The very first professional meeting I attended was the Society of Christian Ethics, in January, 1984, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I was a senior at Princeton, writing my thesis under Paul Ramsey and Jeffrey Stout on intention and nuclear deterrence. I remember thinking it marvelous and exciting that so many people gathered together to discuss the pressing ethical issues of the time, in light of their wisdom offered by their faith traditions. I had already decided to go to graduate school at that point--that meeting made me more confident in my discernment of a vocation.The Society of Christian Ethics started out as largely a group of Protestant seminary professors; Catholics joined in the wake of the ecumenical concerns sparked by the Second Vatican Council. There are good stories about how Paul Ramsey sought out Charlie Curran and Dick McCormick, and other Catholics for long sessions of convivial discussion fueled by a drink or two of good whiskey--provided by the Catholics! They are stories of friendly disagreement, within a broader context of ecumenical Christian respect and fellowship. I am not completely sure, but I think Charlie Curran was the first Catholic president of the SCE, in 1971.The SCE has maintained its commitment to encouraging normative work on ethics rooted in the various branches of Christianity. At the same time, it has further opened the conversation by coordinating its meetings with the Society of Jewish Ethics, and the Society for the Study of Muslim Ethics. The three groups are meeting next week in Chicago, Illinois.You may be interested in perusing the program. I am doing a session on religious liberty on Friday morning with Jean Bethke Elshtain. It should be fun!
Cathleen Kaveny is the Darald and Juliet Libby Professor in the Theology Department and Law School at Boston College.