Ethical Becoming: Adult Ethical Development in Christian Congregations

Open Access
Carr-Chellman, Davin Jules
Graduate Program:
Adult Education
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
December 15, 2011
Committee Members:
  • Fred Michael Schied, Dissertation Advisor
  • Fred Michael Schied, Committee Chair
  • Ian E Baptiste, Committee Member
  • Edgar I Farmer Sr., Committee Member
  • Leland Luther Glenna, Committee Member
  • ethics
  • ethical development
  • adult education
  • religious education
  • John Dewey
  • Jurgen Habermas
  • spirituality
This is a study of adult ethical development in Christian congregations. Using an empirical hermeneutic phenomenological methodology, this study examined how five pastors understand and encourage ethical development, developing an in-depth analysis and interpretation of their perceptions of the phenomenon of adult ethical development. Two primary themes emerged, with several significant sub- themes contributing to those primary themes: 1) the integrity of ethical and spiritual development; and 2) the relational nature of ethical development. The sub-themes of theme one include the nature of spiritual development, the nature of ethical development, indicators of ethical development, and best practices for ethical development. The sub-themes of theme two include the centrality of the desert experience, the relationships that matter, and relationships give us value because they teach us to love. Drawing on a theoretical background of neo-pragmatic appropriations of both value theory and cognitive science, the relational nature of adult ethical development that emerges from this study makes contributions to the field of adult education in its understanding of the richness of the concrete spiritual context, the importance of informal learning environments, and the breadth of intersubjective experience that serves to incubate adult ethical development.