I am excited to be writing you about a major new proposal from the region's Coordinating Council.
That proposal appears below, but first I want to locate our proposal within the conversation we have been having together over the past two years.
The major challenges we face as a community are our declining membership numbers and the fact that we are not drawing young professionals to our organization. We have more members over the age of 75 than we do under the age of 45, and 80% of our membership is over 60 years of age. In addressing this challenge, we have turned first to the deep pool of spiritual wisdom at the center of our community. We have remembered that those who would find their lives must lose them.
We have resisted the urge to make survival our goal and gathered instead around a vision of service. We have kept this question at the center of our conversation --"What gifts do we have that the world might need?" -- and it has helped us see our community and our practices through the eyes of people outside our community.
We've learned that there are three things that make us unique in the eyes of others:
1) We offer continuing education in a particular kind of spiritually-integrated psychotherapy and care, one that brings the worldview of the therapist into the conversation. There are other organizations that teach a spiritually-integrated psychotherapy that works respectfully within the belief- and value-system of the client. We do that, too. But we also help therapists and other professionals learn to use their own belief- and value-system to understand their clients, themselves, and the work of healing.
2) We are a community of formation and support. We are not simply a continuing education organization. We are a community that cares for one another, that invests in one another, and that helps one another grow into selves capable of being instruments of healing.
3) We are connected to the name "pastor" and the practice of pastoring. Many of us were pastors before we were therapists and still see our vocation in the world as that of pastor. Still more of us, even those who do not identify as "pastor," see ourselves and our work as mediating and incarnating the presence, love, and guidance of the Divine.
We've also learned that the first two of these distinctive factors make us appealing to the world beyond us, while the third creates a barrier. Professionals currently outside our circle are eager to learn theologically-reflective, spiritually-integrated psychotherapy and to have colleagues that will support them across their vocational lifetime. But many of them see the sign in our yard, read the word "pastoral," and assume ours is not a community for them.
We have gifts the world needs and a name that keeps many away. And we have been wondering, together, what generativity and hospitality and service mean - what love means - in a situation like this.
Our wondering has brought us here, to this proposal from the Coordinating Council in consultation with past chairs and leadership of our region:
That the Southeast Region create and sponsor a new
outreach organization to provide education and
professional formation in spiritually-integrated
psychotherapy and care for professionals who do not
identify as pastoral counselors.
While the Coordinating Council continues to believe that there needs to be an AAPC, we also believe that there needs to be a new organization: an instrument of outreach, to reach and serve the
people we're not reaching and serving. As AAPC continues to serve as a professional home for therapists who have a pastoral identity and for pastors who aren't therapists but who want to deepen their skills in pastoral care, the Coordinating Council now believes it is time for a new wineskin to contain the new wine being poured out among us and through us.
While we do not have a name picked out for the new wineskin, we will find one that will resonate with spiritually-integrated practitioners and psychotherapists. In fact, we will conduct a branding study to find a good name for this good work.
We do have a working initial mission statement:
[The new organization] advances the practice of spiritually-integrated
psychotherapy and care by
* Shaping a community for professional development,
* Offering education and certification,
* Supporting research, and
* Fundraising to support the organizational mission.
We envision this new organization to be a partner in spirit with AAPC, not a replacement. In fact, we hope to see it as a mission of AAPC.
Many of you know the history of Koinonia Farms, the Christian community in South Georgia, that gave birth to Habitat for Humanity. Or you have experience with churches that have birthed mission
churches to reach populations that the birthing church could not serve. Or you remember how, in the New Testament, the church in Jerusalem gave birth to churches throughout Asia Minor, and as far
away as Rome. This possibility is extremely energizing to us on the Coordinating Council, as was the response of our members who heard this proposal in our regional caucus at the national conference last month.
But the Coordinating Council does not act unilaterally. We are bringing this idea to you, the region, for conversation. We will sponsor Town Hall Meetings throughout the Spring and Summer, we
will gather wisdom from those meetings, and we will shape a final proposal to bring you for a vote at our meeting at Kanuga in October.
We are excited about this idea and about being in conversation with you in the coming months.