Chris Jenkins’ editorial in Thresholds, autumn 2009, drew me to thinking about where APSCC has come from. Sometimes this exercise can help us see or at least imagine where it is we are going to in our vision of ‘inclusivity to all faiths and none’. Together with the fact that we are celebrating 40 years of pastoral and spiritual care and counselling, I was prompted to look back at the papers that record the founding of the Association for Pastoral Care and Counselling (APCC)1, and the fascinating attempts that our forbears made in trying to embrace the many individuals and associations who contributed to that beginning.

It was solidly Christian at that time but with a rare and valuable Jewish ingredient. Irene Bloomfield, a psychotherapist and practising Reformed Jew, always invited us to see beyond our own faith traditions towards those of others who we met in the course of our work and our lives. Reading the early minutes of meetings and the exchange of ideas, hopes and plans, it seems to me that there were different stages in the process of APCC’s formation, which I am sure have been repeated often in our story. There was a courtship, a conception, a gestation and a birth. These stages echo at least some of the issues and dilemmas that engage us in the business of counselling and care today, and in the evolution of the organisations established to deliver those services, and in APSCC and BACP especially.

In writing this story I have tried to sound those echoes and their relevance to our current wish to ‘reach beyond boundaries of religious and spiritual traditions, to hold together insights from Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity and many other traditions, to reach beyond the denominational boundaries of counselling, bringing into conversation person-centred, psychodynamic, integrative and systemic practitioners, and making space for chaplains and carers, pastors, rabbis and spiritual healers’2. I guess we were not so ambitious 40 years ago, but we have come some way since then, and have a history about which we can have some pride and to which we can look for strength and inspiration.


In the 1960s there was considerable ferment in Christian circles, typified by the publication of John Robinson’s Honest to God3. Christians and Jews were divided about how orthodox or liberal they were going to be. Clergy in particular were uneasy about their ‘role’ in society4,5. As many pointed out, churches were on the decline, and the traditional pastoral ministry was being usurped by the new professions of social work and psychotherapy. In 1968, in an attempt to help define the role of pastors in this changing world, the British Council of Churches invited individuals and associations involved in pastoral work to come together and begin the process of clarifying the clergy’s role and indeed the role of the laity in ministry. Figure 1 illustrates who those individuals and groups were and what they valued most in pastoral ministry. The APCC ‘family tree’, as it was to become, illustrates this meeting and cooperating which took place in the late 1960s and 70s. The hope was that these individuals and groups would be drawn together to form a new body for pastors, clerical and lay, which would determine the essentials for training people to deliver good pastoral care in contemporary society. The initial gatherings reflected a tentative courtship between associations such as the Council for Health and Healing (CHH), the Westminster Pastoral Foundation (WPF), the Clinical Theology Association (now the Bridge), the Richmond Fellowship (RF), the university departments of pastoral and practical theology in Edinburgh and Birmingham, and the few Anglican dioceses which had appointed directors and advisors in pastoral and care and counselling.

The courtship was not an easy one. From the very first meeting a division arose between those who looked to the models of counselling and psychotherapy as a blueprint for the development of these very valuable resources in churches and synagogues, and those who were suspicious of this professional and secular model, which encouraged elites and left many disenfranchised in their ministry. The former favoured a focus on humanity in crisis, need, distress and illness, while the latter looked for the health and wellbeing of people in good times as much as in bad. The former wanted a national association which would foster good pastoral counselling and psychotherapy in specialised centres as well as in church-attached services. The latter wanted a much looser form of association which would nurture the resources of the whole church in a ‘pastorhood of all the believers’ and not of the few experts alone. As Lambourne6 wrote: 

'An accredited hierarchical pastoral movement will be professional, problem solving or problem preventing, standardised and defined. This is based on medical and psychoanalytic models of the USA 20 years ago, and it has proved inadequate. To copy it would be a disaster because not only is it not what is wanted, but also because it will be an obstacle to what is wanted. What is required is a pastoral care which is lay, corporate, adventurous, variegated and diffuse.'

The current debate in counselling and psychotherapy about registration echoes those differences and the fear that the new medically based criteria will undermine what counsellors and psychotherapists most value for their work with clients. Darian Leader7, writing recently in the Guardian, spelled out this fear on the day that five therapy organisations went to the High Court to hear the judicial review brought against the Health Professions Council (HPC).

'On the HPC model, an expert supplies a product to a consumer, who can complain if the product is faulty. But most therapies offer precisely what can’t be predetermined. You can never know what you are going to get, that’s why it is an inherently risky process. Indeed therapy often fosters a recognition that life isn’t predictable, neat and safe.'

The notes from several meetings in 1970-71 reveal how these differences were managed sufficiently to keep all the interested groups and individuals together at least in argument and debate. The initial group of some 20 was enlarged to 50 in a national meeting to determine the name and future of a national association. In 1973, the Foster Report, commissioned by the Government, proposed that psychotherapies should be registered in order to protect clients from abuse. The same reasons for protecting the client are high on the list of the HPC’s proposals. However, it was this external threat that helped to bring together the many different bodies and associations that were in the end to form BAC.

In today’s world there are many echoes of the external threat which promote a coming together and the real effort required to achieve such cohesion. The panel of speakers at the 2009 BACP AGM8 was wonderfully illustrative of this process. Sarah Browne, in a Therapy Today editorial in 20098, wrote about the ambivalence, always a good counselling word, that has to be addressed. ‘We must get over our tendency to not engage with what we are not comfortable with.’ It was as true 40 years ago as it is today, that different disciplines in mental health care still find it easier to converse with fellow professionals of the same psychotherapeutic caste.

However, John McLeod9, the ‘Tony Benn’ of counselling, could envisage a time when we ‘move beyond separate approaches, like person-centred, psychodynamic, and so forth… all the approaches have got a lot to offer but actually more importantly the gaps within each are actually answered really well within other approaches’. But given our human nature, the sceptical are more likely to hide the gaps in their expertise rather than watch others expose and seek to remedy them. The less optimistic panel members in 2009 found a more realistic voice in Lynne Gabriel’s9 exploration of the sensitive relationship between psychotherapy and counselling. She reminded us that comparing ourselves with others is very natural to us. ‘We can’t not, we are human beings.’ In this courting period, psychoanalysis topped the tree and pastoral care grew in its roots. It was the express intention of the Southwark diocesan PC&C scheme, led by Derek Blows, to appropriate the treasures of psychoanalysis in order to share them with the humble pastor in his/her parish. For some time, two psychoanalysts led the supervision groups for the 20-odd leaders of the basic care and counselling groups throughout the diocese of Southwark10. In practice, the process worked more in reverse as the most talented forsook their pastoring to become psychotherapists and psychoanalysts.


In the June of 1971 a meeting, chaired by Professor Desmond Pond (Department of Psychiatry at the London Hospital), was called to invite all interested parties to help in the formation of a national association for pastoral care and counselling. Speakers from the initial group introduced different aspects of their discussions thus far. Bill Kyle (WPF) explained the history and objectives of the group and focused particularly on the place and role of pastoral counselling centres like his own in Westminster. Derek Blows (Southwark PC&C) spoke about the different levels of training appropriate for pastors engaged in different kinds of pastoral work. John Wickens (RF), drawing upon his experience of human relations and clinical pastoral education (CPE) at the Richmond Fellowship, promoted his ideas for standards in training programmes. Alistair Campbell (Edinburgh University) outlined the value of training attached to a university where there was a wide range of relevant resources in theology, psychology and sociology and where different points of view and theory could be held in creative tension with one another.

A draft constitution was discussed but not agreed and the question of levels of membership and accreditation, a sensitive subject, were left for future meetings, but the group accepted a name for itself – the Group for the Advancement of Pastoral Care and Counselling (GAPC&C). Those from Birmingham – Bob Lambourn and Michael Wilson – continued to air their doubts about a national organisation, especially one that seemed much more interested in standards for pastoral counselling than in ‘lay, corporate and diffuse pastoral care’, which they promoted in their pastoral studies course at Birmingham University. The same variety of voices is to be heard in the current debate about registration in counselling and psychotherapy, especially in the fear about the dominance of the ‘medical model’ and its inappropriateness to counselling and psychotherapy, which individualises treatment and ignores more corporate approaches to care. John McLeodthinks ‘we need to take a brave decision not to embrace the medical model way of thinking’. Whereas Jeremy Clarke argues that it is ‘an absolute disaster for counsellors to avoid doing randomised control trials (RCTs). The medical model is wedded to these and controls most of the NHS resources. We have to join the club to get our hands on any of its riches.’9


Following the public meeting in June 1971, the core group, now called an executive of the GAPC&C, discussed the hesitancy and fear of the June meeting and recognised the need for greater understanding of the different points of view expressed there. The core group had got ahead of itself, as such groups generally do, and the more articulate and ambitious members fought for the new national association to reflect their particular model of care and counselling. Psychoanalysis and dynamic psychotherapy were seen as the benchmark for the development of counselling amongst clergy and, to a lesser extent, talented laity. The American models of CPE and pastoral counselling attracted those who wanted to replicate them here as tried and tested models. Others were more doubtful about their fitting the UK situation. Lambourn6 and Clinebell12, leading pastoral counsellors from the USA, were ushered into the ring to debate the conflicting visions of an association on one hand with a clearly therapeutic basis, and an association on the other which would be non-hierarchical and inclusive of all kinds of pastoral care and not just the therapeutic. As the gestation proceeded, the therapeutic model took the lead because it was more easily defined and had the most adherents in the new association. Levels of training and competency were spelled out and their application in practice agreed.

The core group envisaged three levels of training and practice (Constitutional Papers, 1973). First, for those with ordinary pastoral responsibilities: ‘The focus here would be on the general pastoral care of individuals within the community and of the community itself in its formation, growth, development and re-formation.’ Second, a training for ‘a ministry for working at some depth in the more specialised areas such as are normally designated by the terms counselling and  psychotherapy’. Third, ‘the ongoing training and development of those who are engaged in both the above fields’. Thus a hierarchy was proposed with pastoral care at the bottom, counselling in the middle and training and supervision at the top. In time, the association did work to promote pastoral care and counselling in these three ways. Nevertheless, there was, and probably still is, a tension between the objectives of pastoral care in its many and diverse forms, and pastoral counselling and psychotherapy in its more specialised and defined form, which often detached it from the religious communities that had brought it into being. On reflection it is possible to see that pastors at the first level found that an activities sub-committee did the most to address their needs by organising conferences and meetings in which pastoral care was the focus. These were initially held in London and were led by Irene Bloomfield and Hugo Gryn, a rabbi. However, in time, similar activities were organised in Kent by Leslie Virgo and Marjorie Iverson; in the East Midlands by Michael Jacobs (the first editor of the APCC newsletter), Alan Lilley and Fraser McLennan; in Northumberland by David Goodacre; and in Birmingham by Emmanuel Lartey and Geraldine Roy. Those in the second and third levels concentrated on devising appropriate training programmes and standards of practice and it was they who formed the first accreditation sub-committee. Currently, APSCC caters for both the first and second levels, but shares with the British and Irish Association of Practical Theology (BIAPT), and the newly formed Association of Pastoral Supervisors and Educators (APSE), the aims of the third level.

Here there are obvious connections to the debates of both BACP and APSCC about standards of training and practice. For a time, APCC accredited counsellors, supervisors and trainers. All the original founders were given grandfather status as trainers and supervisors and a few of us intrepid or foolish followers went through the process of accreditation before that responsibility was handed over to BAC in the late 1970s10. It is good to see that APSE has begun to address the specific needs and resources of those who have the oversight of pastoral practice in the community and in institutions. They have picked up the baton dropped by APCC all those years ago. At the same time some of APCC’s leaders – Michael Jacobs, Tom Leary, Mary Anne Coate and Ted Martin – to name four, followed accreditation in taking on major work with BAC. APCC felt the draught of their going and some within APCC advocated leaving BAC before we lost anyone else! As Lambourne feared, pastoral care, like Cinderella, would never get invited to the party. Many of the members of the Association were of course busy practitioners of pastoral care and only rarely plumbed the depths of pastoral counselling. Rather than being one kind of pastoral care, counselling did its own colonisation by introducing the term ‘counselling skills’11 as that which was appropriate to pastoral carers. In practice this underlined their sense of being second class counsellors and led to steady withdrawal of pastoral carers from APCC with its mounting subscription and preoccupation with counselling. This was institutionalised when APCC became one of the first divisions of BAC. The new organisation did not really know about or value pastoral care until recently in its discovery of ‘embedded counselling’. Pastors have known about and practised embedded counselling for thousands of years but, with a hint of patronage, John McLeod8 has helped BACP begin to explore it at last:

'I think that the voluntary sector is one of the major strengths in counselling in Britain; and I would go beyond that, and say that what I call embedded counsellors – teachers, nurses, social workers, and other people [no mention of pastors!] – have a counselling role embedded within their main work role and are doing a lot of good work.' 

A panel at the BACP Conference in 2009 reflected these hierarchical tensions in the debate about whether or not counselling and psychotherapy are the same, and if not, which should be regarded as better if only in terms of financial reward. Jeremy Clarke8 spelled out this tension:

'Why are we worrying about whether there is a difference between counsellors and psychotherapists, because we know there is a difference in status, in the tradition and background of the disciplines? Why are we pretending otherwise? The change will come about from counsellors who value what they do themselves, not worrying about what other people do.'

Would that it were so easy. Those at the bottom of any pile learn very quickly to know their place. The same applies to pastoral and spiritual carers, especially lay people, who have to value what they are doing and not worry about what others do, but find it equally difficult in practice. Here, the writings of Lyall12, Pattison13 and Campbell14 have been most affirming of the carer’s role. Through its conferences and its newsletters APSCC has valued pastoral and spiritual care, and kept space available for those who care and may counsel as a part of their caring role or work.


It was in the summer of 1971 that the GAPC&C gave birth to the Association for the Advancement of Pastoral Care and Counselling (AAPC&C) and at the first meeting of the Association, officers were appointed: Desmond Pond to be president, Derek Blows to be chairman and Bill Kyle to be secretary. A constitution was agreed and the objectives of the organisation defined as:

  • to facilitate the exchange of information and experience of member organisations 
  • to coordinate programmes and activities of member organisations and others working in this field 
  • to initiate programmes of education and training, at a community level, in the field of mental health 
  • to consider the criteria for standards and competence in pastoral counselling and to search for recognition of those standards 
  • where it is seen to be necessary to promote further training in pastoral counselling, training oversight and community/group learning processes 
  • to promote programmes of research in the interdisciplinary study of theology and behavioural studies 
  • to give guidance in setting up centres for pastoral counselling 
  • to encourage constant scrutiny of goals, standards, practices and concepts in pastoral training.

It was at about this time that the Constitutional Papers (1973) were published with contributions from all the leading figures on the family tree, and it was they who led the newly born Association and its member organisations (figure 1). These were to continue in their aims and activities but also to cooperate with one another wherever they could. In the meantime the Association would perform the following roles – coordinating, setting standards for pastoral counsellors and centres, and research in interdisciplinary study. During the first year of its life some 50 members joined, most from the member organisations but some as the first individual members. It was not until 1973 that the word ‘advancement’ disappeared from the Association’s title and it became simply the Association for Pastoral Care and Counselling (APCC). The minutes of a meeting held in July 1973 disclose two interesting facts which relate to issues of today.

The APSCC family tree

First, the tension between the Association’s executive committee, which included mostly members of the original organisations (figure 1), and the membership in general. In reference to the AGM, the minutes say: ‘It was felt that there was a danger of a great deal of intense work being undone by such a meeting as there was a continual flow of new members who were completely unaware of the past history and of the need for specialisation in pastoral ministry.’ Therapy Today, especially in the letters section, keeps us in touch with a similar tension between BACP’s leaders and its membership. Second, to recognise quality in pastoral counselling in case the Foster Report deemed pastoral counselling centres and their work not to be of sufficiently high standard to satisfy the Government. This report was the forerunner of the current proposals about registration and its effect on counselling and psychotherapy. Although pastoral counsellors, along with others in BAC, were anxious about the proposed intervention by the Government, nothing actually came of the Foster Report’s proposals. Will the same be true of the current plans for national registration? We await the High Court’s verdict! (And the intentions of the Coalition Government, ed.)

Looking at APSCC’s objectives today, it is clear that many of our aims – coordinating, communicating, supporting, researching and promoting good practice – remain the same. The Association is in a key position to encourage dialogue between its members, the wider membership of BACP and the many faith communities in the UK and internationally. What are significantly different are the Association’s aims in relation to the spiritual in care and counselling, and in its inclusion of all major faiths and none. ‘Spiritual’ was not a word that appeared in the deliberations of the Association at its inception. Nor were there any relations with the majority of the major faiths. It is good that spirituality as a concept is gradually making it easier for other faiths to recognise their inclusion in our Association. Likewise it is good to see that in our philosophy, we say that, ‘We encourage recognition of pastoral care and counselling as distinct, yet complementary practices.’ We  remain a receptive home for all who practise pastoral and spiritual care and counselling, whether professionally or embeddedly.

In one way, our predecessors showed an open-mindedness ahead of others in care and counselling. From 1972, delegates from the UK attended conferences in Europe15 and internationally. Some of this was to make or retain links with similar organisations in other countries, and indeed to fortify one another in difficult times. Some of us visited East Germany and Poland before the wall came down, and then the Czech Republic. There, we learnt about care and counselling in socialist states; and more than 30 of us attended the second International Congress in San Francisco. It is helpful in our cosmopolitan world to hear of pastoral and spiritual ministry in other countries and contexts through articles in Therapy Today and Thresholds, but it would be good if today’s generation could find delegates to join in the international movement that thrives, but without our contribution.


Revisiting this story has reminded me about how exciting it all was to be founding something that really affirmed the often difficult work of pastoral care and counselling. Many of the names that appear here from those years are of people who contributed so much to my own ministry and life. Christmas cards from some close friends in Europe and America remind me of the good and the bad times we shared. Chris Jenkins2, writing about the APSCC conference in 2009, expresses the same sentiment about meeting, sharing and being affirmed by others in the current Association. Thanks be to God for those days of yore and for today’s Association and its members. 

John Foskett is president of APSCC


1 APCC’s minutes, reports and constitutional papers for the years 1968-88 are currently kept by me. 
2 Jenkins C. Editorial. Thresholds. Autumn 2009; 1. 
3 Robinson J. Honest to God. London: SCM; 1963.
4 Halmos P. The faith of the counsellors. London: Constable; 1965.
5 Vanstone W. Love’s endeavour, love’s expense. London: Darton, Longman and Todd; 1977.
6 Lambourne R. Objections to a national pastoral organisation. Contact. 1971; 35.
7 Leader D. Therapy shows us life is not neat or safe. So why judge it by those criteria? The Guardian. 10/12/10.
8 At the BACP Conference in 2009 a panel of eminent speakers from the Association shared in a debate about the future of the profession, the value of RCTs, the impact of regulation and IAPT, and much more. Therapy Today. 2009; 20(9):14-18.
9 McLeod J. Question time. Therapy Today. 2009; 20(9):14-18.
10 Foskett J. APCC’s scheme for accrediting supervisors. Contact. 1982; 77.
11 Counselling skills is a term often used in counselling and psychotherapy contexts and refers to skills that have much in common with counselling but not at the same depth or intensity. This seems to me to be counselling’s colonisation of  what are common human relationship skills relevant in all human contexts and not just in counselling. They could equally be parenting skills, teaching skills, managing skills, nursing skills and indeed policing skills etc.
12 Clinebell H. Debate: a national pastoral organisation. Contact. 1971; 36.
13 Lyall D. The integrity of pastoral care. London: SPCK; 2001.
14 Pattison S. A critique of pastoral care. London: SCM; 1988.
15 Campbell A. The rediscovery of pastoral care. London: Darton, Longman and Todd; 1981.
16 Foskett J. The gossip of God’s siblings: the European pastoral care and counselling movement 1972-2005. Contact monograph 16. 2006.