The New Dictionary of Pastoral Studies

Article excerpt

The New Dictionary of Pastoral Studies. Edited by Wesley Carr, with Donald Capps, Robin Gill, Anton Obholzer, Ruth Page, Deborah van Deusen Hunsinger, and Rowan Williams. Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans, 2002. xviii + 414 pp. $50.00 (cloth).

In my academic work I use a dictionary often. It's startling how often we don't quite understand the exact meaning of a word we want to use, much less its background and history. Samuel Johnson pioneered the general format that most English dictionaries use, and the genre that he set in motion reached its culmination, in many ways, in the exhaustive but cumbersome Oxford English Dictionary. Not only is a dictionary supposed to tell us what a word means, but as well, how to pronounce it, for that is, after all, the root meaning of the word "diction-ary."

There is another genre of dictionaries that have developed as well, which are in fact more like short encyclopedias. The New Dictionary of Pastoral Studies fits within this category. Each of the 700-plus entries, by 215 American and British authors, contains a precise definition of the word under scrutiny, and then an essay discussing the relevance of the term to pastoral studies.

Some of the authors are academics, some ecclesiastics, and some practitioners such as psychologists. In general the essays are focused on issues of pastoral care and its various theories. Some of the essays, or at least the shorter ones, do not indicate who wrote them, which left me puzzled.

The length of the essays is inconsistent: for example, masculinity receives three columns, while femininity receives one and a half. Male psychology receives one tiny paragraph, and there is no comparable entry on female psychology There are entries for gay rights, homosexuality, and homophobia, but no entry for lesbianism. The article on post-traumatic stress disorder is only one quarter of a column long, yet clergy encounter it regularly among parishioners and need more guidance than this essay provides. …