The new president of the Episcopal Divinity School is openly gay and an outspoken advocate of abortion and "LGBT" rights.
The announcement on Monday, March 30 that The Rev. Dr. Katherine Ragsdale was appointed as the sixth and newest president of Episcopal Divinity School (EDS) in Cambridge, MA, has orthodox and pro-life Episcopalians shaking their heads.
Ragsdale, who is an outspoken advocate of abortion and LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual and Transgender) rights, was the unanimous choice of the Board of Trustees and will begin her duties on July 1, 2009.
In addition to the press release and public letter concerning the appointment, the EDS website also has a link to Rev. Ragsdale's sermon blog. There, the first sermon is entitled, "Our Work is Not Done." The content has been cited and circulated on a large number of pro-life and conservative Christian blogs. An excerpt follows:
"When a woman wants a child but can't afford one because she hasn't the education necessary for a sustainable job, or access to health care, or day care, or adequate food, it is the abysmal priorities of our nation, the lack of social supports, the absence of justice that are the tragedies; the abortion is a blessing.
"And when a woman becomes pregnant within a loving, supportive, respectful relationship; has every option open to her; decides she does not wish to bear a child; and has access to a safe, affordable abortion - there is not a tragedy in sight -- only blessing. The ability to enjoy God's good gift of sexuality without compromising one's education, life's work, or ability to put to use God's gifts and call is simply blessing.
"These are the two things I want you, please, to remember - abortion is a blessing and our work is not done. Let me hear you say it: abortion is a blessing and our work is not done. Abortion is a blessing and our work is not done. Abortion is a blessing and our work is not done."
Currently, Ragsdale serves as Rector of St. David's Episcopal Church in Pepperell, MA. She is also President and Executive Director of Political Research Associates, that describes itself as "a progressive think tank devoted to supporting movements that are building a more just and inclusive democratic society."
The organization's website also indicates that one of their missions is to "expose movements, institutions, and ideologies that undermine human rights," particularly regarding the Christian and political right.
She has previously served on the boards of NARAL Pro-Choice America and the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.
Ragsdale, who is openly gay, was profiled by Rich Barlow of the Boston Globe in their March 5 edition. During that interview she stated, "I've experienced far more resistance and discrimination in the progressive community for being a Christian than I do in the Christian community for being a lesbian."
In his article, Barlow also stated that "she recalled that three women, spying her collar, once tried to keep her out of a meeting room for the National Abortion Rights Action League - even though she was a member of the league's board."
EDS trustee, The Rt. Rev. M. Thomas Shaw stated in a press release, "I am thrilled with the appointment of Katharine Ragsdale as the president and dean of EDS. She brings a wealth of small parish ministry to her new position and it is critical that the new president and dean be able to train and form parish priests for the growth of progressive parishes across the country. She brings a wealth of experience, talent and creativity to this new position."
In her acceptance of the position, Ragsdale said, ""EDS' commitment to the full range of diversity and not merely to inclusion but to transformation is at the heart of my own values and commitments. I believe that EDS grounds that work in the context of deep, thorough, nuanced theological education. The thought of leading and supporting an organization doing cutting edge theology and preparing lay and ordained leadership to serve God in the church and the world is very exciting."
Episcopal Divinity School, formed in 1974 with the merger of Philadelphia Divinity School (founded in 1857) and the Episcopal Theological School (founded in 1867), offers doctor of ministry and master's degrees, as well as certificates in theological studies. Located on an eight-acre campus just a few blocks from Harvard Yard, EDS is a member of the Boston Theological Institute, a consortium of nine theological schools, seminaries, and departments of religion.
---Randy Sly is the Associate Editor of Catholic Online. He is a former Archbishop of the Charismatic Episcopal Church