From Strength to Strength: Reclaiming the Planks and Pillars of St. Ambrose of Milan’s Outlooks on the Virtue of Liberality in Philanthropic Leadership

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2021

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Abstract

St. Ambrose of Milan led the church to seek ministry with the poor as a mark of virtuous Christian life. With an emphasis on the sacrament of holy baptism, Ambrose demonstrated how to reciprocate God’s love by clarifying the poor as treasures in God’s economy.

While there is great reason to laud its innovative economic development and valiant leadership, this research shows how the Roman Empire failed humanity with exploitive treatment of the poor. Likewise, this research exemplifies how Ambrose’s pedagogical leadership exposes the church’s failure to lead, paving a road of justice for the poor with equality, charity, and sacrificial giving.

This thesis argues Ambrose sought to contextually reframe the church’s understanding of incarnational leadership as a form of liberality. Ambrose’s On Joseph sermon revealed the threat of prodigality and greed when Joseph is faced with his own leadership power in the pit, in the prison, and in the palace. The thesis provides substantial evidence how God’s justice and Joseph’s leadership grounded in liberality create space for grace and empathy in family relations, human social consciousness, and community economic empowerment. This work argues that Ambrose’s exemplary contextual reframing of church resources and ministry practices proves as a model for philanthropic leadership against the unintended practice of toxic charity. This work also illustrates strategic practices to identify toxic charity and to embrace a virtuous life of giving. Furthermore, this research exhibits how the virtue of liberality plays an impactful role in philanthropic traditions as strong pillars in Christian ministry today.

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Moore, Regina Henderson (2021). From Strength to Strength: Reclaiming the Planks and Pillars of St. Ambrose of Milan’s Outlooks on the Virtue of Liberality in Philanthropic Leadership. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/24466.

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