The Better Way of Peace – The Peace Activism of Jenkin Lloyd Jones

“This presentation will cover Rev. Dr. Jenkin Lloyd Jones’ views on the topic of world peace as well as the effect that his activism had on his professional relationships, health and ministry based a scholarly historical analysis of his sermons, speeches, and published materials in the Jenkin Lloyd Jones Collection at Meadville Lombard Theological School.

Jenkin Lloyd Jones, Unitarian minister and social reformer of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, was an activist for many noble causes that he believed were his civic duty and religious obligation to lead. In the last 25 years of his long career he dedicated his energy to be an unyielding advocate for world peace. Jones served as an artillery soldier in the Union Army during the Civil War. His war experience convinced him that humanity needed to find a better way to settle their differences. His humanist theology and belief in the evolutionary development of human intellect convinced him that pacifism was the ascendant moral behavior that would usher mankind into a new era of perfectibility.

The World’s Parliament of Religions at the Columbian Exposition of 1892-94 in Chicago’s Hyde Park was perhaps the seminal religious event in Jones’ life, which convinced him of the viability of world peace. This was the first time that distinguished figures from the world’s religions representing America, Asia and Europe met in an international and ecumenical setting. Jones served as the secretary of the General Committee of Religious Congresses. As the Chair of the Committee of Liberal Religions and a member of the Joint Committee of World’s Congresses of Moral and Social Reform, he had complete access to the religious leaders from around the world which thrust him into national and international circles. Throughout the rest of his life, he maintained and deepened those contacts in the pursuit of world peace and as a messenger of the gospel of human brotherhood.

He was a charter member of the Chicago Peace Society and participated as the head of an American delegation at a Peace Conference in Stockholm Sweden in 1915. He was one of the most outspoken peace activists during the run-up to World War I and America’s entry into the conflict. In 1917 after the United States entered World War I, his opposition to the war put him at odds with the American Unitarian Association (AUA). The AUA called for the ouster of ministers who opposed the war and threatened to withhold financial support of congregations whose ministers preached against the war. Jenkin Lloyd Jones maintained his pacifist position and his pulpit at All Souls Church in Chicago, but he lost the support of many of his long-time friends and colleagues. He died in 1918 and some historians attribute his failing health to the effects of the opposition to his pacifist activism.”