Ragsdale new EDS President and Dean

Katherine Ragsdale has been appointed the sixth president and dean of The Episcopal Divinity School. This is good news indeed.

Katherine is an amazingly competent and centered leader, solid in her Christian faith and witness and clear in grounding her progressive ideas in Christian belief. She is an example of much of what William Stringfellow seeks to spell out as authentic Christian witness in his book,
A Private and a Public Faith.

EDS has again and again worked to recreate itself out of the renewal of theological education in America. At a time when all seminaries are challenged by economic concerns, EDS has found a way to maintain its presence, reduce student costs and align itself with educationally innovative organizations. EDS has over the years worked to include students and faculty widely representative of the breadth of the church and Communion.

Katherine is a good friend and a person I respect highly. She will well serve EDS and the enterprise of theological education in TEC and the Anglican Communion.

As an graduate of both EDS and one of its predecessor schools, The Episcopal Theological School, I am proud of the Seminary for making this choice and glad for Katherine.


  1. I join the mighty throng of people in TEC who joyously celebrate this appointment. I am very proud of my seminary for making yet another bold, prophetic act, following in the footsteps of appointing Carter Heyward and Suzanne Hiatt, two of the Philadelphia Eleven, as faculty, and Steve Charleston, first Dean and President from the people of the First Nation.

  2. Katherine is most well known for her long service as President of the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) now known as Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCEC). With her background, I wonder if EDS will have Katherine teach Christian Ethics or Moral Theology?

  3. In one speech she led the crowd in the mantra, "Abortion is a blessing. Our work is not done." I might understand how some might be pro-choice but anti-abortion, but she is pro-choice and pro-abortion. Her opposition to restrictions on partial birth abortions is beyond disturbing.

    I can't imagine a more in your face appointment. Well, EDS has certainly made their choice. They earlier sold off a third of their buildings to Lesley University because of bleak finances and reported enrollment down 25%. I am sorry, Mark+, but I can't say anything but express my hope that they will be the next seminary to close.

  4. Christopher (P.)30/3/09 10:47 PM


    NARAL and RCEC are two different organizations. Rev. Ragsdale has been president of the second, but not the first, although she has served on the board of NARAL. And I do hope that EDS would have her teach either moral theology or Christian ethics. She sounds like a very capable person to do so, and I should like to hear what she has to say.

  5. really, mark, do you not see this as a rather aggressive appointment? maybe that's how TEC is these days, but REALLY? i'm amazed, maybe you are, too, that there are still moderates, much less conservatives in your pews. is that your intention? i didn't know that it was that flagrant. wow,, just wow.


  6. I am a progressive Episcopalian, but I do have to say that the appointment of Ragsdale does seem to be a bit "out there". I would have preferred someone a bit less polarizing.

    The only reason I find it acceptable is the fact that Mark, Elizabeth Kaeton, and Susan Russell are supportive. I respect their opinions.

  7. I expected some negative reaction to the appointment, but am somewhat surprised by the characterization of the appointment as "aggressive" and "in your face."
    As an active alumnus of EDS, I will correct robroy's characterization of the new partnership with Lesley University. Far from being a selling off of buildings due to finances, it is a partnership in which buildings which no longer served EDS are being put to use by Lesley, a large part of Lesley's library collection will be moved to the library at EDS and available to EDS students and faculty, and conversations have begun about cross-registration and joint degree programs. This partnership, far from being a desperate action, is simply good stewardship. Some. e.g., robroy, may want the witness of EDS to be silenced, but I think that EDS will be around long after both robroy and I have died.

  8. To add to Fr. Weir's comments:

    The necessity of the arrangement with Leslie was in part due to Weston Jesuit School of Theology moving to Chestnut Hill (the Jesuits bailed out the Archdiocese by buying the Cardinal's palace and the Chancery). But it would have made sense even if WJST remained on campus. When I was a student at EDS (1999-2002), more than half the rooms in the dormitories were rented to Harvard, Leslie or Longy students. With most EDS students second-career vocations, and with many studying part-time, there is very little need for campus housing, and the buildings were a burden to the school even then.

    As to Katherine Ragsdale, I am a little concerned that her appointment might signal a return to the days of Bill Rankin, when EDS was on the extreme left wing of TEC and rather isolated, as a good number of dioceses would not send postulants there or ordain graduates. Even the Diocese of Massachusetts was suggesting that postulants consider General. Steven Charleston did a lot to build bridges, while not compromising principles. (Just before I graduated, the entire campus community was shocked when a postulant from the Central Gulf Coast showed up for a visiting day, with the blessing of his bishop).

  9. I went to Katherine Ragsdale's blog and read her 2007 speech "Our Work is Not Done." (It's the top post.)

    It was one of the most intolerant, mean-spirited things I have ever read.

    In her world, no person who believes the soul begins at conception could ever work in medicine -- or should ever serve in public office. (Heck, no one who isn't even certain when it the soul begins!)

    I honestly don't know how she could ever participate in ecumenical or inter-faith dialogues. In her world, many Catholics, Orthodox believers, Buddhists and others wouldn't even be welcome at the table.

  10. I won't speak for Rev. Dr. Ragsdale, but...

    I'm as PRO-CHOICE as they come, Paul. [For example: the only reason I don't give a fig about "Partial-Birth Abortion" laws, is that no such procedure exists! However, if a patient and her doctor considered "intact dilation and extraction" the SAFEST way to conduct a needed abortion, I would gladly defend their right to do so, and bring on the cops!]

    However, the only way one would see *me* NOT "participate in ecumenical or inter-faith dialogues" is because those "Catholics, Orthodox believers, Buddhists and others" refused to sit down at table w/ me.

    Is that what you're encouraging, Paul? That anti-choicers boycott dialogue w/ pro-choicers?

  11. My own views on abortion are exactly that and I wont publish them here. I will comment however on the interesting dynamic I am noting --- all the anti-appointment voices are male. Hmmmm....

    My first rule on the abortion debate, which I reverently observe is that the males should shut up -- we do not get pregnant.


  12. Henry Butler6/4/09 2:00 AM

    I am not surprised but i am deeply disappointed that such a pagan could actually become a priest, not to mention the dean of a divinity school in my church. The disturbing endorsements of its alumni are frightful as well...if you people want to destroy the church you are well on your way...and this is truly a satanic act.


OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.