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College of Pastoral Supervision & Psychotherapy 2013 Presidential Address

Presidential Address
March 18, 2013Las Vegas, NVBrian H. Childs, CPSP President

I have recently turned 66 years old. Recently I have been thinking quite a bit about my own death. I have come realize that I have lived more than likely the vast majority of my life years. Now this realization is not macabre. I am most grateful for my life. I have lived a good and full life. I have loved and been loved. I have been forgiven as I have forgiven. I have dear children and I have done the best I can in my work and my calling. Te Deum. Yet, I had always thought that I would die without ever having been to Las Vegas. Here I am. Likewise I had never ever thought I would be the President of the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy. Here I am. What curves life can throw even at the end of it all.
I am honored and pleased to be your President over the next two years. As I have prepared for this post over the year of my term as President elect I have come to focus on what I hope is accomplished by us all. I have three interrelated hopes for our successful work together. I want to outline them briefly with you today.

First of all I want us to work together to make peace with our sister organization the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education. I have very practical reasons for this hope. We need not nor should we suffer our shared ministry of caring and training with internecine squabbling and conflict. There is room for us all in our shared mission. But I also have some real existential interests in our mutual respect and cooperation. I have been a member of ACPE since 1972. I am, I suppose, ‘third generation’ in the clinical pastoral movement. I have known first generation grandparents. I was Seward Hiltner’s last Ph.D. student at Princeton and I worked closely with him and in fact was clinically trained by him when we shared a supervision group at Trinity Counseling Service in Princeton. I am pretty sure that I am the only person in this room who can make this claim. My clinical and pastoral theological teeth were cut within the ACPE movement and I was trained by some of the ‘second generation’ such as C. George Fitzgerald, Don Cabaniss and I worked closely with Jap Keith and my dear friend John Patton. ACPE is in my blood and ACPE is part of my birthright.
It is not right that there should be tension between us. I have over the past year along with our General Secretary and our leadership attempted to reopen our dialogue with ACPE. We have asserted that our Mediation Agreement of 2010 that was solemnly and duly signed by both of our leadership at that time remains in effect to this day and that the ACPE Motion 43 which claims that no CPE training center may be accredited by both ACPE and CPSP is inconsistent with the Mediation Agreement. We have appealed three times to reopen our talks so that we may mutually show our respect for our unique ministries but at this time ACPE is not willing to consider talking to us unless we agree to nullify the 2010 agreement while also forfeiting the right, which all citizens have, of seeking relief in the legal system to help enforce prior agreements. There would be no need to find relief in the court if we agree to what we agreed to in 2010. It really is that simple. It really is that clear.

I love ACPE and what it has afforded so many, not only those that she has trained but also those who have been the recipients of her grace and ministry. We must however also hold ACPE accountable. We the members of CPSP therefore must work together to hold our sisters and brothers accountable and that includes making sure that we have the means to find relief in the courts as, and only as, a last resort. It is for that reason that we are with gratitude expecting that every member of our organization make onetime dues assessment of $100.00 to supplement our reserves for our legal advisors. My sincere hope and frankly my expectation is that we need not use it for the purpose of pursuing a legal settlement. Finding relief in that way runs counter to our reconciling instinct. I promise you I will work diligently with our legal counsel as well as ACPE to come to a mutually agreeable and respectful continuation of our common mission with our nonetheless unique visions of that mission.

My second hope and goal by the completion of my term is related to some claims ACPE has made about their exclusive privilege for clinical pastoral education and training. We have resisted for a variety of theological and practical reasons going through the bureaucratic morass of training center accreditation and practice certification through governmental organizations. We have found that even with governmental recognition of ‘accreditation’ that does not preclude other similar organizations from having demonstrable comparable and qualified programs. The Department of Education makes that very, very clear. Nonetheless we are also dealing with a market that expects that some kind of certification and accreditation. This is particularly important when oftentimes the market knows it needs chaplains but is unclear about what it is that makes one qualified.

We now find that we must move forward with an accreditation process for our training and practice. We have a fiduciary obligation to our trainees and to our supervisors and psychotherapists and counselors that they have credentials that appeal to those hiring in the marketplace. We cannot tolerate claims from some quarters that our training is not up to par with their own because we do not have some kind of a seal of approval. For that reason we have engaged legal counsel with a specialization in this area to advise us on how to proceed. There will be soon be an independent accreditation commission incorporated, separate from CPSP, which will oversee that our training centers uphold the standards of our practice and that our practitioners maintain the highest standards of their practice. Further this independent commission will join in an association of similar accrediting commissions that oversee such organizations as AAMFT, and other near cognate organizations. Our legal counsel is now working with a task force to form the commission. It is the right thing to do and the time is right. In addition this commission will be available to other cognate groups, since the commission is an independent one, so that ACPE or other groups might appeal to it for oversight and accreditation of their own work. We in CPSP would welcome that cooperation and would see such cooperation a sign of our mutual respect and accountability.

In addition we have formed a task force of CPSP Diplomates and Human Resource professionals. This task force, led by John Jeffreys, has been contacting and will continue to contact healthcare HR professionals and their organizations to inform and encourage them to understand the values of the work of well trained chaplains and for the value of having training within their own organizations. This task force is also available to consult with training programs and chaplaincy programs within CPSP if need be when an organization’s HR department has questions or issues that need be addressed. The Human Resource experts on this task force have been valuable beyond words and they are committed to the work of CPSP.

Finally I want to express my hope that as a theological community we are more open theologically about our points of view and of our diverse faith and experiential journeys. Diversity does not mean that we somehow must speak in some generic spiritual Esperanto. What diversity means is the ability to speak and recognize differences while at the same time holding to a profound common notion: recovery of soul.

An example of this is the recent statement that our General Secretary and I published expressing our dismay with the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8 in California. We stated that we support civil marriage and that all persons who are in committed relationships, especially if those relationships include the raising of the next generation, deserve the right of equal protections and access of the law as well as responsibilities to the civil law. Now we know that there are members of our organization that have differing positions on the topic. We encourage and offer our organizational publication Pastoral Report for views different from ours on this topic as well as other topics that are part of our understanding of recovery of soul and clinical pastoral training and psychotherapy. I would like to talk to others with other well expressed theological positions. I believe those discussions and even debates can enrich us and carry us on in our journeys. Please let us sit down together.

I am humbled and somewhat anxious to be your president. I have already made some mistakes and I can promise you I will make some more. Nonetheless I will also commit to being honest with you; I will be industrious; and I will be your fiduciary. I also want to thank my Chapter, the Chesapeake Chapter, for their confidence in me such that our convener David Berg nominated me for this position. I will make sure that the members of CPSP not hold my chapter or David accountable for any of my mistakes. As for any of my successes: they belong to us all. Amen.

Brian Childs, CPSP President

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