The Wounded Healer. – Review – book review

Robin W. Lovin

The Wounded Healer, by Henri Nouwen: The important message in Nouwen’s book is that those who seek to heal the spirit need not be perfect. Their own need for healing is part of what allows them to become agents of grace to others.

Unfortunately, a generation of Protestant seminarians and clergy took this insight from Catholic spirituality as an invitation to make their own healing a primary agenda of their ministry. The result was a blurring of the boundary between the personal and the professional, a boundary that is still an essential part of a pastoral relationship. The result was also a confusion between readiness for healing and readiness to be a healer. As United Methodist Bishop Ernest Lyght once observed, “There are people who have been helped by surgery who will want to be surgeons, but we don’t let them start right away.” That distinction has sometimes been lost on denominational officials eager to provide any kind of pastoral leadership to unserved congregations.

Now that the unintended unhelpfulness has been noted, Protestant theological education may yet bring good out of it by realizing that spiritual formation for ministry is not a do-it-yourself proposition. Seminarians need effective spiritual guides and not just winsome guidebooks.

–Robin W. Lovin, dean of Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University.

COPYRIGHT 2001 The Christian Century Foundation

COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group

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