Call to Meeting 2021

Office of the President
Jennifer A. Herdt
[email protected]

October 13, 2020

Dear Friends:

With this letter, please accept my warm invitation to join us at the Annual Meeting of the Society of Christian Ethics, which will be held online from January 7-10, 2021 (with some events scheduled for the days immediately preceding and following). None of us could have imagined a year ago that we would not be able to meet in Chicago as originally planned. Much as I wish that an in-person meeting were possible, I am delighted that we will be able to gather virtually, and grateful to all those whose creativity, resilience and good will has made this online meeting possible.

The advantages of an online meeting are significant, even if we will all miss our physical gathering this year. It will be possible to attend many more concurrent papers and panels; instead of 5 concurrent paper sessions, we will be featuring 13 such sessions. Recorded sessions (where presenters consent) will further extend the accessibility of the meeting. We are also excited about the ways in which a virtual meeting opens up possibilities for participation by those who even in the absence of COVID-19 would not have been able to travel to Chicago.

Here are a few highlights of our upcoming meeting, which is focused around the theme “Questioning the Human.” We will feature two plenary panels. The first, focusing directly on the conference theme, takes its point of departure from the fact that the category “human” has operated as much to exclude as include, and as much to shore up inequality as to promote equality. Panelists John Bowlin, Victor Carmona, Jonathan Tran, and Andrea White, together with convenor Grace Kao, will reflect on humanity, human equality, and justice beyond the human in light of the interlaced challenges of the present moment and the theological resources offered by Christian traditions and practices.

Our second panel, “Forming the Political,” featuring Nichole Flores, Cathy Kaveny, Vincent Lloyd, and Melissa Snarr, with Luke Bretherton convening, will approach the question of our common humanity through the lens of rising populism and increasing political polarization and partisan antipathy around the globe. In the midst of a global pandemic and historic movement for racial justice, with the 2020 election behind us, and climate crisis looming ever larger, how might Christian ethical reflection on our shared humanity nourish the cultivation of a common life in the midst of tribalistic friend-enemy divisions and across vast disparities of wealth and power?

I am pleased to announce that this year the Society will present its Lifetime Achievement Award to Larry Rasmussen, the Reinhold Niebuhr Professor Emeritus of Social Ethics at Union Theological Seminary. While he served as president of the Society in 1990, he is perhaps best known to us for his Grawemeyer Award-winning monograph, Earth Community, Earth Ethics (1996), and his Nautilus Award-winning Earth Honoring Faith – Religious Ethics In a New Key (2014). Through his books, essays, and leadership of the 10-year collaborative project Earth-Honoring Faith, Rasmussen argued influentially for an ecological ethic that considers the well-being of all creation. In addition to his leadership of the SCE, he was a member of the Science, Ethics, and Religion Advisory Committee of the AAAS and served as co-chair of the Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation Commission for the World Council of Churches.

At Saturday’s Business Meeting several matters of import to the Society will be discussed and voted upon. Most importantly, members will be electing our future leaders. The Nominating Committee, chaired by Darlene Weaver, has brought forward for our consideration a wonderful slate of candidates: Steve Long and Sharon Tan have agreed to stand for Vice-President; Joe Blosser, Victor Carmona, Agnes Chiu, Karen Guth, Aline Kalbian, and Eboni Marshall Turman are each willing to serve if elected on our Board of Directors; Nathan Hershberger and Nelly Wamaitha are candidates for the open student seat on the Board. You can find out more about each of these candidates here.

We will also be voting on a minor bylaws change at the Business Meeting, in order to bring our bylaws into alignment with the longstanding actual practice of the Society with regard to the membership cycle. Information concerning the motion to change the bylaws is available here.

I look forward to seeing you in January.