Catherine Kelsey

Dean of the Chapel and Spiritual Formation
Gerald L. Schlessman Professor in Methodist Studies

Contact Information


  • B.A., Albion College, MI
  • M.Div., Vanderbilt Divinity School
  • Th.D., Harvard Divinity School


Rev. Cathie Kelsey, MDiv,ThD (Vanderbilt, Harvard) innovates regularly as she coordinates community building and rituals in her faculty role as Dean of the Chapel and Spiritual Formation. “The contexts we live in are changing rapidly. That means the ways we become community require experimentation. In my leadership of experiments, I root us in three phrases from our purpose: cultivating compassion and cultivating justice through courageous imagination. These are values I know we share, values with which we build together across our many differences.”

An Elder in the United Methodist Church since 1984, Kelsey has lived in and worked with congregations in all 5 U.S. jurisdictions. She annually teaches UM History, UM Doctrine, and UM Polity for Leadership with an emphasis on the practices of historic Methodism and their translation into future effectiveness. She also regularly teaches Life of Prayer using resources from diverse traditions of practice beyond and within Christianity.

Kelsey’s scholarship as a theologian includes analysis of the relationship between the preaching, dogmatic theology, and biblical criticism of Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834), whose publication of On Religion in 1799 began the theological period we’re still in. She says “My theological research on and then translation of Schleiermacher’s Christian Faith (2016) informs my expectation that Holy Spirit moves through persons connecting us together in community across our particularity and uniting us with God. My direct experience of redemption in Christ is consistent with the piety of John Wesley as well.” Her recent theological work has demonstrated the influences of Schleiermacher on 19th century American Methodism. She also is exploring the activity of Holy Spirit through contemplative theological lenses.