The Christian Moral Life: Practices of Piety

By Gill, Robin | Anglican Theological Review, Summer 2000 | Go to article overview

The Christian Moral Life: Practices of Piety


Gill, Robin, Anglican Theological Review


The Christian Moral Life: Practices of Piety. By Timothy F. Sedgwick, Grand Rapids, MI/Cambridge, UK: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999. xiii + 161 pp. $15.00/9.99 (paper).

Timothy Sedgwick will already be well known to readers of the ATR as one of the leading Episcopalian ethicists. Formerly at Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, he is now Professor of Christian Ethics at Virginia Theological Seminary and author of Sacramental Ethics and The Making of Ministry and co-editor of the influential book The Crisis tn Teaching in the Episcopal Church. Those who have followed his writings will know that his style is eirenic, inclusive and pious. The present book is no exception.

The subtitle of his new book gives a powerful clue to its contents. Timothy Sedgwick believes that faithful moral living is achieved through daily "practices of piety." His own life and worship in a seminary provide the foundation for his understanding and practice of Christian ethics. For him "the Christian life is a moral life grounded religiously, given in worship" (p. 13). Indeed, he sees this as the great merit of Anglican ethics. It has seldom been systematic or foundational in character. Rather it has typically arisen from the practical piety and worship of church people, whether in the form of great Anglican apologists such as Richard Hooker, Joseph Butler, Frederick benison Maurice and William Temple or through literary artists such as John Donne, George Herbert, C. S. Lewis, T. S. Eliot and R. S. Thomas. For them the Christian life has been understood as essentially sacramental, incarnate and corporate.

Within this Anglican tradition of Christian ethics Timothy Sedgwick argues that, in continuity with Hooker, there has always been change. For him, "while the judgments of the Christian community of faith need to be taken seriously, they may also for good reason be modified or finally rejected in the light of the larger purpose of forming a holy people who care for one another as they direct their lives towards God. …

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