Comparative Ethics

Published by: Wilfrid Laurier University Press

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Comparative Ethics

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Doing Ethics in a Pluralistic World

Essays in Honour of Roger C. Hutchinson

Doing Ethics in a Pluralistic World is an apt title for this collection of essays in honour of Roger C. Hutchinson who, over many decades, has encouraged and participated in shaping a Canadian contextual social ethics. His abiding interest in social ethics and in religious engagement with public issues is reflected in his life’s work — seeking the consensus and self-knowledge required to achieve cooperation in the search for a just, participatory, and sustainable society.

One of Roger Hutchinson’s many notable accomplishments is his development of a method of dialogue for ethical clarification in situations of diversity. Some of the essays collected here apply this method to specific issues, while others discuss how religious persons and organizations can and do co-operate in a pluralistic world to achieve social and ecological well-being. All essays are of keen interest to those concerned with the role and function of ethics at the matrix of religious conviction and social transformation.

For nearly three decades Roger Hutchinson has been based at Victoria University in Toronto, first in religious studies, then at Emmanuel College, where he completed his teaching career as professor of church and society while serving as principal from 1996 to 2001.

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In Good Faith

Canadian Churches Against Apartheid

In retrospect it is difficult to accept that Western democracies have implicitly supported, or at least tolerated, the legalized system of white supremacy in South Africa known as apartheid. Renate Pratt’s new book, In Good Faith, explains why the Christian churches were among the first to publicly protest, and why they provided such cogent and determined international support for the struggle against apartheid.

The Taskforce on the Churches and Corporate Responsibility is a coalition of Christian churches that for nearly twenty years was one of Canada’s leading anti-apartheid advocates. As the first co-ordinator of this Taskforce, Renate Pratt was at the centre of the early anti-apartheid initiatives in Canada and consequently is able to supply a clear and accurate view.

The book traces the history of exchanges between the Taskforce and successive ministers and senior civil servants of the Department of External Affairs. It details the reluctant and weak responses offered by the Canadian government and business community right up to the time of Nelson Mandela’s release from prison.

In Good Faith will be of particular interest to Canadian Christians concerned with ecumenical co-operation and with the social and political dimensions of their faith. Equally, it will appeal to those interested in the impact of public interest organizations on public policy or the relationship between politics and business interests.

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Methodist Education in Peru

Social Gospel, Politics, and American Ideological andEconomic Penetration, 1888–1930

With research based on extensive primary sources, the author examines the activities of the Methodist mission in Peru, in particular its educational work, within the Peruvian socioeconomic formation and its ideological and intellectual changes. Yet her study goes beyond Methodist boundaries: Social Gospel doctrine and educational theory, which link American Progressivism (especially John Dewey’s pedagogical ideas) with Christianity, are also treated at an interdenominational level.

The book contends that Methodist schools constituted an educational system of their own within a socioeconomic formation of uneven character, a society where an imperialist presence was interwoven with pre-capitalist as well as local incipient capitalist forms. The author’s analysis of the political dimension of missionary work—from the quest for religious freedom to the attempt to exert influence on social movements—leads her to consider the relationships among APRA leaders, the missionaries, and the interdenominational Committee on Cooperation in Latin America. Bruno-Jofré argues that Social Gospel doctrines, although couched in reformist language, were ultimately a vehicle of North American theology.

This book presents a refreshingly wide perspective on the development of education in the Third World as affected by missionary bodies from the First World.

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Prophets, Pastors and Public Choices

Canadian Churches and the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Debate

The Mackenzie Valley natural gas pipeline debate included many actors. This is the first in-depth study in comparative religious ethics to examine the debate with a particular focus on the role of the Canadian churches.

In 1974 twenty-seven of the world’s largest oil and natural gas companies applied for permission to build a pipeline through the Mackenzie Valley to transport Alaskan and northern Canadian gas to large southern markets. Many northern native peoples opposed the proposal and called for a moratorium on major northern development projects until native land claims had been settled. The mainline Canadian Christian churches supported the call for a moratorium and, through the interchurch coalition, Project North, campaigned against the pipeline. However, some native peoples supported the proposal to build the pipeline, and many of the pipeline’s proponents were members of churches that called for a moratorium on the project.

This case study in comparative religious ethics, though written from a pro-moratorium stand, attempts to clarify the debate. Conflicting responses to the pipeline proposal are assessed in relation to “hard facts” concerning the need for northern gas in the South, social-scientific findings regarding the impact of the pipeline on native communities, the rights of native peoples to participate in decisions affecting their lives, assumptions about the way of life of non-native people in the South and the role of religious convictions in public choices.

This thoroughly researched study reveals the inner workings and influences of the Canadian churches involved and illustrates their commitment on behalf of the northern natives opposed to the project.

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Towards an Ethics of Community

Negotiations of Difference in a Pluralist Society

How do we deal with difference personally, interpersonally, nationally? Can we weave a cohesive social fabric in a religiously plural society without suppressing differences?

This collection of significant essays suggests that to truly honour differences in matters of faith and religion we must publicly exercise and celebrate them. The secular/sacred, public/private divisions long considered sacred in the West need to be dismantled if Canada (or any nation state) is to develop a genuine mosaic that embraces fundamental differences instead of a melting pot that marginalizes. An ethics of difference starts with a recognition of difference, not as deviance or deficit that threatens but as otherness to connect with, cherish, and celebrate.

The book begins with the suggestion that our inability to come to terms with social plurality is not fundamentally the fault of religious differences, and that a public/private split inadequately deals with matters of basic difference. It then explores how encouraging people to live out their respective faiths may open new possibilities for respectful, honourable, and just negotiations of contemporary dilemmas arising out of the multicultural fabric of Canadian life.

Towards an Ethics of Community introduces readers to some of the most challenging and divisive dilemmas we face in this increasingly pluralistic, postmodern world — issues such as family and domestic violence, Aboriginal rights, homosexuality and public policy, and female genital mutilation. This is a book truly global in scope and significance.

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Weaving Relationships

Canada-Guatemala Solidarity

Weaving Relationships tells the remarkable, little-known story of a movement that transcends barriers of geography, language, culture, and economic disparity.

The story begins in the early 1980s, when 200,000 Maya men, women, and children crossed the Guatemalan border into Mexico, fleeing genocide by the Guatemalan army and seeking refuge. A decade later, many of the refugees returned to their homeland along with 140 Canadians, members of “Project Accompaniment”. The Canadians were there, by their side, to provide companionship and, more significantly, as an act of solidarity.

Weaving Relationships describes the historical roots of this solidarity focusing on the Maya in Guatemala. It relates the story of “Project Accompaniment” and two of its founders in Canada, the Christian Task Force on Central America and the Maritimes-Guatemala “Breaking the Silence” Network. It reveals solidarity’s impact on the Canadians and Guatemalans whose lives have been changed by the experience of relationships across borders. It presents solidarity not as a work of charity apart from or “for” them but as a bond of mutuality, of friendship and common struggle with those who are marginalized, excluded, and impoverished in this world.

This book speaks of a spirituality based on community and justice, and challenges the church to move beyond its preoccupation with its own survival to solidarity with those who are suffering. It is a book about hope in the face of death and despair.

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