Monday, July 30, 2012

The most well known UU minister of the 20th century?


This grates a bit….
Forrest Church, the most well-known Unitarian Universalist minister of the 20th century
found in RevThom: Sermon: "The Transient and Permanent in Life" (Delivered 7-29-12)

I grew up in  Preston Bradley’s Chicago and would hear him on the radio or TV so he gets my vote on the most well known (his pic on the right)  Via the PB Center,
He was one of the first pastors to preach to a national radio audience, and holds the record for the longest continuously running religious radio broadcast – some 50- plus years.
And he left us this legacy….
At least from the time of Bradley’s coming, PC’s theology has been liberal, which we today call progressive, following generally the track of what the eminent New York Baptist theologian Walter Rauschenbusch denominated “Social Christianity,” the underlying tenet of which is to work not toward the goal of saving souls, but toward promoting God’s domain here on earth by promoting equality of opportunity, decent living conditions, respect, and social equality for all.

From the beginning, Bradley’s orientation was to social justice, and he surrounded himself in controversy, taking on issues of the day, beginning with freedom of speech. Although a friend of both William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow, Bryan (a minister) was never invited to preach at Peoples Church, but Darrow (a lawyer) received and accepted four such invitations. As mentioned above Bradley marched with both Jane Addams and Martin Luther King, and publicly took on the Ku Klux Klan in his sermons.
I think Bradley’s in a different league.

Other contenders here?  I’m open to hear ‘em.

19 comments:

Tom said...

I vote for John Haynes Holmes. While he was most famous for his advocacy of eugenics, he was an important figure in New York City and the civil rights movement for many years.

The only time Church ever got his name in the New York Times was a story about his sexual ethics, or lack thereof.

Bill Baar said...

I'd put Holmes right up there at the top too.

I agree with you on Church and ethics.

Chalicechick said...

I've never heard of the radio guy. J.H. Holmes is a good choice.

Probably the best known UU minister is Robert Fulghum who writes cheesy essays, most famously "All I ever really needed to know I learned in Kindergarten." I don't like his stuff because I think he's hokey, but that was on the NYT Bestseller list for something like a year and a half.

DairyStateDad said...

I'm not sure that was the *only* time...Church had an occasional Op-Ed column in the Chicago Tribune during the '80s & perhaps early '90s, I recall ... I don't know if it was syndicated or not...

Bill Baar said...

@CC, You've never heard of Preston Bradley?

He was huge in Chicago and the midwest. Check the UU bio page on him.

I think his preaching style influenced a generation of UU Ministers too.

UUFreespirit said...

Powell Davies arguably had a greater influence on UU in his region than anybody else. His sermons were followed by thousands, both in his own congregation and by speakers in satellite locations. His magazine articles were read by many thousands more nationally. He had half of the U. S, Supreme Court at his funeral. I'll go with Arthur Powell Davies.

Robin Edgar said...

If we take your blog title at face value Bill, you are really only talking about a 40 year time span from 1961 to 2001 for specifically "Unitarian Universalist" aka UU 20th century ministers.

Right?

John Haynes Holmes. was an early 20th century Unitarian minister who retired in 1949 more than a decade before the Unitarians merged with the Universalists in 1961. He *did* rejoin the AUA in 1960, just before the merger with the Universalist church, so I guess he was a non-active UU minister emeritus for a few years before he died in 1964.

I could be mistaken, but surely Rev. William Schutz was a quite well known UU minister in his capacity as the president of the Unitarian Universalist Association from 1985 to 1993 and then the Executive Director of Amnesty International from 1994 to 2006. No?

Bill Baar said...

Well, I was thinking more in terms of U or U or UU, but point well taken Robin.

I was also thinking in terms of being well known to the wider world. Not just our Churches.

Chalicechick said...

Nope, never heard of Preston Bradley until I read that post and he doesn't have a wikipedia page that I could find. FWIW, I was raised in suburban DC in the 1980's.

I'm still going with the bestselling author.

CC

Bill Baar said...

A link for you CC.

Robin Edgar said...

"I was also thinking in terms of being well known to the wider world. Not just our Churches."

I understood that Bill, but it seems some others commenting here may not have. That is one of the reasons that I often waggishly speak of the U*U World AND the "real world" in my blog posts and comments etc. ;-)

Bill Baar said...

Holmes and Powell certainly reached beyond the UU world.

In fact Holmes really wasn't a Unitarian in an affilitated sense for a good many years.

Robin Edgar said...

If I remember correctly, and this web page (re)confirms that I do. . . Rev. Arthur Powell Davies "dropped a bomb" on Americans during his sermon of Sunday, November 10th, 1946. Indeed *that* particular U*Uranium "bomb" was heard ALL around the "real world" but not the U*U World if only because the U*U World did not exist before 1961. ;-) This "atomic incident" might well actually make Rev. Arthur Powell Davies the most well known Unitarian minister of the 20th century.

Robin Edgar said...

Come to think of it. . .

Truth be told, "the U*U World" did not even exist prior to 2003 when CUC Executive Director Mary Bennett chose the Big Fat U*U Fate of inserting famous U*U lay person Kurt Vonnegut Jr.'s "picture of an asshole" between the two Us of what is *now* The U*U Movement in a deeply misguided effort to symbolize the self-vaunted "inclusiveness" of what *was* the somewhat more discreet "UU Movement" aka UU World before Mary Bennett's ever so U*Unilateral decision to modify the "corporate identity" of Unitarian Universalism. :-)

Bill Baar said...

That's a nice example Robin of a Unitarian Minister using Auctoritas.

I don't think they carry that weight anymore.

Robin Edgar said...

Could you explain how in some detail?

BTW If pronouncements made by Unitarian Universalist minister don't carry much weight any more it is likely because few people take the "tiny, declining, fringe religion"* known as Unitarian Universalism seriously any more. . .


* To quote Rev. Peter Morales' 'A Religion For Our Time' sermon.

Bill Baar said...

It's Authority a person gains just through the power of their character. Not authority that's granted by rank, or achieved in election.

Just Leadership without the formal authority.

Chalicechick said...

I'll check your link, though I certainly believe that he was well-known in Chicago in the decades you mentioned, I just don't think he's especially well-known outside those places.

Checked Robin's link, too, and was again struck with what a good guy A. Powell Davies was. It made me proud to be a UU to read about him denouncing that tacky celebration of something that brought about deaths of so many.

I still submit that having a book that was on the bestseller list for years and that almost everybody's heard of makes Fulghum best known of all though.

But it is interesting to see who is best known to whom.

CC

Bill Baar said...

I think Fulghum's up there on the list CC. My Minister quoted him a few Sunday's ago and added a footnote to her sermon saying so many other UU Ministers wonder how he did it. Or maybe more accurately envy how he did it.

I've never read him but I have a feeling he's a modern version of Bradley w/o congregation.