Academic Programs 

Marriage, Family, Sexuality: The Theology and Ethics of Relationship

Summer 2006

The changing nature of marriage and family life reflects the need for a thoughtful understanding of the complexity of these relationships and their theological base.  This course will explore classic, modern, and contemporary views of marriage and family, including the spiritual, social, and sexual aspects of family relations.  Readings will be from Augustine and Luther on up to current feminist and gay/lesbian views of marriage and family life and contemporary socio-cultural analyses of American family life.  These explorations will fund our answers to questions such as whether marriage is a sacrament or a contract, whether marriage is between one man and one woman, and what can be done to support families in contemporary American culture.


Meeting Day, Time and Dates: 
Monday, June 5 – Monday, June 9 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Heidi Gehman
Adjunct Professor of Theology and Ethics

Contact Information:



Course Syllabus

Course Texts:
McCarthy, David Matzko. Sex and Love in the Home, New Edition. London: SCM Press, 2001, 2004.  (Will be available through the Seminary Bookstore.)

Witte, John, Jr. From Sacrament to Contract: Marriage, Religion, and Law in the Western Tradition. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1997. 

Course Aims:

  1. To gain an understanding of historic and contemporary theological views of marriage.
  2. To explore different theological views of human sexuality and it’s appropriate expression.
  3. To apply critical perspectives (feminist, gay/lesbian/bisexual/transexual, economic, and cultural) to contemporary expectations of marriage and sexuality.
  4. To explore various understandings of “household,” including the meaning and value of family life for the wider society, the place of children within the family structure, adoptive families, and the effects of divorce and single-parenting on children.

Course Requirements:

Note:  All students should read David McCarthy’s book, Sex and Love in the Home, before the start of class on June 5.  The book will be available through the Seminary Bookstore.  For Bookstore hours and information, call (860) 509-9527.  Please order the John Witte book online through or some other online bookstore.  You may have to get a used copy of it.

  1. Students are required to attend each class, having read David McCarthy’s book in advance, and doing additional short readings assigned during the week.  Attendance and participation are 30 % of the grade.
  2. Students are required to write a 7-9 page book review of John Witte’s book, From Sacrament to Contract.  This book review will be due on Monday, June 26th.  An additional assignment sheet with more detail will be distributed by the end of the week (June 9). This review is worth 30 % of the grade.
  3. Students are required to write a 12-15 page research paper focusing on a topic from the course.  This will involve reading at least two additional books.  A bibliography and possible paper topics will be distributed by the end of the week (June 9).  The paper should be written in accordance with the Seminary Guidelines for a Research Paper, which will be distributed to the class.  This paper is due on Monday, July 31st, and is worth 40 % of the grade.


General Schedule of Topics:

Note:  Each day will include many opportunities for dialogue and discussion, so bring your opinions and experience, along with the course texts!

June 5:  Contemporary views of sexuality and marriage.

June 6:  Models of marriage—Catholic, Lutheran, Calvinist, Anglican, Enlightenment.

June 7:  Homosexuality, civil unions, gay marriage, and beyond.

June 8:  Children, adoption, divorce, and the family unit in society.

June 9:  Toward a Contemporary Theology of Marriage, Family, and Sexuality


Hartford Seminary  77 Sherman Street  Hartford, CT  06105   860-509-9500