Our Minister Emeritus

The Reverend Burton D. Carley

The Church of the River was extraordinarily fortunate to have Burton Carley as its minister for 32 years, beginning in 1983. Upon his retirement in June 2015, he was given the title minister emeritus.

Burton began his journey of the spirit in West Texas, where he grew up, and graduated from Texas Christian University. After receiving his master’s in theology from the Boston University School of Theology, he was ordained at First Church of Christ, Unitarian, in Lancaster, MA in 1974. He served one year as assistant minister before becoming the first full-time minister of All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church in Shreveport, LA, where he served from 1975 until he took over the pulpit of Church of the River.

During Burton’s time in the pulpit, the church twice expanded its physical presence as well as its spiritual reach, planting a Unitarian Universalist congregation, Neshoba UU Church, in eastern Shelby County in 1992. The Church of the River was a founding member of Shelby County Interfaith (SCI), and Burton served on the leadership council of SCI for a decade, as well as being a past president of the Memphis Ministers Association. He served twice on the district board of the Southwestern UU Conference, was program director of the Summer Institute and served as the Settlement Representative to the district. For ten years, Burton served on the Unitarian Universalist Association Board of Trustees.

With the Rev. Dr. Laurel Hallman, he co-authored the UUMA curriculum Whose Are We? and trained the facilitators of the program. They also created a lay version of the curriculum for congregational use and presented a program on it for the 2011 General Assembly.

Burton and his wife, Betsy Mandel-Carley, have a grown son and two granddaughters.