The Rev. Lewis S. Mudsge, a scholar and theologian hailed by peers as "probably the greatest ecumenist in the Presbyterian Church (USA) in our time," died last Friday at the age of 79 in his home in Berkeley , Calif.
A native of Philadelphia, Mudge spent over 50 years of his life in ministry and education, beginning with his ordination by the Philadelphia Presbytery in 1955. After serving as a pastor at Princeton University for two years, Mudge joined the World Alliance of Reformed Churches in Geneva as secretary of their Department of Theology, his first of several ecumenical roles which included positions of leadership and writing for the World Council of Churches, the National Council of Churches in the USA, and the Consultation of Church Union.
"Lew Mudge was a truly great church leader who lived out the rare combination of being both a prophet and a pastor," General Assembly Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons told the Presbyterian News Service. "His enormous intellect and integrity were apparent throughout his extensive history in the ecumenical movement, the classroom, and beyond."
Mudge's educational career took him across the nation, beginning at Amherst College in Massachusetts, where he served for 13 years as a faculty member, including two terms as chair of the religion and philosophy department. Following Amherst, Mudge moved to Chicago where he served as dean of the faculty and professor of theology at McCormick Theological Seminary.
In 1987, Mudge joined the faculty of San Francisco Theological Seminary (SFTS), serving as vice-president for academic affairs, dean of the faculty and professor of theology. One year later he began teaching at Berkeley's Graduate Theological Union, where he served until his death.
"We are deeply grateful for the indelible influence Lew had on San Francisco Theological Seminary," said SFTS President Phil Butin. "Lew continued to be a valued advisor to me even with respect to the current recession and its implications for seminary education."
Mudge was also a prolific writer and editor, with his work including the publications One Church: Catholic and Reformed (1963), The Crumbling Walls (1970), The Sense of a People (1992), The Church as Moral Community (1998), Rethinking the Beloved Community (2001), and The Gift of Responsibility (2008) among others.
Mudge is survived by his wife of 52 years, Jean, a writer/filmmaker; and three adult children: Robert, William and Anne. Memorial services will be held Oct. 16 at Princeton Theological Seminary and later in the fall at First Presbyterian Church of San Anselmo, adjacent to the SFTS campus.