After a rather lengthy search, the first Ralph Waldo Emerson Unitarian Universalist Association Chair in Divinity at Harvard Divinity School has been announced. Congratulations to Dr. Daniel McKanan, a Harvard native son, who will be the first person to fill this position. Dr. McKanan has published on Brook Farm and the Catholic Worker movement, among other work on religious liberalism in America. More details are available at the Harvard Divinity School’s press release.
How would Emerson feel about being given a chair at HDS, especially one with the UUA’s name in the title? His relations with the Unitarians are famous, especially his scandalous address to the HDS graduates in 1838 and his renunciation of his Unitarian ministry. But Emerson also remained a good friend of many Unitarians (ministers and otherwise) and continuing to circulate in Unitarian groups, attending Unitarian churches and so on. Ultimately, he would probably be pleased: he was a great lover of learning, of intellectual and spiritual stimulation, and would wish to see liberal religion resuscitated in the academy and the seminary. Good luck to Daniel McKanan and may this chair help liberal religious studies to flourish for generations to come.