William Sinkford

Affiliated Faculty
M.Div., Starr King School for the Ministry
B.A., Harvard University

“Meadville Lombard prepares and empowers students to serve in a diverse and changing world.”

The Rev. Dr. William G. Sinkford (Bill) has served, since 2010, as Senior Minister at the First Unitarian Church of Portland, OR. First Unitarian is one of the largest Unitarian Universalist congregations in the United States.

Bill is well known for his service as President of the Unitarian Universalist Association (2001-2009). His tenure was marked by strong public witness for social justice, support for marginalized communities and renewed focus on spiritual depth.

In the spring of 2017, he was called back to the UUA as one of three Interim UUA Co-Presidents. That service has completed at the 2017 General Assembly and he has returned to the First Unitarian pulpit.

Born in San Francisco in 1946, Sinkford's commitment to liberal religion dates to his teenage years, when he was an active member of the First Unitarian Church of Cincinnati, Ohio. He served as the president of Liberal Religious Youth, the continental Unitarian Universalist (UU) youth organization, and as a high school senior was one of the first U.S. Presidential Scholars.

While an undergraduate at Harvard University, he advised youth groups at UU churches in Boston and Lexington, MA; served as Assistant Director of Rowe Camp; and directed the Harvard-Roxbury Summer Project. He graduated cum laude from Harvard in 1968 and spent the following year in Greece as a Michael Clark Rockefeller Fellow.

After college, Sinkford worked in the field of marketing. Between 1970 and 1980 he held management positions with Gillette, Avon Products, Johnson Products, and Revlon. During this time, he received the Black Achievers in Industry Award from the Harlem YMCA. He later ran his own business, Sinkford Restorations, Inc. He was also active as a volunteer with community action groups and in not-for-profit housing development.

Sinkford heard his call to ministry after returning to Cincinnati, where he was an active lay leader in his home congregation. He also served on the UU Urban Concerns and Ministry Committee and as an officer of the African American Unitarian Universalist Ministry. Toward the end of his theological education at Starr King School for the Ministry, Sinkford joined the staff of the UUA. He earned his M.Div. in 1995, and was fellowshipped as a community minister and ordained by his home congregation in the same year.

Sinkford and his wife Maria live in Portland. He is the father of two children, Billy and Danielle; and grandfather to William Rider Sinkford and Canon Sinkford.

What is your message to a prospective student?

"I love engaging with students and sharing what I have learned in ministry and in life. Ministerial formation is supported by asking the right questions and encouraging those called to the ministry to center on the blessing and the good news they can offer. Meadville Lombard prepares and empowers students to serve in a diverse and changing world."