Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

Bridging the Word and the World

9/11 2020

Inside the PTS Curriculum: Justice and Pastoral Care

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The “Inside the PTS Curriculum” series gives you an inside look at what students are learning in their courses at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Each article focuses on one class, its subject matter, what students can expect to learn, the required texts, and the kinds of assignments students can expect. We’ll let you know whether the course is required or available for the Master of Divinity (MDiv), the Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies (MAPS), or Master of Theological Studies (MTS). Each article will include the professor’s bio.

This week’s course is: Justice and Pastoral Care.

Leanna Fuller teaches PTS students.

Professor Leanna Fuller teaches MDiv, MA, and Doctor of Ministry students at Pittsburgh Seminary.

About Justice and Pastoral Care

During this term, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary students will be learning about the connection between justice and caring practices with the Rev. Dr. Leanna Fuller in the class “Justice and Pastoral Care.” This course fulfills a requirement for the Graduate Certificate in Urban Ministry and is open to students in the Master of Divinity (MDiv), Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies (MAPS), and Master of Theology (MTS) degree programs.

This course will explore the communal, intercultural, and systemic contexts of caring practices and the links between justice-making and pastoral care. Students will consider the ways in which communal dynamics such as injustice, exclusion, and conflict may shape individual experiences of suffering, both in congregations and in the communities of which they are a part.

By the end of the course, students will be able to articulate an understanding of pastoral care as a form of ministry that is situated within complex organizational and cultural systems—and narrate how this understanding challenges, supplements, or transforms their prior ideas about the nature of pastoral care. They will integrate insights from the course material with reflections on their own pastoral care experiences, with particular attention to the contexts of these ministry experiences. Finally, they will be able to describe their own emerging understanding of the proper relationship between practices of justice-making and practices of pastoral care.

Assignments will include required reading, classroom participation, reflection papers, blog posts, a public theology assignment, and a final integrative assignment. The texts for the course include but are not limited to Leah Gunning Francis’ Ferguson and Faith: Sparking Leadership and Awakening Community; M. Jan Holton’s Longing for Home: Forced Displacement and Postures of Hospitality; Emmanuel Y. Lartey’s In Living Color: An Intercultural Approach to Pastoral Care and Counseling; Injustice and the Care of Souls: Taking Oppression Seriously in Pastoral Care, edited by Sheryl A. Kujawa-Holbrook and Karen B. Montagno; and Chanequa Walker-Barnes’s Too Heavy a Yoke: Black Women and the Burden of Strength.


About the Instructor

A graduate of Vanderbilt University (Ph.D.), Vanderbilt Divinity School (M.Div.), and Furman University (B.A.), the Rev. Dr. Leanna Fuller is in her element when teaching about caring ministry. Ordained in the United Church of Christ, her most recent book is titled When Christ’s Body is Broken: Anxiety, Identity, and Conflict in Congregations (Wipf and Stock, 2016). Dr. Fuller has earned numerous fellowships, awards, and honors. She researches and writes about church conflict, and her book uses two case studies to examine the issue toward constructive outcomes. Fuller advises pastors to develop an intentional plan for dealing with congregational conflict—before the conflict arises! Some of the first steps, she says, include acknowledging that anxiety will be present in such circumstances and that the more serious the conflict, the more time it will take to resolve it constructively.

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