Ethics, psychology, confessions and writing at Summer Study 2012

Several veterans of Yale Divinity School’s summer program will be featured during the second week of Summer Study 2012, June 18-25, teaching courses that have contemporary, or practical, aspects to them.

SimmonsAmong these teachers and courses are Fred Simmons, assistant professor of ethics at YDS, teaching “The Economy and Christian Ethics;” Jan Holton, assistant professor of pastoral care and counseling, “Complicated Issues in Death, Dying, and Grief;” Christopher Beeley, the Walter H. Gray Associate Professor of Anglican Studies and Patristics, “Augustine’s Confessions;” and Ray Waddle, editor of Reflections magazine, “Writing Workshop.”

Simmons’s research and teaching examine the moral implications of Christian theological commitments, and the relationships between philosophical and theological ethics. He is completing a book on the ethical and potential soteriological significance of ecology for contemporary Christians and is co-editing a volume on love and Christian ethics.   

“Christian faith and contemporary Western market capitalism commend distinct, perhaps conflicting, ethics,” says Simmons  “In this course we compare these perspectives’ values, norms, and virtues by considering influential Christian reflection on the economy.”

The course will begin with an overview of fundamental moral concepts, leading normative theories, and the ways that basic Christian commitments relate to them, then move on to discussion of Christian Scripture and theology as having explicit and decisive implications for the structure of our economy. Roman Catholic social teaching and the Social Gospel will be explored, and the class will investigate the ethical consequences and adequacy of these approaches.

Holton’s research, broadly speaking, uses ethnographic methodology to investigate issues of pastoral care in conflict (or post-conflict) and disaster zones, and she is the author of Building the Resilient Community: Lessons from the Lost Boys of Sudan (2011), a study that focuses on her most recent field research in South Sudan.

Her Summer Study course will focus on the theological and psychological (psycho-spiritual) issues surrounding complicated death and grief.

“In particular,” Holton says, “We will explore some of the more complex and difficult situations facing the pastor or religious leader including: traumatic death, child/infant death, suicide, and complicated grief/mourning. The course will propose a strategy of care that embraces ways of living creatively even in the face of tragic circumstances; a strategy that locates the sacred in the journey of death and grief; and one that embraces the concept of hope, particularly the transition of hope. Participant will develop strategies of care relevant to their own contexts and communities.”

BeeleyBeeley is the author of The Unity of Christ: Continuity and Conflict in Patristic Tradition (Yale University Press, 2012), Pastoral Leadership: Wisdom from the Early Church (Eerdmans, 2012), Gregory of Nazianzus on the Trinity and the Knowledge of God (Oxford University Press, 2008) and is the winner of a John Templeton Award for Theological Promise.

 “Augustine's Confessions is a classic work of Christian spirituality and Western culture,” Beeley says.  “At once a prayer to God, a shockingly revealing autobiography, and a treatise on biblical interpretation, the book has been compared to a beautifully complex symphony. We will study the Confessions in the context of Augustine's life and ministry and with a view to its contemporary interest for members of the class.”

Ray Waddle was formerly religion editor at The Tennessean and an adjunct member of the faculty at Vanderbilt Divinity School. He is the author of Against the Grain: Unconventional Wisdom from Ecclesiastes (Upper Room Books, 2005) and A Turbulent Peace: The Psalms for Our Time (Upper Room Books, 2004). Waddle’s articles have been published by The New York Times, Christian Century, USA Today, Religion News Service,, and Episcopal News Service, among others. He has lead retreats on writing and vocation at the Penuel Ridge Retreat Center near Nashville and at the Tennessee Writers' Alliance.

The Summer Study Writing Workshop, says Waddle, is “designed to improve skills for writing about belief, personal faith, or the spiritual life of the wider world.”

Participants will be given daily writing assignments to submit for editorial feedback from the instructor. Assignments can be regarded as potential op-ed pieces, essays, or posts—with publication in mind—and can be tailored to meet one’s own writing goals.

Writing strategies and genres will be discussed, giving attention to questions of clarity, empathy, vitality, audience, and personal vocation.  The class will also examine examples of published columns and essays that provide a look at the changing media climate of religion writing.

More information about Summer Study 2012—including a complete listing of all Summer Study courses, information on meals and housing, and registration—is available at

Date Posted: Friday, March 30, 2012 - 1:55pm