Date of Award

Summer 2002

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Fahey, Michael

Second Advisor

Copeland, M. S.

Third Advisor

Dabney, D. L.


This dissertation explores the World Council of Churches' (WCC) formulation of an institutional environmental ethic between 1966 and 1998. The WCC's attempts during these years to construct a cogent approach to environmental issues profoundly influenced environmental ethics in both ecclesial circles and in international civil society. I conclude in this dissertation that the WCC has much to offer North American environmental ethicists thinking because historically the WCC has attended to environmental issues as part of a larger social matrix of justice and peace concerns. Moreover. I contend that the devastating effects of modern environmental problems have affected the ways in which the WCC itself attends to social issues, thereby resulting in profound institutional changes within the WCC. I contend that the WCC approaches environmental issues utilizing three distinct ethical postures: first, as an expert non-governmental organization laboring in the arena of "ethics" in an "international civil society"; second, as a Christian prophetic witness issuing messages of hope and warning to the world; and third, as an institutional advocate working in solidarity with people's movements throughout the world to advance justice, peace, and ecological issues. Chapter one attends to methodology and establishes a map by which one may read and question the WCC's institutional work on environmental ethics. Here I utilize the work of James Gustafson in constructing an ethical map by which one may read the complex legacy of the WCC. Chapters two and three attend directly to the work of the WCC between 1966-1998 pertaining to environmental matters. Chapter four utilizes Gustafson's work on modes of ethical discourse. I argue here for a multifaceted understanding of the WCC's environmental ethics within the realm of civil society and ecclesial circles. Finally, chapter five engages in a reconstructive process of environmental ethics by engaging the WCC's ethical style and content. I contend that the WCC's commitment to humility, solidarity, and institutional risk exemplifies three significant qualities worthy of attention from Christian ethicists in North America.



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