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Counseling has too long been viewed as a peripheral agenda of the church in the US. Even worse, it is often viewed through a Western/professional lens, disregarding the resources and work of developing world. Enter the Capetown Declaration emerging out of the Third International Lausanne Congress held just over a year ago in South Africa. I urge you to read the statement and to adopt it as a concise description (okay, not quite concise but close to it!) of the mission of counsel and care around the world.

A portion of the introduction reads,

“We live in a world of unprecedented suffering and brokenness. These human conditions include different types and levels of social and psychological suffering which are often minimized, neglected or, because they are beyond what local people can cope with at a given time, left unattended or addressed from out-of-context perspectives. We believe these omissions are both unjust and costly to individuals and communities. Virtually all of the major public health problems in the world have a psychosocial component. There is no complete health without physical, communal and psychological health. 

… It is imperative that we respond to these needs in ways consistent with our Christian commitments and with culturally sensitive, holistic, systemic, and collaborative approaches. 

Our hope is that this declaration will point us toward the creation of a new paradigm for the mutual learning, empowering and training of mental health professionals, laypersons, and pastors worldwide along the following four dimensions.”

Four Dimensions of Global Counsel and Care

The Declaration looks at four dimensions of counsel as mission: Christian, holistic and systemic, indigenous, and collaborative.  Consider the following pithy phrases:

“We believe it a matter of biblical justice that resources and initiatives which meet basic human needs and promote psychological wellness should be encouraged, nurtured and distributed more equitably throughout the world.”

 “Pathology, spirituality, treatment and healing must be understood in both individual and collective perspectives.”

“We believe that it is important to honor as a valuable part of the process of healing, the indigenous rituals, practices, and stories of a culture that are consistent with local indigenous, biblical Christian theologies. Thus, the global community should: (a) develop a perspective of relating and learning from local communities, (b) be encouraged to develop culturally appropriate and biblically congruent psychological perspectives, theories, models and resources, (c) be empowered to develop training centers, and (d) be invited to participate in the worldwide sharing of their knowledge and experiences.”

And finally, We are committed to worldwide mutual empowerment and collaborative learning among all those involved in helping people including mental health practitioners, educators, community workers, lay persons, and pastors.”

You can see here that counseling as mission of the global church is NOT a one-way street from West to developing nations but a collaborative learning and helping enterprise for the purpose of serving all of God’s people.

Read the whole statement and consider offering your support by signing on through the website.

 Phil Monroe is Professor of Counseling & Psychology and Director of the Masters of Arts in Counseling Program at Biblical. He maintains a private practice at Diane Langberg & Associates. He blogs regularly at www.wisecounsel.wordpress.com.  See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/phillip-monroe.    

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