Maria Gwyn McDowell

Theology | Ethics | Liberation | Jesus

Christian Ethics in the Anglican and Liberative Tradition (2021)

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

18 December 2020

Academy for Formation and Ministry, Diocese of Oregon


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Instructor: The Rev’d Maria Gwyn McDowell, PhD Winter 2021

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, pastoral leadership, and praxis. This course requires a willingness to see an issue from a variety of facets, listening primarily to those who are made vulnerable by the systems and structures in which we live, and the biases many of us share.

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:

These texts will be read in their entirety and should be purchased or checked out from a theological library.

Suggested Texts

Selections from these texts will be made available online via PDF. Purchasing the book is worthwhile, but not required.


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 an ethical framework.
  4. Format: 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.
  5. Due Dates: Late work is either not accepted or graded down. “Critical Engagement Responses” will not count towards final grade if they are late (four days before each class session). These responses are meant to help us all reflect together and so require time to read, reflect, and inwardly digest. Project proposals are not graded, but if they are late, I may not be able to give the feedback you want. Final projects will be graded down a half grade for every two days they are late; exceptions are granted only with discussion at least one week before the final due date.


Critical Engagement Responses:

Four days before each session submit a 2 page critical engagement and read the papers of your colleagues.

We will discuss these papers in class; they are a crucial part of the success of each session.

This paper can address any single aspect of the reading. These papers are short for a reason: no parishioner wants a five-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.

Critical Engagement papers should be uploaded to Dropbox using link provided for each session at least four days before each session. Please clearly title your paper: your name, the session day, and a short title (optional). For example: “mcdowell-session1-whyIjustcantwithKant.docx”.

You may read all the engagement papers here.

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: April 8th. A 1-page description of project summarizing topic, approach, and format. These will be discussed and reviewed in class.
  • Final project due: May 8th.

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 single contemporary issue. 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 (9 January): A Crash Course in Ethical Frameworks

Upload Critical Engagement paper.
Read the work of your colleagues.
Lecture Slides.

Required Reading:

Further (Optional) Reading:

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

Week 2 (6 February): Baptized into Virtue

Upload Critical Engagement paper.
Read the work of your colleagues.
Lecture Slides.

Required Reading:

Week 3 (27 February): Whose Liberation?

Upload Critical Engagement paper.
Read the work of your colleagues.
Lecture Slides.

Required Reading:

Week 4 (20 March): White Supremacy and Black Bodies

Upload Critical Engagement paper.
Read the work of your colleagues.

Required Reading:

  • Douglas, Stand Your Ground

Week 5 (10 April): Immigration and Citizenship

Upload Critical Engagement paper.
Read the work of your colleagues.

Required Reading:

Week 6 (1 May): Public Safety and Just Policing

Upload Critical Engagement paper.
Read the work of your colleagues. NOTE: This section is still being developed, please check back for updated resources.

Required Reading/Watching: