Monthly Archives: April 2009

Transethnicity Study

I had a meeting this morning at a local church that is known for its emphasis on transethnicity. That is, they understand the importance of a multicultural community, and their membership is quite diverse, but they want to encourage respect for cultural/racial/ethnic differences while also transcending those differences in keeping with a Kingdom perspective that emphasizes a shared identity in Christ. 

The meeting kicks off a study we are conducting on this church’s model of transethnicity in particular. One student working on the project is going to complete his dissertation on transethnicity as an organizational identity, which it is in this case.

We are asking people in the congregation and lay leaders to complete a survey. We also anticipate interviews with some of the pastoral leadership, as well as visits to Life Groups to allow additional people from the congregation to share their experiences. We are particularly interested in why people were initially drawn to a transethnic church, as well as why people choose to stay in a transethnic church.

It is interesting to think about transethnicity as a novel concept that contrasts somewhat with the broader multicultural movement. Some experience the multicultural movement as emphasizing cultural or ethnic or racial distinctives but that the conversation can at times begin and end with an awareness and perhaps even a celebration of those differences. Transethnicity appears to be a different way to engage people interested in some of what the multiculturalism movement offers.

It will certainly be interesting to see how this church’s model is understood and experienced by people in the congregation, lay leadership, and pastoral leadership, and to see what it might bring to a mainstream understanding of multiculturalism.

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Posted by on April 25, 2009 in Uncategorized


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A Question With Only One Answer?

Perhaps you’ve seen the answer Miss California gave to the question about marriage. She stated that marriage should be between a man and a woman. The problem with the question was that it only had one “right” answer. It was the politically correct answer. I’ve never seen such backlash for someone answering by giving her honest opinion. Apparently it was an opinion held by many others, judging by the applause in the background. It is an incredibly divisive subject to be asked about in this venue – one designed for soundbites and not substantive reflection and nuance.

I’m not sure what to make of Perez Hilton. Obviously, he felt passionately about the topic. He seemed absolutely outraged by Miss California’s answer. Check out his comments about taking back his apology and calling her various derogatory names. Unbelievable. Her convictions apparently cost her the crown. To her credit, whether you agree with her opinion or not, she stood by her comments and by her convictions. I don’t think she took this tone, but it reminded me of the saying: If you don’t want the answer, don’t ask the question.

It raises for me the larger question of whether we are going to be able to coexist in our culture. We are a diverse and pluralistic society. By definition, we are going to disagree. It isn’t diversity if we all believe the same thing. I remember reading one author years ago refer to the idea that “diversity with substance offends” (or close to that). I remember thinking that it was as if we had to be reminded that diversity actually refers to differences (of opinion, beliefs, values, and so on). The reaction by Perez is a good illustration of how out of touch some segments of our society are with other segments of our society. I think I would have to say the same thing if Miss California acted surprised to have lost the crown over her answer. It raises the question: Can these segments coexist, even when one segment will be offended by the other segment on one topic and vice versa on another topic?

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Posted by on April 23, 2009 in Off Topic


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Integrative Approaches – 4


The faculty picked up the other day with Chapter 4 of Integrative Approaches by David Entwistle. This chapter is titled “Windows on the World: Assumptions and Worldviews.” Entwistle gives us a classic definition of a worldview from James Sire:

A worldview is a set of presuppositions, (assumptions which may be true, partially true or entirely false) which we hold (consciously or subconscious, consistently or inconsistently) about the basic make-up of the world.

Entwistle briefly reviews animism, polytheism, pantheism, monotheism, modernism, and postmodernism. He then discusses a Christian worldview by framing it within what is commonly seen as the four acts of the biblical drama: creation, the fall, redemption, and consummation.

What’s interesting to me is to reflect on the practice of contemporary psychology. Psychology emerged as a scientific discipline in the context of a modernist worldview with its emphasis on scientific progress. We are now as a field reflecting in some instances these assumptions while in other ways reflecting assumptions found in postmodernism, including the assertion that there is no objective truth. Also interesting is that many in the field may not even know which worldview they are operating from, as we can sometimes float between them based on the topic we are discussing or the project we are undertaking. (The multicultural movement in psychology, for example, reflects more postmodernist assumptions, which makes sense if you think about what it means to recognize different cultural assumptions and values.)

Another thought that came up in the discussion is that some folks will attempt to create a sharp distinction between religion and science, suggesting that religion is not tied to reason or logic, that it is subjective, and so on, while science is rational/logical, objective (reflecting a modernist optimism surrounding science). In doing so they create intellectual space to do their work as a psychologist but then can fail to see their own worldview in practice (because, of course, they believe or want others to believe that they are just “doing science”). In our field the common worldviews are naturalism and secular humanism. These become a default assumptive framework, a frame of reference for understanding human beings, behavior, morality, and so on. But it is rarely acknowledged by those who adopt the framework. To fail to recognize how these valuative frameworks function in a person’s practice of science is a significant concern, particularly if this is the only approach that is considered legitimate and is constantly used and contrasted with religion.

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Posted by on April 19, 2009 in Worldview Integration


Breaking All The Rules

By now you’ve seen Susan Boyle shock the judges on Britain’s Got Talent, the UK equivalent of American Idol. She sings “I Dreamed A Dream” from Les Miserables, a fitting choice in this context. I agree with the judge who said that the audience was against her – I imagine she included herself in that indictment. If I am honest with myself, I felt something like that too – a kind of perverse anticipation that she would be laughed off the stage. I don’t like that in myself; I didn’t like seeing it in the audience, and I suspect it is why we delighted in seeing her performace in such a stark contrast to that anticipated failure. The judge called it a “wake up call,” but I wonder what we are waking up from… The idea that someone like Boyle could have such a beautiful voice. We ofen cheer for the underdog, but we also don’t mind seeing people embarassed in their failures, and we find it entertaining. We have become accustomed to being entertained by what this perfomance could have been, what we fully expected it to be, to seeing people humiliated.Do we see how we are changed by how we choose to be entertained?

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Posted by on April 18, 2009 in Uncategorized


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Psychology & Christianity Integration

anthology This summer I will be teaching the Integration Capstone course. This is a final course for fourth-year students in our program. Historically, the instructor has selected maybe two current integration books for the class to read and discuss over the length of the course (5 weeks). I was thinking that it would be unfortunate if students left without having read some of the key articles that have been written on integration over the years. So I got to thinking about the recent edited book titled, Psychology & Christianity Integration: Seminal Works that Shaped the Movement. The articles were suggested by a core group of people involved in integration – key readings that they found particularly helpful in their own understanding of integration. Authors of the seminal works include Nicholas Wolterstorff, Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen, Stanton L. Jones, Peter C. Hill, C. Stephen Evans, and a host of others. It covers the relationship between science and religion, types of integration, models of integration, integration in research, and applied or clinical integration. So there should be something for everyone.

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Posted by on April 15, 2009 in Courses


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National Day of Silence

The National Day of Silence is scheduled for April 17, 2009. This is a day intended to draw attention to the issue of bullying and harassment of sexual minorities in the schools. Most supporters will be silent on that day; others who cannot be silent because of various mandatory activities will apparently wear red.

If the DOS is controversial, so too is one reponse that has been endorsed by a number of conservative organizations: the ‘Day of Silence Walk Out.’ This is the idea that students walk out on this day in protest.

Another approach to this topic was launched last year. It is referred to as the Golden Rule Pledge. You can read more about this alternative, as it focuses on treating others as you would want to be treated.

I can appreciate the concern to respond appropriately to the DOS. Do Christians support it in light of the social justice issues involved? Do they reject it because of what they see as a political agenda? And I can appreciate attempts to respond constructively to the underlying issue of harassment and bullying, which I have been witness to in my work with youth. While I have worked with a number of adolescents who experience same-sex attraction who tell me they fit right in with their peer group, enjoy social support, and so on, others go to school and experience a significant amount of harassment through name-calling and bullying. The topic of harassment and bullying of sexual minorities is not a grey area in and of itself, but  it becomes more complicated to some when it is tied to events that people experience as politicizing the issues.

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Posted by on April 12, 2009 in Sexuality & Gender


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Happy Easter

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Posted by on April 12, 2009 in Uncategorized


Value Conflicts in Counseling

A graduate student has reportedly been dismissed from a counseling program at Eastern Michigan University for not agreeing to go through a program to “remediate” her conventionally religious beliefs and values regarding same-sex behavior. Onenewsnow is reporting that Julea Ward had a value conflict with a client’s same-sex behavior, and that she did not believe she should affirm it. Her supervisor had her make a referral to another counselor who did not have the same value conflict, and Ward did so. Ward was then required to participate in a program that would address/remediate her Christian belief system. When she refused, she was dismissed from the counseling program. The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) has filed suit.

Several questions arise from this case. One question is, When are referrals appropriate? One of the more common reasons for making a referral is when a counselor does not feel he or she is competent to provide services. Competence is determined by education, training, and supervised clinical experience, and mental health professionals are required to practice within the scope of their competence. So a referral is considered appropriate when a counselor who has no training in working with older adults, for example, refers an elderly client to someone who has that competence. But competence is not the only reason for referrals.

Are value conflicts a legitimate reason to consider a referral? Let’s back up a moment and ask this: How are value conflicts generally handled in counseling? Counseling ethics textbooks recognize that value conflicts are inevitable in mental health practice. A politically liberal counselor will meet with a client with strong conservative views; a gay counselor will meet with an Evangelical Christian client; a Catholic counselor will meet with a woman deciding on abortion; an atheist will meet with a devout Muslim. The question is, At what point does a counselor make a referral when a value conflict arises? The major mental health organization’s ethics codes each tend to stress respect for differences – these are often identified as differences due to age, gender, sexual orientation, religion, socioeconomic status, and so on. Showing respect for these differences can mean different things in counseling, but it at least means being aware of how these factors impact the client and their presenting concern. It often also mean taking these factors into consideration in assessment, case conceptualization, and treatment planning.

Generally speaking, ethics textbooks tend to look at whether a value conflict between a counselor and a client is significant enough to have a negative impact on their work together. If so, a referral is thought to be appropriate. According to the complaint filed by the ADF, the professor who chaired the hearing on Ward actually taught a course in which a textbook was assigned that indicates the appropriateness of making a referral when value conflicts arise – specifically citing the instance of value conflicts regarding homosexual behavior.

It will be interesting to watch this case, as it has significant implications for how counselors and other mental health professionals are to work with clients when value conflicts arise. As it stands, it certainly runs contrary to how ethics has been discussed in textbooks and practiced in the field.

Note: I do not ususally post at this site material that is also posted at the Institute for the Study of Sexual Identity, but this story is one of those exceptions.


Posted by on April 9, 2009 in Ethics


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Sexual Identity Therapy

The Christian Association for Psychological Studies (CAPS) National Conference came to a close this afternoon. I conducted a 3-hour post-conference workshop on Sexual Identity Therapy. We discussed ethical issues for Christian mental health professionals, as well as research and theory on sexual identity development and synthesis. The emphasis on research/theory on sexual identity was foundational for a discussion of a client-centered, identity-focused approach to clinical practice with Christians who are navigating sexual identity questions or confusion. We also discussed clinical challenges associated with mixed orientation couples and families in which an adolescent is experiencing same-sex attraction.

We had a good turnout for the session. It was especially interesting to discuss the topic with a theologian who attended. My experience has been that many theologians seem to resonate with the concepts I cover on sexual identity. I make a three-tier distinction between same-sex attraction, a homosexual orientation, and a gay identity. They tend to recognize the importance of identity in discussions of homosexuality. What is odd is that the broader church seems to focus almost exclusively on sexual orientation and change/healing rather than identity (whether to integrate same-sex attractions into a gay identity or not). In any case, it was a good discussion of the practical applications of these concepts in clinical practice.


Integration in Family Therapy

The Christian Association for Psychological Studies (CAPS) National Conference kicked off today in Orlando. Tomorrow morning Jim Sells and I will present an hour workshop on integration in family therapy, focusing on some of what we began to discuss in our book, Family Therapies: A Comprehensive Christian Appraisal. We will be talking about some of the challenges associated with Christian integration in family theory/therapy, as well as opportunitites for training students in this area.

Update: Jim and I presented this morning. We had a nice turnout and it was a good discussion of the integration issues facing Christians in the field of family therapy. Jim is a great presenter, so I just tried to stay out of his way! That was our first (of what I hope will be many) presentations together.


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