Holifield, A History of Pastoral Care in America

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E. Brooks Holifield, A History of Pastoral Care in America: From Salvation to Self-Realization. Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2005.

Referenced in: Pastoral Care

LifeandLeadership.com Summary

It is easy for ministers to simply inherit the ethos of their era on the pastoral role. Yet history reveals migrations from one tendency to another, with the people in each period being captured by the dominant philosophy. A historical perspective awakens ministers to the potential pitfalls of the current orientation by showing the results of similar approaches in the past. The value of this text is its exploration of how the pastoral role has shifted over the centuries from emphasizing the salvation of the soul to facilitating self-realization. In this sense, Holifield is similar in genre to David Benner’s Care of Souls, although each approaches the subject out of different disciplines, Benner from counseling and spiritual formation and Holifield from church history.

This is a massive volume of over 400 pages. But for those who are in a period of significant rethinking of their pastoral roles and have the time and inclination to engage a brilliant historian who chronicles the progression of the pastoral role from ancient to contemporary times, it is a great read.

From the Publisher

Here, for the first time, the development of pastoral care as a discipline has been documented. Dr. Holifield details the shift in emphasis from saving souls to supporting individuals in self-realization, and in the process raises thought-provoking questions about the preoccupation with psychological methodology evident in modern society and clergy.

“Every pastor wittingly or unwittingly adopts some ‘theory’ of pastoral counseling, whether it be derived from the seventeenth century or from the twentieth,” says Dr. Holifield. From colonial America’s intellectual approach to today’s therapeutic “self” culture, he explores those theories. Theological, social, economic, and psychological threads are interwoven with fascinating conversational examples to show how Protestantism helped to form—and was influenced by—changing social orders. Broad in scope, scholarly in detail, yet immensely readable, this is an important book for clinical pastoral educators, students, professionals—everyone interested in church and social history.

About the Author

E. Brooks Holifield is the C. H. Candler Professor of American Church History at Emory University in Atlanta. He received his Ph.D. from the Yale Graduate School in 1970 and joined the faculty of the Candler School of Theology and the Graduate Division of Religion at Emory. He is the author of six books, including ‘The Gentlemen Theologians’ (1978), ‘A History of Pastoral Care in America’ (1983), ‘Era of Persuasion’ (1989), and ‘Theology in America: Christian Thought from the Age of the Puritans to the Civil War’ (2003). He is the past president of the American Society for Church History.

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