Category Archives: Liberal Religious History

New Anthology on Liberal Religion in America

Leigh Schmidt and Sally Promey have produced a new edited anthology of scholarly essays, aptly titled American Religious Liberalism.  With essays by scholars such as Emily Mace, Matthew Hedstrom, Kathryn Lofton, Yaakov Ariel, the volume is sure to be of great interest to historians of American religion.  This is just the latest in a flurry of recent publishing on liberal religion, as the forty-six page long (!) review section in the latest Journal of Unitarian Universalist History makes abundantly clear.  And there’s more in the pipeline for this year, so expect a similarly impressive review section in the 2013 issue as well.



Filed under Book Notes, Liberal Religious History

Dr. Emily Mace Hired as New Director of Harvard Square Library

Harvard Square Library, a project of First Parish in Cambridge (Mass.), has hired Dr. Emily Mace as their new director.  Dr. Mace is a great fit for the site: she was trained in liberal religious history at Princeton University, and she teaches on Unitarian Universalist topics for Starr King School for the Ministry.  For those unfamiliar with Harvard Square Library, it’s a website that includes biographies of important Unitarians and Universalists, as well as some documents by/about these figures (including entire books!).  Not surprisingly, it tends to have a particular focus on Cambridge and the Boston area (hardly inappropriate for UU history).


Filed under Liberal Religious History, Unitarian-Universalism

Resources on Liberal Islam

The study of liberal religion, especially in the history of North America, is typically focused on looking at a fairly narrow range of Protestant and Jewish groups, with some Catholic movements as well.  But the liberal impulse is hardly confined to these familiar locations.  One important–but widely unknown–place that it has appeared is within Islam.  The average Westerner’s opinions about Islam don’t typically include any sense that it has produced liberal movements; quite the opposite.  But Islam is a diverse religion, just as Christianity and Judaism are–indeed, how could 1400 years of history and more than 1 billion followers with a presence in nearly every nation not produce diversity?

To help make sense of liberal Islam, here are a few useful starting resources:

Liberal Islam: A Sourcebook

Modernist Islam, 1840-1940: A Sourcebook

Progressive Muslims

Qur’an, Liberation, and Pluralism

Islam and Modernity

Jaringan Islam Liberal

Muslims for Progressive Values

Averreos Foundation for Faith and Reason in Islam

Liberal Islam Net

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Strolling Through Boston’s Unitarian-Universalist History

HUUMS (Harvard Divinity School Unitarian Universalist Ministry for Students) sent out a notice recently to draw attention to its historic UU walking tours.  UU seminarians are available to lead two hour walking tours in the Holy Land (aka Boston and its environs), which can include Divinity Chapel where Ralph Waldo Emerson delivered his famed Divinity School Address on July 15, 1838.  Check out their website for more information.

The Unitarian Universalist Association also provides a walking tour pamphlet,created by Christine Jaronski, if you prefer to do it yourself.  It doesn’t include Divinity Chapel (since it sticks to sites right around UUA headquarters), but has many interesting sites.  Perhaps readers will want to suggest other nearby sites that walkers can appreciate.

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Filed under Liberal Religious History, Unitarian-Universalism

Coming Soon: An Introduction to the Unitarian and Universalist Traditions

Mark Harris, former president of the Unitarian Universalist Historical Society and author of many books on Unitarian-Universalist subjects, has a new co-written (with Andrea Greenwood) volume coming out next month from Cambridge University Press.  An Introduction to the Unitarian and Universalist Traditions is the latest offering in the long-running Introduction to Religion series.  While details will have to wait until the book is released, it is clear that Greenwood and Harris situation Unitarian-Universalism as a global religion, with the United States just one (important) site for the religion’s development.  Here is the table of contents:

1. Liberal religion and the foundations of the Unitarian and Universalist faiths
2. The European background
3. Great Britain
4. Early America
5. Unitarians and Universalists in the Republic
6. A religion for one world
7. Polity
8. Theology
9. Worship
10. Science and ecology
11. Architecture, music and the arts
12. Education, welfare and human rights
13. Unitarian Universalism in the 21st century.

Harris has produced many fine books worth checking out, most recently the slim but important Elite: Uncovering Classism in Unitarian Universalist History.  He also wrote the massive reference volume Historical Dictionary of Unitarian Universalism (hint: available far cheaper in the paperback version with the title The A to Z of Unitarian Universalism).

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Filed under Book Notes, Liberal Religious History, Unitarian-Universalism, Unitarianism, Universalism

Servetus’ 500th Birthday Celebration at Harvard University

Here’s another event coming up.  Thanks to Dan McKanan for sending out the announcements:

Tuesday, September 27, 7-9:30pm: There will be a dramatic representation of the life of Michael Servetus (Miguel Serveto) and a panel discussion featuring Dan MaKanan, Lilia Cuervo, and Ron Cordes.  Long Strange Trip: 2000 Years of UU History, Part 1 (a film by Cordes) will also be screened, and there will be refreshments.  Servetus, physician and theologian, is remembered as a unitarian who was martyred by Calvin’s forces.

Andover Chapel, Harvard Divinity School, 45 Francis Avenue, Cambridge, MA
Contact: Linda Simmons,, 603-498-9520

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Filed under Liberal Religious History, Unitarianism

The Living Legacy of C. Conrad Wright

Here’s an announcement that went out today, should be an interesting event:

The Living Legacy of C. Conrad Wright
A Memorial Forum
Wednesday, October 26, 7:00 pm
Sperry Room, Andover Hall, Harvard Divinity School
Cosponsored by Harvard Divinity School & the Unitarian Universalist History and Heritage Society

For the second half of the twentieth century, Professor Conrad Wright was the preeminent scholar of American Unitarianism and an inspiring mentor to both ministers and historians. Please join us as we reflect on his life’s work and on the ways his insights and vision can continue to guide academic and religious life in the twenty-first century. Panelists include G. Kim Beach, Elz Curtiss, Dean Grodzins, Gloria Korsman, and David Robinson.

The panel will conclude with an open discussion and with a reception.  This event is free and open to the public.

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