Elizabeth M. Bounds

Associate Professor of Christian Ethics
Elizabeth M. Bounds
Phone: 404.727.4172
    • PhD, Union Theological Seminary, 1994
    • MDiv, Union Theological Seminary, 1986
    • BA/MA, Cambridge University, 1980
    • BA, Harvard University, 1978

    Dr. Elizabeth M. Bounds, who joined Candler’s faculty in 1997, is engaged in the Justice, Peacebuilding, and Conflict Transformation Concentration, part of the Master of Divinity degree program at Candler. She also teaches courses as part of the Religion, Conflict, and Peacebuilding Concentration in Emory’s Graduate Division of Religion. 

    The core of Bounds’ work is focused on moral and theological responses to conflict and violence, whether in the U.S. prison system, ordinary congregational life, or post-conflict situations. She engages questions of restorative justice and the U.S. criminal justice system, peacebuilding and conflict transformation, democratic practices and civil society, working with a variety of participatory and practical methods. She is the author of Coming Together/Coming Apart: Religion, Modernity, and Community (Routledge, 1997), co-editor of Welfare Policy: Feminist Critiques and Justice in the Making: Feminist Social Ethics (Pilgrim Press, 1999) and has authored several essays in edited volumes. Her current research studies theo-moral understandings of the good life among incarcerated women. She is co-founder/administrator of the Certificate in Theological Studies at Arrendale State Prison for Women.

    Bounds serves as the faculty advisor for Candler Women, a student group that provides community support and advocacy for women in the Candler community. She is co-chair of the Restorative Justice Interest Group in the Society of Christian Ethics, and serves on the advisory board of Georgia Prison Ministries.

    In 2014, Bounds was appointed a Senior Fellow of the Bill and Carol Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry for 2014-15 for her project, “Redeeming Responsibility: A Christian Ethics of Incarceration,” and has received numerous other honors, awards and grants for her contributions to the academy.

    Bounds' religious affiliation is Presbyterian.

    Selected publications

    • Faculty Publication
    • Faculty Publication
    • Faculty Publication


    Co-editor,Justice in the Making: Feminist Social Ethics, Westminster John Knox Press, 2004

    Coming Together/Coming Apart: Religion, Community and Modernity, Routledge, 1997

    Chapters and Articles

    “Wasting Human Lives: A Christian Response to Hyper- Incarceration in the United States,” in Markets and Morals: Spirit and Capital in an Age of Inequality,

    Co-author, "Treating Moral Harms as Social Harms: Toward a Restorative Ethics of Christian Responsibility," in Journal of Society of Christian Ethics, vol. 37, no. 2, 2017.

    "The Conflict Skills Classroom as Social Microcosm," in Conflict Transformation and Religion: Essays on Faith, Power, and Relationship, Palgrave Macmillan, September 01, 2016

    "Opening My Eyes: Teaching in a Women's Prison," in Religious Studies News, American Academy of Religion, May 31, 2016

    "Criminal Justice and Christian Community," in Political Theology, vol. 16, no. 3, Maney, May 01, 2016

    "Round Table Discussion: William F. May, Testing the National Covenant: Some Thoughts in Response," in Political Theology, vol. 15, no. 3, Maney, May 01, 2014

    "Holistic Character Ethics: An Ethics for a Social Gospel?" in Ethics as if Jesus Mattered: Essays in Honor of Glen H. Stassen, Smyth & Helwys Publishing, January 01, 2014

    "Are We Productive Yet?" in Religious Studies News, American Academy of Religion, October 10, 2010

    Co-author, "'We Will See Many Miracles': Religion, Globalization, and the International Community School," in Religion in Global Civil Society, Oxford University Press, January 01, 2004

    Co-editor, "Welfare as a Family Value: Conflicting Notions of Family in Protestant Welfare Responses," in Welfare Policy: Feminist Critiques, Wipf and Stock, January 01, 1999

    Selected awards

    Provost's Distinguished Teaching Award, Emory University, 2021

    Candler Faculty Grant for Research and for Training, Emory University, 2015-2016

    Senior Fellow, Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry, Emory University, 2014-2015

    Unitas Distinguished Alumni/ae Award, Union Theological Seminary

    Provost's Program in Manuscript Development, Emory University, 2003-2004

    Outstanding Service-Learning Educator, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

    Summer Faculty Fellow, Center for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

    Diggs Teaching Scholar Award, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

    AAR/Lilly/NEH Grant for Workshop on Teaching Religion in the American South, 1995-1996

    Daniel Day Williams Award, Union Theological Seminary

    Union Scholarship, 1983-1988

    The core of Bounds' research, teaching and scholarship lies in the moral and theological responses to conflict and violence, whether in the U.S. prison system, in ordinary congregational life, or in post-conflict situations such as Liberia.

    Focusing on the way the church works in the world, she sees ethics as a practice requiring theological reflection, social analysis and self-critique. From the time she was a founding elder of a Presbyterian congregation committed to prisoners in 1986, Bounds has continued a strong commitment to Christian engagement with the U.S. criminal justice system. 

    She is the co-founder and administrator of the Theological Certificate Program at the Lee Arrendale State Prison for Women in Alto, Georgia, which prepares incarcerated women to serve as leaders, and provides seminary and doctoral students from four Atlanta Theological Association schools with teaching and ministry experience.

    Bounds is writing a book on the ethics of responsibility and redemption as a restorative approach to incarceration, based on her years of teaching at Arrendale.

    The Wabash Center's Dialogue On Teaching: Episode 71: Student Formation Grows out of Basic Commitments: Elizabeth Bounds, October 5, 2020

    “No One is Beyond Redemption: A Candler Conversation on Capital Punishment and the Scheduled Execution of Kelly Gissendaner” - Candler School of Theology, September 22, 2015

    "Vigil of Life, Light and Solidarity for Kelly Gissendaner" - Cannon Chapel, March 1, 2015

    Moderator, "LOGOS: Theological Imagination and Secularization" - Prophetic Voices Centennial Academic Conference, Cannon Chapel, March 19, 2015

    Selected courses

    Introduction to Christian Ethics

    Introduction to Church and Community

    Justice, Crime, and Punishment

    Problems in Christian Social Ethics—Engaging Moral Lifeworlds

    Restorative Justice

    Skills in Conflict Transformation

    Theology and Ethics of Reconciliation

    Understanding Community