Skip to content

Gentle Shepherding: Pastoral Ethics and Leadership

SKU 9780827212503

by Joseph E. Bush Jr.


Named "One of the Top Ten Books for Parish Clergy" by the Academy of Parish Clergy in 2006

Gentle Shepherding provides conceptual resources for understanding moral responsibility in ministry, encompassing the minister as a moral agent, enabler of virtue, and leader in congregational and societal matters.

The book offers an introductory exploration of pastoral ethics, especially those without prior ethics coursework, while also engaging experienced pastors. Integrating moral principles within a Christian context, Gentle Shepherding focuses on pastoral ministry and relationships.

Each chapter introduces moral principles and ethical reasoning within the context of ministerial practice, offering case studies for reflection and discussion. Chapters topics include the shaping of moral character in community, nonmaleficence in ministry, respecting permission in pastoral care, duties of fidelity, and the theological aspects of pastoral vocation.

The book's foundation draws from the author's pastoral and teaching experiences, with the hope of passing on valuable insights gained through interactions with students, colleagues, and congregations.

Gentle Shepherding offers a rare balance in an introduction to pastoral ethics, one that identifies deeply with the pastoral vocation and brings it into conversation with a developed body of ethical theory. Helping ministers and seminarians to think anew about their responsibilities and the moral quandaries in pastoral practice, Gentle Shepherding integrates theory with practice, providing case material for further reflection and discussion and at least one case study or exercise associated with each chapter.


"A Comprehensive and illuminating account of professional ethics for practicing ministers. Gentle Shepherding creatively combines insights from scholarly studies of professional ethics with practical wisdom gained from concrete experiences in pastoral ministry. A valuable resource for pastors and for seminary students preparing for ordination."
—Thomas W. Ogletree, Yale University Divinity school

"In this timely and pertinent study, Bush probes challenging ethical issues in the professional lives and work of contemporary clergy and provides thoughtful guidance to clergy practice through a thoughtful examination of relevant ethical theories, lively case studies, and diverse cultural perspectives."
—Charles R. Foster, The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching

"In Gentle Shepherding, Joseph Bush has written a thoughtful and thorough text in pastoral ethics. Working 'from the middle,' Bush artfully weaves together a solid ethical framework with practical guidance for all dimensions of ministry practice. The book is attentive to the complexities of culture and community, drawing its resources from a multicultural perspective. Because of its broad applicability and its skilled use of cases and exercises, this would be a particularly helpful book for students in field education as well as for religious leaders already engaged in ministry. I look forward to using it in my classes in pastoral care."
—Christie Cozad Neuger, Brite Divinity School, Texas Christian University