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016 Interview with the Scipiones {Transcript}

About This Transcript

This interview was recorded live on-site at the 2016 IBCD Summer Institute entitled Disordered Desires: Bringing Grace to Modern Sexuality. Our guests George and Eileen Scipione recount how they found each other at the beginning of the biblical counseling movement, share their unique perspective on developing the role of the female counselor and offer advice and wisdom gleaned from 45 years of marriage. George is the founder and former Director of IBCD (formerly CCEF West). He currently serves as Director of the Biblical Counseling Institute for Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh, PA.

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David Wojnicki:

Welcome to the IBCD care and discipleship podcast my name is David Wojnicki. Currently I am on the advisory board of IBCD in service of lead pastor at Value Center Church and today my guests are George and Eileen Scipione. George and Eileen, it’s so good to have you here.

George Scipione:

It’s good to be here.

Eileen Scipione:

It’s great.

David Wojnicki:

We are so grateful for your ministry. Let me just say, personally before I give a little bit more introduction. You guys, just how grateful I am that you have both been just so faithful to ministry all these years. Really been pioneers We are going to talk about a little bit. Just in biblical counseling. For those that might be listening to this and aren’t familiar with the both of you. Let me give a little bit of the background. George served as the founder and director for IBCD 20 years … 30 years almost?

George Scipione:

24 years.

David Wojnicki:

24 years and …

George Scipione:

Well, yeah.

David Wojnicki:

No, no, you can … You know yourself better than I do so.

George Scipione:

I worked for CCEF. I was the director there for quite a few years back in the 70s before I went into the pastor from ’69 until about ’74.

David Wojnicki:

Then it was in 2006 that you transitioned, if I am not mistaken from IBCD to where you guys are currently. Is that right?

George Scipione:

Well there was a stop, a church planting in between about two years and up to Pittsburgh in the late.

David Wojnicki:

Right now, share with us what you’re doing out there in the great state of Pennsylvania.

George Scipione:

Well, I’m a director of the Biblical Counseling Institute for the Reformed Presbyterian theological seminary. With oldest seminary in the country. Only one who is still faithful to the word of those early seminaries.

David Wojnicki:

Yeah.

George Scipione:

Running their counseling program.

David Wojnicki:

Running their counseling program. Teaching there as well.

George Scipione:

Yes.

David Wojnicki:

Along with the work as you did with IBCD, the work that you are currently doing. You are also an ACBC fellow and assistant in that ministry. Then Eileen, throughout these years you’ve been alongside George and you yourself have been engaged in counseling and some writing and then I’m looking here is this true? You are doing some graduate work right now?

Eileen Scipione:

I am doing a little bit, at the seminary as I have time.

David Wojnicki:

Yeah.

Eileen Scipione:

When you have a disabled mother, children and a large counseling load. You don’t take a lot of courses.

David Wojnicki:

Even take that’s from work?

Eileen Scipione:

I tell people that I am on the 13-year plan. It’s okay.

David Wojnicki:

13-year financing? It’s a plan though.

Eileen Scipione:

Everybody continues to learn.

David Wojnicki:

Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. Here is something I wanted to ask in the first. I am going to ask George these questions. Kind of a big question. How long have you and Eileen been married?

George Scipione:

It will be 44 years this next month in July.

David Wojnicki:

44 years.

Eileen Scipione:

That has been great.

David Wojnicki:

Eileen, what was that the journey that the Lord had brought to the two of you together? Tell us just a little bit of that.

Eileen Scipione:

Oh, no.

David Wojnicki:

That story.

Eileen Scipione:

We’ll keep that one short.

David Wojnicki:

Sure.

Eileen Scipione:

We’ve met at a evangelical camp in Maryland called Hilltop Ranch. He was counseling the older guys. He was in charge.

George Scipione:

I was in charge of the male counseling.

Eileen Scipione:

I was in charge with the gals.

David Wojnicki:

All right.

Eileen Scipione:

Dining rules and others. I was engaged, I fell in love with a young man. An African-American man and we were planning to be married and everything broke loose and terrible threats happened. It was awful and he counseled … Bill and I just stayed together and not succumb to the cultural pressures. It’s the truth. I have letters to prove it.

George Scipione:

It’s back in the ’70s.

David Wojnicki:

Wow.

Eileen Scipione:

Anyway, eventually the relationship with Bill and I did dissolve. Then later on, we’ve met at a friend’s wedding and we began to be interested in each other and the rest is history.

David Wojnicki:

Wow.

Eileen Scipione:
Counseling brought us together.

David Wojnicki:
Counseling brought you together. I think that’s actually a great jumping off spot. Because as I sit here today biblical counseling in many ways is part of the Christian culture. It’s relatively accepted. You both were there, the pioneers in the early days. The first question I’d like to ask is, what did the landscape looked like when you first became engaged in biblical counseling? Really maybe even before that for each of you individually, who got on board first with this concept of biblical counseling?

George Scipione:
Well for me, it was, I was at a seminary. Was so ignorant to guys who say, you are a Armenian. Like a Armenia, Italy. I mean, I was totally ignorant. I was a jock. I got to seminary unconverted and partly, part of the conversion was seeing Jay Adam’s counsel and use the scripture and see people’s lives actually transformed. For me, it was part of my conversion and coming to grips with who I was with the seminar, it was more as a guilt trip. Kind of an interesting, it was a long story. That was for me the introduction to biblical counseling and so that shaped my whole Christian experience as well as ministry per se.

David Wojnicki:

There you go. You are going at it. You are attending seminary.

George Scipione:

Right.

David Wojnicki:

Without really having to have a heart transformation that produces Christ-likeness …

George Scipione:

I went forward many times as I tell people. You can get a parrot to come forward and say, “Ack, Jesus is Lord.” Parrots are not converted you know. I went forward umpteen times. Kind of a protest conversion of Catholic confession where you go forward every six months and ask Jesus into your heart. No change after two weeks, so.

David Wojnicki:

Now, were you guys married at that point? When we start at center …

George Scipione:

No.

David Wojnicki:

Or that was after?

Eileen Scipione:

No.

David Wojnicki:

Okay.

Eileen Scipione:

No.

David Wojnicki:

Eileen, what was your exposure then to the counseling? Was it through, to have that initial experience? With …

Eileen Scipione:

Yes. He was being trained by Jay Adams. Then we met and early on in our relationship. I went to a Jay Adams. He was speaking somewhere and I came up to him and I told him about I just met George Scipione and we were interested and so I started listening to what he was saying. I was exposed to adhere and more and more, I was seeing that the Scripture really have answers and psychology was a mixed bag and wasn’t to be relied on. I began to change but then once he became a pastor. As a pastor’s wife. Every pastor’s wife knows they do informal biblical counseling. I was forced into it and I am having five children in ten years. I learned a lot about counseling children just as a mom.

David Wojnicki:

Right.

Eileen Scipione:

It was, I would say many, many years of informal. Then eventually, I got trained out here at IBCD through him and the others. I started formal counseling in 2000.

David Wojnicki:

Yeah, okay. Part of that and it sounds like for both it just came naturally through life experiences. As you heard the truths that were being proclaimed.

Eileen Scipione:

People come to you for help.

David Wojnicki:

Yeah.

Eileen Scipione:

People know you are a pastor and a pastor’s wife. They want answers.

David Wojnicki:

I want to go down that road just for a minute but I have to ask this question. When he first told Jay Adams that you were in a relationship with George Scipione. What did he think about it at the time?

Eileen Scipione:

He was very encouraged and he said he that he was a great guy and encourage me very much to pursue it. My parents didn’t think it was a great idea but eventually they came to know it was a good thing.

David Wojnicki:

I know you’ve mentioned in the past but I think it would be good for some people to know that Jay Adams obviously had a huge influence on you and in your training. In many ways, it was the tip of the spear with what was happening. Did you recognize at that time, you know, here that this man is training you. You are learning from him. Did you realize the uphill battle that was that was there in the church at the time?

George Scipione:

Very soon, because while Westminster seminary I’m sold was a BD. They’ve changed it and do an MDiv. They don’t want to pay the money to change degree. That was cheap. Anyway, I took a degree at Temple University in Psychology realizing if I’m going to work in this area, I need to know what I’m talking about. I did two graduate work so I wouldn’t be talking as an outsider. It was an uphill battle and formed again without the details. That was a wonderful experience a new Christian went to Temple and basically wrote papers from a Christian perspective. It was just a wonderful apologetic experience. I didn’t get into a PhD program. I can’t prove it was my Christian testimony but I am pretty suspicious that the whole interview was about that.

I knew was an uphill battle because ever since I’ve been on the inside, outside looking in. Went inside, got a degree. Began to deal with people that are trained psychologist and knew from the beginning that I want to go the state licensing route and that this was a significant movement because I think it’s the talent of the infallibility, inerrancy battle and was one of the few groups that’s really standing for sufficiency of Scripture so that we knew at the beginning. Because people thought we were nut cases. They just totally not into it, while I respect you because you have a degree in psychology Jay doesn’t know what he was talking about. Jay read more psychology than I ever would so I knew from the very beginning … And people don’t realize the second-third generation just how ugly it was and just how nasty people were to Jay and to the movement. I lived through that which is a good experience.

David Wojnicki:

Talking about that, there wasn’t just necessarily the battle from the outside with an secular. Would you say that that battle that included just the evangelical church as well?

George Scipione:

True.

David Wojnicki:

Trying to bring that in and …

George Scipione:

I think evangelical church, the have formed the NAE, National Association of Evangelicals knowing “Hey, we’ve lost the culture so we got to win it back.” There wasn’t, I don’t think an exegetical distinctively biblical approach to that so there was this battle going on at the same time you have really rosemead and [wheat 00:10:53] in another schools developing and actually taking over the market to where Jay was an outsider to what they really want to accomplish. There was that battle going on all the time.

Eileen Scipione:

He was always accused banks have simplistic and people would say he’s harsh everything is blamed on sin and not sickness and I said, “No, I know him personally I’ve seen him work. That is not the case.” We took our own loved ones who are very broken that had a mental illness diagnosis and we found him very, very biblical. Very gentle and kind and used to say, “Now, take your family member to the doctor and get them all tested and when that speaks then come back to me biblical counseling. That was the way it was at the beginning because we thought then that the doctor can fix it. All the organic things. We didn’t realize then interchange but he was on the cusp of saying the Bible has answers for these interment issues.

David Wojnicki:

For you as a wife, we talked a little bit about this. You know, supporting George and just the ministry in general but as you saw some of those roadblocks and the frustrations that would build that. How was that for you as a wife? How did you try to come alongside and support? Was it easy? I mean, you are raising your children at that time as well while trying to work to those things. What did that look like to you on a personal level?

Eileen Scipione:

God gave us some children that had some real physical challenges. Some of it is an end in the way they were born something to breech babies. They thought differently and operated differently so it’s like God put us in a place where we had to wrestle with intermittent issues and other men issues on a day by day basis in our family.

George Scipione:

We had a lot of people living as well. We have an open home and took people out of mental institutions and other places. Some of which I should not have done and protect the family but we were just so convince a guy could change anybody the way we took people in.

Eileen Scipione:

We really don’t anything.

George Scipione:

It’s like a three ring circus at some point.

Eileen Scipione:

Sure.

David Wojnicki:

For you, it wasn’t just that theoretical thing. It wasn’t just something for the church to do for them. Like this is a whole. I think it’s one of the other things. It’s a whole life issue. If you really believe in biblical counseling and what the word of God is sufficient for. That isn’t just something that you check at the door. It’s not just something, “Yeah, we were in the office and now we are out of the office.”

Eileen Scipione:

Oh, no. We lived it every day. A living lab of applying Scripture.

David Wojnicki:

Sure.

Eileen Scipione:

In our own home to hurting hearts but also broken brains. I had to learn that Jay was right, that phrase mental illness isn’t helpful. I much prefer to use a brain disorders or something neurologic. We came to see in our living lab in our home that was spiritual or physical. There wasn’t that third category that he used to say from the beginning and we learned in a very personal way in our own family.

George Scipione:

In her counseling, she is so kind that a lot of women just go in to her. We ended up having something unusual for that rural church. The allowed her to teach a Sunday school class with women and mentoring women. That’s where it all began. They just kept coming to her asking her for help. Eventually, after doing homeschooling, public school, privates Christian school, what would you really want to do? Well, we really want to mentor women. That became what started in early 2000.

Eileen Scipione:

He was realizing too that all that time spend in counseling women wasn’t so good. He said, “Eileen, I need you trained.” Because of the connection these women, their husbands weren’t listening to them. Their pastor was. In order to keep at bay and following the tightest passage. He really wanted trained so I was beginning informal training but then I started full-on training. Then we are in a crisis pregnancy center for ten years here in San Diego and a home school network.  The Lord just put me in place after place, after place where I was really forced to say what does the Word have to say with very hurting hearts and some broken bodies?

David Wojnicki:

For women who have a little hard for this and have a heart for entering. Yet they are in the season of life or maybe they can’t get some of the training that they would desire as much as they would desire and they see the need that’s out there. What encouragement would you give to those women just about the season that God has them in currently and how God can use them?

Eileen Scipione:

Dave, that’s such a good question. I find the young women, they have more energy and they have zeal and they want to get involved in biblical counseling or in the pro-life movement and I say,”Make sure your first walking with Jesus, taking care of your husband and your kids. The time will come when you can spread out but the really, really careful.” One of the things we say is we try to do too much, too soon which we had not been so open, just protected those children but to those women who have the heart, with that given and I already laid. Use all your resources. You have a lot of online resources like IBCDs care and discipleship program. They can do a lot at home and still keep their fingers where they need to be in their own marriages and in their own children and still touch lives. The biggest thing that God can use is whatever hurts they have already dealt with. That’s going to be the biggest one. I am the most help to mothers whose kids have been given a label or put psyche ward or imprisoned their kids. Those are the one. Because we lived it.

David Wojnicki:

Thanks for that. I think that’s a powerful message for anyone here. Really, but that’s what I seek out having done in your life. It’s both the experiences that you’ve had, that you are setting the experiences that you’ve learned from it. You’ve been able to reflect and that’s what I am grateful for. That you are able to speak that back into people’s lives and help something maybe chart a course for themselves to say, “I want to do these things. I want to engage with … God has a ministry for you here.”

Eileen Scipione:

That’s right. Also to walk that balanced, you don’t want to speak too much about it nor too little. You don’t want it to hurt your marriage and these kinds of tension in family or a church can hurt a marriage so keep praying together daily. Make sure your heart was right with the Lord but also that you are on the same page and not hiding but not exposing too much. There’s a beautiful balance. We pray, “Lord, set a guard by our mouths.” Because you can say too much or too little.

George Scipione:

It’s my teaching method to say, “Hey, this is how I screwed up. First ten years, don’t do it. We’ll be ahead of the curve.” It works.

David Wojnicki:

I will save you ten years of …

George Scipione:

Yeah.

David Wojnicki:

Having learned, let’s talk about that just for a minute. What have you learned as a couple specially you as a husband in leading your home. Say it like here are the things now that I look to implement between specifically a husband. Let’s just talk husband and wife relationship. This is what I think is important for biblical counselors and couples who are doing it or even to just one who might be counseling. This what I think is for …

George Scipione:

You have to pastor your own wife. You really have to. Know her guess and shepherd them and encourage where she has strengths, protect her from unreasonable demands of congregations, pastor’s life isn’t a biblical category. She’s the wife of a pastor. She has to fill a role so you got to protect her. Make sure that your praying and reading with her, humble enough to ask forgiveness for your sins and just really mentoring her to where you can say she’s better off for having been married to me. Not use her as a second pastor or worker. A lot of times at a certain Christian organizations. They are two first. You get Two-for-one and I don’t think that’s fair. You need to protect her.

Eileen Scipione:

Yes, but at the same time. He wanted to development gifts. He never made a moving decision where it wasn’t “Okay, how is this going to impact your spiritual growth. How are we going to use your gifts? Wanting to protect me and yet still see me develop. It was a true, I think in a sense of spiritual dance. Where he always says, “He’s the five-star general. I am the four-star general.”

David Wojnicki:

That to me is something that is just so beautiful. The moment you’ve said that, pastoring your wife. The first thing that you said was, I wanted shepherd her in the use of our gifts. That is just powerful. I think God brings the two together in that way. You are, you know, George who got me to the [inaudible 00:20:06]. As husbands call to me that, and if you say like we did make a decision without recognizing how this can affect the other. Thank you for mentioning that I think there is such wisdom in there.

Eileen Scipione:

Also, another thing we’ve learned, counterbalance the other person become more biblically balance yourself. Like if you got bad cop, good cop. That’s terrible for the children. You both grow to Christ, speak the truth in love. I became much stronger and harder hitting and he became much more gentle and and less harsh. All because of guide using our extreme differences and knocking against each other but before Christ and praying together we are able to humble or repent. He is such a leader worth following because he was humble. He learned humility, it’s not so hard to submit to a person who is humble.

George Scipione:

Sometimes you learn in the hospital when God throws you in the hospital. Some of my biggest grows have been undiagnosed illnesses or whatever. Where you know, God’s going, “Hey, my sheep deserves something better than this and you have to learn.” If you don’t humble yourself, God will pick a lead and do it for you.

David Wojnicki:

That idea of the counterbalance. Not saying, I’m this way. He is this way. Okay, so we got both in the families. You know now, like how is the Lord molding and shaping us more in the image of his Son and I can only say, “Well, he’s got all the gentleness or she’s got all of this and that stuff.”

Eileen Scipione:

Teach your children to then is be mood readers.

David Wojnicki:

Great point. Yeah. This part really, just having a conversation today is to get to see this side of things. I did want to ask though and bring things into closing here. You were able to look back to the years of biblical counseling, where was with Jay when he started to where it is today. We start with this question, are you able to better identify and say “You know, here are some milestones they see that God brought the biblical counseling movement through so I can look back like that was significant moment. That helped move things forward to where they are today and maybe some in specific time or just a mind shift taking. Can  you identify some of those, you look back and say, “You know what? When I look back and see, that was significant on what happened there and moving it to where it is today.”

George Scipione:

There are so many of those. It would take time to organize them, you know, make ACBC becoming separate from CCF and some of those things. She calls me Ned, negative and her Polly, positive. Sometimes is she significant things and things that should have been done that weren’t done. Kindnesses where we … “Hey, we don’t want to fight so you go your way. That they actually could’ve been more impactful for the whole thing.” I think the biggest milestones I see is when Jay did it Westminster, Philly and the other big milestone I think was [Manx 00:23:24] influence on MacArthur. In directly getting the masters on board and John MacArthur because those have been real keys as well as here. You know, my coming out and then Jim taking over.

I think those are key milestones and Jim Newheiser is now going over to reform those are the kind of milestones where people who are basically antagonistic or very distant from biblical counseling. Now you have a lot of SPC seminaries. You have the masters you have Westminster’s. There is a lot going on, I think those are the two big milestones where institutions have become committed to biblical counseling. There are dozen of smaller ones but those are the big, big things so I tell people back. When I was there late 60s when we started. Nothing existed. I mean we are talking the competent was in mimeograph. I get high sniffing the [crosstalk 00:24:39] that didn’t exist, that there was no courses other than actually observing Jay and others counseling and then talking about it over supper.

Eileen Scipione:

Of how far we have come.

George Scipione:

To come 50 years later and there’s all these books Stuart Scott, Wayne Mack, Jay Adams, Lou Priollo] and all these guys at CCF of house. You know the it’s rich. That’s phenomenal so those are the kind of milestones. I think.

Eileen Scipione:

Would you also say the role of medical professionals and the role of women in the biblical counseling movement, have really been milestones also.

George Scipione:

Yeah, one we always have doctors involved so that’s …

Eileen Scipione:

We have more doctors than that.

George Scipione:

Yeah, more doctors now, more sophisticated but we’ve always known the outer met physical issues needs to be dealt with so women that’s a big development too. One development the [inaudible 00:25:38] ACBC was the including of lay people. Well, you know this from IBCD probably, it trains more lay people and thus pastors. Where Jay’s whole emphasis was get the pastors altering the lay people so there has been some significant move there and that includes the women and of being involved. In fact, I don’t know. I am guessing what the proportion might be.

Eileen Scipione:

There are so many women now.

George Scipione:

Yeah.

Eileen Scipione:

Important and younger.

George Scipione:

That’s because they talk and then they’ll talk. Women communicate so it’s kind of a natural in terms of counseling and mentoring one another.

Eileen Scipione:

Then the role of understanding children. More and more children are broken. Their childhood had been stolen away from them. Now, I counsel children as young as six and even simple ways up to mid-teens and late teens. We try to get them with a man as soon as possible but the training women in the church who have a heart for these children who are so … You know, they are OCD and they have all these labels and they are so broken and can’t concentrate worth a dime. More and more women are getting involved in those spiritual battle. I’ve just written up a graph on motivations guide uses for his people to equip it. Each person that God brings in has something, the gift. You have your own unique little place, some gifts. I’d only be a two-talent person so whoever is listening to this. I don’t care if you are ten-talent, five-talent or two-talent but you have something to give when you hold the sufficiency of the word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit and then your own experiences. With that as the foundation, you’ve got something to give to body Christ.

George Scipione:

Think of them being involved is very crucial for … Because the increased sexuality of the culture and molest and everything else. It’s really important to have women involved in terms of like counseling process. Counseling women.

Eileen Scipione:

Yes, they do and so many Christian women, these marriages are broken, these couples come in and they haven’t had sexual intimacy for years. For the wives, it’s duty, it’s not delight. That’s an area that we’re beginning to, I’m hoping to write a book called “From Duty to Delight” because it really impacts marriages, missionaries, everyone. The brokenness of the whole culture has impacted marriages and our young people aren’t seeing the beauty of sex and marriage. They just think it’s only good before you are married, afterwards it’s downhill fast. That’s so not true.

David Wojnicki:

Well, that right there. Again, thank you enough for the wisdom that you have been lead to share and my prayer that God will continue to use the both of you.

Eileen Scipione:

Thank you.

David Wojnicki:

Thank you so much for taking the time to let us a little bit, peak into your lives and in the history of biblical counseling and thank you so much for being a part of this today.

George Scipione:

We’re glad to be part of it and there was no such thing as podcast back in the old days. This is a great way of getting things out.

Eileen Scipione:

Thanks for your expertise and your enthusiasm and your useful excitement. This is wonderful.

David Wojnicki:

God bless you guys. Thanks so much.

Eileen Scipione:

Thanks.

George Scipione:

Thank you.

David Wojnicki:

Thank you.