Union Theological Seminary Student Life


Gary Dorrien '78

Gary Dorrien

Reinhold Niebuhr Professor of Social Ethics


3041 Broadway, AD 413
New York, NY 10027



B.A., Summa Cum Laude, Alma College 1974

M.Div., Union Theological Seminary 1978

M.A., Princeton Theological Seminary 1979

Th.M., Princeton Theological Seminary 1979

Ph.D., Union Graduate School 1989

D.Litt., MacMurray College, 2005

D.D., Trinity College, 2010


Gary Dorrien is the Reinhold Niebuhr Professor of Social Ethics at Union Theological Seminary and Professor of Religion at Columbia University. An Episcopal priest and lifelong athlete, he was previously the Parfet Distinguished Professor at Kalamazoo College, where he taught for 18 years and also served as Dean of Stetson Chapel and Director of the Liberal Arts Colloquium.

Prof. Dorrien is the author of 16 books and approximately 275 articles that range across the fields of ethics, social theory, theology, philosophy, politics, and history. Philosopher Cornel West describes him as “the preeminent social ethicist in North America today” and philosopher Robert Neville describes him as “the most rigorous theological historian of our time.”

Prof. Dorrien’s recent book, Kantian Reason and Hegelian Spirit: The Idealistic Logic of Modern Theology, won the PROSE Award from the Association of American Publishers as the best book in Theology and Religious Studies of 2012. Princeton theologian William Stacy Johnson remarked, “This book is a brilliant and much needed account of the influence of Immanuel Kant and the tradition of post-Kantian idealism on modern theology.” Drew University theologian Catherine Keller called it “a brilliant and much needed book” that “masterfully approaches this most intimidating and yet indispensable corpus of texts with depth and breadth of analysis, and with an extraordinarily fresh perspective.” University of Georgia philosopher Frederick Ferré stated, “Gary Dorrien is a superstar interpreter of modern religious thought. This unique, fascinating, aggressively revisionary book will have no competition until books appear to argue against it.”

More than forty reviewers have described Prof. Dorrien’s trilogy, The Making of American Liberal Theology, as the definitive work in the field. The Expository Times called it "an endeavor best described, by all accounts, as magisterial, definitive, and authoritative." The Journal of Markets and Morality called it "monumental, encyclopedic, breathtaking."

The social ethical side of Prof. Dorrien’s work includes acclaimed works on economic democracy, social ethical theory, and American politics. His book Social Ethics in the Making, a comprehensive interpretation of social ethics as an academic field and a tradition of public discourse, won the Choice Award as the outstanding book in ethics of 2009. The Christian Century described it as "magnificent, sprawling, monumental, captivating, expertly written, and exhaustively researched. Social Ethics in the Making will soon be recognized as a classic." More recently Prof. Dorrien published a critique of Barack Obama’s presidency titled The Obama Question: A Progressive Perspective and lectured extensively on this topic.

A frequent lecturer at universities, conferences, civic groups, and religious communities, Prof. Dorrien is a recent past president of the American Theological Society and has a long record of involvement in social justice organizations. His book, Imperial Designs, grew out of his extensive lecturing against the U.S.'s invasion and occupation of Iraq. His book, Economy, Difference, Empire: Social Ethics for Social Justice (Columbia University Press, 2010), features his lectures on economic democracy, racial and gender justice, and anti-imperial politics.

Prof. Dorrien has taught part-time in recent years as the Paul E. Raither Distinguished Scholar at Trinity College and will teach part-time in 2013-’14 at Harvard University Divinity School. His wife, Brenda Biggs, a Presbyterian minister, died of cancer in 2000, and his daughter Sara Biggs Dorrien is pastor of Pine Island Presbyterian Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan.


American Theological Liberalism, 1805-1930 (Fall 2014)

Social Ethics in the Making (Fall 2014)

American Theological Liberalism, 1930-2005 (Spring 2015)

Kant, Hegel and Modern Theology (Spring 2015)


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