Columbia Theological Seminary student Emily Morrell was one of 14 seminary and divinity school students, and early-career clergy, chosen for the 2019 Seminary Program of the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics (FASPE) to participate in a two-week program in Germany and Poland this summer, which uses the conduct of clergy and religious leaders in Nazi-occupied Europe as a way to reflect on contemporary professional ethics.
Now in its tenth year of operation, FASPE provides a unique historical lens to engage graduate students in professional schools as well as early-stage practitioners in five fields (business, journalism, law, medicine and seminary) in an intensive course of study focused on contemporary ethical issues in their professions.
The FASPE Seminary program offers an approach to ethics and professionalism that differs from the usual classroom experience by providing a holistic curriculum that looks beyond the specifics of formal rules to focus on the ethical dilemmas faced by individual clergy and other religious leaders in the contemporary setting. Daily seminars are led by specialized faculty who engage fellows in discussions and critical thinking about both the historical and the contemporary. The Seminary program is strengthened by the diverse perspectives of its participants and the power of place and context.
“By educating students about the causes of the Holocaust and the power of their chosen professions, FASPE seeks to instill a sense of professional responsibility for the ethical and moral choices that the Fellows will make in their careers and in their professional relationships,” said David Goldman, FASPE’s founder and chairman.
FASPE studies the perpetrators to emphasize the essential role of professionals and to ask how and why professionals abandon their ethical guideposts. The FASPE Seminary program examines the roles played by the clergy in the Nazi state, underscoring the reality that the moral codes governing clergy of all religions can break down or be distorted with devastating consequences. With this historical background, the Seminary fellows are better positioned (and more willing) to confront contemporary issues.
This summer, the FASPE Seminary program is led by Fr. Steven Bell, CSP, who serves with the Paulist mission, and Rabbi Aaron Bisno, Frances F. & David R. Levin, Senior Rabbinic Pulpit at the Rodef Shalom Congregation.
Emily grew up on a farm in East Tennessee, and attended Centre College in Danville, Kentucky. At Centre, she double majored in Religion and History, and, “As a student of religion, history, and theology, to have the opportunity to study the Holocaust in the context of Germany and Poland is incredible. I am convinced that students of theology, pastors, and all people of every faith should constantly be in search of conversations and actions that further justice in a world that is often rife with violence”.
Morrell joined a diverse group of 70 FASPE fellows across all five programs who were chosen through a competitive process that drew applicants from across the U.S. and the world. FASPE covers all program costs, including travel, food and lodging.
The experience of the Seminary fellows was enhanced by traveling alongside the Medical fellows, who together—in formal and informal settings—consider how ethical constructs and norms in their respective professions align and differ. In 2019, the three groups traveled from June 15-28, beginning their trip in Berlin and then traveling on to Krakow and Oświęcim (the town in which Auschwitz is located), Poland. In Berlin, the program includes museum visits, meeting with a Holocaust survivor and educational workshops at the House of the Wannsee Conference, the site where state and Nazi Party agencies convened in 1942 to coordinate plans for the Nazis’ “Final Solution.” In Krakow, fellows continued their seminars at Jagiellonian University, one of Europe’s oldest and most prestigious universities, and at Auschwitz, they were guided by the distinguished educational staff of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum.
After the program, each fellow will submit an essay focused on a contemporary ethical issue of his or her choice. Select essays are published in the annual FASPE Journal, which showcases work in all five disciplines.
FASPE maintains long-term relationships with its fellows in order to sustain commitment to ethical behavior and to provide a forum for continued dialogue. To date, FASPE has over 500 alumni across its five programs.
To learn more about FASPE and its programs, visit www.faspe-ethics.org.
Columbia Theological Seminary “exists to educate and nurture faithful, imaginative, and effective leaders for the sake of the Church and the world.” As an educational institution of the Presbyterian Church (USA), Columbia Seminary is a community of theological inquiry, leadership development, and formation for ministry in the service of the Church of Jesus Christ. Columbia Seminary offers six graduate degree programs and dozens of courses and events as a resource for church professionals and lay people through The Center for Lifelong Learning. For more information, please visit www.CTSnet.edu.
Michael Thompson, Director of Communications