Call to Meeting: Letter from President Diane Yeager

AM Materials:




September 5, 2018

Dear SCE Friends and Colleagues,

In Louisville, Kentucky, January 3-6, 2019, the Society of Christian Ethics will assemble in the downtown Marriott for its sixtieth annual meeting, held conjointly with the meetings of the Society of Jewish Ethics (SJE) and the Society for the Study of Muslim Ethics (SSME).  Our program, which includes some experimental innovations, is as rich and crowded as usual.  Despite the fact that you will scarcely have had time to put away your holiday decorations, I hope you will join us.  What better way to start the new year than with an array of stimulating presentations, an opportunity to reconnect with old friends, and the possibility of opening new conversations with new professional colleagues?

Please note that this meeting will formally open at 7 on Thursday night with the first set of concurrent sessions, and it will close Sunday morning at 10:30 after the sixth and final set of concurrents.  In shifting one set of concurrent presentations from late Sunday morning to Thursday night, the Program Committee is responding to extensive member feedback in the evaluation forms submitted after the 2018 meeting, and at the end of this meeting you will have an opportunity to tell us whether this is a change that you like.  I am delighted to let you know that Thursday night will also include a concert by a very well-regarded local jazz pianist, Harry Pickens.  The program he will be presenting, after the concurrents end, is “Sounding the Soul: Living as an Instrument of Grace.”

The Friday morning SCE plenary session features Arab American poet Lawrence Joseph who is also the Tinnelly Professor of Law at St. John’s University School of Law in New York.  He will begin by talking about poetry, his own poetry (some of which he will read), and Catholic Social Thought and Social Ethics as they are expressed in his poems; then he will be engaged in conversation by Emilie Townes and Diana Fritz Cates, two of our own members who have frequently drawn on literature in their ethical work.  The Saturday afternoon SCE plenary will feature David Bentley Hart and will mark the first time that the SCE has had a keynote address by an Orthodox theologian.  Dr. Hart, author of The Beauty of the Infinite, has been invited to address us on the moral implications of granting beauty ontological status.  KC Choi, who brings knowledge of the work of Jonathan Edwards to the podium, will offer a response to Dr. Hart’s remarks.

The SSME has invited John Kelsay to offer the address in their plenary, which is scheduled for Friday afternoon.  John plans to explore religion, ethics, and revolution.  In another innovation in response to member evaluations of past meetings, the Program Committee is experimenting with limited SCE programming in the same time block as the sister society plenary.  Accordingly, we are trying out the possibility of moving the SCE Forum, which for quite a number of years has been scheduled for Thursday evening, into the daytime program as a companion option at the sister society plenary time.  On their side, the SSME will be experimenting with programming offered during the SCE plenaries.  This year’s SCE Forum has been orchestrated by Elizabeth Hinson-Hasty, who is serving as the local member of the Program Committee.  We are greatly indebted to Elizabeth for her resourcefulness in assembling a panel of state, non-profit, and religious leaders who have been catalysts for social change in Louisville and the surrounding region.  David Gushee has graciously agreed to offer some remarks as a respondent.

I am delighted to announce that on Friday afternoon, January 4, the Society will present its Lifetime Achievement Award to Karen Lebacqz, Professor Emerita of the Pacific School of Religion in the Graduate Theological Union.  Karen has been a pivotal figure in the development of the SCE, elected to the Board in 1982, to the vice presidency in 1988, and to the presidency in 1989.  She has combined scholarly accomplishment with public influence through service on the National Commission on the Protection of Human Subjects, advisory ethics boards, and national task forces for the United Church of Christ in which she is ordained.  She is beloved by her former students, many of whom are now members of our guild.  And, not all that long ago, she climbed Huayna Picchu (the mountain above Manchu Picchu)!  In recent years, Karen has turned to fabric arts, and she will be bringing some of her justice-themed quilts to the meeting for display—don’t miss them!  During one of the breaks she will be available to say a bit about these artistic works and answer any questions you may have.

I do realize that the Saturday business meeting does not figure prominently on most members’ wouldn’t-miss-for-all-the-world list; however, I very much encourage you to attend this year.  The most important agenda item will, of course, be the election of new leaders for the organization.  We will elect a new vice president for a four-year term in the presidential line and three new SCE full members to serve on the Board of Directors for four-year terms.  January’s election will be a historic one because we will also, for the first time, elect student members as voting members of the Board.  Student members will serve two-year alternating terms, so in this first election you will be asked to elect one student member to a two-year term and one student member to a one-year term to get the rotation started.  The Nominating Committee, chaired by MT Davila, worked diligently through the spring to identify a strong array of willing members (twelve in all) to stand for office.  Regrettably, the slate the Committee originally assembled was overtaken by life’s contingencies very late in the summer, and the Committee has reconvened to consider how best to proceed.  When they complete their work, the slate (with concise, detailed information about all the candidates) will be posted on our webpage at  We will send an email message to let you know when it becomes available.

There are also at least two matters of great importance to the life of the Society that will be reviewed and discussed at the business meeting.  (1) As I am sure everyone knows by now, Linda Schreiber will be retiring at the end of February 2020, so we are in the process, under the leadership of Transitional Executive Director Gina Wolfe, of considering bids from outside management firms.  Such firms have developed in recent years to assist small non-profits by offering services and staff support.  In an ideal world, the Board will be able to announce at the 2019 business meeting the name of the selected company and will be able to provide a timeline assuring a smooth transition.  (2) In light of unsustainable deficits and the financial requirements involved in seeking bids from outside firms and turning our management over to a third party, we have carried out, over the past eight months, a kind of “reboot” of our financial accounting and our budgeting process.  You will note, for example, that the Board has removed the cap on registration fees, returning to the practice of setting registration fees that make it more likely that meetings will break even rather than run deficits.  At the Thursday Board meeting, the directors will have discussed, among other things, the possibility of moving to an income-indexed registration fee for the 2020 meeting (we already have an income-indexed dues structure) and ways of addressing the significant loss of revenue we are likely to experience in coming years if large numbers of long-time members take advantage of the Lifetime Membership option.  The business meeting will be your opportunity to hear about these changes, ask questions, provide feedback, and voice any concerns that you may have.

There are so many other things that I could include in this letter—from more details about the meeting to more information about the changes we are negotiating to individual expressions of gratitude to all the many members who make it possible for us to do what we do and do it well!  But since I am trying to keep this relatively brief, let me simply refer you to all of the additional information (including the current draft of the program) that is available on our website and remind you to check the website frequently for updates and additions.  Be mindful that, through the good offices of Melanie Jones, we also have a social media presence where information is available:  Twitter: @sofcethics and Facebook:

Looking forward to seeing you at our Louisville meeting,

 Yeager Signature

Diane Yeager

SCE President (January 6, 2018 – January 5, 2019)


Deadlines in brief:

  • October 1: 2019 fiscal year begins—dues are due (but can be rolled into your registration payment)
  • November 1: Deadline for all budget requests for the 2020 annual meeting and the 2020 fiscal year.  Funding requests for the 2020 budget cannot be considered after this date.  Funding requests from committees, caucuses, and Working Groups must be accompanied by the unit’s year-end report to the Board (these reports are not due until December 1 if no funding is requested).  Check the website in the early fall for the relevant forms and details.
  • November 30: Last day to register for the Louisville meeting at the lower rate.
  • December 1: Due date for reports to the Board from committees, working groups, and caucuses that are not making budget requests.
  • December 15: Last day to make hotel reservations at the negotiated room rate.
  • January 1: Deadline for submitting plenary and concurrent session papers through the JSCE portal given to you by the co-editors.
  • March 1: The last day to pay 2019 dues and assure receipt of  your print copies of the JSCE and to be eligible to submit a proposal for the 2020 meeting.


For the following forms, links, and information, visit the SCE website (

  • 2019 dues form
  • 2019 Annual Meeting registration form and online registration
  • 2019 hotel reservation information with a link for online reservations
  • 2019 (preliminary) Annual Meeting Program
  • Travel information
  • Information about the pre-conference tour of the Thomas Merton Center at close-by Bellarmine University (a combination of an impressive small museum, an operating archive, and the headquarters of the International Thomas Merton Society)
  • Information about the pre-conference Ecojustice Tour and Presentation jointly sponsored by these three SCE interest groups: Climate Justice; Environmental Ethics and Theology; and Fieldwork and Ethics
  • Additional information about the plenary speakers, musician Harry Pickens, and many other program features  (including a showing of a documentary for which Miguel de la Torre wrote the script)
  • Additional information about the charming and complex city of Louisville