Report from the Academy of Fellows

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For the past three years, I have had the humbling privilege of serving as Chair of theCBHD Academy of Fellows. The current celebration of the 20Anniversary of the Center gives us reason to reflect on the activities of theAcademy, which both contributes to and serves as an expression of what CBHD isabout.

My first engagement with CBHD was to present a parallel paper at the first conference in 1994. Having just completed an MA in theology at Ashland Seminary in Ohio, the conference gave me an opportunity to present part of my thesis. My interest in bioethics came after completing graduate school in pharmacy, and in those days training in bioethics was primarily through general philosophy or theology programs. Coming to that first CBHD conference and engaging with others burdened to bring Christian insight to bear in bioethics changed the direction of my academic career. The growing sense I had of a calling to this field was nurtured by the support and encouragement I received at the conference, as well as through the ongoing collaborations that resulted and the friendships that developed. CBHD has played a significant role in helping me find my way through academic bioethics.

TheAcademy of Fellows aims to provide such support and encouragement to those in academia. CBHD had appointed fellows for many years, but in 2010 the program was completely overhauled and re-launched, and the Academy as such was formed. A grant from an anonymous donor made it possible to focus time and resources on developing the Academy and permitting Fellows to meet occasionally. This investment in Christian bioethics scholarship has been much appreciated by the Fellows and CBHD, and is bearing fruit. The current list of Fellows is available at

During its first twenty years, CBHD has focused on many aspects of bioethics. At the same time, bioethics “arrived” as an academic discipline. Universities around the world now have bioethics centers, and a number of academic conferences, journals and societies have developed. In this context, the Academy of Fellows grew out of a desire to support Christian academic bioethicists, especially those in secular settings, and to encourage Christian scholarship to engage more fully with academic bioethics. Part of this involves identifying ways thatChristian bioethicists in academia can both be encouraged in their calling and support one another in pursuing similar paths. Another aim is to nurture and support those early in academic careers as they maneuver their way through this challenging field.

An evaluation of the Academy’s first three years, 2010 to 2012, has recently been completed. A full report is being drawn up, but an overview can be given here.CBHD and the Academy do not claim any credit for the Fellows’ impressive achievements – Fellows engage in academic activities because of their individual callings and commitments – but even a brief account illustrates the extent to which members of the Academy of Fellows are actively involved in secular and Christian bioethics, accomplishing many things. This should also serve as a reminder to pray for these men and women.

In compiling the report evaluating the Academy, the diversity of ways in which Fellows contribute to their respective communities stands out. Fellows are involved in everything from national commissions and professional ethics committees to small group meetings in churches and communities. Fellows have written books for the most prestigious academic publishers and articles for peer-reviewed journals, and they have also written for church bulletins and local newspapers.Fellows speak at international conferences one week and Sunday school the next.The list of classes taught by Fellows in universities, hospitals, and churches is too extensive to reproduce. The willingness of Fellows to engage with both international scholars and local communities is impressive; their commitment to share the gifts they have received from the Lord with anyone in need of bioethical counsel is inspiring and humbling.

One of the aims of the Academy is to “advance scholarship in bioethics.” The complete list of academic publications and presentations made by Fellows between 2010and 2012 extends to over thirty pages. Additionally, several Fellows have received significant funding for bioethics research projects (an important aspect of how contemporary academia works). For example, Mary Adam is the PrincipalInvestigator in the project “Impact of a Perinatal Community Health Project in Kenya.” WilliamCheshire is the Principal Investigator on a funded Mayo ClinicProgram in Professionalism & Ethics entitled “Assessment of Empathy inStroke Telemedicine.” Daniel Sulmasy and Farr Curlin have received significant funding from the John Templeton Foundation for research on spirituality and medicine. Curlin is also leading the “Project on the Good Physician,” a study on the impact of moral formation on physicians. Gilbert Meilaender has received funding from the Arete Project at the University of Chicago for a research project titled“Acceptance of Decline or Thirst to Live: the Challenge of Anti-AgingResearch.” Dónal O’Mathúna received funding from the European Union COST agency to establish a network of bioethicists and humanitarian relief workers to investigate ethical dilemmas in disaster medicine and disaster research.

A number of Fellows also received honors and awards between 2010 and 2012. Daniel Sulmasy was appointed to the PresidentialCommission for the Study of Bioethical Issues in April 2010. William Cheshire was named a Fellow,Bronze level, of the Mayo Clinic Quality Academy (2011). Farr Curlin was a nominee for the 2011 Arnold P. Gold Foundation Humanism in Medicine Award from the Pritzker School of Medicine student body. Eugene Diamond received the Bartholomew Award, the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Annual Award in Bioethics. Gilbert Meilaender received the Dignitatis Humanae Award, bestowed by the University of St. ThomasSchool of Law. He was also the 2010-11 Remick Fellow at the Center for Ethics and Culture, University of Notre Dame.

The range of ways that Fellows have pursued communication of bioethical issues and ideas is also extensive. Matthew Eppinette has been involved in the production of bioethics films: Anonymous Father’s Day (2011), a documentary on the ethics of donor conception, was noted at the 2012 Rome International Film Festival in Rome, GA and the 2012 CaliforniaIndependent Film Festival in Orinda, CA. Shari Falkenheimer has taught bioethics topics internationally, including in South, Central and East Asia, he Middle East and the Balkans.

When theFellows evaluated the Academy itself at the end of 2012, all who responded stated that they greatly valued the experience of being a Fellow. The opportunity to meet and engage with other Christian scholars was meaningful and significant to them. The primary purpose of the Academy is to be “a community of scholars in bioethics who engage in thoughtful discussion, charitable engagement, and mutual support.” The anonymous donation mentioned above has funded two Academy meetings, or Consultations. Both were viewed very positively as a way to stimulate discussions and creative thinking. Many of the Fellows work in secular universities and medical settings, often without Christian colleagues with whom they can regularly discuss the bioethical issues they are examining.Simply knowing that other Christian scholars and practitioners are engaging with these issues was a significant encouragement. The Consultations fostered relationships which continued afterwards by email and telephone and have led to some collaborative links on projects, as well as opportunities for Fellows to help one another with teaching and learning activities in their home institutions.

The2012 Consultation took a new approach in order to develop a concrete collaborative project. The details of this initiative were reported in an earlier Dignitas.[1]Written resources on theConsultation topic, “The Ethics and Theology of Synthetic Gametes,” are being developed by a team led by Calum MacKellar. At the same time, the Consultation led to collaboration between CBHD, the Anscombe Bioethics Centre in Oxford, UK, and St. Mary’sUniversity College, London. This is in keeping with the Academy of Fellows’ aim to engage in scholarship with the wider Christian bioethics community. As a result of an evaluation of the Consultation, exciting changes were introduced into the structure of the Call for Proposals for the 2013 Consultation, currently being planned.

While theAcademy was positively evaluated in many areas, the evaluation also helped provide direction for the next stage of its development. Many Fellows, despite being busy, expressed a desire for more frequent contact and communication with one another to greater enhance the Academy’s potential. As Fellows live across the US and in other parts of the world, much of this will need to be electronic. CBHD has recently developed new expertise in hosting virtual meetings and, the Academy is poised to leverage these new opportunities. At the same time, face-to-face meetings continue to be important for fellowship and developing relationships. The 2011 Consultation was highly valued because of the opportunity to brainstorm and engage in open and private conversations. Travel expenses for such meetings can be prohibitive, but CBHD and the Academy are actively pursuing ways to fund such activities. Meanwhile, topics are being identified around which working sub-groups of the Academy can develop to encourage dialogue and development of meaningful collaboration.

TheAcademy also aims to foster the development of the next generation of Christian bioethicists. The Academy has a range of Fellows, from those who are internationally renowned to those who are just beginning to engage with academic bioethics. A mentoring system exists for Associate Fellows as they begin to engage more actively in academia, and those involved in its preliminary phase have valued it highly, so the Academy also intends to devote attention to advancing this system’s practical development.

Over the past twenty years, CBHD has grown and developed. As with any human community led by God, there have been ups and downs. The Academy of Fellows is a relatively new initiative within CBHD. Significant steps have been made towards its vision during its first three years, and many more remain for years to come.Like Paul, we press on toward that to which Christ has called us (Philippians3:12). As we do, we ask for your prayers for the Academy as a community and foreach Fellow individually. Be watchful and thankful, praying that God would open doors for our message, so that we can proclaim it clearly, wisely, and with grace (Colossians 4:2-6).


[1]Dónal O’Mathúna, “Academy of Fellows Holds Consultation on Synthetic Gametes,” Dignitas 19, no. 4 (2012): 12-13.