Bush, Gentle Shepherding, Pastoral Ethics and Leadership

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Joseph E. Bush, Gentle Shepherding: Pastoral Ethics and Leadership. Chalice Press, 2006.

Referenced in: Ministry Ethics

LifeandLeadership.com Summary

Most materials on ministerial ethics focus on character or virtue ethics, emphasizing the person of the minister, and how that plays into decisions that are made on various issues. Joseph Bush incorporates these emphasis as well, but offers a multi-faceted “missional” exploration of ethics that will help ministers as they guide their congregations into effective witness in their communities. For this reason, I recommend this as a first read on topic, yet not to replace other standard works such as Trull/Carter and Willimon (see Resource Guide), as Bush is more deep than broad. What it covers, it covers well – the moral self, nonmaleficence, informed consent, truth-telling, confidentiality, and mission as it relates to the church, creation, and community. One will not find other features such as sample codes of ethics. Nonetheless, I recommend starting here because of the missional emphasis.

This is a very substantive text that interacts with philosophical and theological ethics. Readers may need a Dictionary of Ethics to understand some of the terms, but it is worth the effort. Typical of most ethics texts, each chapter follows a sequence of moral/ethical foundations, a case for discussion, and then reflective questions.

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From the Publisher

Gentle Shepherding offers a rare balance in an introduction to pastoral ethics, one that identifies deeply with the pastoral vocation and brings it into conversation with a developed body of ethical theory. The goal of the book is to equip seminarians and pastors with conceptual resources for clarifying moral responsibility in the practice of ministry. This responsibility includes three levels: the minister as a moral agent in offering care; the minister as a moral enabler in encouraging virtue in others; and the minister as a moral leader in facilitating congregational life and witness in society. Helping ministers and seminarians to think anew about their responsibilities and the moral quandaries in pastoral practice, Gentle Shepherding integrates theory with practice, providing case material for further reflection and discussion and at least one case study or exercise associated with each chapter.

About the Author

Joseph E. Bush Jr. is associate professor of life and leadership in the congregation at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, New Brighton, Minnesota. He is an ordained minister in the United Methodist Church and has served urban congregations primarily in the New Jersey area. Bush is the author of several articles and publications.

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