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Guide to the Edward Lambe Parsons Papers, 1865-1968 (bulk 1890-1960)
BANC MSS 86/58 c  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Collection Summary
  • Information for Researchers
  • Administrative Information
  • Biographical Sketch
  • Scope and Content

  • Collection Summary

    Collection Title: Edward Lambe Parsons Papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1865-1968
    Date (bulk): (bulk 1890-1960)
    Collection Number: BANC MSS 86/58 c
    Creator: Parsons, Edward Lambe, 1868-1960
    Extent: Number of containers: 35 cartons, 1 box, 1 oversize folder Linear feet: 44.15
    Repository: The Bancroft Library
    Berkeley, California 94720-6000
    Physical Location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
    Languages Represented: English

    Information for Researchers


    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has not been assigned to The Bancroft Library. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head of Public Services. Permission for publication is given on behalf of The Bancroft Library as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Edward Lambe Parsons Papers, BANC MSS 86/58 c, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

    Materials Cataloged Separately

    • Selected printed materials have been transferred to the book collection of The Bancroft Library.
    • Photographs have been transferred to the Pictorial Collections of The Bancroft Library.

    Administrative Information

    Acquisition Information

    The Edward Lambe Parsons Papers were given to The Bancroft Library by his daughter, Harriet Parsons, and Dr. Massey H. Shepherd on September 23, 1985.

    Biographical Sketch

    Edward Lambe Parsons was born in New York on May 18, 1868. Intending to become a lawyer, he attended Yale University in 1885, where he and his roommate, Gifford Pinchot, served as deacons of their class. After graduation Parsons decided instead to attend Union Seminary in New York. Although his family on both sides were Presbyterians, his petition to the Presbyterian ministry was rejected. He consulted with Bishop William Lawrence, Episcopal Bishop of Massachusetts, and attended Episcopal Theological Seminary at Cambridge, graduating in 1894. Parsons spent a year with Rector William R. Huntington at Grace Church in New York City, and in September 1896 became rector of a small church in Menlo Park, California. To supplement his salary he taught philosophy at Stanford University. In 1904 Parsons was called to serve as rector at St. Mark's in Berkeley, where he remained for the next fifteen years.
    Parsons stated that his decision to enter the Episcopal Church was based on his belief in the church's "strategic position in relation to the matter of unity." From the beginning of his career, he worked unceasingly to help achieve mutual understanding among Protestant churches. As part of the Faith and Order Commission from its inception, Parsons spent four months of 1919 in Europe and the Near East, as one of a deputation of five, inviting churches to attend the first Faith and Order Conference at Lausanne in 1927. During 1919 he was also elected Bishop Coadjutor of the San Francisco Diocese, and in 1924 became Bishop of California, serving his church in this capacity until his retirement in 1941.
    As the third Episcopal Bishop of California, Edward Lambe Parsons was one of the leading figures of the Protestant Episcopal church in America as well as a tireless advocate and committed activist for social concerns worldwide. In addition to his promotion of unification between the Protestant churches, Parsons played a major role in the revision of the Episcopal Prayer Book and advocated training for Deaconesses, among other contested issues within the Episcopal Church. He served as a member of the Social Service Commission (1907-1913) and the General Board of Religious Education (1913-1919).
    In addition, Parsons took an active role in many major campaigns for social welfare from his early days as Rector at St. Mark's, Berkeley, until his death in his nineties. He was a trustee of Mills College, Church Divinity School, and the Deaconess Training School; president of the War Work Council, 1917-1918; and a member or director of many religious and social agencies, including the ACLU, Rosenberg Foundation, Pacifica Foundation, Church League for Industrial Democracy, Alameda County Board of Public Welfare, and Berkeley Commission of Public Charities.

    Scope and Content

    The Edward Lambe Parsons Papers, 1865-1968, consist of correspondence, writings, and office files relating to his career as one of the leading figures of the Protestant Episcopal Church in America, plus personal, biographical, and family papers. The collection spans Parsons' years from his days as a theology student in the 1890s, to his early career as a minister, a professor of theology, and as the third Episcopal Bishop of California, through his retirement in 1941.
    Parsons' commitment to social activism, both inside and outside his church, is reflected in the collection's wide range of material on Liberal religious and social movements during the first half of the 20th century, and in his extensive correspondence with other important activists throughout his life. While the collection primarily concerns Parsons' career in the church, there is also a significant amount of material dealing with his secular activities and personal life, as well as material collected by Massey Shepherd for his biography of Parsons.