The Cape Town Declaration on Care and Counsel as Mission

15 May 2012

Available in: English | Deutsch | Français Русский

The following declaration emerged out of conversations among concerned colleagues from different countries, languages and generations in the Care and Counsel as Mission Track of the Third International Lausanne Congress held October 16-25, 2010 in Cape Town, South Africa. Our hope is that this statement will stimulate discussion among practitioners and educators and will lead to a greater engagement with the tremendous needs worldwide. We invite your participation in the dialogue.


We live in a world of unprecedented suffering and brokenness. These human conditions include different types and levels of social and psychological suffering which are often minimized, neglected or, because they are beyond what local people can cope with at a given time, left unattended or addressed from out-of-context perspectives.  We believe these omissions are both unjust and costly to individuals and communities. Virtually all of the major public health problems in the world have a psychosocial component. There is no complete health without physical, communal and psychological health.

At the same time, there is often a paucity of resources and training to effect change in comparison with the affluent West.  For example, in terms of one specific measure, professional mental health workers per capita, World Health Organization statistics indicate that such resources are 250 times more plentiful in some regions of the world than others. It is imperative that we respond to these needs in ways consistent with our Christian commitments and with culturally sensitive, holistic, systemic, and collaborative approaches.

Our hope is that this declaration will point us toward the creation of a new paradigm for the mutual learning, empowering and training of mental health professionals, laypersons, and pastors worldwide along the following four dimensions:


  1. We believe that true healing includes reconciliation with God, oneself, one’s neighbor, one’s enemy, and creation through Christ.
  2. Health, healing, restoration, peace, freedom, harmony and joy are gifts of God, reflected in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ and guided and empowered by the Holy Spirit.
  3. We are committed as part of the global Christian church to follow Jesus in serving all people worldwide in order that they may flourish in every way including psychologically and spiritually.
  4. We believe that as Christians we are called to pray as well as work towards God’s purposes.
  5. We believe it a matter of biblical justice that resources and initiatives which meet basic human needs and promote psychological wellness should be encouraged, nurtured and distributed more equitably throughout the world.
  6. An authentically Christian perspective on psychology will call us to compassion and the seeking of justice and reconciliation in our advocacy, practice, training, and research.
  7. From our perspective, no area of science, society, or culture is perfect or neutral. It is essential to recognize, critique, and respond to the implicit ethics, forms of power, and/or oppression embedded in them.

Holistic and Systemic

  1. God’s creation reflects a design of interdependent systems and so we are committed to a global understanding of the whole person/system in the context of suffering and health.
  2. We recognize the existence of evil in the world which can be variously manifested in personal sin, natural evils, evil spirits and powers, and evil in society. The consequences of these can continue for generations.  In addition, we believe that human brokenness/pathology is complex and rooted in systemic structural evil, spiritual conflict, and personal choices as well as biological, psychological and social influences.  We acknowledge the need for further study in this area informed by scholars and practitioners from the disciplines of theology, pastoral ministry, medicine, and the social sciences among others and from many cultural perspectives.
  3. Pathology, spirituality, treatment and healing must be understood in both individual and collective perspectives.
  4. Although the western emphasis on the individual has its place in certain settings, we believe it can sometimes undermine communal commitments and hence we encourage holistic and systemic approaches.
  5. Prevention of bio-psycho-social-spiritual distress and the promotion of wellbeing in the person and community is for us a critical priority.
  6. In addition, we give priority to the most vulnerable in society including the poor and underserved and those who serve them sacrificially.


  1. We believe that the capacity to create the diverse cultures of the world is a gift of God to humanity in creation.  A fundamental task for indigenous Christian healers is to discern and engage with how God is already at work in each culture.
  2. We believe that it is important to honor as a valuable part of the process of healing, the indigenous rituals, practices, and stories of a culture that are consistent with local indigenous, biblical Christian theologies. Thus, the global community should:
    1. develop a perspective of relating and learning from local communities;
    2. be encouraged to develop culturally appropriate and biblically congruent psychological perspectives, theories, models and resources;
    3. be empowered to develop training centers; and
    4. be invited to participate in the worldwide sharing of their knowledge and experiences.
  3. We note that western psychology has been widely adopted as a model of human understanding in many institutions teaching psychology and counseling across the world. However, since we are convinced that God is present in his healing power in every society we encourage a process that values and includes local indigenous understandings of the person and community as well.
  4. Therefore, we seek to develop integral (holistic) models of psychology and psychotherapy that utilize indigenous, Christian models of human functioning, wholeness and resiliency drawn selectively and sensitively from the insights of psychologies from around the world.


  1. We are committed to worldwide mutual empowerment and collaborative learning among all those involved in helping people including mental health practitioners, educators, community workers, lay persons, and pastors.
  2. We believe that the journey toward wholeness is a collaborative relationship in which both helper(s) and the person/community in need are transformed.
  3. We respect that local researchers, leaders, and the communities should ultimately determine the purpose for the research, their method of collecting data, and the way psychological research findings will be used.
  4. We acknowledge and seek to respond in partnership to the urgent need for graduate level training for qualified individuals unable to obtain access to such programs.

A Call for Response

We invite you to post your response to this declaration at  We hope to stimulate a global conversation on this important topic. We believe it has significant implications for how we do our work of Christian care and counsel and also how we train others. You are welcome to copy, distribute, and quote from this Declaration with proper citation.

For more information contact: Bradford M. Smith, Chair, Care and Counsel as Mission Initiative at [email protected].


© Care and Counsel International, 2011