Clergy Counseling Workshops
for Clergy of All Faiths
Clergy Counseling: An Abiding Faith in Women
To help clergy provide counseling on reproductive issues, the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice offers two training workshops: All Options Clergy Counseling and Pastoral Counseling for Reproductive Loss.
There is no doubt that a welcomed, loved child is a gift from God and a blessing to a joyful family. Yet, not every pregnancy is welcomed (we do not confuse unplanned or unintended with unwelcome). Women and their families who are dealing with unwelcome or problem pregnancies often have religious, spiritual, and theological questions and look for supportive pastoral help to answer these questions.
All Options Clergy Counseling is many things: it is emotional, relational, medical, financial, and legal in nature. It is also, at the core, spiritual. The conversations that take place during an All Options training are shaped by participants' various understandings of God. The unspoken questions of the counselees are: Will God still love me? Will God forgive me? Therefore, how clergy speak about God is central to All Options counseling even when the woman cannot articulate her own anxieties.
The decision of whether or not to continue a pregnancy is an extremely complicated one for many women. During the workshop, clergy learn more about those complexities. Factors that lead to those complexities may include any one or more of the following: relationship with boyfriend or husband; relationship with parents; attitudes about sexuality; feelings about being pregnant; previous pregnancies; financial and social situation; feelings about being a woman; plans for the future; attitudes about abortion; interpretation of scripture; personal religious beliefs. Therefore, no one choice is best for all; each choice has the potential for pain and loss.
While a simple referral is adequate for some women, we have found that the great majority of women welcome the opportunity to sort out the factors involved in their decision and to express their feelings to an objective, sensitive, supportive clergy counselor. Many women are able to use the counseling session to gain a better understanding of the conflicts that may have led to an ultimately problematic pregnancy. Ultimately clergy who take this training and engage in this type of pastoral counseling will be helping a woman to strike a balance between the time she needs to consider her decision carefully and the time she decides to act (over 89% of all abortions are performed in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, both by choice and due to legal barriers to abortions post-12 weeks).
Clergy who attend these trainings are often invited to become a part of the voluntary network of clergy and religious leaders offering All Options Clergy Counseling through the affiliates of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. To inquire about holding an All Options Clergy Counseling training in your region or at your denominational conference or seminary, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To engage in this work is to accompany women as they decide whether to bear a child in accordance with their own faith and beliefs, and then support whatever choice is made. And may God accompany all of us.