A Tribute to Nancy Eiesland

Nancy EieslandNancy L. Eiesland, Associate Professor of Sociology of Religion and Disability Studies at Candler School of Theology, died on Tuesday, March 10, 2009. After suffering from cancer for some months, she passed away peacefully and without pain in the embrace of family. Candler will host a memorial service in Cannon Chapel on Sunday, March 22, 2009, at 2:00 p.m. A reception, including an opportunity to greet the family, will follow the service. Memorial gifts may be sent to the Nancy L. Eiesland Fund to Support Students with Disabilities, Candler School of Theology, 1531 Dickey Drive, Atlanta, GA 30322.

Across three decades Nancy Eiesland gave our community graceful gifts beyond measure. As a Candler M.Div. student, a Ph.D. student in Emory's Graduate Division of Religion, and as a deeply valued Candler faculty member, Nancy has shared with us her luminous love of learning and teaching, and her radiant smile and humor. Her great courage, compassion, and honesty and her trust in the goodness of creation and the promise of its redemption were hallmarks of her presence among us.

Professor Eiesland made groundbreaking contributions in two distinct fields of scholarship, a remarkable accomplishment for any scholar. She did pioneering work in disability studies, articulating the first liberatory theology of disability in her book, The Disabled God. This book, which began as an M.Div. honors thesis at Candler, has become a classic in the field. In A Particular Place, Nancy studied congregations in a rapidly growing exurban area of Atlanta, a small town absorbed into new urban patterns that deeply affected its churches. By following the day-to-day life of church members, she explored the ecology of social institutions and networks, showing how the role of congregations in people's lives changes in new social conditions. This book established Professor Eiesland as a leader in sociology of religion and congregational studies.

Dr. Eiesland taught classes in the social and cultural study of religion, gender, and disability; urban change and religious organization; and methods of qualitative research. She prepared a generation of students to enter the ministry and the academy with a deep awareness of the intricate social world embodied in each congregation. Her passion for the life of the church inspired students to honor the promise each congregation holds to witness to the presence of God in the world. Her example as an engaged teacher and scholar provided a role model for doctoral students as they entered their own academic careers. Professor Eiesland enlivened a remarkable network of collegial relationships, entwined across academic disciplines, fields, and departments at Emory and around the world.

Nancy Eiesland has given us all an enduring example of Candler's own commitment to the church and the world. We will miss her dearly.

More Tributes to Nancy Eiesland

The New York Times
March 22, 2009
Nancy Eiesland Is Dead at 44; Wrote of a Disabled God
Ms. Eiesland's insights added a religious angle to a new consciousness among the disabled that emerged in the 1960s in the fight for access to public facilities.