Girish Mahajan (Editor)

Starr King School for the Ministry

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Undergraduate tuition and fees
20,058 USD (2012)

+1 510-845-6232

Gabriella Lettini

Rosemary Bray McNatt

Total enrollment
75 (2011)


Former names
Starr King School for Religious Leadership, Pacific Unitarian School for the Ministry

Graduate theological seminary

Unitarian Universalist Association; Multireligious

Ibrahim Abdurrahman Farajaje

2441 Le Conte Ave, Berkeley, CA 94709, USA

Parent organization
Graduate Theological Union

Notable alumni
Kelly Flood, Chris Hedges, Sam Webster

Graduate Theological Union, Pacific School of Religion, Meadville Lombard Theologic, Church Divinity School of, Dominican School of Philosop


Starr King School for the Ministry is an American Unitarian Universalist (UU) and multireligious seminary in Berkeley, California, and is a member of the Graduate Theological Union (GTU) and is affiliated with the University of California, Berkeley. The seminary was formed in 1904 to educate leaders for the growing number of progressive religious communities in the western part of the country. An emphasis on the practical skills of religious leadership and personalized study characterized the school’s transformation-based educational philosophy from the beginning. Today, it educates Unitarian Universalist ministers, religious educators, and spiritual activists, as well as progressive religious leaders from a variety of traditions, including Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, earth-centered traditions, and others. It is dedicated to providing student-centered, multi-religious, counter-oppressive graduate and professional education that cultivates multi-religious life and learning, and creates just and sustainable communities.


Kristen essayan hart starr king school for the ministry commencement 2013


Starr King School for the Ministry 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 religious leaders serving the progressive 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 "Holy Hill" seminaries and the University of California, Berkeley. 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 the Rev. 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, the "Holy Hill" seminaries officially formed the Graduate Theological Union (GTU), a diverse consortium of what now numbers nine theological seminaries, several research centers, affiliates and institutes. It is the largest theological consortium in the U.S. and its library consolidates the numerous resources of the member schools. 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.

Educational Philosophy

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's liberal religious 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

Starr King School for the Ministry offers three progressive degree programs: Master of Divinity (M.Div.), Master of Arts in for Social Change (M.A.S.C.), and Master of Arts (M.A.) in collaboration with the Graduate Theological Union and two certificates in Unitarian Universalist Studies and Multi-Religious Studies:

Master of Divinity (M.Div.)

The Master of Divinity degree prepares people for vocations in congregational ministry, community ministry, religious education ministry, chaplaincy, spiritual care, and progressive religious leadership in a diversity of religious traditions.

The M.Div. degree meets the graduate-level educational requirements for fellowship as a Unitarian Universalist minister, certification as a Chaplain (see the Association of Professional Chaplains at, as a Pastoral Counselor (see the American Association of Pastoral Counselors at and ordination in a variety of other religious traditions and interfaith contexts (as determined by the relevant bodies in any given religious tradition or context).

Starr King’s M.Div. program welcomes Unitarian Universalists, Muslims, Buddhists, Wiccans, Jews, Christians, Hindus, Religious Humanists, practitioners of Indigenous Spiritual traditions, Quakers, spiritual seekers, and people with multiple religious belongings and hybrid religious identities.

Each M.Div. candidate meets the learning outcomes and degree requirements through a personalized educational plan, designed in consultation with your faculty advisor in response to your gifts, challenges, life experiences, religious tradition(s), communities of accountability, and vocational calling.

You can complete the M.Div. degree in high or low residency in three to four years of full-time study, or up to six or seven years of part-time study.

Master of Arts in Social Change (M.A.S.C.)

Starr King was among the first institutions of higher learning to formalize a counter-oppressive pedagogical focus in the form of a master’s degree. The M.A.S.C. program is a professional 2-year degree designed to cement your skills in: promoting goals of justice, equity and compassion in society, through religious or secular institutions; providing an ethical grounding in ministerial and theological education to pursue your passions; improving professional competency in religious and social change.

Your degree program is personally designed to integrate theology, spiritual practice and professional development in a way that responds to your particular interests, gifts and challenges.

M.A.S.C. emphasizes not only theological knowledge, but also practical experience in community organizing, media relations, non-profit management, political action and social service ministry. In addition, the M.A.S.C. program aims to foster your personal growth, spiritual practice and deepened commitment to social justice.

Students may earn the degree in high or low residency.

Master of Arts (M.A.)

This degree program is conferred by the Graduate Theological Union. It is also known as the Common M.A. because it is offered in cooperation with the nine member schools of the GTU. You are required to affiliate with a member school, such as Starr King or a participating academic center or institute. The primary academic base for your MA is your chosen school of affiliation.

The Common MA provides an opportunity to explore and enrich assumptions about theological and ethical issues inherent in life and work; an academic structure for personal, sustained inquiry into theological questions; a high level of competence in a specific area of study preparing you for doctoral studies

Unitarian Universalist Studies & Multi-Religious Studies Certificates

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 Visiting Assistant Professor of Unitarian Universalist History, the Rev. Dr. Meg Richardson. Both certificates are transferrable toward SKSM’s MASC and MDiv degree programs and may be earned at a distance.

Individual courses

Students at other seminaries seeking a radically inclusive approach to the study of the(a)ology 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) and is 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 through online courses. Residential course requirements may be met through courses at SKSM or other GTU schools, domestic and international immersion courses, or Winter/January or Summer/August intensive courses.

When Starr King launched the Master of Arts 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

  • Rosemary Bray McNatt 2014-Current
  • Rebecca Ann Parker 1990-2014
  • Gordon B. McKeeman 1983-1988
  • Robert C. Kimball 1969-1983
  • William Morgan
  • Earl Morse Wilbur 1904-1931
  • References

    Starr King School for the Ministry Wikipedia

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