Dr. Elizabeth Liebert, SNJM

Professor of Spiritual Life


PhD, Religion and Personality, Vanderbilt University
MA, Religion and Personality, Vanderbilt University
MA, Religious Studies, Gonzaga University
BA, Chemistry, Fort Wright College

Dr. Elizabeth Liebert, Professor of Spiritual Life and Director of the Program in Christian Spirituality (retired) is a pastoral theologian with a special interest in Christian spirituality. Her writing and teaching has focused on engaging pastoral leaders in spiritual practices in such a way that they can foster them in their congregations and organizations. She collaborated in the founding of the MDiv Concentration in Christian Spirituality, the Diplomas in the Art of Spiritual Direction and Spiritual Formation Studies, several emphases in the DMin including Pastor as Spiritual Leader, and the Certificate in Trauma and Spiritual Care. She continues to teach in these programs as time permits. She also serves on the doctoral faculty in Christian Spirituality at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. Dr. Liebert is a past president of the Society for the Study of Christian Spirituality. A member of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, a religious congregation dedicated to the full development of the human person through various educational and social ministries, Sr. Liebert was the first Roman Catholic to hold a tenured faculty position at SFTS and the first Roman Catholic to serve as Dean of a Presbyterian Seminary. She currently serves in formation for her religious congregation. Click here for more information about the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary.

Classes Taught

SP 1500 Orientation to Theological Education
SP 2040 Introduction to Christian Spirituality through Diverse Practice
SP 2499 Art of Discernment
SP 2527 Spiritual Life and Leadership (emphases in Contemplative Listening, Lectio Divina Centering Prayer, Personal Discernment, Social Discernment)
SP 2685 Discernment: Systems and Nature
SP 2900 Spiritual Exercises: Pastoral Dynamics
FT 4001/4002 Integrative Seminar
SP 4042/5042 Spiritual Exercises in Context
RSSP 4650 Spirituality & Mission (with Philip Wickeri)
SP 4661 Interdisciplinary Theological Reflection
SP 5090 Doctoral Seminar in Christian Spirituality (GTU)
DM 6019 Culture and Mission


Soul of Discernment: A Spiritual Practice for Communities and Institutions
Soul of Discernment provides concrete steps for groups of people who work together and need to make important decisions: church sessions, nonprofit hiring committees, etc. Liebert calls this process the Social Discernment Cycle, a process for seeking God’s call in a particular situation. “It is called ‘social’ because it deals primarily with human communities in their social-structural, rather than interpersonal aspects,” Liebert explains. “It is a cycle because one completed round of discernment prepares for the next. The Social Discernment Cycle is particularly apt for any discernment that involves a structure, system, or institution.”
This book helps groups work through this cycle to answer the question, “How is God leading usindividually or together, to act in this particular moment in our organization?”

“The analysis of spiritual discernment has largely focused on individuals. Yet most contemporary leaders must involve teams when wrestling with strategic decisions affecting complex systems. The Soul of Discernment is a lucid and spiritually mature correction to this deficiency. It provides wise guidelines to system level leaders wishing to integrate spiritual wisdom and grace with contemporary organizational decisions.” —Andre L. Delbecq, J. Thomas and Kathleen L. McCarthy University Professor, Leavey School of Business, Santa Clara University

ISBN-10: 0664239676
ISBN-13: 978-0664239671
Order on Amazon

Reader Comments and Brief Reviews

Way of Discernment: Spiritual Practices for Decision Making
We all make decisions constantly—some with careful reflection, some without much thought. But what if we understood these decisions, minor as well as major, as matters of faithful Christian living?

In this helpful and encouraging book, Elizabeth Liebert introducers the way of discernment—the practice of making faithful decisions—and invites us to begin our own discernment journey. At the heart of the book is a series of helpful practices that can be done individually or in a group setting. By means of these practices, Liebert shows us how to become increasingly perceptive about God’s work in the world, and, in the process, to live more holistic, discerning lives in response.

ISBN-13: 978-0-664-22870-5
ISBN-10:  0-664-22870-4
Order on Amazon

Reader Comments and Brief Reviews

A look inside


Casting Fire, Liberating Life: The Spirituality of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (proposal being circulated)

The Soul of Discernment: A Spiritual Practice for Communities and other Institutions. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2015.

The Way of Discernment: Spiritual Practices for Decision Making. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2008.

Exploring Christian Spirituality: Essays in Honor of Sandra M. Schneiders (Co-edited with Bruce Lescher). New York/Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2006.

The Spiritual Exercises Reclaimed: Uncovering Liberating Possibilities for Women (Co-authored with Mary Garvin and Katherine Dyckman). New York: Paulist Press, 2001.

A Retreat With The Psalms: Resources for Personal and Communal Prayer (Co-authored with John Endres). New York: Paulist Press, 2001.

Changing Life Patterns: Adult Development in Spiritual Direction, Expanded Edition. St. Louis: Chalice Press, 2001.

Changing Life Patterns: Adult Development in Spiritual Direction Paulist Press, 1992.

“The Process of Change in Spiritual Direction: A Structural-Developmental Perspective.” Ph.D. dissertation, Vanderbilt University, 1986. Committee Chair: Peggy Way. University Microfilms #87-03882.

Chapters and Essays – Recent

“Accessible Spiritual Practices to Aid in Recovery from Moral Injury, Pastoral Psychology (forthcoming)

“The Spiritual Life with the Help of Favorite Poets,” essay in The Spiritual Life, edited by Allan Cole. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2011, pp. 77-86.

“Ignatius of Loyola, the Spiritual Exercises” Chapter in Christian Spirituality: The Classics, ed Arthur Holder, pp. 197-208. Oxford: Routledge, 2009.

“Discernment for Our Times: A Practice with Postmodern Implications,” Studies in Spirituality 18 (2008): 333-355. Collected in Transforming Spirituality: Celebrating the 25th Anniversary of Studies in Spirituality, ed. Rossano Zas Fritz de Col (Peeters, 2016), 611-634.

“Spiritual Formation as Integrative Practice” Religious Studies News 24:14 (March 2007), ix. Spotlight Issue on Theological Education, “Forming the Theological Imagination: Strategies of Integration in Theological Education.”

“Practice,” Chapter in Blackwell Companion to Christian Spirituality, ed. Arthur Holder, pp. 496-514. Oxford: Blackwell, 2005.

“Supervision as Widening the Horizons.” Chapter in Supervision of Spiritual Direction: Engaging in Holy Mystery, ed. Mary Rose Bumpus and Rebecca Langer, pp. 123-148. Harrisburg: Morehouse, 2005.

Teaching Philosophy

I am very committed to offering resources to future leaders of the church in order to help them understand and deepen their own spiritual grounding as well as to extend their ministries of spiritual nurture and care of their congregations and organizations. I see spiritual formation as one significant aspect of vocation in the world for both individuals and groups, so it must be biblically and theologically grounded and culturally sensitive if it is to anchor Christians in their long and rich tradition and propel them into the work of Christ in the world.

In her own words

I love gardening, getting my hands dirty and eating the produce that results from the vegetable garden. Nonetheless, I may be the only person in the world who has failed to get zucchini and string beans to grow…

Dr. Liebert’s Interdisciplinary Lectures: