Introduction to Pastoral Care – Loren Townsend

Introduction to Pastoral Counseling – Book Signing at LPTS

What a joy to talk about Loren’s newest book. Once again Loren shows his academic vitality and proves that he is at the very top of his game.

Before Introduction to Pastoral Counseling, Loren wrote two other books, both of them charting very difficult unmapped territories. In 2000 Pastoral Care With Stepfamilies: Mapping the Wilderness was published and in 2006 Suicide: Pastoral Responses. These two books show Loren’s disposition to deal with very hard issues for all of us, for churches and our societies. In these two books Loren gives us pastoral and theological maps to move through uncharted places.

With Introduction to Pastoral Counseling, Loren musters 30 years of intense work in the field of pastoral counseling. After his PhD, Loren couldn’t find a job and for many years he worked as therapist and clinical therapy supervisor. During this time, he also did a great amount of research and published several articles, one of them that gave him an important award. When he arrived at LPTS, Loren continued to do a great amount of research as he taught and helped shaped our prestigious MFT program.

Introduction to Pastoral Counseling is clearly a work of someone who knows this field inside out, a work of a thinker and also of a professor. This book combines rigorous scholarship, case studies and extensive research groundwork with language that is accessible to a vast array of readers. He divides the book in two sections: the first part is framed by the question: “Who are pastoral counselors?” and he shows the history of pastoral counseling through the development of events and contexts that marked the history of this country along with the history of the church of Jesus Christ in US. As he traces the European-North American trajectory of the pastoral counseling field, he calls our attention to consider the painful racial segregation that accompanies this history in North American churches. The second part is framed by the question “What do Pastoral Counselors do?” and he frames the field by ways of defining its main categories and concepts, its relationships and connections and does that now using the scholarship of black scholars. In this aprt he develops Four Positions that defines the relation between Behavior Sciences and Theology namely:  Independence, Dialogue, Integration and Conflict and through these positions we get a very good grip of what pastoral counseling is all about. Then, he offers a very helpful framework to help us think about the relation between spirituality and psychotherapy.

He puts together ideas and practices and while he engages theories in the field of psychotherapy he is clearly attentive to keep clear what is “pastoral” pastoral counseling. At the end, Loren shows how pastoral counseling is not about dealing only with the personal aspects of a Narcissistic, consumerist society but rather, how pastoral counseling engages theologically and ethically the wounds of people and the wounds of society. Through these processes of unending relations, identities are shaped and reshaped as the world is also shaped and reshaped through the healing work of pastoral counselours.

Now, I have a question.

My question has to do with the relation of Pastoral Counseling and the field of Practical theology in regards to the broader field of Christian thinking. It is not a secret that the primacy of the Christian field belongs to the Bible, then to Theology and then we have the leftovers: worship, preaching, education, homiletics, pastoral counseling, etc. This is true even here at LPTS where the areas are organized by the priorities of alphabetical letters: AREA A – Bible;  AREA B – Theology and AREA C – Practical Theology. So, I wonder how we can make practical theology become a little more valuable than it is historically considered in the Christian field.

Well, this is simply a rhetorical question since your life and this book are vivid and brilliant testimonies of a way to equate this unbalanced relation. You bring a lot of respect to the field with this wonderful book Loren and I believe the whole field of Pastoral Counseling is and will be for a long time very thankful to you.

To conclude, let me say that I am always in awe with the breath and the depth of Loren’s knowledge.  He is at easy talking about Liberation theologies, postmodernism, theories of globalization and can show data of things that one would never imagine there was any data about these issues. I call Loren a renaissance man, a man whose academic and general knowledge make him one of these thinkers that are hard to find.

Personally, I must say that Loren is a very special friend. Since I arrived here, he paid close attention to me and has made sure I am doing well. What a honor to introduce this wonderful book of this Baptist pastor (he was a member of the Southern Baptist Church!), a motorcycle rider, a gifted jazz guitar player, a man fearful of airplanes, a man who loves Leslie and his family deeply, a man with a wonderful heart, a very sharp mind, sensitive to cultural and racial issues and very recently a winner of the Women’ Triatlon Marathon.

We all at LPTS are absolutely proud to have Loren in our midst. We welcome Introduction to Pastoral Care with thrilling joy and due honor.

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