Southwest’s CPE Program Receives Important Accreditation


Seminary of the Southwest’s new Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) Program Achieves Accreditation from the Association of Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE)

Seminary of the Southwest is pleased to announce that the Association of Clinical Pastoral EduSouthwest cation (ACPE), a specialized accrediting body recognized by the Department of Education (DOE), has received provisional approval to begin an accredited component site Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) program as part of the offerings provided by the Iona Center at Seminary of the Southwest.

“ACPE is excited about the new program at Seminary of the Southwest. Many of our members are Episcopal clergy and laity, and this seems like a great fit for our shared work in the formation of clergy and lay leaders for effective spiritual care,” said Trace Haythorn, Executive Director and CEO of ACPE.  “With Sarah Knoll Sweeney leading this effort, we have every confidence that this program has the potential to be a demonstration model for the rest of our association. We need more dynamic, visionary young leaders like Sarah throughout theological education.”

“Seminary of the Southwest is committed to addressing the challenges facing the Church in the 21st century, and this CPE program is another significant step in that direction. Our faculty saw a need to create new paradigms for this critical piece of pastoral formation and built a model that both maintains the highest standards and reaches out to a broader community. We are excited about the future outcomes of this program.” said The Very Rev. Cynthia Briggs Kittredge, Dean and President of Seminary of the Southwest.

The CPE program offered through the Iona Center at Seminary of the Southwest is unique in that the accredited education experience will emphasize customization and adaptability to provide critical CPE resources to those who cannot commit to the traditional CPE setting of hospital or who may live too far from a local CPE center. Further, CPE through the Iona Center at Seminary of the Southwest serves those who want an emphasis on Episcopal pastoral identity formation and theological reflection.

The Rev. Sarah Knoll Sweeney, the Director of Spiritual Care Education at the Iona Center, and Certified Educator (CPE Supervisor) at Seminary of the Southwest CPE Center reflected, “CPE is increasingly difficult for working people, busy parents, and those in discernment to access. Increasing numbers of Iona participants, youth ministers, lay Christians of all kinds, and non-Christian spiritual caregivers are looking for good formation for the work of caring for others. Our accreditation allows us to bring the gold standard in spiritual care education to more people in more places without sacrificing quality or adherence to standards.”

This program places emphasis on customized course design and participant cohorts, convenience of place and time, and the integration of Episcopal identity, theology and ethos. The Rev. John Lewis, Director of the Iona Center at Seminary of the Southwest, notes, “The Iona Center at Seminary of the Southwest provides local and long-distance, high-quality resources for theological education, spiritual and pastoral care training, lay formation, and vocational discernment for lay and clergy throughout the country. The accreditation of the seminary as an ACPE site and the visionary use of videoconferencing technology for long-distance teaching by our ACPE Certified Educator, the Rev. Sarah Knoll Sweeney, open the door for the Iona Center to provide experiential, reflective formation for ministry in many diverse local settings where such training has never been available until now. This ACPE accreditation places the Iona Center at Seminary of the Southwest at the forefront of long-distance spiritual and pastoral care education and training throughout the church.”

Academic Dean, Dr. Scott Bader-Saye, notes how this program will enhance the educational experience of students, saying “Becoming an accredited ACPE site means that all of our students will have their options for clinical and pastoral experience expanded.  Because we are able to offer our own supervision, either on campus or online, our students can work in a variety of ministry settings that do not run their own programs — from hospitals to hospice, from an outreach to seafarers to ministry in a correctional facility.  This will be a huge benefit for students because it gives them flexibility both in location and in ministry-type.  Our students who wish to stay in Austin for their CPE can now do so because this plan opens up a large number of local slots that were simply not available before.  Other students, who wish to return to their home dioceses for CPE, could benefit from participating in long-distance supervisory groups.  The key here is that seminary ownership of our CPE programming ensures a level of quality and accessibility that we have never had before.”