Academic Programs 

Theology and Ethics: A Case Method Approach (ET-645)
Summer 2007

Many believe the United States is in a moral crisis complicated by a polarized society. This context challenges persons of faith to build skills in ethical reflection as well as reconciliation. Using true, “problem-posing” case studies class discussion will focus on economics, environment, health and sexuality. This dynamic, interactive approach helps religious and community leaders deal more faithfully and effectively with ethical decision-making from a faith perspective.


Meeting Day, Time and Dates: 
Tuesday, May 29 – Thursday, June 28, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Robert A. Evans
Adjunct Professor of Theology and Ethics and Executive Director, Plowshares Institute

Contact Information:
(860) 509-9500
Visit the Plowshares Institute web site

Alice Frazer Evans
Adjunct Professor of Theology and Ethics and Director of Writing and Research, Plowshares Institute

Contact Information:
(860) 509-9500

Course – Detailed Description

This course is about ethics in action. The course is designed for group analysis of selected ethical problems that people of faith encounter in national and international contexts. Participants will be introduced to normative, situational and relational understandings of ethics as well as approaches to moving toward reconciliation in congregations and communities divided by moral and ethical conflicts. Combining serious ethical analysis with skills of mediation and peace-building can equip agents of reconciliation to respond more effectively to the opportunities provided by conflict to bring about constructive change. These skills include contextual analysis, active listening and empathic identification with radically different understandings of ethical issues.

The US is in a moral crisis complicated by a country and a world polarized by issues such as war, sexuality, immigration and economics and different perspectives about Western and Muslim worldviews. A deeper understanding of ethics combined with tools of conflict intervention and reconciliation is especially needed for people of faith who are seeking to carry out their ministry and mission in a divided world.

The course requires selected readings from three books:

Christian Ethics: A Case Method Approach,Third Edition [green cover]. Stivers, Gudorf, Evans and Evans; (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2005).

Peace Skills Manual for Community Mediators, Kraybill, Evans and Evans (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2001).

Peace Skills. A Leaders Guide, Evans, Evans and Kraybill. (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2001).

[All available at discount from]

Highly recommended and on reserve:

The Promise of Mediation: The Transformative Approach to Conflict [New and Revised Edition] Bush and Folger (San Francisco: Jossey Bass, 2005)

The Moral Imagination: The Art and Soul of Building Peace. John Paul Lederach, (Oxford, Ohio: Oxford Press, 2005)

The course assignments involve a choice between:

a) Developing the design for a workshop to be taught in a congregation or community on either “a case method approach to ethics” or “peace skills for community mediators.” This assignment calls for specific goals, audience, time frame, cases, creative teaching notes, etc. The intention of this assignment is to demonstrate an applied theological task that better equips one for ministry. (For suggestions and models refer to Peace Skills: A Leaders’ Guide and the Appendix, “Teaching Ethics by the Case Method,” in Christian Ethics)

b) Write an in depth commentary on one of three case studies (supplied by the Instructors). Identify the ethical issues raised in the case, provide your analysis of these issues; and suggest your rationale for and concrete approaches to intervene constructively in order to build bridges toward reconciliation.[The commentary for the case study “Klamath Conflicts: Limited Water Resources” (pp. 175 – 198 in Christian Ethics) provides a possible guide for this assignment.]


Proposed Course Schedule

May 29 and 31
Class discussion and analysis of a US and an international case study to introduce a variety of approaches to ethics.

May 5 and 7, May 12 and 15, and May 19 and 21
These six sessions will continue discussion of ethical issues but add the development of skills for proactive intervention in conflict and peace-building. In addition to the skills noted in the course description, these sessions will include an introduction to the stages of mediation and approaches to group problem-solving.

May 26 and 28
The course will return to a U.S. and an international case to test the applicability of ethical analysis and the skills of mediation and peacebuilding. [As an illustration of course integration, one participant or a small team may decide to teach one of these sessions to fulfill the class assignment following the outline of Option A.]


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