Pastoral Care Lesson 3: Scroll 1


Interfaith Perspectives for Pastoral Care

Overview of Segments in this Lesson

  1. Introduction to This Lesson

  1. Why Is It Important to Study Religious Groups?

  1. Faith Practices Differ in Each Religious Group

  1. The Unethical Matter of Proselytizing

  1. Acceptance without Compromise

  1. Limitations in Researching Religious Groups

  1. History on Reliance of Chaplains

  1. Board Certified Chaplains

  1. Board Certified Chaplains Servicing the Interfaith Community

  1. Board Certified Chaplains & Other Healthcare Workers Servicing the Interfaith Community

  1. Introduction to Pastoral Care/Faith Practices within Religious Groups

  1. Five Major World Religious Groups Introduced

  1. Conclusion

  1. References Cited

  1. Appendences A, B, and C

Introduction to This Lesson

This lesson introduces you to five different religious groups from around the world. In studying the religious groups there are three goals which are pertinent to this lesson:

  1. To discover faith practices within each religious group and how these practices affect the healthcare of persons.

  1. To learn why it is a significant matter (for all allied health care workers) to not cross the line to proselytizing.

  1. To recognize the role of spirituality and spiritual care in healthcare to include and not include traditional religious faith.

Why Is It Important to Study Religious Groups?

You may be wondering at this point why it is important to study religious groups and their faith practices as a healthcare worker. “Why can’t I just depend on the chaplain for this information?” you may ask.

First, there has been a dramatic decrease in the number of professionally trained institutional chaplains working in institutions. (See for educational requirements for professional chaplaincy.)

Whether chaplains work in a hospital, a prison, the military or any other public place and setting, there are fewer of them compared to the many other healthcare workers in institutions today. Most recently several state institutions have cut back on the number of chaplains by 50% due to state and local budget constraints. Thus, although the professional chaplain is the most trained expert in the field of pastoral care, especially in interpreting pastoral care from diversified interfaith perspectives, there are not enough chaplains to go around.

In some hospitals, professionally trained chaplains are non-existent. The hospital provides only the minimal (JACHO) Joint Commission of the Accreditation of Health Care Organization accreditation requirement providing spiritual care 24/7 via community clergy.

Some hospitals hire a healthcare worker from the inside who has very little or no theological-clinical training. This person, whose credentials have less to do with spirituality and theology, and more to do with psychology and education, is responsible to be the spiritual care provider of all patients and their families 24/7. For example, when a patient (whose faith tradition is Jehovah Witness or Christian Scientist) is admitted to the hospital (without an advance directive and/or without family present or family to call), the nurse is faced with interpreting the general and unique belief system/practice of this patient as it pertains to needed healthcare. Unable to call on a chaplain at all or at least in time, during an emergency surgery, the healthcare worker is confronted with making a faith/healthcare decision on behalf of the patient. Even if the healthcare worker is able to refer the case to a clergyperson in the community the response may come too late.

Second, perhaps there are enough professional chaplains working in the institution to cover the healthcare institution. The allied healthcare worker (e.g. physician, nurse, technician), by “understanding” certain particularities of faith practices, especially as it pertains to persons’ health, will be able to refer and/or work along side the chaplain in implementing care appropriately.

End of life and blood transfusion issues are not the only reasons to study faith groups. Pastoral Care, at least from what you know already, is a discipline which aids care-givers to offer and provide appropriate care according to the uniqueness of a person or persons in need. (See Lesson 1) Among the interfaith communities each one practices their faith in different ways.

Let's learn a little about Faith Practices.