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James Fowler

By Richard Osmer and Lynn Bridgers


Raised in the family of a United Methodist Pastor, JAMES FOWLER (1940-2015) was a life-long member and ordained minister of the United Method Church.  He is best known for his research in faith development theory, published in his highly influential book, Stages of Faith (1981, now in its 42nd edition).  Fowler’s work had a major impact on religious education and pastoral care in the 1980s and 1990s.  He also was an important contributor to the new discussion of practical theology emerging in the 1980s, which led to a revitalization of this field.


(Note: This entry combines biographical essay with contributions to the field of Christian education.)

Early Life

James (Jim) Fowler was born in Reidsville, North Carolina, where his father had been appointed by a United Methodist Bishop to serve several small churches.  His mother, Lucile May Haworth, was born in central Indiana to a family of Quakers.  Both parents lived through the depression, and his father worked his way through Duke University “by waiting tables, shining shoes, and working in a barber shop,” as well as working in the university cafeteria. (Family Autobiography 2)   During his childhood years, the Fowler household consisted of Jim’s sister, Margaret, born 22 months after him, his maternal grandmother, Smythie Hadley Haworth, and an older cousin, Arthur Stuart, whose family was experiencing difficult  circumstances.  His second sister, Nina Elizabeth, was born in 1948, when Jim was eight. 

Jim’s grandmother was a retired school teacher with no home of her own and rotated her time between her four children’s families.  When she lived with the Fowlers, “Jimmy” slept in the same upstairs bed with her, and she taught him his first school lessons.  His mid-October birthday was too late to allow him to enter the first grade along with his friends, but through his grandmother’s home schooling he skipped the first grade and joined his friends as a second grader.  Fowler describes her lasting influence on him: “I am certain that my decision to be a history major in college arose in large part from my fascination with the stories about her life and times from childhood to her later years.” (Autobiography, 4)  Listening carefully to the stories of others would also become an important source of Fowler’s theory of faith development, something he learned at his grandmother’s knee.

During this era, United Methodist ministers commonly were appointed to a new charge around every four years, and thus Fowler’s childhood was punctuated by a series of moves from one North Carolina town to another.  He was born in Reidsville in 1940, and two years later, his father was appointed to a church in Concord (1942-46), then Spruce Pine (1946-1951), and then Forest City (1951-1953).  Part of the pastoral etiquette of moving from charge to charge was the expectation that ministers not retain relationships with their previous congregations. Fowler later realized the cost he paid for these many moves: “I had to cauterize my heart in leaving behind good friends” (Autobiography, 6).  It also was true that, however, that he was exposed to a variety of social contexts and, perhaps, began to discern both the similarities and differences that would prove so important to his later research.

When Jim was thirteen and just entering the eighth grade, his father was appointed to serve as the Executive Director of Lake Junaluska, the conference center for the Southeastern Jurisdiction of the Methodist Church.  Here, the Fowler family finally began to put down roots.  Located near Waynesville, North Carolina—commonly known as the “gateway to the Smoky Mountains”—Lake Junaluska was a retreat center modeled on the great conference center in Chautauqua, New York.  During the summer months, it was filled with visitors from all across the Southeast attracted by outstanding preachers, teachers, and programs sponsored by the center.  Thus began a pattern that continued until Jim graduated from high school.  During the summer months, he was deeply involved at Junaluska, where he worked on the maintenance crew and participated in Lake activities, including singing in a barbershop quartet.  During the school year, he reconnected with his Waynesville friends and was very active in school, participating in the band and choir, playing football, and serving in student government.

Many memories stand out in Fowler’s recollection of his childhood, and here only two are identified that are especially important to his religious identity (Autobiography, 3-4). They occurred when his family was living in Spruce Pine, and Jim was between the ages of six and eleven.  He recalls accompanying his father to a prison camp in Avery County, where he preached and taught. 100 men were crowded into two spaces about fifty by one-hundred feet each.  He was struck by the fact that a large percentage of the prisoners were African Americans, though there were few if any African Americans living in the surrounding counties.  During this same period, he experienced special “revival” services.  At the close of one such service in which he father was preaching and called persons to come forward and make a commitment to Christ, Jim found himself compelled to walk to the altar and make such a commitment.  Though the child of Southern Methodism, Fowler was exposed the realities of social injustice early in life, as well as to the importance of personal commitment and spirituality.  Both would prove important to his theology and writing.

Higher Education

Fowler was awarded an Angier B. Duke Scholarship to Duke University, where he matriculated in 1958.  He was elected President of the Freshman Class, starting a trajectory of involvement in student government that continued throughout his time at Duke.  He later served as the President of the Men’s Student Government Association.  As a freshman, he became close friends with Lawrence McClesky and Ronnie Johnson and, together, they decided not to join a fraternity, then very popular at Duke.  Instead, following the example of John Wesley, they started their own “fraternity,” which they called The Holy Club.  Fowler majored in history and eventually wrote an honors thesis that was a study of the provisional government in Russia immediately after the fall of the Tzarist regime.  He also took courses in the religion department.  His favorite professor was Thomas Langford, a renowned scholar of John Wesley’s theology.

During this period, the Civil Rights and Anti-Vietnam War movements were beginning to impact college campuses.  Fowler was challenged to take these movements seriously by Arthur Brandenberg, the chaplain of the Methodist Student Center at Duke.  Fowler recollects Brandenberg as bringing together a liberal spirit and theological clarity about Christian mission.  He attracted bright students with his intellectual and moral call for radical Christian action in both Christian practices and the struggle for human rights (Autobiography, 14).  Jim describes himself as challenged to think about “the Christian imperatives to work for peace and justice”  (Autobiography, 14).  He began to attend rallies sponsored by African American students and participated in several demonstrations.  He joined the NAACP.  He even received a tongue lashing from one of the white secretaries employed by Duke for his leadership in student government on the issue of racial equality. 

Following his sophomore year, Fowler returned to work on the maintenance crew at Lake Junaluska for the summer and met the woman who was to become the love of his life, Lurline Locklear.  She was from Monks Corner, South Carolina, and was working in the cafeteria of the Lake following the completion of her junior year at Winthrop College.  A year older than Jim, Lurline completed the masters program in Christian Education at Duke Divinity School during Jim’s senior year, and they were married after graduation.  Lurline proved to be an important person in Jim’s professional life, as well as a loving wife and the mother of their two children, Joan and Margaret.  She was an outstanding Christian Educator, and across their married life served in this capacity wherever they lived—at the Madison Methodist Church, adjacent to Drew University, Harvard Memorial Church, located in the heart of Harvard’s main campus, Embry Hills United Methodist Church in north Atlanta, and Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church, adjacent to Emory University.  Widely recognized as a stellar Christian Educator in her own right, Lurline consistently challenged Jim to think about the implications of his research on faith development for Christian education and ministry generally.  She helped Jim become the kind of practical theologian who was strong in research and theory, as well as in relating his work to the church and public life.  Her professional career as a Christian Educator must be seen as an important influence on Fowler’s teaching, writing, and research.

Following his graduation from Duke, Fowler enrolled in the School of Theology at Drew University.  Drew’s faculty during that period was one of the strongest in the country and included Carl Michalson, Howard Clark Key, Bernard Anderson, and university professors like Will Herberg.  Michalson was influenced by the German theologian, Gerhard Ebeling, one of the leading proponents of the “New Hermeneutics.”  Fowler made personal acquaintance with Ebeling during the semester he taught at Drew and through him, was “linked to some figures and relationships in Germany that would later exert strong influences in my development as a scholar and theologian” (Autobiography, 18). Especially important in later years were the German practical theologians, Karl Ernst Nipkow and Friedrich Schweitzer, and the Swiss researcher Fritz Oser. 

While a student at Drew, Fowler participated with thirty students in the March on Washington.  He was the only Drew Divinity school students to do so.  He experienced the singing of Joan Baez and Bob Dylan, but most importantly, Dr. Martin Luther King’s extraordinary speech, “I Have a Dream.”  Upon returning to Drew, he felt unrest about his studies and even dropped two courses that seemed to have no relevance to the “liberating work of protest and solidarity in the struggle for racial and economic liberation” (Autobiography, 19).  He sought a conversation with Will Herberg, then famous for his book, Protestant, Catholic, and Jew.  Herberg was blunt in reminding him that Drew’s faculty was replete with people committed to these issues and, in Fowler’s words, “puncturing some of my narcissistic illusions.”  He took an overload of courses animated by a new recognition of the importance of relating religion to public life.  This is a theme that would later appear in his writing.

During his final year at Drew, Fowler was admitted to the Ethics and Society doctoral program at Harvard University, and he moved to Cambridge following graduation. This program was interdisciplinary to its core and exerted great influence on the way Fowler came to work as a practical theologian, Christian ethicist, and researcher on human development.  The program allowed him to study with outstanding scholars in a variety of fields, especially theology, history, ethics, and sociology.  Some of the Harvard professors with whom Fowler worked were James Luther Adams, John Rawls, Robert Bellah, Wilfred Cantwell Smith, Richard R. Niebuhr, Harvey Cox, Michael Walzer, Judith Shklar, and Talcott Parsons.  His dissertation focused on H. Richard Niebuhr’s ethics and theology of the sovereignty of God, which was published as To See the Kingdom: The Theological Vision of H. Richard Niebuhr.  Not only does this remain one of the most important books on Niebuhr’s thought, but it provided Fowler with theological and ethical concepts that later would prove important to his work on faith development.  From Niebuhr, Fowler learned to distinguish faith as a human universal in which all persons construct centers of value and meaning and Christian faith as a special relationship of trust in the God revealed in Jesus Christ, mediated by the Christian community.  One of the ways Fowler related his work in faith development theory to Christian education was precisely along these lines.  He portrayed Christian education as involved in the formation and conversion of human faith to Christian faith.  Niebuhr’s theological depiction of radical monotheistic faith also was an important background source of Fowler’s conceptualization of the final stage of his theory of faith development theory, Universalizing Faith. (Fowler, 1981, 204; Osmer, (1990).

While Fowler was in the early stages of writing his dissertation on Niebuhr, he received an invitation that ultimately would launch his research on faith development theory.  He was invited by Carlyle Marney to join the staff of Interpreter’s House, located on the grounds of Lake Junaluska.  Marney was a liberal Southern Baptist preacher with a Ph.D. from the Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville.  He was someone Jim knew as a resident of the Waynesville community and friend of his father.  He spent a year at Interpreter’s House, helping Marney lead intensive, three-week retreats for ministers that created an intimate context in which they shared their life stories.  During the year he worked with Marney, Fowler helped lead seven three-week retreats.  He reports two major learning from this experience. First, he came to appreciate the power of listening closely to the life stories of others, gradually coming to believe that he was discerning overlapping patterns in these stories.  He also developed a deeper understanding of the work of Erik Erickson, lecturing on his eight ages of the life cycle.  Erikson’s theory of ego development would prove important in Fowler’s understanding of faith development. While building on Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development, Fowler retained an Eriksonian view of the ego or self at the heart of faith development theory. 

Faith Development Theory

Fowler often referred to his time at Interpreter’s House as a catalyst of his later research, but his work was so demanding that he made little progress on his dissertation.  When the Dean of Harvard Divinity School, Krister Stendahl, invited him to return to Cambridge to run a new continuing education program for Merrill Fellows and to teach courses, he saw this as an opportunity to move forward in completing his doctorate.  He returned to Harvard in the fall of 1969 and with a semester’s leave, completed his dissertation in 1972.  His teaching was so well received that his classes were populated with students from a variety of schools in the Boston area, who cross-registered through the Boston Theological Institute.  As Fowler began to teach on human and faith development, these students asked him if he was familiar with the research of Lawrence Kohlberg, who was a member of the faculty of the Harvard Graduate School of Education.  Fowler made an appointment with Kohlberg and the two “immediately connected” (Autobiography, 28).  Kohlberg invited him into the inner circle of doctoral students who were working on moral and ego development.  These included Carol Gilligan and Robert Kegan, who later became important scholars their own right. Fowler gained three things from participation in the “Kohlberg group.” 

First, he studied in depth for the first time the writing of Jean Piaget, upon whom Kohlberg drew for his theory of moral development.  Piaget was the fountainhead of what is commonly known as the structural developmental tradition of psychology.  Unlike life cycle theory, this tradition does not view human development as passing through predictable phases as persons move from one stage of life to another, like Erikson’s depiction of the adolescent identity crisis or the midlife crisis of generativity.  Rather, it portrays development in terms of stages in which psychological functions or “aspects” (Fowler’s preferred term) become increasingly differentiated and reintegrated in more complex ways.  All persons do not necessarily achieve the stage of formal operations in Piaget’s theory or the stages of post-conventional moral reasoning in Kohlberg’s.  So too, Fowler would later project six stages of faith development and argue that many adults settle down in stage 3, the synthetic-conventional stage in which they conform to the tacit norms and practices of the groups to which they belong. They do not necessary move through the final three stages. Fowler also accepted the structural developmental tradition’s distinction between structure and content.  His theory sought to describe stages of development in the way people structure centers of value and meaning.  Building on Niebuhr, he portrayed the structuring activity of faith as a human universal.  The particular contents with which the structuring of faith work vary. Thus, Fowler argued, Buddhists, Christians, and non-religious people can be described in terms of a common series of stages.  Structure and content are not the same. Fowler departed from Piaget and Kohlberg in one significant way.  The ego or self passing through the stages he describes is more Eriksonian than their narrower focus on cognitive development and moral reasoning.  Fowler signaled this broader view of the self engaged in the structuring activity of faith by charting the differentiation and reintegration of seven aspects: form of logic, perspective taking, form of moral judgment, bounds of social awareness, locus of authority, form of world coherence, and symbolic function. (1981, 244-45).

Second, through his relationship with Kohlberg, Fowler gained access to Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who headed the Kennedy Foundation during that period.  Shriver supported Fowler’s application to the Foundation, which granted him a substantial amount of money to carry out research in the area of faith development. Third, the “Kohlberg group” provided Fowler with colleagues who were pursing their own research agendas and provided one another intellectual support and critique.  Gilligan was just beginning to critique the male bias of Kohlberg’s theory and Kegan, to develop an evolving view of the self.  Kegan was among the team who worked with Fowler in analyzing 359 interviews over a three year period, which served as the basis of faith development theory. Fowler began to teach and write about his research. 

Among the many early publications from this period, some of the most noteworthy and interesting include “Faith, Liberation, and Human Development” which grew out of The Thirkield Jones Lectures at Gammon Theological Seminary (1971).  In 1976, Fowler participated in a colloquium with Sam Keen and Jerome Berryman that was subsequently published as Life Maps: Conversations on the Journey of Faith.  His contribution to Trajectories in Faith (1980) drew on faith development theory to analyze the autobiography of Malcolm X. 

International interest in Fowler’s research also began to emerge and led to his participation in a major conference of American and European scholars on moral and faith development research, initiated by Christiane Brusslemans, a Belgian religious educator from the Catholic University of Leuven. The conference met in the 12-century Cistercian Abbe’ d’Senanque in southern France in 1979. The papers were published in Toward Moral and Religious Maturity (1980).  Fowler later collaborated with Karl Ernst Nipkow and Friedrich Schweitzer of the University of Tübingen in publishing the research of an international group of scholars on faith and religious development, engaging Fritz Oser’s work along with Fowler’s (1991).

Academic Career at Candler School of Theology, Emory University

Throughout his time at Harvard, Fowler consistently taught a two-week course in Boston College’s Summer Institute for Religious Education and Pastoral Ministries (2004, 410).  The institute drew hundreds of nuns, priests, and lay Catholic educators from across the United States and around the world.  Fowler frequently attributed the early success of his theory of faith development to his Roman Catholic students.  Indeed, he believed the invitation from Harper to publish his research in Stages of Faith was a result of his “summer students copying and sending the notes and handouts for the course to colleagues all over the world” (2004, 410).  Not only did the book become an immediate success but it has now passed through forty-two editions and been translated into numerous languages.  Fowler was in demand on the lecture circuit.

Even as Fowler’s popularity soared, his position at Harvard became precarious as he reached the end of his seven-year appointment.  There was no chair or budget line to support him as a tenured faculty member.  Fowler decided to accept an invitation to teach in the religion department at Boston College for a year.  In 1977, he joined the faculty of Candler School of Theology, Emory University as Associate Professor of Theology and Human Development.  He also taught in the Graduate Division of Religion.  Stages of Faith was published in 1981.  In 1990, he was named the Charles Howard Candler Professor of Theology and Human Development. 

As early as high school and throughout college, Fowler was involved in various leadership roles beyond the classroom.  This continued throughout his academic career.  While at Harvard Divinity in 1973, he was invited to become the Dean of his alma mater, the School of Theology at Drew University, an invitation he turned down.  Four years after moving to Emory (1981), he was invited to become the Dean of the Divinity School of Duke University.  As an inducement to stay at Emory, he was offered financial resources by the university to establish the Center for Faith Development Research, which would allow him to extend his research program in new directions.  Fowler decided to stay at Emory.  The Center included a weekly seminar and enabled a select group of Ph.D. students to participate in various research projects.  These included new research on public education and faith development, which reflected Fowler’s participation in the reflected public church discussion sparked by Martin Marty, David Tracy, and others.  The Center also produced a scoring manual that would assist others in faith development research. In his writing and teaching at Emory, Fowler became increasingly involved in the new international discussion of practical theology, contributing public lectures and articles, as well as beginning to frame his constructive proposals in terms of practical theology.  In 1994, he became the first full-time Director of the Center for Ethics at Emory, a position he held until 2005 when he retired.  In 2003, he was presented with a Festschrift to which fifteen scholars contributed, Developing a Public Faith: New Directions in Practical Theology

Further Writing in Faith Development and Practical Theology

In 1987 Fowler published Faith Development and Pastoral Care.   Fowler’s writing on pastoral care was part of a larger vision, one which sought to restore the importance of practical theology.  What in general was recognized as a “return to experience” took shape in Fowler’s work as a focus on applied theology, or practical theology, over the abstract or theoretical, often called systematic or dogmatic theology. Fowler defined his view of pastoral care in that work, writing “pastoral care consists of all the ways a community of faith, under pastoral leadership, intentionally sponsors the awakening, shaping, rectifying, healing and ongoing growth in vocation of Christian persons and community, under the pressure and power of the in-breaking kingdom of God” (1987, 21).  Fowler viewed vocation as a partnership with God “in God’s work on ongoing creation, governance, redemption and liberation” (1987, 21).  Fowler would use the book as a foundation serving to come to “consideration of faith development theory as a framework for informing a practical theology of pastoral care in the development of a public church as an ecology of care and vocation” (1987, 25).

Fowler further integrated his views on the importance of pastoral care by including in the volume a worksheet he called “The Unfolding Tapestry of My Life.”  The worksheet, developed at the Center for Faith Development, incorporated the insights of Ira Progoff, The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius o f Loyola, Daniel Levinson, and the application of faith development theory.  The worksheet gave pastor a means of evaluating and developing the vocations of members of their congregations and challenged members to take time to give extended thought to their experiences and the ways in which they had shaped their individual vocation as well as their role in the congregation (1987, 118).

Fowler did not restrict his work to academic speculation.  In addition to teaching students at Candler School of Theology and graduate students in the Graduate Division of Religion at Emory, Fowler also served as the first full-time director of the Center for Ethics at Emory.  Ethics, with its emphasis on action and behavior, served as a living example of practical theology, theology not reserved for speculation but engaging in norms for daily activity and guidance of church procedures and policy.

In 1990 Fowler presented as a key speaker in a conference on practical theology at Blaubeuren, Germany, the site of Tuebingen University’s conference center, alongside Don Browning, Dietrich Rossler, and Karl Ernst Nipkow.  During the conference the idea of forming an international academy grounded in practical theology was explored.  The academy sought to establish practical theology as a multi-disciplinary international discipline and to create an organizational structure at an international level.  The academy also sought to support international research in the field and create a venue for dialogue among practitioners.  As a result the International Academy of Practical Theology was founded by six of Fowler’s colleagues.  It continues to meet every other year in diverse locations around the globe, and Fowler became one of its earliest members.

In 1996, in his book Faithful Change, Fowler began to address four responses to theology and postmodern experience.  They included liberation and political theology approaches, cosmological approaches, hermeneutical approaches, and narrative-linguistic approaches (1996, 181-186).  Fowler observed “It is easier to characterize the preceding chapter’s four types of theological strategies in relation to their engagement with postmodern thought and experience than it is to account for their address to the issues of the praxis of God” (1996, 191).  Fowler believed God’s praxis could be seen, biblically, in three great comprehensive patterns.  These included God creating, God governing, and God liberating and redeeming (1996, 195).  His perspective, according to Fowler, “aims to characterize a Christian understanding of the much broader praxis of God in the processes of nature and history.  The praxis of God is by no means limited to the praxis of the church” (1996, 200).  Fowler felt that in Faithful Change he had “sketched in the barest of outlines” and so would return to the questions arising from a postmodern perspective in later work (1996, 200).

In 2003, Fowler would characterize his work in Faithful Change by saying, “I argue that whether contemporary persons in a postindustrial, high technology, and culturally plural societies know it or acknowledge it or not, we participate in practical postmodern consciousness” (2003, 233).  In a later discussion Fowler offered that Faith Development Theory was better suited to the postmodern landscape because of the way he characterized the stages.  He writes:

Both Piaget and Kohlberg claimed not only that their stages were sequential, invariant and hierarchical, but that they were also universal.  In that sense, both these thinkers continued the unreconstructed Enlightenment claim, rooted in Kant, that the fundamental forms of the categories underlying human thought (though Piaget and Kohlberg, developmentally realized in some segments of populations) are established a priori (prior to experience) and are therefore, universal (2003, 237).

Fowler identifies three conceptual frameworks that faith development is built on.  Erik Erikson’s psychosocial theory already is built on biological development, ego development and socio-cultural stimulus for development.  The second source for faith development theory clearly lies in the Piagetian constructivist developmental tradition, in conjunction with the work Kohlberg, Selman and Kegan.  These theorists provide better understanding of the plurality of stages in child development.  The third source Fowler identifies is H. Richard Niebuhr. “Niebuhr created an original synthesis of historical-critical, sociological and psychosocial perspectives on the phenomena of faith.  Faith, for Neibuhr, was not limited to religious faith” (2003, 239).  Fowler’s refusal to claim universality, together with the implicit pluralism of the major three sources for faith development theory, make it far more adaptive to postmodern thought because, in part, of the inherently pluralistic orientation of those sources.  Simply put, “Faith Development Theory offers a characterization of faith that combines a phenomenological account of what faith does, with a conceptual model of what faith is” (2004, 412).

Addendum: James W. Fowler III. passed away peacefully, surrounded by his family, on October 16, 2015, at the age of 75, following a battle with Alzheimer's disease. 


BIBLIOGRAPHY  (Chicago Style)


 To See the Kingdom: The Theological Vision of H. Richard Niebuhr. Nashville, Tenn.: Abingdon Press, 1974. Reissued by University Press of America, 1985.

(with Sam Keen) Life Maps: Conversations on the Journey of Faith. Edited by Jerome Berryman. Waco, Tex.: Word Books, 1978. 2d, expanded ed., Word Books, 1985.

(with Robin Lovin et al.) Trajectories in Faith: Five Life Stories. Nashville, Tenn.: Abingdon Press, 1980.

Stages of Faith: The Psychology of Human Development and the Quest for Meaning. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1981. Also published in German, Portuguese, and in two Korean editions. Paperback ed., San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1995.

Becoming Adult, Becoming Christian: Adult Development and Christian Faith. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1984. Rev. ed., San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2000.

(with Romney Moseley and David Jarvis) Manual for Faith Development Research. Atlanta: Center for Research in Faith and Moral Development, Emory University, 1986. Rev. ed., 1993.

Faith Development and Pastoral Care. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1987. Also published as Glaubensentwicklung: Perspektiven für Seelsorge und kirchliche Bildungsarbeit. Gütterloh: Kaiser, 1989.

Responsible Selfhood: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Ethics Education. Edited by John Shippee and Linda Johnson. (James Fowler supervised writing and editing.) Orange County (Calif.) Public Schools, 1988.

Remembrances of Lawrence Kohlberg. Edited by James W. Fowler, John Snarey, and Karen DeNicola. Atlanta: Center for Research in Faith and Moral Development, Emory University, 1988.

Caring for the Commonweal: Education for Religious and Public Life. Festschrift for Robert Lynn. Edited by Parker Palmer, Barbara Wheeler, and James W. Fowler. Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 1990.

Weaving the New Creation: Stages of Faith and the Public Church. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1991. Korean Translation, 1997.

Stages of Faith and Religious Development: Implications for Church, Education, and Society. Edited by James W. Fowler, Karl Ernst Nipkow, and Friedrich Schweitzer. New York: Crossroad Press, 1991.

Faithful Change: The Personal and Public Challenges of Postmodern Life. Nashville, Tenn.: Abingdon Press, 1996. Paperback ed., 2000.

Chapters in Books:

 “Stages in Faith: The Structural Developmental Approach.” In Values and Moral Education, edited by Thomas Hennessey, 187-211. New York: Paulist Press, 1976.

“Faith Development Theory and the Aims of Religious Socialization.” In Emerging Issues in Religious Education, edited by Gloria Durka and Joanmarie Smith, 187-211. New York: Paulist Press, 1976.

“Alienation as a Human Experience.” In From Alienation to At-oneness, edited by Francis Eigo, O.S.A., 1-18. Proceedings of the Theological Institute, Villanova University, 1975. Villanova, Pa.: Villanova University Press, 1977.

“Psychological Perspectives on the Faith Development of Children.” In Catechesis: Realities and Visions, edited by M. Sawicki and B. Marthaler, 72-82. Washington D.C.: United States Catholic Conference, 1977.

“Future Christians and Church Education.” In Jürgen Moltmann with M. Douglas Meeks et al., Hope for the Church: Moltmann in Dialogue with Practical Theology, edited and translated by Theodore Runyon, 93-111. Nashville, Tenn.: Abingdon Press, 1979.

Foreword to The Recovery of the Person by Carlyle Marney. 2d ed. Nashville, Tenn.: Abingdon Press, 1979.

“Faith and the Structuring of Meaning.” In James Fowler, Antoine Vergote, et al. Toward Moral and Religious Maturity. First International Conference on Moral and Religious Development. Morristown, N.J.: Silver Burdett, 1980.

“Moral Stages and the Development of Faith.” In Moral Development, Moral Education, and Kohlberg: Basic Issues in Philosophy, Psychology, Religion, and Education, edited by Brenda M. Munsey. Birmingham, Ala.: Religious Education Press, 1980.

“Black Theories of Liberation: A Structural-Developmental Analysis.” In The Challenge of Liberation Theology: A First-world Response, edited by Brian Mahan and L. Dale Richesin, 69-90. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Press, 1981.

“Theology and Psychology in the Study of Faith Development.” In Concilium: Project X. Nijmegen, The Netherlands, 1982.

“Stages of Faith and Adults’ Life Cycles.” In Faith and the Adult Life Cycle, edited by Kenneth Stokes. New York: W. H. Sadlier, 1982.

“Practical Theology and the Shaping of Christian Lives.” In Practical Theology: The Emerging Field in Theology, Church, and World, edited by Don S. Browning, 148-66. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1983.

“John Wesley’s Development in Faith” and “Wesleyan Spirituality and Faith Development.” In The Future of the Methodist Theological Traditions, edited by M. Douglas Meeks, 172-208. Nashville, Tenn.: Abingdon Press, 1985.

(with Richard Osmer) “Childhood and Adolescence – A Faith Development Perspective.” In Clinical Handbook of Pastoral Counseling, edited by Robert J. Wicks, Richard D. Parsons, and Donald E. Capps, 171-212. New York: Paulist Press, 1985.

Foreword to To See the Promised Land: The Faith Pilgrimage of Martin Luther King, Jr., by Fred L. Downing, i-iii. Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 1986.

“Stages of Faith.” In Women’s Spirituality: Resources for Christian Development, edited by Joan Wolski Conn, 15-42 and 226-32. New York: Paulist Press, 1986.

“Stages of Faith and Human Becoming.” In In the World: Reading and Writing as a Christian, edited by John H. Timmerman and Donald R. Hettinga, 96-108. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1987.

“H. Richard Niebuhr.” In Thinkers of the Twentieth Century, 2d ed, edited by Roland Turner, 570-72. Chicago and London: St. James Press, 1987.

“The Vocation of Faith Development Theory and Research, 1981-87.” In Glaubensentwicklung und Erziehung, edited by Karl E. Nipkow, Friedrich Schweitzer, and James W. Fowler, 29-47. Gütesloher: Gütesloher, Gerd Mohn, 1988. Also in Stages of Faith and Religious Development, edited by Karl E. Nipkow, Friedrich Schweitzer, and James W. Fowler, 19-36. New York: Crossroad, 1987, 1991.

“Faith Development and Spirituality.” In Maturity and the Quest for Spiritual Meaning, edited by Charles L.C. Kao, 19-40. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1988.

“Strength for the Journey: Early Childhood Development in Selfhood and Faith” and “The Public Church: Ecology for Faith Education and Advocate for Children.” In Faith Development in Early Childhood, edited by Doris Blazer, 1-36 and 131-54. Kansas City: Sheed & Ward, 1989.

“Öffentliche Kirche und christliche Erziehung.” In Bildung – Glaube – Aufklärung: Zur Weidergewinnung des Bildungsbegriffs in Pädagogik und Theologie, edited by Reiner Preul, Friedrich Schweitzer, Christoph Scheilke, and Alfred Treml, 253-69. Güttersloh: Gerd Mohn, 1989.

“Reconstituting Paideia in American Public Education.” In Caring for the Commonweal: Education for Religious and Public Life. Festschrift for Robert Lynn, edited by Parker J. Palmer, Barbara G. Wheeler, and James W. Fowler, 63-89. Macon, Ga: Mercer University Press, 1990.

Articles in Dictionary of Pastoral Care and Counseling. Edited by Rodney J. Hunter: “Erik H. Erikson” (360); “Faith and Belief” (394-97); “Faith Development Research” (399-401); “Identity” (565-67); “H. Richard Niebuhr” (793); and “Structuralism” (1229-30). Nashville, Tenn.: Abingdon Press, 1990.

“Faith Development through the Family Life Cycle.” In Catholic Families: Growing and Sharing Faith, 99-126. New Rochelle, N.Y.: Don Bosco Multi Media, 1990.

Foreword to Despair: Sin or Sickness? Hopelessness and Healing in the Christian Life by Mary Louise Bringle. Nashville, Tenn.: Abingdon Press, 1990.

“Praktische Theologie und gegenwärtige Kultur – Auf der Suche nach einem neuen Paradigma.” In Praktische Theologie und Kultur der Gegenwärt, edited by Karl Ernst Nipkow, Dietrich Rossler, and Friedrich Schweitzer, 155-69. Gütersloh: Gerd Mohn, 1991.

“Character, Conscience, and the Education of the Public.” In The Challenge of Pluralism: Education, Politics, and Values, edited by F. Clark Power and Daniel K. Lapsley, 225-250. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1992.

Foreword to Sponsoring Faith in Adolescence: Perspectives on Young Catholic Women, edited by Carmel Leavey, O.P., Margaret Hetherton, Mary Brett, O.P., and Rosalie O’Neill. Newtown, Australia: E.J. Dwyer, 1992.

“Alcoholics Anonymous and Faith Development.” In Research on Alcoholics Anonymous: Opportunities and Alternatives, edited by B. S. McCready and W.R. Miller, 113-35. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University, Rutgers Center of Alcohol Studies, 1993.

“Culture Wars and the Paradigms of Adult Faith: Some Implications for Religion, Politics and Organizational Life.” In Omwegen door de Woestijn. Reflecties over de theologie van Prof. Dr. Gijs Dinemans bij zijn afscheidals Kerkelijk hoogleraar, edited by Riet Bon-Storm and Libertus A. Hoedemaker, 157-74. Kampen, Utigeverij Kok, 1993.

“Pluralism and Oneness in Religious Experience: William James, Faith Development Theory, and Clinical Practice.” In Religion and the Clinical Practice of Psychology, edited by Edward Schafranscke. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association, 1996.

“The Emerging New Shape of Practical Theology.” In Pastoral Theologische Informationen. Fachgruppe Practische Theologie der Wissenshaftlichen Gesellschaft für Theologie. Frankfurt: Postbank.

“Entwicklung: III. Psychologisch und religionspsychologisch.” In Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwärt, 4th ed., Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1999.

Foreword to The Banality of Good and Evil: Moral Lessons from the Shoah and Jewish Tradition by David R. Blumenthal. Washington D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 1999.

Foreword to Getting Ahead Without Losing Heart by Andrew T. Fleming. Savannah, Ga.: Frederick Biel, 1999.

“The Humanities and Humanization.” In Leadership in the Humanities. Atlanta: Georgia State University Press, 2000.

“A Response:  Faith Development Theory and the Challenges of Practical Theology.”  Developing A Public Faith, edited by Richard Osmer and Friedrich L. Schweitzer.  St. Louis: Chalice Press, 2003.


 “Faith, Liberation, and Human Development.” The Thirkield Jones Lectures, Gammon Theological Seminary. Foundations 39 (Spring 1971).

“Agenda Toward a New Coalition.” Engage/Social Action 1, no.5 (June 1973): 45-63.

“Agenda Toward a Developmental Perspective on Faith.” Religious Education 69 (March-April 1974): 209-19.

“H. Richard Niebuhr as Philosopher.” The Journal of Religion 57, no. 3 (July 1977): 307-13.

“Perspectives on the Family from the Standpoint of Faith Development Theory.” The Perkins Journal (Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University) 33, no. 1 (Fall 1979): 1-19.

“Stage 6 and the Kingdom of God.” Religious Education 75 (May-June 1980).

(with Knud Monksgaard). “Udvikling of tro.” Religions-Laereren (Copenhagen), January 1980, 10-14, 15-16.

“Reflection on Loder’s ‘The Transforming Moment.’” Religious Education 77 (March-April 1982): 140-48.

“Author’s Response to a Review Symposium” (responding to four reviews of Stages of Faith). Horizons: The Journal of the College Theology Society 9, no. 1 (Spring 1982): 123-26.

“The RCIA and Christian Education.” Worship 4 (1 July 1982): 336-43.

“Gifting the Imagination: Awakening and Informing Children’s Faith.” Review and Expositor (Journal of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Ky.) 80, no. 2 (Spring 1983): 189-200.

“A Gradual Introduction into the Faith.” In Concilium: Project on Practical Theology. Nijemegan, The Netherlands, summer 1984.

“Practical Theology and Theological Education: Some Models and Questions.” Theology Today 41 (April 1985).

“Pluralism, Particularity, and Paideia.” Journal of Law and Religion (Special Volume on Religion and Public Life, April 1985): 263-307.

“Religious Congregations: Varieties of Presence in Stages of Faith.” Moral Education Forum 12, no. 1 (Spring 1987): 4-14.

“The Enlightenment and Faith Development Theory.” Journal for Empirical Theology (Nijmegan, The Netherlands) 1, no. 1 (1988): 29-42.

“Prophetic Vocations: Parables of the Kingdom.” Spirituality Today 40 suppl. (Winter 1988): 96-104.

“Stages of Faith: Reflections on a Decade of Dialogue” Christian Education Journal 13, no. 1 (Autumn 1992): 13-23.

“Response to Helmut Reich: Overview or Apologetic?” The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion 3, no. 3 (Summer 1993): 173-79.

“Bio-Cultural Roots of Shame, Conscience, and Sin.” Bulletin of the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences 13, no. 1 (Winter 1993): 1-11.

“Shame: Toward a Practical Theological Understanding.” The Christian Century, 25 August-1 September 1993, 816-19.

“Keeping Faith with God and Our Children.” Religious Education 89, no. 4 (Fall 1994): 543-60.

“Foreword.” The Journal of Adolescence. Special issue on “Psychology of Religion and Adolescence” (1999): 22 and 181-83.

“Faith Development and the Postmodern Challenges.” International Journal for the Psychology of Religion 11 (2001): 159-72.

(Other items by Fowler – Audio/Video tapes, archives):

Conference Papers

 “Moral Education in Global Context: The Moral Sense, Conscience, and Justice.” Translated into Japanese and published in Japanese and English in Conference Papers: In Search of Moral Education in the 21st Century, edited by Nobumichi Iwas. Kashiwa-shi, Chiba, Japan: The Institute of Morality, 1995.

“Perspectives on Adolescents, Personhood and Faith”; “Adolescence in the Trinitarian Praxis of God”; and “Grace, Repentance, and Commitment: Youth Initiation in Care and Formation.” In Christ and the Adolescent: The 1996 Princeton Lectures on Youth, Church and Culture, 1-34. Princeton, N.J.: Institute for Youth Ministry, Princeton Theological Seminary, 1996.

Feature Interviews

Interview by Linda Lawrence. Psychology Today (November 1983): 56-62.

Interview by Lynn Donham. SBC Today (January 1984): 6-7.

Interview by Susan McDonald. Emory Magazine (November 1985): 18-23.

“Fowler on Faith.” Christianity Today 30, no. 9 (13 June 1986): 7-8.

“Religion and Clinical Issues: An Interview with Theologian James Fowler.” By Edward Shafranske. Psychologists Interested in Religious Issues, Division 36, American Psychological Association, Newsletter 11, no. 2, (Summer 1986): 1-4.

“Public Church: Radical Interdependence.” By Dick Westley. In the Meantime (Chicago) no. 5 (Fall 1993): 1-10.

Reviews Written by Fowler

Joint review of Openings for Marxist-Christian Dialogue, edited by T.W. Ogletree, and The Faith of the Atheist by Arthur Gibson. Religion in Life 33 (Autumn 1969): 444-46.

Review of Methodism’s Destiny in an Ecumenical Age, edited by Paul H. Minus. Methodist History 8 (April 1970).

Review of The Nixon Theology by Charles Henderson. Catalyst 4, no. 11 (November 1972).

Review of Talking, Thinking, Growing: Language with the Young Child by Joan Tough. Religious Education 70, no. 1 (January-February 1975): 95-96.

Review of Vision and Virtue by Stanley Hauerwas, and Biography as Theology by James Wm. McClendon, Jr. Christian Century 92, no. 13 (9 April 1975): 360-61.

Review of The Modernist Impulse by William R. Hutchison. American Protestantism in Religious Media Today (Fall 1976): 24-25.

Review of Evil: The Shadow Side of Reality by John Sanford. Theology Today 39 (1982).

Review of Sexism and God-Talk: Toward a Feminist Theology by Rosemary Radford Fuether. Christian Century 100, no. 30 (19 October 1983): 940.

Review of The Critical Years: The Young Adult Search for a Faith to Live By by Sharon L. Parks. Horizons 14, no. 2 (Fall 1987): 347-49.

Review of Conversion and Discipleship: A Christian Foundation for Ethics and Doctrine by Stephen Happel and James J. Walter. Journal of Religion 67 (Fall 1987).

“The Psychology of Altruism.” Article Review of The Altruistic Personality by Samuel and Pearl Oliner. First Things 1, no. 4 (June/July 1990): 43-49.


Fowler, J. (2007). [Autobiography for Fowler family]. Copy in possession of Lurline Fowler.

Reviews of Fowler’s Publications:

 (with Antoine Vergote et al.) Toward Moral and Religious Maturity. First International Conference on Moral and Religious Development. Morristown, N.J.: Silver Burdett, 1980.

“Faith and the Structuring of Meaning” and “Dialogue Toward the Future in Faith Development Studies.” In Faith Development and Fowler, edited by Craig Dykstra and Sharon Parks, 5-42 and 275-301. Birmingham, Ala.: Religious Education Press, 1986.

The following articles are published in Christian Perspectives on Faith Development: A Reader, edited by Jeff Astley and Leslie Francis. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1992. “Foreword” (ix-xv); “Faith, Liberation and Human Development” (3-14); “The Enlightenment and Faith Development Theory” (15-28); with Romney M. Moseley and David Jarvis, “Stages of Faith” (29-58); “Perspectives on the Family from the Standpoint of Faith Development Theory” (320-44); “Religious Congregations: Varieties of Presence” (370-83).

“Stages of Faith Consciousness.” In Religious Development in Developmental Psychology, edited by George Scarlett and Fritz Oser, 27-45. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1991.

Unpublished Papers

“Family Autobiography.” Copy in possession of Lurline Fowler.

Works about Fowler:


Tremththanmor, C.E.T. “Fowler’s stages of faith in the congregation.” M.Phil. diss., The University of Wales College of Cardiff, 2006.

Zondag, J. “Faith development: a theological evaluation of Loder and Fowler.” M.Phil. diss., University of Birmingham, 2005.

Lee, Soon Keun. “Fowler’s faith development interview questions in a Korean context.” Ph.D. diss., Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, 1999.

Park, One Ho. “A study of anthropology in James Fowler’s faith development theory.” Ed.D. diss., Presbyterian School of Christian Education, 1989.

Mark-Whitley, Pamela. “Faith Development: James Fowler’s Stages Seen in a Quaker Context.” D.Min. diss., Colgate Rochester Divinity School/Bexley Hall/Crozer Theological Seminary, 1981.

Sallnow, Theresa. “Faith in Persons: A Critical Exploration of James Fowler’s Theory of Faith-Development, with Special Reference to Personalist Philosophy (Fowler James).” Ph.D. diss., Lancaster University, 1989.

Hunt, Gregory Lynn. “Toward Theological Foundations for a Faith Development Theory; with Special Attention to James Fowler.” Ph.D. diss., The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1985.

DeLaurentis, Helen. “ ‘Maturity of Faith’: An Interdisciplinary Clarification of the Term (Rahner, Fowler, Erikson, Catechetics, Maslow).” Ph.D. diss., The Catholic University of America, 1985.

Farc, Eunice Angelia. “A pilot case study of Fowler’s faith interview in the Romanian context.” Th.M. diss., The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1999.

Guerin, Scott A. “Cultural differences and the occurrence of Stage 5 scores in James Fowler’s faith stage theory.” M.A. diss., Kean University, 1999.

Gardin, Maria Roy. “Wisdom and faith: An empirical analysis of Deirdre Kramer’s and James Fowler’s models of development.” Ph.D. diss., Fuller Theological Seminary, School of Psychology, 1997.

Drewek, Paula A. “Cross-cultural testing of James W. Fowler’s model of faith development among Baha’is. Ph.D. diss., University of Ottawa, 1996.

Simmonds, Randy James. “Content and Structure in Faith Development: A Case Examination of James Fowler’s Theory.” Ph.D. diss., The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1986.

Bradley, Leonard Richard. “An Exploration of the Relationship between Fowler’s Theory of Faith Development and Myers-Briggs Personality Type.” Ph.D. diss., The Ohio State University, 1983.

Beyer, Arthur H. “Fowler’s Theory of Faith Development and the Ministry of Small House Groups.” D.Min. diss., Bethany Theological Seminary, 1985.

Shulik, Richard Norman. “Faith Development, Moral Development, and Old Age: An Assessment of Fowler’s Faith Development Paradigm.” Ph.D. diss., The University of Chicago, 1979.

Thomas, David Terry. “A comparison of the concept of meaning-making in the developmental theories of William Perry and James Fowler.” Ph.D. diss., University of Pittsburgh, 1990.

Ivy, Steven Sawyer. “The Structural-Developmental Theories of James Fowler and Robert Kegan as Resources for Pastoral Assessment (Pastoral Care, Clinical).” Ph.D. diss., The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1985.

Cristiano, George. “An Analytical Assessment of the Faith Development Theory of J.W. Fowler, an Approach to Moral Education (Structuralist, Kohlberg).” Ed.D. diss., Rutgers The State University of New Jersey – New Brunswick, 1986.

Majmudar, Uma. “Mahatma Gandhi’s trajectory in truth and Fowler’s theory of stages of faith: A mutually critical correlational developmental study.” Ph.D. diss., Emory University, 1996.

Bassett, Perry Eugene. “Faith Development and Mid-Life TransitioN: Fowler’s Paradigm as it Relates to Personality Profile (Stage, Psychology, Measurement, Moral, Cognitive).” Ph.D. diss., Baylor University, 1985.

Sweitzer, Eric Kenyon. “The Symbolic Use of Religious Language among Evangelical Protestant Christians from the Perspective of James Fowler’s Faith Development Theory.” Ph.D. diss., Boston University, 1984.

Howlett, Elizabeth Way. “Entering the unitive life: A study of Fowler’s Faith Stages 5 and 6 and the intervening transition.” Ed.D. diss., University of Massachusetts Amherst, 1989.

Kiger, Barry Wayne. “A View of Christian Education in the Local Parish in Relation to James Fowler’s Theory of Faith Development.” D.Min. diss., Southern Methodist University, 1981.

Durett, Mark Edward. “The triad of faith and faith development: a study in the thought of H. Richard Niebuhr with special reference to the work of James W. Fowler.” Ph.D. diss., Duke University, 1987.

Ford-Grabowsky, Mary. “The concept of Christian faith in light of Hildegard of Bingen and C.G. Jung: A critical alternative to Fowler.” Ph.D. diss., Princeton Theological Seminary, 1985.

Hancock, Aubrey Perry. “An investigation of the element of conversion in the faith development theories of James Loder and James Fowler with implications for adolescent Christian education.” Ed. D. diss., New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, 1992.

Cowden, Margaret Ann. “Faith development in women: A comparison of the moral development theories of Carol Gilligan and Lawrence Kohlberg and the faith development theory of James Fowler.” Ph.D. diss., Temple University, 1992.

Ost, Ruth Zoe. “Changing frames: A critique of the prescriptions for personal transformation in the theories of C.G. Jung, James W. Fowler and Albert C. Barnes.” Ph.D. diss., Temple University, 1994.

Excerpts from Publications

Fowler, J. W. (1981). Stages of faith: The psychology of human development and the quest for meaning. San Francisco: Harper & Row.  (Also published in German, Portuguese, and in two Korean editions. Paperback ed., San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1995.)

In the faith development theory, while we have tried to describe the expectable and predictable stages of growth in faith, we have also sought to acknowledge this more mysterious and unpredictable vector of extraordinary grace.  We have honored the latter under the rubric of ‘conversion.’  When we put together the possibility—always present—of interventions of extraordinary grace with the fact that we are heirs to living traditions of faith that arise from revelatory acts of God in the past, which disclosed God’s promises for the future, then it is difficult to speak simply or solely of faith as a developmental matter.  (p. 303)

Fowler, J. W. (1984). Becoming adult, becoming Christian: Adult development and Christian faith. San Francisco: Harper & Row. (Rev. ed., San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2000)

 “The Shaping and Reshaping of Personal Vocation”

Vocation represents the fifth and last level of informing orientations and meanings by which communities of faith awaken and shape Christian existence.  What must be said of vocation in the lives of each member of the community of faith? And what must be said of their interrelatedness in an ecology of vocations?

Mary Cosby, of the Church of the Savior in Washington, D.C., says that one of the principal tasks of ministry in her community of faith is the discernment and calling forth of gifts.  In that community, the shaping of personal vocation is a matter of corporate discernment and imagination as much as it is a concern of the particular person involved.  Earlier we talked of a “vocational adventure” to which each of us is called.  Rather than thinking of one’s vocation as a kind of Platonic ideal form, waiting for us somewhere in the future, this kind of approach to the question of vocation urges us to take a frankly “negotiatory” stance.  By that I mean an approach that combines giving attention to one’s gifts and inclinations with a careful listening of the Christian story and vision, both in dynamic relation to the structures and needs and opportunities presented by the surrounding world.  Vocation, in this case, is not “found” so much as it is negotiated. We shape a purpose for our lives that is part of the purposes of God by means of proposal and counterproposal, by means of inclination and the nudges or real lures and shoves of the divine calling.  Communities play a critical role in this process by providing relational contexts where we are known personally (over time), where we are taken seriously, and were we are invited to submit images of ourselves and  our vocations to trusted others, who are informed by the community’s “script” and core story, for correction and confirmation.  The community of faith, at is best, is an “ecology of vocations.”  In a microcosmic way, the Christian community is a sign and anticipation of a universal community in which our callings will be complementary and where our talents, energies, passions, affections, and virtues will coalesce in the praise and service of God.  (pp. 102-103)

Fowler, J. W. (1981). Stages of faith: The psychology of human development and the quest for meaning. San Francisco: Harper & Row.  (Also published in German, Portuguese, and in two Korean editions. Paperback ed., San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1995.)

This is Fowler’s most influential book.  Sets out his descriptions of six stages of faith development.

Fowler, J. W., Nipkow, K. E., and Schweitzer, F. (Eds.). (1991). Stages of faith and religious development: Implications for church, education, and society. New York: Crossroad Press.

An excellent overview of the theory with attention to implications for teaching and ministry.

Author Information

Richard Osmer and Lynn Bridgers

Richard Osmer, Ph.D., Emory University.  Ralph B. and Helen S. Ashenfelter Professor of Mission and Evangelism, Princeton Theological Seminary.  "Faith Development in the Adult Life Cycle," Religious Education, Vol. 84, No. 4, Fall 1989; "Fowler and the Reformed Tradition: An Exercise in Theological Reflection in Religious Education," Journal of Religious Education, Winter, 1990; "Faith Development" in Harper's Dictionary of Christian Education; "Childhood and Adolescence‑‑A Faith Development Perspective" in Clinical Handbook of Pastoral Counseling (coauthored with James Fowler).

Lynn Bridgers, LMHC, Ph.D., Emory University.  Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Lecturer at University of New Mexico.  Her third book, Contemporary Varieties of Religious Experience: James’s Classic Study in Light of Resiliency, Temperament and Trauma, was completed under the direction of James W. Fowler, III. She served as Managing Editor of  Religious Education from 2001 to 2003 while attending Emory University.