Starr King School for the Ministry
|Starr King School for the Ministry|
|Type||Graduate theological seminary|
|Religious affiliation||Unitarian Universalist Association|
|President||Rebecca Ann Parker|
|Provost||Ibrahim Abdurrahman Farajaje|
|Location||Berkeley, California, United States|
|Former names||Pacific Unitarian School for the Ministry|
|Nickname||Holy Hill, GTU|
|Affiliations||Graduate Theological Union|
The Starr King School for the Ministry is an American Unitarian Universalist (UU) seminary in Berkeley, California and part of the Graduate Theological Union (GTU). The seminary was formed in 1904 to train leaders for the growing number of congregations in the western part of the country. An emphasis on the practical skills of religious leadership and individualized study characterized the school’s transformation-based educational philosophy from the beginning.
The school opened in 1904 as the Pacific Unitarian School for the Ministry. With most Unitarian ministers being educated at Harvard Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts and Meadville Theological School in Meadville, Pennsylvania, the new seminary would meet the need to train leaders serving the churches west of the Rocky Mountains. The school held its first classes at the First Unitarian Church of Oakland, moving just a few years later to the City of Berkeley to be closer to other seminaries and the University of California, where students were able to take classes. The first president was Earl Morse Wilbur. In addition to his service to the school for 30 years, he is remembered for writing the first comprehensive histories of European Unitarianism.
In 1941, the school changed its name to honor Thomas Starr King, minister of the First Unitarian Church of San Francisco. During the Civil War, the popular lecturer and activist spoke zealously in favor of the Union and was credited by Abraham Lincoln with preventing California from becoming a separate republic. In addition, he organized the Pacific Branch of the United States Sanitary Commission, which cared for wounded soldiers and was the predecessor to the American Red Cross. King’s prominence also contributed greatly to the spread of Unitarianism on the West Coast.
In 1962, local seminaries officially formed the Graduate Theological Union (GTU), a diverse consortium of what now numbers nine theological seminaries, several research centers, affiliates and institutes. Starr King joined the GTU in 1964. From this time up through the mid-1980s the seminary was also known as the Starr King School for Religious Leadership.
Today, Starr King School for the Ministry educates people for Unitarian Universalist ministry and for progressive religious leadership in society. Its approach to the study of theology is inspired by UU values. It is dedicated to providing student-centered, multi-religious, counter-oppressive graduate education that cultivates multi-religious life and learning, and creates just and sustainable communities.
Degrees and certificates
It offers three degree programs: Master of Divinity, Master of Arts in for Social Change (MASC), and Master of Arts in collaboration with the GTU, also known as the Common MA. In 2010, Starr King implemented two certificate programs: the Multi-religious Studies Certificate directed by Provost Dr. Ibrahim Farajaje’ and the Unitarian Universalist Studies Certificate directed by Associate Professor of Unitarian Universalist History and Ministry Dr. Susan Ritchie. Both certificates are 100% transferrable toward SKSM’s MASC and MDiv degree programs and 100% earnable at a distance.
Students at other seminaries seeking a radically inclusive approach to the study of theology or who desire UU studies classes are welcome to enroll in individual courses. Community members or prospective students who are academically curious, religiously curious, or who want to test the waters of seminary before applying for a degree program or enrolling in a certificate program are also welcome to take individual courses. Non-matriculating SKSM degree candidates are called Special Students, a GTU administrative category.
Doctorate of Humane Letters
In 2010, Starr King awarded the Doctorate of Humane Letters (Litterarum Humanarum Doctor), in absentia, to Danny Glover. His call to humanity to see itself as the recipient of a legacy of caring and commitment that began with prior parental and religious communities and that it should carry on for the sake of those who will follow are in alignment with Starr King’s values. Glover was awarded the doctorate specifically for his long history of passionate activism, including support for the United Farm Workers, UNITE HERE, The Algebra Project, The Black AIDS Institute, as well as his humanitarian efforts on behalf of the Haiti earthquake victims, literacy and civil rights and his fight against unjust labor practices. Glover is co-founder and CEO of Louverture Films, dedicated to the development and production of films of historical relevance, social purpose, commercial value and artistic integrity; we honored his commitment to using film to lift up and advance social justice issues, such as his then recently released project "Trouble the Water," a documentary about New Orleans in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina.
Glover has had a close association with Starr King School through his role as guest lecturer in its course on Non Violent Social Change and lending his support and presence to events sponsored by Starr King’s Masters of Arts in Social Change (MASC) program.
Starr King is a leader in online theological study and its accreditation includes distance learning. It is among the 46 percent of US and Canadian schools accredited by the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) approved for distance learning and among the 33% of California ATS-accredited schools approved for distance learning.
SKSM is one of the three GTU member schools offering online classes and it co-sponsors the online courses offered by the Institute for Buddhist Studies, another GTU member school. It is also the only GTU school offering a low-residence Master of Divinity, a program allowing 2/3 of the degree to be earned at a distance, i.e., through online courses. Residential course requirements may be met through courses at SKSM or other GTU schools, domestic and international immersion courses, or Winter or Summer intensive courses.
When Starr King launched the Master of Arts in Social Change (formerly called the Master of Arts for Religious Leadership in Social Change) (MASC) degree program in the Fall of 2005, it was the first program of its kind in the nation.
In 2005, Starr King graduated the first Muslim student in the then 43-year history of the Graduate Theological Union; Amir Kia was awarded the Common Master of Arts. Amir is a founding Principal of AgeSong, Inc. and a current Principal of Spirit Living Group, leading the Company in finance and operations.
When Rev. Dr. Rebecca Parker became President of the school in 1990, she was the first woman to serve as the permanent head of an accredited U.S. theological school. She is an ordained minister of the United Methodist Church with dual fellowship in the Unitarian Universalist Church.
Robert Fulghum (class of 1961) is the author of eight best-selling books of non-fiction, including All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten and It Was On Fire When I Lay Down On It.
List of presidents
- Rebecca Ann Parker 1990-current
- Gordon B. McKeeman 1983-1988
- Robert C. Kimball 1969-1983
- Starr King School for the Ministry
- Multi-religious Studies Certificate
- Unitarian Universalist Studies Certificate
- Panel on Theological Education
- 2007-2008 Harvard Divinity School Study
- AgeSong Senior Communities
- Spirit Living Group
- Robert Charles Kimball, Open Letter to Board of Trustees, Unitarian Universalist Association: Concerning January 26, 1974 Progress Report of the Ministerial Education Commission 1974
- David Robinson, The Unitarians and the Universalists 1985 p335
- Starr King School for the Ministry Faculty & Staff. Retrieved May 6, 2013.