Title page for ETD etd-07302008-131111

Document Type Master's Dissertation
Author Human, Heidi
URN etd-07302008-131111
Document Title The experiences and needs of pastoral counsellors and ministers regarding ethical dilemmas in performing their pastoral duties
Degree Master of Arts
Department Practical Theology
Advisor Name Title
Prof J C Muller Committee Chair
  • pastorial care
  • christian ethics
  • ethics
  • narrative approach
  • social constructionism
  • relativism
  • professional ethics
  • pastorial counselling
  • pluralism
  • postmodernism
Date 2008-04-18
Availability unrestricted

This thesis looks at the experiences and needs of pastoral counsellors and ministers regarding ethical dilemmas in performing their pastoral duties. Brief attention was paid to the nature of pastoral counselling and the challenges it faces in the South African context. The problem that arose is that pastoral counsellors have a difficult and ethically and psychologically dangerous task and are not necessarily adequately prepared for or supported in that task.

As such it is a study conducted within the framework of practical theology. A social constructionist paradigm, supported by a narrative approach to research was chosen. Thus the research was of a descriptive, qualitative nature. The empirical research took on the form of unstructured interviews with pastoral counsellors and others who work in related circumstances. Eight themes were identified as playing a role in pastoral counsellors’ experiences of ethical dilemmas and ethical decision-making. They are: The role of God and faith in the life of the pastoral counsellor; pastoral identity; evangelisation, prayer and preaching; hermeneutics and the role of the Bible; training and the role of mentors; approach to ethics and ethical dilemmas. Professional ethics was also identified as a contributing factor in the literature review. It was shown that these themes cannot be separated from one another and all contribute toward pastoral counsellors’ way of thinking about and dealing with ethics.

A further survey of philosophical issues – such as postmodernism, pluralism, relativism, social constructionism and the South African context – shed light on the challenges pastoral counsellors face in ethical dilemmas, as a result of the postmodern discourses that influence contemporary thinking about ethics in general and Christian ethics in specific. It also showed that thinkers within the church have proposed various useful responses to these challenges.

This study has shown that the emerging profession of pastoral counselling is faced with great challenges in terms of ethics. Pastoral counselling in South Africa is unique, because of the unique nature of South African society. However, the goals and principles of pastoral counselling remain the same. The value of the Judeo-Christian community’s history and the legacy of hope that has been built by pastoral counsellors in the recent past cannot be underestimated.

© University of Pretoria 2008

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