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October 10, 2000
The Committee for the Twenty-First Century begins its report by noting the ways in which the Society of Christian Ethics has effectively carried out its purposes as identified in Article II of the By-Laws. Article II states: “The purpose of the Society shall be to promote scholarly work in the field of Christian ethics and in the relation of Christian ethics to other traditions of ethics and to social, economic, political, and cultural problems; to encourage and improve the teaching of these fields in colleges, universities and theological schools; and to provide a community of discourse and debate for those engaged professionally with these general fields.” As indicated by our review of the 1999-2000 membership poll, the Society has been particularly effective in providing a context for the professional development of its members and a stimulating environment through which members stay informed of new developments in the field, inform and assist one another in a collegial setting, and offer high quality papers in many areas.
The Society has effectively investigated a variety of ethical issues, approaches, and resources, such as historical and methodological issues in ethics and the relationships between scripture and ethics, theology and ethics, feminism and ethics, and the like. In addition to valuing these lines of inquiry and analysis, the Committee for the Twenty-First Century and the membership’s stated interests in the 1999-2000 poll affirm the importance of attending to new patterns of and shifting perspectives on globalization. Among the many themes inviting fresh thought, the Committee encourages attention to identity shifts in the face of migration and the relocation of cultures and religions, freedom and justice in the face of inter- and intra-state conflict, on the one hand, and in light of the power of the media, free trade, and global advertising, on the other. Economic impacts on the workforce and workplace, on professional and personal interactions, and on issues of survival, sustainability, and flourishing call for attention. As ethicists, we wish always to be alert to new as well as familiar ways of moral thinking, imagining, and assessing, and of re-thinking and re-imagining the audiences with whom we explore ethical concerns. We recognize the importance of listening to unfamiliar voices and being attentive to the power relations embedded in moral discourse itself, both within our own communities and in relation to other communities.
Given our involvements in a field of inquiry that constantly challenges us to enrich our work, and given the availability of new communication technologies, we make the following recommendations concerning 1) questions and concerns evoking moral thought in our time, 2) the Society’s administration, 3) Society activities, 4) Society structures, and 5) ways in which we might expand our conversations to include ethicists in other traditions, cultures, and institutional settings.
1. Recommendations Regarding Questions and Concerns
1a. That the Society invite papers and other presentations on critical and self-critical thinking about issues of globalization.
1b. That the Society foster scholarly analysis and invite presentations on the ethical implications of scientific and technological developments in our time.
1c. Given the pluralistic setting of scholarly work in ethics, that the Society foster critical thinking and invite papers on the distinctiveness of Christian ethics and on religious moral identities in the new millennium.
1d. That the Board of Directors establish a committee to develop guidelines expressing the Society’s relationship to various religious traditions and institutions, given the relationship between the churches and academic bodies (universities, colleges, and seminaries) regarding research and teaching of ethics; and that the committee consider ways in which the Society might assist members who are facing critical conflicts between the two.
2. Recommendations Regarding Society Administration
2a. That the Society through its Executive Director employ online technologies to enhance scholarly, pedagogical, and business communications. Useful contents would include the following:
- a website with the SCE statement of purpose and membership information
- email and listserv access
- bulletin board discussion groups
- a program of the most recent and forthcoming annual meetings that can be downloaded
- a directory of members that can be searched but not downloaded
- information on the Annual and how to subscribe
- the most recent Presidential Address
- dates and locations of related meetings
- links to related websites
It is hoped that these services will be available at the earliest possible date.
2b. That the Board of Directors establish a structure to explore the implications of online technologies for professional development, knowledge about intellectual property rights, justice in the exchange of information and interpretation, and related issues.
3. Recommendations Regarding Activities of the Society
3a. That the Board of Directors institutionalize mechanisms for encouraging and recognizing the achievement of SCE members in connection with its activities: e.g., sponsoring an annual Student Essay Competition, and other kinds of awards. The Board of Directors should establish policies about such awards and the Executive Director should consult with the Board about additional necessary resources.
3b. That the Board of Directors appoint a committee to investigate the feasibility and wisdom of fund-raising for initiatives recommended in this report and other society activities, and that this committee provide an initial report to the Board in January, 2002. This committee is urged to give special attention to seeking funding for recommendations 5a and 5c of this report.
3c. That beginning in 2002, the schedule of the annual meeting be redesigned and lengthened by including Friday morning for concurrent sessions, interest groups, panels, seminars, contacts with local communities, and other activities; and that the use of the Sunday morning time slots be revised to make room for concurrent sessions or other meeting formats, including special opportunities, as meeting locations warrant. [The Committee for the Twenty-First Century voted 14 in favor, 5 against extending the meeting to include Friday morning; the vote in favor of using the Sunday closing plenary session for other purposes was unanimously supported by the Committee (19 in favor, 0 opposed).] We recommend that at least some interest group time slots be integrated into the overall programming throughout the day. We also recommend that the Friday plenary continue to be scheduled in the early afternoon time frame as has been customary. These changes are recommended as ways of accommodating our increasing numbers as a society and in light of our committee’s recommendations pertaining to new mechanisms for sharing knowledge.
3d. That beginning in 2002 both conveners and respondents be assigned to sessions in which single papers are presented. The convener’s task would be to introduce the speakers, monitor time, and coordinate questions. The respondent’s task would be to provide brief (5-7 minute) remarks that raise constructive questions or provide resources to strengthen the argument of the paper. We advise the Program Committee to make special efforts to invite younger members or members not otherwise on the program to fulfill these functions.
3e. That the Executive Director respond to requests by individuals or groups for worship or meditation opportunities at the annual meeting by making available appropriate spaces and time slots within the program schedule and by alerting members to these events.
3f. That the Board of Directors establish a mentoring program in which members, especially new members, can be assigned to voluntary mentors in their fields who will provide ongoing scholarly and pedagogical support and cultivate connections within the field.
3g. That the Society sponsor an annual “New Members” event for members of less than three years duration, to be attended by them, the Board of Directors, and mentors of new members.
3h. That beginning with the annual meeting of 2002, the Program Committee invite narrative and artistic approaches to ethical issues and develop new ways of integrating these into the annual meeting.
3i. That the Board of Directors appoint a committee to establish writers’ groups. The aim would be to encourage and mentor constructive new work among younger scholars (as modeled by the University of Chicago Writers’ Group).
4. Recommendations Regarding Society Structures
4a. That the Society stimulate the establishment of additional regional sections of the SCE, as has been accomplished by members in the Pacific Section.
4b. That the Annual Meeting incorporate the workshop format as a new structure with the purpose of providing a forum for members to address pedagogical questions and skill-building in multiple sessions at a given meeting. This workshop format would require advance communication and pre-meeting reading of relevant materials.
4c. That the editorial board of the Annual be assigned the task of reexamining the purposes of the Annual. Issues to be considered would include frequency of publication, eligibility of submitted articles, name of the publication, and related issues. Consultation with past and present editors and editorial board members is advised. A report to the Board is requested no later than the annual meeting, 2003.
4d. That the Society consider creating a list of consultants, consisting of interested members with expertise in particular areas, embodying the diversity of viewpoints representative of Society members. This would be a service of the society to non-academic groups debating issues, such as the media, denominational and religious agencies, and governmental and non-governmental organizations.
5. Recommendations Regarding the Expansion of Ethical Conversations within the Society
5a. That the Society of Christian Ethics establish working groups with four year mandates whose charge is to cultivate conversations and working relationships with ethicists focusing on the following areas: Hispanic Christian ethics, African and African-American Christian ethics, Jewish and Christian ethics, and Islamic and Christian ethics. These mandates might take the form of program sessions, committee membership, recommendations regarding meeting locations, recruitment efforts, and the like. The Board is urged to act on this recommendation as soon as possible and to establish at least one of these working groups by 2002. Interest groups might apply to be working groups in order to assume these responsibilities.
5b. Beyond recommendation 5a, in the future, other working groups might be designated to assume responsibilities for expanding conversations with other constituencies.
5c. That the Society forge formal as well as informal relationships with societies, associations, and individuals in other parts of the world (e.g., Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin America) who have similar interests in religions and ethics; that joint meetings be fostered and arranged; and that delegations of individuals who need economic assistance in order to participate in scholarly meetings be sponsored financially.
5d. That the Society encourage and foster conversations with ethicists working for religious bodies, research agencies, and governmental and non-governmental organizations and that ethicists in these settings be encouraged to become members of the SCE.
An appendix to this report of recommendations identifies areas of responsibility regarding the implementation of these recommendations by the SCE Board of Directors, the Executive Director, the Program Committee, and Society Members.