Cover Page

Pastoral Theology and Care

Critical Trajectories in Theory and Practice



Edited by Nancy J. Ramsay










Peggy Ann Brainerd Way


Emma Justes

Trailblazing women whose intelligence, courage, commitment, and passion
shaped the foundations of contemporary
pastoral theology and care in the United States.
They spoke “truth to power” with piercing honesty.
They understood justice is the context in which love flourishes.

List of Contributors

Kathleen J. Greider
Research Professor
Claremont School of Theology

David A. Hogue
Professor of Pastoral Theology and Counseling
Garrett‐Evangelical Theological Seminary

Emmanuel Y. Amugi Lartey
L. Bevel Jones, III Professor of Pastoral Theology, Care and Counseling
Chandler School of Theology, Emory University

Mary Clark Moschella
Roger J. Squire Professor of Pastoral Care and Counseling
Yale University Divinity School

Nancy J. Ramsay
Professor of Pastoral Theology and Pastoral Care
Brite Divinity School

Bruce Rogers‐Vaughn
Associate Professor of the Practice of Pastoral Theology and Counseling
The Divinity School, Vanderbilt University

Phillis Isabella Sheppard
Associate Professor of Religion, Psychology, and Culture
The Divinity School and Graduate Department of Religion, Vanderbilt University


Nancy J. Ramsay

The chapters in this volume invite students, pastors, and faculty to engage seven critical trajectories emerging in the literature of pastoral theology in the United States and internationally among pastoral and practical theologians. While these seven trajectories do not exhaust important points of activity in the field, they do represent especially promising resources for theory and practice. These trajectories include: qualitative research and ethnography, implications arising from advances in neuroscience, care across pluralities and intersections in religion and spiritualities, the influence of neoliberal economics in experiences of socio‐economic vulnerabilities, postcolonial theory and its implications, the intersections of race and religion in caring for black women, and the usefulness of intersectional methodologies for pastoral practice. The contributors are closely identified with the trajectories they trace and extend. Each chapter richly illustrates the implications for practices of care relationally and in public contexts engaging structures and systems. The essays include not only a review of recent literature giving shape to each trajectory, but also the author’s constructive proposals for further advancing the trajectory’s horizons. Particularly helpful is an opportunity in each chapter to identify how scholars in various international contexts are also exploring these themes.

Mary Clark Moschella helped to introduce qualitative research and ethnographic methods to the field of pastoral theology. In her essay, we find explorations of several diverse “streams” in this trajectory allowing students a comparative review of the creativity across the trajectory as a whole, as well as Dr. Moschella’s new constructive proposals drawing on narrative theory and therapy to advance the usefulness of ethnographic practices to confront and redress the oppressive effects of hegemonic factors such as racism and ethnocentrism embedded in the narratives of individuals and of communities.

While neuroscience is not technically a new area of research among pastoral theologians, recent advances in neuroscience have lately sparked a wider engagement. David Hogue brings a depth of reflection and engagement with neuroscience to his review of this trajectory. He also offers constructive theological and theoretical explorations of the implications for practices of care with individuals and in public life, such as new insights in neuroscience for resisting the hegemonic force of privilege and domination that, once learned, shape neurological connections.

Bruce Rogers‐Vaughn brings new perspectives to bear that demonstrate how rarely pastoral theologians have engaged issues of class and economic inequality as important factors in practices of care for individuals and families and in public contexts. He rightly points to the limitations this has created in literature and resources. He illustrates how neoliberal economic policies have become cultural in scope as a radical individualism in the United States and beyond. This neoliberalization of our culture is implicated in epidemic levels of addiction, suicide, and depression, as well as the stress of economic precarity in the “second Gilded Age” in the United States.

Emmanuel Lartey is a primary voice in the trajectory shaped by the use of postcolonial critical theories that disclose the defacing and subjugating effects of colonial oppression. Here Lartey not only traces the emergence of this trajectory but pays close attention to three key themes explored in its literature: voice, epistemology, and praxis. He demonstrates how engaging postcolonial insights offers reciprocal benefits for those whose heritage is shaped by coloniality. In particular, drawing especially on experiences and practices of care in African cultures, Lartey argues that recentering care around spirituality extends its efficacy in building community and transforming cultures.

Kathleen Greider is a primary voice in shaping pastoral theology’s trajectory of resources for responding with understanding and skill in an increasingly spiritually plural and interreligious culture in the United States and beyond. She develops a richly illustrated journey with Israelis and Palestinians who have suffered the death of family members in decades of religiously fueled violence, and who nonetheless seek to communicate with care and respect across the intersections of a culture marred by violence. Greider helps us learn about care across distances that arise in such religious and spiritual plurality. She explores the priority of receiving otherness for practices of care in spiritual and religious plurality.

Phillis Sheppard is a central contributor to current womanist theory and care. Here she explores the trajectory of intersectional approaches in womanist literature and offers new proposals for the particular intersections of race, gender, sexuality, and religion. In particular, she brings constructive contributions to the particular intersection of black women’s lived religion and sexuality that is more plural and complex than it often appears in pastoral theology and womanist literature. She also provides new proposals for intersectional attention to a womanist psychology of religion currently undertheorized in pastoral theology.

My own work especially attends to pastoral theological engagement in public life. This essay introduces the metatheory of intersectionality, first voiced by African American women as well as other women whose historic and current experience reflect the oppressive effects of coloniality. Intersectional methodologies name and resist situations of social inequality. This chapter illustrates the close alignment of intersectional commitments with those of public pastoral theology. It illustrates the methodological usefulness of intersectional approaches for assisting pastoral and practical theologians to name and engage abuses of power in relational, communal, and public contexts.