Earl Lectures - History

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Earl Lectures • History

For more than a hundred years, PSR has hosted the Earl Lectures and Leadership Conference, a three-day event that addresses critical theological, pastoral, and social issues of the day.

Founded in 1901 with a gift from Edwin T. Earl, the purpose of the Lectures was, according to PSR's Board of Trustees, "to aid in securing...the adequate presentation of Christian truth, by bringing to Berkeley, California...eminent Christian scholars to lecture upon themes calculated to illustrate and disseminate Christian thought, and minister to Christian life..." Over the years, the content of the Lectures has reflected the important theological, political, economical, and social trends of their time, but one quality is constant: the Lectures have always featured a uniformly high standard of scholarship.

Lecturers have been Biblical scholars, educators, historians, authors, activists, church leaders, and scholars of literature, among others; some of the featured Lecturers were well-known within their field but little-known outside of it, while others were household names. Some of the names we recognize today include such international figures as Theodore Roosevelt, Elie Wiesel, Howard Thurman, Maya Angelou, Paul Tillich, Alice Walker, and Robert Reich.

The Lectures have taken different forms over the years: sometimes small gatherings held on the PSR campus, other times large gatherings that filled lecture halls at the University of California. For much of the last century, the Lectures were held yearly; beginning in 2012, they will be held biennially.

On these pages, you will find information about the upcoming Lectures in 2015, on the topic of "Faith and Family"; brief details about some of the past Lectures and Lecturers.

If you would like to keep apprised of upcoming Earl Lectures events and information, please add yourself to our mailing list.

Contact the Earl Lectures office at 510/849-8218 or 800/999-0528, ext. 8218.

Photos on the Earl Lectures pages, unless otherwise indicated, are by Dana Davis Photography, Oakland, CA.

Past Earl Lectures

2013 "We Are Family: Real Families, Real Faith in the Real World"

The 111th Earl Lectures and Leadership Conference, “We Are Family: Real Families, Real Faith, in the Real World” held January 29-31, 2013, brought together scholars and faith community leaders to explore what family means in a modern historical context within U.S. society.

In the company of Dr. Margaret A. Farley, and the Rev. Dr. Miguel A. De La Torre and inspired by the preaching of the Rev. Barbara J. Essex, participants explored questions about who decides what makes a family and how the Divine is reflected in the stages and activities of family life.

See the schedule, workshops, special events, presenter
bios, and press release from the event.


2011: Our Daily Bread: Faith, Work, and the Economy

The 110th Earl Lectures and Leadership Conference, Our Daily Bread: Faith, Work, and the Economy, brought together religious and secular leaders to teach, preach, and strategize about issues of economic justice.Joined by Robert Reich, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, Kim Bobo, Rev. Alexia Salvatierra, Bishop Yvette Flunder, and many more renowned speakers and presenters, members of the PSR community came together to strive to live out the Gospel message to care for “the least of these." 

Here is an article about the conference.  You can also see descriptions of the conference lectures and panels, workshops, and special events; hear streaming audio of keynote presenters and opening and closing worship; or order audio CDs of individual lectures or the entire conference. 

2010: Spiritual but not Religious: Chasing the Divine

The 109th Earl Lectures explored the increasingly popular phrase spiritual, but not religious
The program featured Matthew Fox, Melissa Wilcox, Scotty McLennan, and Donna Allen.  Linda Tillery and the Cultural Heritage Choir performed, and the film Lord, Save Us from Your Followers was previewed. Topics explored included: the essential difference between spiritual and religious; what religious institutions can learn from those who claim to be spiritual or religious; and what kind of critique can those who
call themselves “religious” offer of the concept "spiritual, but not religious“?

See detailed conference information, hear audio of plenary sessions, or order audio CDs.

2009: Behold… a New Thing: Emerging Expressions of Faithfulness

108th Earl Lectures reflected critically on new forms of spirituality and worship associated with the “emerging church.” The program featured three “emerging church” figures, Abbess Karen Ward, Jay Bakker, and Bruce Reyes-Chow; and scholars Gerardo Marti and PSR’s Boyung Lee. They guided exploration of popular culture, generational change, and religious innovation in North America. There was also a screening of the new film, The Ordinary Radicals.

See the schedule, workshops, special events, presenter bios, and press release from the event. See video excerpts and hear complete audio of all lectures in Ideas media library (choose category: Earl Lectures).

2008: O for a World: Faith, Community, and Sustainability

The 2008 Earl Lectures featured Chandra Muzaffar, a social activist, academic, and president of the International Movement for a Just World
(an international NGO based in Malaysia); Karen Baker-Fletcher,
published womanist author and associate professor of theology at Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, TX; Daniel A. Buford, a self-described "Harlem Renaissance Man," a sculptor, writer, community organizer, and associate minister of the Allen Temple Baptist Church in Oakland; and PSR assistant professor of theology Mayra Rivera Rivera.

See facts about the event, see the 2008 registration booklet, listen to online audio recordings, or order audio CDs.

2007: All the Rivers of Paradise: Christian Responsibility in an Interfaith World

2007 Earl Lectures featured Mahmoud Mustafa Ayoub, professor of Islamic studies and comparative religion at Temple University, Bernice Powell-Jackson, past president of the World Council of Churches for North America, Tat-siong Benny Liew, associate professor of New Testament at PSR, and Choan-Seng (C.S.) Song, distinguished professor of theology and Asian cultures at PSR.

See facts about the event, see the 2007 registration booklet, listen to online audio recordings, or order audio CDs.

2006: Gathering the Beloved Community: Voices of Faith for the Public Square

The 2006 Earl Lectures, featuring James Forbes, Diane Winston, Kwok Pui Lan, Hubert Locke, and Delwin Brown, engaged an audience of nearly one thousand in a three-day exploration of the meaning and potential of progressive Christianity. Read facts about the event, download the conference program book in PDF format, listen to online audio recordings, or order audiocassettes and CDs of the lectures.

2005: Sex and the City of God: Intimacy and Wholeness

More than 800 people attended the 2005 Earl Lectures to discuss cutting-edge issues concerning sexuality, sexual abuse, marriage, and intimacy, and the implications of these issues for our faith traditions and ethics. They heard from Earl Lecturers Gene Robinson, Eric Law, and Christine E. Gudorf; Earl Preacher Douglass Fitch; nine panelists; and more than 30
workshop leaders.

Read a report on the event, download the conference program book in PDF format, listen to online audio recordings of the 2005 Earl Lectures, or order audio cds of the proceedings.

2004: We Are Called: Vocation in a Swiftly Changing World

The 2004 Earl Lectures probed questions of vocation and God's call in the lives of ministers, lay people, and communities in today's complex world. Read a report on the event or download the conference program book in PDF format.

Listen to audio of the 2004 Earl Lectures or order audio CDs..

2003: For the Living of These Days: Theology as a Public Resource

PSR's 102nd annual Earl Lectures explored ways that faith communities can take a greater leadership role in shaping public discourse in a troubled world. Read a short report on the event or purchase audio cds of the conference.

2002: Image to Insight: The Power of Film in Faith and Culture

Our 101st annual Earl Lectures and Pastoral Conference featured lectures, workshops and public conversations with national leaders in film and television, artists who are renewing worship through the use of multi-media, and people of faith in the film industry. Read a short summary about the event or purchase audio cds of the conference.

2001: Into All the World: Christian Mission in a Pluralistic Age

Audio available here.

  • Abuna Elias Chacour
  • Purity Nomthandazo Malinga
  • Sharon Welch

2000: Conflict and Reconciliation: New Models for Hope

Audio unfortunately unavailable.

  • Robin Meyers
  • Richard Rodriguez
  • Mary A. Tolbert
  • Michael Lerner
  • William W. Rankin
  • Anthony B. Robinson

1999: Building Healthy Communities: Partners in Faith and Wellness

Audio available here.

  • Nancy Eiesland
  • Gary Gunderson
  • A. Cecil Williams

1998: Cross-Currents in Faith and Culture

Audio available here

  • Robert M. Berdahl
  • Michael Eric Dyson
  • Miriam Therese Winter

1997: Equipping Faith Communities for a Changing World

Audio available here

  • Kathleen Norris
  • Frederick J. Streets
  • Barbara Wheeler

1996: Religion and Science

  • Ian G. Barbour
  • Rita Nakashima Brock
  • William F. May

1995: Jesus Beyond the Bible: A Cultural Debate

  • John Dominic Crossan
  • Chung Hyun Khung
  • Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr.

1994: Body, Sexuality and Spirituality: Sexual Christians and the Church's Renewal

  • William Sloan Coffin
  • Margaret R. Miles
  • James B. Nelson

1993: Creeds and Ordination: Help or Hindrance?

  • Brian A. Gerrish
  • Glenda Hope
  • Cynthia Rembert-James
  • Mariellen Sawada
  • Marjorie H. Suchocki

1992: Spirituality

  • Virgil P. Elizondo
  • Parker J. Palmer
  • Phyllis Trible

1991: Preaching, Healing and Teaching

  • Sharon Daloz Parks
  • Craig Dykstra
  • Roy I. Sano

1990: Preaching

  • Fred. B. Craddock
  • Justo L. Gonzalez
  • Catherine Gunsalus Gonzalez
  • Prathia Hall Wynn

1989: Theological Truths from the Biblical Wilderness

  • Walter Brueggemann
  • Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza
  • J. Alfred Smith, Sr.