A Conspicuous Absence In Pastoral Training!


If you spent even a little time looking over the required curriculum for M.Div. students at most evangelical seminaries, you will notice a heavy emphasis on Biblical languages and Scripture exegesis. In my former denomination, this emphasis is reflected in their ordaining process, which pushes candidates to memorize Scripture for each doctrine of interest to the denomination.

They are trying to produce pastors who know their Bibles. This is good, but this almost exclusive emphasis has a major and disastrous trade-off!

I started this blog in part because I discovered that pastors in my former denomination with decades of experience were still struggling to handle divorce, remarriage, and infidelity issues in the church. They had passed all the doctrinal and language requirements to get ordained, but they were still struggling with the meat and potato issues of pastoral care in the real world.

In fact, the naivete I encountered with the pastors in my DPE (Divorce Policy Exception) panel interview regarding the dynamics of cheating and abuse was astounding!

It is no secret that the ordaining process of my former evangelical denomination does not serve the purpose of producing excellent and aware pastoral care providers. This is true–I would guess–of many evangelical denominations where orthodoxy alignment is valued almost to the exclusion to skill in handling some of the most important and frequent pastoral care congregational problems.

And this oversight or systematic problem does not surprise me. When denominations stigmatize being a faithful spouse, they are pushing out important pastoral resources that they actually need to rectify the problem. These pastors have lived the experience. We are better positioned to help our fellow brother (and sister) ministers through these difficult situations as someone who has sat on the other side of the desk, so to speak.

To rectifying this problem, I will continue to blog and hope to eventually produce a book on the subject. I know many pastors are genuine in the interest in handling these situations biblically and wisely but lack good resources.

These people aren’t our enemies, faithful spouses, but they may not yet be equipped to deal with the challenge of our experiences. They are the ones who would benefit the most from our feedback regarding our lived experiences in these awful situations.

3 thoughts on “A Conspicuous Absence In Pastoral Training!”

  1. I was shocked by the fact that my former pastors/elders at a NeoCalvinist church (seminary: John MacArthur’s The Master’s Seminary in California) had NO training in the “big issues”: mental health, child sexual abuse, child abuse, alcoholism, drug abuse, domestic violence.

    Their Nouthetic Counseling was beyond dumb, it was dangerous. A woman alcoholic’s (widow) problems were treated with Scripture verses, and all of the problems she caused at church, instead of being referred to a physician who could have supervised her treatment for alcoholism. My ex-pastors/elders damaged her, her adult children, and church members by not dealing with the real issue: substance abuse.

    Another woman with a brain disorder and memory problems was treated with Scripture verses and others were blamed for the problems she caused. OK, she has a genetically inherited brain disorder (Dyslexia) and memory problems that require medical care.

    What are these seminaries doing to not do all kinds of training in the big subjects that will come up time and time again in Christians’ lives and their families? I have no respect for them.

    1. Yale Divinity School required a brief education on Ministerial Sexual Misconduct to graduate. I supplemented my education there with outside education on mental health issues and spirituality. Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) is a good way to become better educated and trained to deal with these issues. But many evangelical seminaries treat CPE with suspicion as a “liberal” vehicle (and sometimes it does have a liberal bent, to be fair).

      1. That’s good to know that Yale required some training in MSM and that you got continuing education on your own. I am just shocked at the lack of training at most seminaries, and I guess you’re right many of them think it’s “liberal”. I think they’re lazy and irresponsible for not doing it.

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