Teaching Christian Ethics
Then and Now
It is a very-nearly unbelievable fact that for a brief period in the midtwentieth century the Church of England stopped teaching ethics and moral reasoning to its ordinands. Between 1959 and 1964 the discipline was dropped from the prescribed syllabus of the General Ordination Exam (GOE), the Church’s end-of-training standard since 1921. The reasons for this change are complex, but there is general agreement that the teaching of Christian ethics within theological colleges was not then in good health, reflecting a general paucity of expertise nationally with only a couple of university Chairs and very few lectureships in the field (Harries, 2020; Platten, 2013, 210). Indeed, professional guilds such as the Roman Catholic Association of Teachers of Moral Theology (1968) and The Society for the Study of Christian Ethics (1983) were yet to come into existence. Where ethics and moral reasoning had been taught in theological colleges, it tended towards history and philosophy with little understanding of the pressing issues of the day or, indeed, how deacons and priests might draw upon the material substance of their ministries (word and sacrament) to help parishioners as they wrestled with those issues. The existing college syllabus seemed irrelevant to the questions people were asking and the changing context of ministry.