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Yale Divinity School hosts conference on “Money and Morals after the Crash”

It was a prevailing intellectual taboo for decades: economics and moral questions don’t mix. But the financial crisis and recession – the reckless behavior and policies that led to them -- have stripped away the persistent assumption that economics and morality have little to do with each other.

FriedmanOn May 6-7, Yale Divinity School will host a conference entitled “Money and Morals after the Crash,” addressing some of the critical ethical questions facing people as the recession brings issues of the economy front and center.

The conference, the 2010 Sarah Smith Memorial Conference on Moral Leadership, will assemble an unusual group of scholars and practitioners, including economists who think about religion, and religious thinkers who ponder the economy. Out of the convergence of these thinkers and panelists comes the hope that new insights can be shared across a seldom-trod frontier.

The conference coincides with release of the Spring 2010 issue of Reflections, YDS’s biannual magazine of theological and ethical inquiry, which features writing by some of the conference participants, including the keynote speaker, Benjamin Friedman, the William Joseph Maier Professor of Political Economy at Harvard University and author of The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth (Vintage, 2006).  Friedman’s talk at the conference will explore economy and the role of religious thinking.

Among the kinds of questions expected to be addressed at the conference are:

  • Have we learned anything from the crisis?
  • How are churches responding to economic uncertainty?  How should they?
  • What advice do John Wesley and the papal encyclicals have for modern economies?
  • Can the culture of high finance become more service-oriented?

In addition to Friedman, other scheduled conference speakers include

  • Frederick Simmons, assistant professor of ethics, Yale Divinity School
  • Scott Black Johnston, senior pastor, Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, New York City
  • Laura Berry, executive director of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, New York City
  • Nicholas Hood, pastor of Plymouth United Church of Christ in Detroit and former member of the Detroit City Council
  • Sondra Wheeler, professor of Christian ethics at Wesley Theological Seminary, Washington, D.C. and author ofWealth as Peril and Obligation: The New Testament on Possessions (Eerdmans, 1995).

The conference, free and open to the public, begins at 5:00 p.m. Thursday, May 6 with the Friedman lecture, followed by a reception.   At 8:30 a.m. on Friday, May 7, there will be a worship service followed by panels on Christian Resources for Thinking about Economics (9:15 a.m.) and Christian Response to the Economic Crisis (10:45 a.m.).  All sessions will be held in Marquand Chapel.  Yale Divinity School is located at 409 Prospect St., New Haven, CT.