Dean of Faculty and Chief Academic Officer, Aurelia Henry Reinhardt Professor of Theological Ethics, Director of Studies in Public Ministry, Ex-officio Board of Trustees Member, Dean of Faculty, Full-time Core Faculty
Rev. Dr. Gabriella Lettini is Dean of Faculty and Aurelia Henry Reinhardt Professor of Theological Ethics and Director of Studies in Public Ministry at the Starr King School for the Ministry, Berkeley, CA. Arriving at Starr King in August of 2005, she was charged with directing the new Master of Arts in Social Change (MASC).
A native of Torino, Italy, Lettini earned her M.Div. at the Waldensian Theological Seminary in Rome, Italy. She is an ordained minister of the Waldensian Church, a movement that originated in France and Italy in the 12th century and was based on evangelical poverty, a critique of church hierarchies, refusal of the church as a political power and a strong emphasis on lay leadership, including women. Persecuted as “heretical,” the Waldensians joined the Reformation in 1532. Dr. Lettini has served Waldensian and Methodist churches in Italy. She served as an officer of the American Waldensian Society from 1996 to 2006 and was its President from 2006 to 2009.
Dr. Lettini earned her Ph.D. from Union Theological Seminary in New York City under the supervision of Dr. Delores G. Williams and Dr. James H. Cone, foundational scholars in Womanist and Black Liberation Theologies. She also served as an ecumenical associate at the Jan Hus Presbyterian Church in New York. Her dissertation, “The ‘Allergy’ to the Other,” focused on contemporary theological perspectives on “otherness” and hegemonic patterns of identity construction. During her doctoral studies, Lettini served as Ecumenical Associate at the Jan Hus Presbyterian Church in New York City.
Before accepting her position at Starr King, Dr. Lettini taught at Union Theological Seminary as Visiting Assistant Professor of Theology and Culture. She collaborated with the Poverty Initiative at Union Theological Seminary and served in several Poverty Truth Commissions in New York. She has organized similar programs at the Graduate Theological Union and Starr King School.
Dr. Lettini engaged the same grassroots model for truth commissions in addressing issues of war. Teaming up with Rev. Dr. Rita Nakashima Brock, she co-organized the Truth Commission on Conscience in War, which held a public hearing at the Riverside Church in New York in March 2010. This work led Drs. Brock and Lettini to co-author Soul Repair: Recovering from Moral Injury After War, published by Beacon Press in 2012.
Dr. Lettini is the author of “Omosessualità,” published in 1999: this small book aimed at the general public was the first text by an Italian religious leader to publicly challenge homophobia. Lettini has published book chapters and articles on syncretism, theology and culture(s), U.S. and global liberation theologies, feminist and womanist theologies and liturgies, women and religion, movies and religion, religion and politics, ethics, religious traditions and the “other.” In addition, she was the curator of the translation into Italian of the Dictionary of Feminist Theologies. Her most recent publications include “Mourning, Raging, Loving, Learning” in Doing Theology in Pandemics: Facing Viruses, Violence, and Vitriol, edited by Zachary Moon. Eugene, OR: Pickwick-Wipf and Stock, 2022 and “Current Understandings of Moral Injury’s Identification, Causes, Symptoms, and Responses,” in Moral Injury: A Guidebook for Understanding and Engagement edited by Brad Kelle, Landman, MD, Lexington Books, 2020.
Lettini served as co-chair of the Moral Injury and Recovery Unit of the American Academy of Religion (AAR) from 2017 to 2022, and was on its steering committee since 2013. She served as co-chair of the Transformative Pedagogy and Scholarship Group of the AAR from 2017 to 2022. She was a founding member of both units.
Lettini is a member of INTERFILM (International Interchurch Film Organization, by invitation). She has served on the Ecumenical Jury of the Montreal, Locarno, Berlin and Cannes international film festivals.
At Starr King Dr. Lettini teaches courses in the area of theological ethics, justice issues, leads independent studies and supervises all MA in Social Change final projects.