Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Pastoral Care with Stepfamilies: Mapping the Wilderness

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Pastoral Care with Stepfamilies: Mapping the Wilderness

Article excerpt

By Loren L. Townsend. St. Louis: Chalice Press, 2000. x + 178 pp. $21.99 (paper).

The author states a basic premise about stepfamilies by giving a definition: "Stoep is a word that has survived from old English and means loss" (p. 54). Families who have lived through divorce and are in a subsequent marriage are grounded in a common experience of loss and grief which recurs over time. A consequence for those in a pastoral relationship with such families is named in his advice: "To offer effective pastoral care for stepfamilies, loss and grief must be named. Its embodiment must be recognized, and its fullness encountered within the healing and restoring body of Christ" (p. 55).

Citing statistics from census and demographic research, Townsend says that half of those born in 1980 will experience the divorce of their parents, and, if the trend continues families in subsequent marriages will outnumber those in their first marriage by 2010. Further, "more than half of all Americans now living will become either stepchildren, stepparents or stepgrandparents during the course of their lifetimes" (p. 6). If these numbers hold any truth, then this is an issue which the church must address if it is to be relevant to a significant portion of the population.

The most common configuration of family in a subsequent marriage is the matriarchal. The woman is the dominant wife and mother; leadership is her responsibility. She is the custodial parent of her own children and makes most of the family's major decisions. The husband may take some parenting responsibility, but his primary interest is in his wife's companionship. While this can be the configuration which brings the greatest sense of satisfaction, it can also be the one fraught with the most frustration. …

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