The Activist Group is for members of the Unitarian Universalist Collegium who identify as social justice workers, activists researchers, or public intellectuals.

The current mascot for this group is Viola Liuzzo (1925-1965), a 39-year-old mother of five who was murdered by white supremacists after her participation in the protest march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. The cover photo is a snapshot of a few of the hundreds of Unitarian Universalists who participated in the Marching in the Arc of Justice events in Selma, Alabama in March 2015.

3 Activists
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Please introduce yourself. Why do you identify as an activist?

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  • AVERY (PETE) GUEST

    PORTLAND, OREGON

     

    I am a retired professor of sociology, University of Washington. I graduated from Oberlin College in 1963. Then, I received a master’s in journalism at Columbia in 1964, to be followed by a PhD in sociology at the University of Wisconsin in 1970. Most of my professional career at Washington involved teaching and research in a variety of topics, including statistics, population patterns, social inequality, race relations, and urban sociology.  I also published a few items on the sociology of religion.

    My involvement as a lay member of our denomination started in the early 1960s in a formerly Universalist Church in Kent, Ohio. Since then, I have been involved in several UU churches, but most prominently in Edmonds and Seattle, WA. I have tried to contribute to UU churches in a variety of roles, but with some emphasis on social justice issues.

    As I neared retirement, I became increasingly interested in studying the history of Unitarian Universalism, but with a special interest in Universalism. The study of Universalism especially attracted me for multiple reasons. First, I identify strongly with the basic Universalist notion that virtually all humans deserve respect and egalitarian treatment. The achievement of a Universalist society will be difficult but is incumbent in a world of increasing interaction across geographic borders. Second, I became quite interested in why the Universalist denomination grew so rapidly in the early to mid 1800s but then began a long-term continuing decline in membership until consolidation in 1961. What was the original social appeal of Universalism to Americans and why did this decline so dramatically? Third, I found the previous historic study of Universalism to be, frequently, inadequate from my professional sociological stance. Most of the research was descriptive rather than testing hypotheses about why trends in Universalism occurred. In addition, assertions were frequently made without much supporting evidence. Finally, studies of Universalism had made little use of the numerous documents that the Universalists created as a means of finding new adherents.

    Since joining Collegium in 2010, I have tried to produce one serious paper a year on Universalist history. I have also written a biography of early Universalist minister Stephen R. Rensselaer that appears in the Dictionary of UU Biography. The titles of my papers are listed below. The one on slavery appears in the 2015 volume of the Journal of Unitarian Universalist History, and I am working on revisions of others so they may be submitted for publication.

    At this point, I am uncertain on how to package all my continuing work on the history of Universalism. One possibility is a monograph on the history of Universalism in New York State, the site of much of my research. The other possibility is a more general monograph on aspects of the history of Universalism in America. There are a couple of major problems, however. One is that most Unitarian Universalists are interested in Unitarian, not Universalist, history. The other is that I am running out of time before I join Hosea Ballou in Universalist heaven (I was born in 1940).

    Previous Papers beyond Smith biography (Available upon Request):

    2015 (in process): “Revisiting the History of American Universalist Theology”

    2014: "Ministerial Careers in the 19th Century Among the Unitarians and Universalists."

    2013: "Hosea Ballou’s Other Family"

    2012: "Why a Liberal Religion Had So Much Trouble Being Liberal: The Universalists and the 1845 Antislavery Protest"

    2011: "The Decline of the Universalists: Big to Small or Small to Smaller?"

    2010:"In Search of a Loving God: Universalist Churches in New York, 1845-1918"

     

  • I am pleased to join the Activist group of UU Collegium. I consider myself to be a activist researcher who seeks to address the moral issues of our time. I have published articles and books about law and religion, with particular attention to blasphemy laws, capital punishment, corporations and contraception, establishment of religion, ethical eating, ethics of biotechnology, finance reform, free exercise of religion, human rights, immigration reform, marriage equality, and ritual circumcision.

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