Information for Researchers
Scope and Content
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
Number of containers: 35 cartons, 1 box, 1 oversize folder
Linear feet: 44.15
Berkeley, California 94720-6000
Physical Location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
Information for Researchers
Collection is open for research.
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.
[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.
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.
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.