Faculty Stories

Ethics Professor, Rev. Dr. Brent P. Waters, Retires After 21 Years of Service

Rev. Dr. Brent P. Waters
Rev. Dr. Brent P. Waters

The Reverend Dr. Brent P. Waters, Jerre L. and Mary Joy Stead Professor of Christian Social Ethics and director of the Jerre L. and Mary Joy Stead Center for Ethics and Values at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, retired on July 1, 2022. At their meeting in May of this year, the Board of Trustees unanimously granted Waters the status of faculty emeritus upon the recommendation of the faculty. Waters joined the Garrett-Evangelical faculty in 2001.

A leading social ethics scholar with a commanding grasp of wide-ranging issues pertaining to the care for human life within the late-modern world, Waters spent much of his academic career focusing on bioethical and political dimensions of Christian thought. During his tenure, he has written, co-authored, and edited sixteen books, more than fifty articles in academic journals, and numerous book reviews that encompass topics from bioethical issues to spirituality, from what affects family life to the challenges of capitalist societies, from the mystery of the incarnation and Christology to posthumanism. Through his writings, Waters combined profound scholarship with deeply humane insights that will leave an indelible mark on the field of Christian social ethics.

“As I grow older, I find I am becoming more retrospective and focused,” said Waters. “St. Augustine’s aphorism, love God and do as you will, takes on greater meaning while remaining challenging. I realize now that much of my work focused on fulfilling the two great commandments to love God and neighbor and act accordingly. I’m now retiring from a job but not a calling, so I am still trying to figure out how to will what my (imperfect) love for God and neighbor requires. Or as I used to tell my students, I intend to keep on reading, thinking, and writing (roughly in that order) for a while longer.

“I enjoyed my time at Garrett, and I leave with an abundance of good memories and friends. But all good things come to an end, and the time has come for me to move-on, and I do so with much appreciate and gratitude for my colleagues, and especially Jerre and Mary Joy Stead.”

Waters earned the admiration and respect of countless students in the classroom, the academy, and in church and society. Central to his pedagogical approach was an insistence on tracing questions back to their theological and philosophical roots, all the while challenging students how and why we frame the questions in the way we do. By questioning the questions, new and deeper insights would often result.

As director of the Jerre L. and Mary Joy Center for Ethics and Values from 2001 to 2022, Waters worked collaboratively with colleagues and organizations locally, nationally, and internationally to bring theological perspective to ethical issues facing contemporary society. Through numerous conferences, guest lectures, and articles, the Stead Center under Waters’ direction has addressed a wide variety of topics, including technological interventions at the beginning and ending of life, war and religion, the theology and economics, the environment, and human experimentation.

During his tenure, Waters has been recognized and celebrated in a number of accolades including being the recipient of The Paul Ramsey Award for Excellence in Bioethics in 2016 and the Templeton Prize for Outstanding Books in Theology and the Natural Sciences in 1997.

Prior to joining the faculty in 2001, Waters served as the director of the Center for Business, Religion and Public Life, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, Pennsylvania (1999–2001); ), as lecturer in theology, Harris Manchester College, Oxford, United Kingdom (1996–1999); as Omer E. Robbins Chaplain to the University and director of the J.W. and Ida M. Jameson Center for the Study of Religion and Ethics, University of Redlands, California (1984–1995); and as campus minister, United Ministries in Higher Education, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa (1979-1984).

Waters received a distinguished education as a Christian ethicist. He holds a B.A. from the University of Redlands, an M.Div. and D.Min. from the School of Theology at Claremont, and a D.Phil. from University of Oxford.