Deborah J. Pope-Lance, a licensed psychotherapist and ordained minister, has served as a parish minister, an interim minister, a community minister, an organizational consultant, a clergy advocate, coach, and trainer, seminary faculty and field education supervisor. She consults nationally with clergy and congregations, maintains a private psychotherapy practice near Boston, Massachusetts and is Affiliate Minister at the First Parish, Unitarian Universalist in Wayland, Massachusetts.
Dr. Pope-Lance is an expert on the harm caused by clergy misconduct on individuals, congregations and the ministry. Her work with afterpastors inspired the Alban Institute book When a Congregation is Betrayed: Responding to Clergy Misconduct. She was honored to be selected to deliver the essay at the 2011 Ministerial Conference at Berry Street. Her essay, Whence We Come and How and Whither, an unflinching look at the harm clergy misconduct has inflicted on the church and its ministry, is considered is required reading. Other conference keynotes, among these, Harm and Healing in the Aftermath of Clergy Misconduct, presented at an annual meeting of the Interim Ministers Network, and her workshops and trainings, for example, on the ethics of ministerial practice and on afterpastors’ strategies, have changed the way lay and clergy leaders understand clergy misconduct, measure its adverse consequences, respond to allegations and support effected congregations. Dr Pope-Lance is uniquely equipped to support lay and clergy leaders addressing the unique challenges common in the aftermath of a misconduct. What she has learned from studying misconduct’s impact on subsequent clergy’s ministerial relationships, she has applied as well to help clergy better understand the dynamics of ministerial relationships and to be more skillful in all ministries.
Dr. Pope-Lance began her ministerial studies at the Theological School at Drew University, Madison, New Jersey, and completed a Master of Divinity degree at Andover Newton Theological School, Newton, Massachusetts. She studied family systems therapy at New York Theological School in conjunction with Trinity Counseling Service in Princeton, New Jersey and received from the former a Masters of Sacred Theology in pastoral theology and counseling. After completing a clinical postdoc in Marriage, Family and Sex Therapy at PENN in the School of Medicine and Psychiatry, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania , she served as clinical staff in the medical school’s clinic, the Center for Relationships. Her interest in the dynamics of the ministerial relationship began when as young woman in ministry she struggled to make sense of the curious sometimes inexplicable reactions to her and other clergy and culminated in a Doctor of Ministry degree at Andover Newton Theological School, Newton, Massachusetts, with a concentration in ministerial ethics and practice. Her doctoral thesis, Afterpastors: Harm and Healing in the Aftermath of Clergy Misconduct, addressed the relational challenges experienced by clergy serving in the aftermath of a predecessor’s misconduct.
Her current interests include developing strategies for healing the harm caused to congregations by ministerial misconduct and supporting clergy to do their best work whatever the challenges of their ministry setting.