Office of the Dean

Dean's Welcome

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Christopher Ocker, Ph.D.
Assistant Provost, Interim Dean, and
Professor of the History of Christianity

Graduate School of Theology

 

Welcome to San Francisco Theological Seminary and the Graduate School of Theology at the University of Redlands. We welcome seekers, questioners, and believers from all Christian denominations, all faith traditions, and no tradition at all. This is a place to reflect critically and think theologically, to challenge assumptions, and to face complexity head on, in order to work for a more just, sustainable, and faithful future.

Since 1871, San Francisco Theological Seminary has welcomed students to study theology, scripture in its original languages, the history of Christianity, ethics, worship, pastoral care, and other arts of an active, compassionate, and socially engaged ministry. We were founded by Presbyterians. The Reformed Tradition of Protestantism shapes the high value we place on an educated clergy, critical thinking, and ministry as leadership for the transformation of society.

We never stopped there. Our graduates are activist pastors and innovators in congregations and chaplaincy, and in ministries of racial justice and compassion. They are spiritual directors. They have served congregations in dozens of denominations, many as Presbyterians, of course, but also as Baptists, Pentecostals, Catholics, and Jews, in Catholic parishes and organizations, in synagogues, and in other faith communities on four continents, in many nations. They have led denominations. They have changed denominations. We are a founding member of the Graduate Theological Union at Berkeley (GTU), the largest interfaith consortium of graduate schools of theology in North America. For many years, our view of the world has been disrupted and rebuilt by the relationships we have enjoyed with churches in Asia and the South Pacific, and by the extended families of those churches in the United States.

Our students enjoy the best of multiple worlds. Residential students live in an intimate, supportive environment, enjoying close interaction with a distinguished faculty on a beautiful campus. Online and non-residential students enjoy the flexibility of hybrid course formats. Our students enjoy easy access to spectacular open space within North America’s most progressive metropolitan region. They take courses on our campus and in the GTU’s nine schools and five centers. Through the GTU, they have access to graduate courses in the University of California at Berkeley.

Nestled in a valley of the coastal mountains north of the Golden Gate Bridge, on the traditional lands of the Coastal Miwok people, at the junction of three ranchos near the northern extreme of Mexico’s Alta California, SFTS was established by Presbyterians two decades after the Gold Rush and California statehood. Our history is entangled with the colonial disruptions that preceded us, the Americanization of the west, the globalization of trade across the Pacific, population growth, environmental change, and the complex relationship of Protestant Christianity to all these things. Our town, like its home county Marin, has long been a refuge for talent in the arts and music, a focal point of environmental preservation, and a magnet for spiritual exploration. It all belongs to the ecology of knowledge, moral reasoning, and spirituality here.

The University of Redlands welcomed SFTS as the anchor of a new Graduate School of Theology in 2019. Founded as a university of liberal arts and sciences in 1906, it has since grown to include Schools of Business, Education, Continuing Studies, and Music, and the innovative Johnston Center for Integrative Studies. It serves students at seven campuses, including Marin, and supports an international studies program in Salzburg, Austria. Redlands is proud to be recognized as a Hispanic Serving Institution by the U.S. Department of Education.

Since the merger of SFTS and the formation of the Graduate School of Theology, the inaugural dean, Rev. Dr. Jana Childers, and Provost Kathy Ogren led residential initiatives expanding our interdisciplinary offerings in pastoral care, spirituality, organizational leadership, and theology. Soon we expect to develop pathways and joint programs with the University of Redlands’ College of Arts and Sciences and its Schools of Business, Education, and Music. Mindful of our heritage and all those who have supported us, faithful to our calling, we are looking ahead.

If you come, expect to learn and to grow. And come to contribute to a community built upon mutual respect, critical thinking, and a commitment to justice, faith, hope, and love.

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About Dr. Ocker

Christopher Ocker came to San Francisco Theological Seminary in 1991 and has been a member of the Core Doctoral Faculty of the Graduate Theological Union at Berkeley since 1992. He has served as Associate Director of the GTU’s Center for Hermeneutical Studies, Co-Director of its Center for the Study of Religion and Culture, and Chair of its Department for Cultural and Historical Studies. He is also affiliated with the Department of History, the Medieval Studies Program, and the Berkeley Center for the Study of Religion at the University of California. He has been a fellow of the Institute for European History in Mainz, an Alexander von Humboldt Fellow of the Max Planck Institute for History in Göttingen and the Institute for Advanced Study at the University of Constance, and most recently a Senior Fellow of the Center for the Comparative History of Monasticism at the Technical University of Dresden, Germany. During a recent leave of absence from SFTS/GST, he proudly served as the inaugural director of the Program for Medieval and Early Modern Studies at the Institute for Religion and Critical Inquiry at the Australian Catholic University in Melbourne Australia. He teaches the history of global Christianity.

Recognized for his work on the medieval background to the Reformation, Ocker’s research focuses on medieval and Reformation Europe, the history of biblical interpretation, religious conflict, and theology. His publications include Luther, Conflict, and Christendom: Reformation Europe and Christianity in the West (Cambridge University Press, 2018, paperback 2020), Church Robbers and Reformers in Germany, 1525-1547 (E.J. Brill, 2006), Biblical Poetics before Humanism and Reformation (Cambridge University Press, 2002), Johannes Klenkok: A Friar’s Life (American Philosophical Society, 1993), and numerous book chapters, articles, and edited volumes. He is the General Editor of Studies in Medieval and Reformation Traditions, founded by Heiko Oberman in 1966, and a co-editor of Arbeiten zur Kirchengeschichte, founded by Karl Holl and Hans Lietzmann in 1925).

Dr. Ocker is a member of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. (PCUSA), spouse in an interfaith family, parent of three, and a child of immigrants. He enjoys mountain biking, skiing, hiking, and bookbinding in his spare time.


Contacts

Christopher Ocker, PhD
Assistant Provost, Interim Dean, and
Professor of the History of Christianity
Graduate School of Theology
Montgomery Hall, 117
P: 415.451.2876
E: christopher_ocker@redlands.edu

Renee Hassle
Executive Assistant, Office of the Dean
Graduate School of Theology
Montgomery Hall, 116
P: 415.451.2860
E: renee_hassle@redlands.edu