The Rev. Dr. Rebecca Parker, All Souls' Minister of Adult Spiritual Development and Pastoral Care, and Theologian-in-Residence, has initiated All Souls’ new series, the UU4Core, helps guide covenant groups, preaches and leads worship, and supports our shared ministries of pastoral care and our commitments to multi-racial, multi-cultural Beloved Community. An influential feminist theologian, theological educator, social activist, and a seasoned minister and musician, she previously served for 25 years at president and professor of theology at Starr King School for the Ministry in Berkeley, California, at the Graduate Theological Union. She was named President Emerita and Professor of Theology Emerita in 2014.
An ordained United Methodist minister who holds dual ministerial fellowship with the Unitarian Universalist Association, Dr. Parker has long been engaged with LGBTQ issues, racial justice and countering white supremacy, eco-justice, resisting sexual and domestic violence and protecting women’s rights, and more. Her books include A House for Hope: The Promise of Progressive Religion for the 21st Century, co-authored with John Buehrens (Beacon, 2010); Saving Paradise: How Christianity Traded Love of This World for Crucifixion and Empire, co-authored with Rita Nakashima Brock (Beacon, 2008); Blessing the World: What Can Save Us Now (Skinner House Books, 2006), edited by Rob Hardies, and Proverbs of Ashes: Violence, Redemptive Suffering, and the Search for What Saves Us, co-authored with Rita Nakashima Brock (Beacon, 2001).
When she became president of Starr King School for the Ministry in 1989-90, Rev. Parker was the first woman appointed the permanent head of an accredited theological school in the U.S. and Canada. She led the school to forge a distinctive commitment to counter-oppressive, multi-cultural, and multi-religious theological education with a multi-racial faculty; increased its endowment seven-fold; initiated a pioneering degree program for spiritual activists; and transformed its educational model to embrace non-residential learning and a growing enrollment. With her advocacy and that of Provost Ibrahim Farajajé, with whom she worked in close collaboration, the school provided an academic home for progressive Muslim scholars and teachers from North Africa, Pakistan, and the U.S., including women Quranic scholars. Starr King is a premier educator of UU ministers and spiritually-based justice advocates. Its graduates serve transformative ministries throughout Unitarian Universalism, often at the forefront of ministries that unite spirituality and social justice. Today the school hosts a woman-led mosque as well as a thriving UU learning community and continues its commitments to counter-oppressive, multi-religious, Unitarian Universalist theological education with the leadership of Parker’s esteemed successor, Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt, the first African American woman to lead a Unitarian Universalist theological school.
A frequent keynote speaker for conferences and events, nationally and internationally, Rev. Parker’s essays have appeared in the Union Seminary Quarterly Review; the American Academy of Religion series on religion, literature and the arts; the Journal of Religion and Abuse; Open Hands magazine; Alive Now!; The Unitarian Universalist World; and Tikkun magazine. She has contributed chapters to Christianity, Patriarchy and Abuse (edited by Joanne Brown and Carolyn Bohn), Walk in the Ways of Wisdom: Essays in Honor of Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza; Soul Work: Anti-Racist Theologies in Dialogue, edited by Marjorie Bowens Wheatley; Women Church, ed. by Rosemary Radford Reuther; My Neighbor’s Faith: Stories of Interreligious Encounter, Growth, and Transformation (Orbis Books, 2012); The Unitarian Universalist Pocket Guide, new edition, ed. by Peter Morales; and For Our Common Home: Process-Relational Responses to Laudato Si (2015).
Rev. Parker’s denominational and public service has included serving as the minister of Wallingford United Methodist Church, in Seattle, Washington, one of the first “reconciling congregations” to pro-actively dissent from United Methodist exclusionary policies and affirm the full inclusion of LGBTQ persons. She served on the United Methodist Study Committee on Homosexuality (1988-1992), the board of the Center for the Prevention of Sexual Abuse and Domestic Violence (now the Faith Trust Institute ), the United Methodist General Board of Discipleship, and the Executive Committee of the Association of Theological Schools. She has chaired the Advisory Committee on Women in Leadership for the Association of Theological Schools, been convener of the Council of Presidents at the Graduate Theological Union, served on the Board of Trustees of the Graduate Theological Union, co-chaired the Islamic Studies Task Force at the GTU, and been an ex officio member of The Panel on Theological Education of the Unitarian Universalist Association. She is a founding board member of Faith Voices for the Common Good, an interfaith think tank; and the Soul Repair Center Advisory Board of Brite Divinity School; and an officer of The Braxton Institute for Sustainability, Resiliency, and Joy.
An accomplished cellist, Parker regards the arts as fundamental to life and spirituality.
On her work as a theologian and minister, Parker says “Legacies of violence, terror and trauma continue to bring anguish into the world. Now more than ever, people of conscience and love need to do the hard work of theological thinking that deconstructs religion that sanctions violence. We need to re-dedicate ourselves to the creation of life-giving theologies, justice-making religious communities, and joy-infusing spiritual practices. This is the calling to which my life is devoted.”
Parker is married to her beloved friend and heart’s joy, Joanne Braxton, and they are the proud parents of one daughter.
Praise for Parker’s books
Proverbs of Ashes (co-authored with Rita Nakashima Brock)
Poignant and provocative . . . a book of both sorrow and hope, and a blueprint for deeper thinking about the things that matter most. - Rosemary Bray McNatt, author of Unafraid of the Dark
[with] courage and vision… these two women boldly propose that human sacrifice has no place at the heart of Christianity. Their gospel of presence and restoration is good news for everyone. – Judith Hermann, author of Trauma and Recovery
I hope many will read [this book] and be enlisted in the campaign to combat the social evils that have been so movingly and thoroughly exposed. Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Blessing the World (edited by Rob Hardies)
Parker’s thinking is rooted in her total honesty about her lived experience. To read her book is to see our world and the Christian heritage with new eyes. We cannot do that without pain. Yet her way of challenging our habits of thinking and even of feeling is so gentle that we are drawn into new perceptions, not driven into them. Her writing integrates story and doctrine until we can hardly draw a line between them. - John Cobb, theologian
Saving Paradise (co-authored with Rita Nakashima Brock). Named a Best Book in Religion, 2008, by Publisher’s Weekly and Beliefnet
Powerful, unprecedented, and compelling…brings real Christianity out of the shadows. – George Lakoff, Professor of Linguistics, University of California at Berkeley
With passion and literary grace … [Brock and Parker] recover the beauty of an earth-loving Christianity lost for a thousand years beneath dry creed and formulae and poisonous myths of sacralized violence. -- Daniel McGuire, Catholic social ethicist
This humane and often beautiful study of faith, loss and hope straddles the boundary between historical discovery and spiritual writing. — Publishers Weekly, starred review
A House for Hope (co-authored with John Buehrens)
This is a must-read for any religious liberal looking to engage with timeless theology questions: what is the nature of God? What is the human relationship to God? Why is there suffering? What brings us together? What is the nature of evil? Parker and Buehrens explore these questions thoughtfully and with an understanding that the answers have urgent implications for our suffering world. Rev. Sharon Wylie, Unitarian Universalist minister.