The Minister as Moral Theologian

Ethical Dimensions of Pastoral Leadership

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The ordinary practice of ministry requires pastors and Christian leaders to serve as moral theologians in their communities. Ministers must preach about morally challenging texts, teach about moral issues and conflicts, offer moral counsel, and serve as an example regarding the shape of faithful Christian life.

Respected scholar and veteran teacher Sondra Wheeler offers Christian leaders tools for facing the demands and seizing the opportunities of being a moral teacher. Grounding pastoral ethics in spiritual formation and spiritual disciplines, she invites leaders to reconnect the demands of their office with their aspirations as a disciple. The book integrates ethical preaching, teaching, and counsel with the pastor's own moral and spiritual life and is focused on the day-to-day challenges and possibilities of ministry in churches and other institutional settings. Offering guidance many practicing pastors wish they had received in seminary, this is an essential text for courses in the practice of ministry.

Introduction: Why This Book?
1. The Minister as Ethicist
2. Preaching on Morally Difficult Texts and Occasions
3. Teaching about Moral Issues
4. Giving Moral Counsel
5. Serving as a Moral Example
Further Reading


"Some pastors approach their work as moral theologians seriously but not humbly, thereby failing to recognize the complexity of the task. Others recognize that complexity but respond by shunning the responsibility. This important book challenges both of these errors, and in the process it provides everyday counsel that is as practical as it is sophisticated. Sondra Wheeler is an exceptionally wise moral theologian, and all who heed her words will be the wiser for it."

Craig C. Hill, dean, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University

"The Minister as Moral Theologian is a wise, compassionate, and direct treatment of Christian ethics in the pastoral tasks of preaching, teaching, and counseling. Wheeler reminds us of the challenges, joys, blessings, and wonders of pastoral ministry. This is a must-read for seminarians and seasoned clergy alike."

Kathryn Greene-McCreight, associate chaplain, The Episcopal Church at Yale; author of Darkness Is My Only Companion: A Christian Response to Mental Illness

"For pastors faced with the challenging task of living as Christians and teaching others to do so as well, Sondra Wheeler has written a book that is both learned and wise. She wears her considerable learning lightly, writing prose that is simultaneously winsome and direct. Even more important, every page displays wisdom--a mature insight that will be her greatest gift to her readers."

Gilbert Meilaender, senior research professor, Valparaiso University

"Writing with extensive knowledge of the ways ministers are moral teachers, Wheeler offers a theologically informed, ethically nuanced, practical guide for ministers and ministry students to reflect on the moral impact their professional and personal lives can make."

Bernard Brady, University of St. Thomas

"This lovely book offers wise and mature reflections on the moral dimensions of Christian pastoral ministry. An indispensable contribution, The Minister as Moral Theologian will henceforth join the short list of required books in my introductory seminary ethics course."

David Gushee, Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics and director of the Center for Theology and Public Life, Mercer University

The Author

  1. Sondra Wheeler

    Sondra Wheeler

    Sondra Wheeler (PhD, Yale University) is Martha Ashby Carr Professor of Christian Ethics at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC. She has decades of experience preparing ministers and teaching advanced courses in the practice of ministry. Wheeler is...

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