Maria Gwyn McDowell

Theology | Ethics | Liberation | Jesus

Christian Ethics in the Anglican and Liberative Tradition (2018)

Course on Ethics in the Anglican and Liberative Tradition. Taught during the Spring session at the Academy for Formation and Ministry, Diocese of Oregon.

23 January 2018

Academy for Formation and Ministry, Diocese of Oregon


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Instructor: The Rev’d Maria Gwyn McDowell, PhD Spring 2018

This course introduces the field of Christian ethics by (1) studying major theoretical approaches focusing upon Anglican conceptions, and (2) exploring liberative ethics as critique and expansion of ‘traditional’ conceptions. The course aims to advance students’ theoretical knowledge in a way that provides resources for contemporary moral and liberative decision-making and pastoral leadership. The structure of the course will combine lectures with class discussions throughout. Evaluation will be based on short reflection papers, a final paper, and class participation.

Course Details:

Dropbox Link to all course files

Primary Texts:

Texts marked with an asterick will be made available online via PDF. Purchasing the book is worthwhile, but not required. Other books should be purchased or checked out of a library.


Each assignment will be graded according to the following criteria:

  1. Writing Quality: Write as if your work will be made available to parishioners with whom you will work, whether printed in a church newsletter or as a part of adult formation. These are essays intended to help you communicate clearly. Use professional grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
  2. Focus: Make a single argument. Answer a specific question, wrestle with a particular text, method, or issue. Stay focused. The goal is not necessarily to address all related issues, but pick something and think about it well.
  3. Content: Ensure your work engages with the content of the class. Pick an ethical method or framework discussed in class or addressed in the reading. Your essays should not simply state what you believe, but why, and how your reasoning fits within or is challenged by and ethical framework.

All written material should be in 12pt, Times New Roman, double spaced. Papers that go over the required length will be graded down a half a grade for every portion of page over the required length. There will be no exceptions to the length requirement.


Critical Engagement Responses:

Each session, a 2 page critical engagement paper is due. This paper can address any aspect of the reading, and engagement questions are suggested for each session. These papers are short for a reason: no parishioner wants a 5 page answer to a question. They want a concise, thoughtful response that helps them continue thinking through a dilemma. The point is not to cover every aspect of the readings, but focus on an element that stood out to you for its insight, interest, inadequacy, or controversy so you understand how a particular author or method helps you think through ethical questions. This critical engagement is evidenced by asking questions of the text itself, discovering or inferring an author’s assumptions and assessing them, considering the strengths and weaknesses of an author’s argument, and considering the text’s relevance to our developing understanding of ethics in your ministry context. Please email the whole class at least four days before each session. Please send an email to all member with a subject that includes your name, the class name, and the session day. Please DO NOT reply to someone else’s email as a way of sharing your paper. Please read the paper of your colleagues before you come to class! These papers will discussed by fellow students as a part of discussion sessions and so are a crucial part of the success of each session.

Final project:

Participants taking the course for credit will propose a final project from among the choices below. Your choice should be informed by which will be most useful to your ongoing educational development.

  • Projects proposals due: May 19th. A 1-page description of project summarizing topic, approach, and format. These will be discussed and reviewed in class.
  • Final project due: JUNE 20th. Project Options:
  • Option 1: write a 10‐12 page paper on an ethical issue of your choice. The paper should summarize the key ethical dilemmas, and then make a case for a particular ethical response based on the thoughtful engagement with scripture, tradition, reason, and experience.
  • Option 2: design a 12‐week Christian education course on Christian ethics, which might be taught at your home church. Write session titles and descriptions, what readings or media you might draw from for each session, and give an idea in 4‐5 sentences of what each session would hope to cover.
  • Option 3: write a series of 3 sermons on a particular ethical topic. As in any sermon, these should be prepared with worship in mind (in other words, they are not primarily academic). Each of the three sermons should focus on a different scripture passage, but each should in some way illuminate some facet of the ethical issue you are preaching on. It may be useful to choose lectionary texts to focus on in these sermons. Your sermons should be no more than about 1800 words.
  • Option 4: propose your own final project! If none of the three options named above strikes you as helpful, propose another project.

Week 1 (10 February): Human Flourishing

Required Reading:

Engagement Questions:

  • Which of the three approaches to 'being fully human' resonates with you?
  • Do the three approaches stand alone? How might they support or detract from one another?

Further (Optional) Reading:

On Ethics: Beverly Wildung Harrison, Making the Connections: Essays in Feminist Social Ethics On Kant:

  • Johnson, Robert and Cureton, Adam, “Kant’s Moral Philosophy”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2017 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL =
  • Immanuel Kant, The Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals
  • Immanuel Kant, The Fundamental Principlies of the Metaphysics of Ethics

On Mill:

  • Macleod, Christopher, “John Stuart Mill”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2017 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL =
  • John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism
  • John Stuart Mill, On Liberty
  • John Stuart Mill, The Subjection of Women
  • John Stuart Mill, “The Negro Question”

Week 2 (10 March): Baptized into Virtue

Required Reading:

Week 3 (14 April): Whose Liberation?

Required Reading:

Week 4 (12 May): White Supremacy and Black Bodies

Required Reading:

Week 5 (9 June): Immigration and Citizenship

Required Reading:

  • Rajendra, Migrants and Citizens