficult, and especially as we view the years ahead.
E: That is a teaser and often part of your style. Can you just tell me what you are thinking?
RL: I have been reflecting critically on the reasons we founded the College and the goals we set for ourselves over 30 years ago. It would be hyperbolic to say that we had an array of noble objectives that we sought to achieve. Mainly, we were simply trying to survive professionally. We witnessed the trivialization of our profession, even by our own professional certifying organization. We saw that Anton Boisen was not only erased from history but that the new course was in stark contrast to his vision, entirely counter to what Boisen sought. We construed that our former professional community had lost its way in a number of respects. We were merely acting to save our professional lives. And we managed to do just that, mirabile dictu.
E: In most ways, I think you have done what you set out to do 30 years ago.
RL: Well, we did save our profession. And the CPSP community has indeed survived and even prospered for three decades, in spite of the concerted, continuing effort to shut us down. But our success was not guaranteed by any means. Nor is it guaranteed for the future. Among religious factions in the world, it is dog-eat-dog. But you premised this interview on “the road ahead.” The historical guilds, unfortunately, have had to yield much to the authority of the state and to popular culture as well. Organized religion is far less influential in our culture at this time than it was sixty years ago when I was coming up. Religious programs which are linked in one way or another to the state have better resources for survival. But when religion is linked to the state, religion relinquishes its autonomy and gives up its soul. This dilemma continues into the present era.
E: Well, both your supporters and your detractors have pondered what would be the alternatives to the way we have functioned, especially with you in the role of General Secretary. We all want to build upon the successes that have been achieved as we contemplate this road ahead.
RL: Our past successes were never a sure thing, and they remain ephemeral. I remember in the very early days Chuck Hall, Executive of ACPE, was quite unhappy about the publication by me of the ACPE Underground Report, which, after a couple of years, culminated in the creation of CPSP. Hall, with his successor, Duane Parker, could have put us out of business at the get-go with a full-court press. But I suppose that they both had enough Methodism in their veins that they restrained their rage at us for breaking the fraternity. Though they had enough anger to have done us in early on, ultimately, they pulled their punch, which I think in retrospect speaks well of them. After all, who in history possesses the full truth and nothing but the truth? Certainly, neither CPSP nor the ACPE. Neither should pretend that they do.
I do think that the emerging young leadership has what it takes to carry CPSP forward as the aging generation begins to retire and die. We have hundreds of talented leaders in the College with the skills and qualifications to develop whatever structures we need in the future. And the next generation is now coming up. But I feel no need to bless them with the dead hand of the king. Actually, they don’t need it. We have persons who understand how to assume responsibility and accept accountability within the excellent new networks and committees that are already now in place.
E: That sounds ambitious, Raymond! And there are clearly “growing pains” in the efforts of these new systems and committees.
RL: I think, Bill, that we have sucked the juice out of this orange. I am right now thinking that an upcoming issue of the PR should update us all on the status and progress of our peripheral project, the CPSP Graduate Institute.
E: That is a project where your leadership can really make a difference. Will you write an article for the PR that will give us the update and highlight the future of the Graduate Institute?
RL: I will be ready to do that.
E: One other question. My observation after 30 years is that the title and role of General Secretary in the CPSP is inextricably tied to the person of Raymond Lawrence. The songwriter says, “And I know there’ll never be another you.” You are now working with a small committee that is currently surveying our members about their views of the GS position. What type of executive functionary fits your vision for our future? In your thinking about the future needs of the organization, do we need a figurehead?
RL: I have always been wary of inflation of the self. It always culminates in a final pop. I think it would be quite inflated of me, Bill, to write up a prescription for the next generation. I would hope that the next generation would have its own particular dreams and aspirations, as well as new ideas about how a community mutually committed to personal and social healing can carry out its mission. I hope that the next generation would attend to the best of Boisen — and he was no Messiah — and that they would recognize the best that his particular genius had to offer and that they would also discard what was not fruitful in him. And he had some of that. We have not been dealing here with gods, but rather with persons who have had, to be sure, something to offer but also exhibited certain flaws as well. It is unmistakably true that history will be a severe judge of all us, our friends and enemies alike.
E: Thank you, Raymond, for agreeing to this and future interviews. I know you will have much more to say to us.
However we reflect on what Raymond has shared with us, it is time to embark on The Road Ahead.
Bill Scar, Editor