Fortress Press

Physician of Souls: Ministry as Medicine

Physician of Souls

Ministry as Medicine

Jeanne Stevenson-Moessner (Author)


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While our current culture places a divide between religion and medicine, in some cultures, the healer and the religious leader were the same. The phrase "physician of souls" is a connective term that links those who primarily tend the physical bodies of the suffering to those who primarily tend the emotions or the psyche or the soul. Through teamwork between various types of caregivers, the interconnection of body-mind-soul becomes more apparent.

Jeanne Stevenson-Moessner aims to retrieve, expand, and apply the term for religious leaders and theologians in their response to pain, illness, moral injury, soul-wounding, and crisis. Stevenson-Moessner develops a credo based on John Chrysostom's approach to healing, emphasizing the interconnection of body-mind-soul-culture, resistance to exploitation and degradation, and the importance of community in the healing process. The author advocates for a more prominent role for religious professionals such as chaplains in the healing process, emphasizing their unique ability to represent the faith tradition of the patient and, in the Christian tradition, act as an emissary of Christ the Healer. Finally, the book discusses healing using every means of cure, including both medical and religious rituals, as well as alternative and holistic approaches.

The book seeks to revive the concept of "physician of souls" and apply it in modern times to promote healing and well-being on an individual, communal, and societal level. Physician of Souls also includes color pictures to demonstrate aspects of the case studies and concepts, enhancing learning for students, chaplains, and pastoral theologians. By emphasizing the importance of a holistic approach to healing, Physician of Souls aims to bridge the gap between the medical and religious professions and promote a more integrated approach to healthcare.

  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • Format Paperback
  • ISBN 9781506496627
  • eBook ISBN 9781506496634
  • Dimensions 5.5 x 8.5
  • Pages 158
  • Publication Date June 11, 2024


Jeanne Stevenson-Moessner has reflected long and well on the interface of healing and faith. Now she brings her great wisdom to a winsome expression. She sees that the membrane between faith and medicine is entirely permeable, and she easily crosses the line between the two. This book will be both a welcome instruction and a moving motivation for those who seek to find well-being in the wise, generative practice of faith.

Walter Brueggemann, William Marcellus McPheeters Professor Emeritus, Columbia Theological Seminary

This book is a masterful revisioning of the common concepts around ministry and healing. With fierceness and authority, Stevenson-Moessner weaves narrative vignettes with theology, medical research, and church history to highlight the uniqueness of holistic, multivalent care. She artfully critiques assumptions about religion, sin, suffering, and healing through the lens of culture and gender to invite readers to another level of understanding about the minister's role in dealing with the sick, the broken, and the marginalized.

Bishop Teresa E. Snorton, DMin, ACPE, BCC (retired), ecumenical and program development officer, The Christian Methodist Episcopal Church

With immense knowledge and experience, Rev. Dr. Jeanne Stevenson-Moessner brings us this important work on "physicians of the soul," which describes a vital ministerial role for our present time. We need more "soul healers" since the concept of health is more wide-ranging and broader than many of us imagine. Ministers and practitioners of medicine have much to learn from each other, and we can all listen better to those who suffer.

David Markham, MD, cardiologist, Atlanta, Georgia

Jeanne Stevenson-Moessner summons her deep pastoral experience and a wealth of personal insights to bring the late-fourth-century preacher John Chrysostom's vision of "a physician of souls" to life as a compelling model for multireligious healing ministries in the present-day world. Her reflections on real-life examples at the intersection of religion and medicine today are especially thought-provoking, and compellingly call for a more integrated approach to health and healing.

Margaret M. Mitchell, Shailer Mathews Distinguished Service Professor of New Testament and Early Christian Literature, University of Chicago

Jeanne Stevenson-Moessner has captured the art and science of medicine in the words of a faithful and dedicated theologian and pastoral care giver. In these pages you will find what it means to be totally committed to a ministry far beyond anything you have ever experienced. She drives home the power of what can be, when everyone is on the same page when it comes to healthcare.

Rev. Dr. Charles R. Millikan, Dr. Ronny W. and Ruth Ann Barner Centennial Chair in Spiritual Care, and vice president for Spiritual Care and Values Integration, Houston Methodist Hospital

Jeanne Stevenson-Moessner "breathes new life" into Chrysostom's concept of "physician of the soul." This book is a must-read for clinical pastoral education students and chaplains who strive to make meaning of their call in a clinical environment.

Rev. Willacin "Precious" Gholston, BCC, MDiv, MPP, Certified Educator in the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education

Jeanne Stevenson-Moessner mines the wisdom of John Chrysostom for contemporary spiritual care, teaching us what it means to be a "physician of souls." This pastoral theology of healing elevates the chaplain's role in healing the fullness of mind-body-souls, while also emphasizing pastoral accountability through a "credo of caregiving," analogous to the Hippocratic oath. The author's moving stories illustrate soul-full ministry as medicine.

Mary Clark Moschella, Roger J. Squire Professor of Pastoral Care and Counseling, Yale University School of Divinity

In this evocative book, Stevenson-Moessner envisions a theology of healing that embraces a model that bridges spiritual care and medicine in service to care of the entire person. She invites pastors and chaplains to reclaim their rightful place as those who tend to the dis-eases of the spirit and to recognize that spiritual maladies, often shaped by those in power, require us to act boldly in renaming and reclaiming on behalf of the marginalized. Stevenson-Moessner introduces a fundamental frame for guiding caregivers in the crucial task of soul care, from which we can all benefit.

Rev. M. Jan Holton, PhD, associate professor of the practice of pastoral theology and care, Duke Divinity School

With insight born from deep faith, lived experience, and scholarship, Jeanne Stevenson-Moessner explores the two worlds of medicine and ministry, and the languages inherent in both endeavors. She names the shared missions and priorities, while simultaneously probing tensions and illuminating new understandings of "body, mind, and spirit" for all who are called to vocations in the healing professions, whatever they may be.

Mary Lynn Dell, MD, MTS, ThM, DMin, academic physician and Episcopal priest