Pastoral Theology: Essentials of Ministry Book Review
Author: Thomas C. Oden
Introduction: What is Pastoral Theology?
I. Becoming a Minister
II. The Pastoral Office
III. What Clergy Do and Why
IV. Pastoral Counsel
Pastoral Theology Essentials of Ministry is a "must have" resource for all persons contemplating entering the ministry, those who want to understand the role of pastors more clearly, and those ministers who want to review their role in the light of a systematic reflection on the pastoral office in general.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, even more than I did his Agenda for Theology. I think he presented his theory of ordained ministry, including a definition of its functions and duties underlying theological principles method, in a succinct and easily understood manner. The whole book is a treasure of resouces for all desiring to increase understanding of this office and what it means to be a pastor. My comments however, are limited to the three chapters that stand out most for me: Women in the Pastoral Office, The Care of Souls and Pastoral Care of the Dying.
Women in ministry will find Oden's favorable position on women performing in pastoral capacities quite enlightening, affirming and Biblically sound. He makes some significant observations that certainly challenge the most intransigent opposition. Most of the controversial discussions over the legitimacy of women in the pastoral ministry arise because of hermeneutical differences. In Pastoral Theology, Oden presents his own hermeneutics as well as the hermeneutics of those who object to women's ordination to the pastoral ministry. He argues in support of women on the basis of the larger Biblical picture; he looks for the general principles found inherent in the flow of Scriptures. He also takes into account the historical and cultural dynamics within which the inspired writer wrote. Implicit in Oden's comments is the notion that the issue of women is not simply or merely academic. It lies at the very heart of our struggle to stand together as brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus.
Oden brilliantly distinguishes pastoral care of souls from other pastoral functions by illuminating its primary focus on individual need and the personal character of the pastor's involvement with the parishioner. His approach is holistic and deeply human.
Though somewhat implied, I wish Oden emphasized more explicitly the need for pastors to have adequate education and psychological qualifications for the task of caring for souls. Certainly with the multi-problematic concerns of people today, with the mental anomalies that grip them tenaciously, does it not seem appropriate that pastors should be intellectually suited and academically prepared for her/his work? The pastor is a "physician of the soul" and just as the physicians today must know far more and practice more expertly to meet people's health need, so likewise, will the physician of the soul.
Finally, Oden's treatment of and recommendation for pastoral care of the dying is extremely informative. He delineates pastoral responsibilities and offers helpful guidelines for counseling with the dying and relating to hospital staff. Any reader who has not thought through the importance of the funeral would do well to study these sections intently for there is some very convincing evidence presented.
This book is a classic and should be in every pastor's personal library. Even though, as with most books, there are specific areas where we are bound to disagree, overall, the information and ideas presented is worth its weight in gold.
Rev. Saundra L. Washington, D.D., is an ordained clergywoman, veteran social worker, and Founder of AMEN Ministries. She is also the author of two coffee table books: Room Beneath the Snow: Poems that Preach and Negative Disturbances: Homilies that Teach which can be reviewed on her site. Her new book, Out of Deep Waters: My Grief Management Workbook, is expected to be available soon.
You are welcome to visit AMEN Ministries: Your Soul's Service Station for spiritual refreshing, soul edification, browse our newly expanded mini shopping mall or review our recommended books you may want to add to your personal library.
Blessings to all!
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