Soft Shepherd or Almighty Pastor?: Power and Pastoral Care

By Annemie Dillen (editor)

Essays examining issues of power dynamics in pastoral relationships, including the dangers of abuse, suggesting that new approaches are required.

ISBN: 9780227175224


In Soft Shepherd or Almighty Pastor? the contributors go beyond the taboo on “power” within pastoral contexts. They not only discuss fundamental theological and philosophical questions about power but also develop ways to prevent power abuse in pastoral context. Power is considered as omnipresent and is analysed in its positive and negative aspects. Not only the classical associations of “power over” or “domination” are discussed in relation to ecclesial and pastoral situations, but also forms of power linked to “service” and “care”. A sacrificial spirituality might also be dangerous.

Soft Shepherd or Almighty Pastor? gathers ten contributions, all of which reflect on the complexity of power issues, also in relation to sexual abuse. The authors argue that dealing adequately with power requires renewed forms of theological thinking, especially about ministry.

Additional information

Dimensions 229 × 153 mm
Pages 220

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Trade Information JPOD

About the Author

Annemie Dillen is Associate Professor of Pastoral and Empirical Theology at the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies, KU Leuven, Belgium. She is the co-editor of Prophetic Witness in World Christianities (2011) and Children’s Voices: Children’s Perspectives in Ethics, Theology and Religious Education (2010).



Introduction: Power, Church, and Pastoral Care: Beyond the Taboo
     Annemie Dillen

Part 1: Fundamental Philosophical and Theological Reflections on Power and Pastoral Care
1. A Web of Power: Toward a Greater Awareness of the Complexity of Power
     Machteld Reynaert
2. Power and Compassion in Pastoral Work: From the Perspective of Michel Foucault
     Roger Burggraeve and Anne Vandenhoeck
3. Beyond the Almighty Pastor: On Three Forms of Power in Pastoral Care
     Stefan Gärtner

Part 2: Power and Interculturality
4. Self-Affirming Prejudice and the Abuse of Pastoral Power
     Carrie Doehring
5. “When I Am Weak, Then I Am Strong”: An African Christian Reflection
     on the Ambiguities, Paradoxes, and Challenges of Pastoral Power
     Emmanuel Lartey

Part 3: Power and Sexual Abuse
6. Intimacy in Pastoral Care: Ethical Notes on the Use of Power in Pastoral Guiding
     Didier Pollefeyt
7. A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing: Dealing Honestly with Pastoral Power
     Cristina Traina

Part 4: Challenges for Theology and Pastoral Praxis
8. Empowerment in Pastoral Care for Persons with a Psychiatric Disorder: Towards Human Flourishing
     Jana Binon
9. The Meaning of Informed Consent in Pastoral Counseling
     Axel Liégeois



Endorsements and Reviews

This excellent book provides rich and nuanced discussions of the negative and positive role of power in pastoral and religious contexts. The often disguised and strategic use of power in pastoral situations is perfectly exposed without neglecting its receptive and agentic aspects. The book provides readers with a good introduction to an often neglected and much discredited topic. It will be particularly valuable for the education and training of pastors and religious leaders, but practical theologians and those with a more general interest in the use and abuse of power in communal and cultural settings will also benefit from this stimulating book.
Jaco Dreyer, President of the International Academy for Practical Theology, University of South Africa