BELLOWS, HENRY WHITNEY (11 June 1814, Boston, MA-30 January 1882, New York, NY). Educauon: A.B., Harvard College, 1832; graduated from Harvard Divinity School, 1837. Career: Minister. Mobile, AL, 1837-38; First Congregational (Unitarian) Church, New York, 1838-82, named Church of All Souls, 1855; editor, Christian Inquirer, later the Liberal Christian, 1846-77('?); founder, United States Sanitary Commission, 1861; National Conference of Unitarian Churches, 1865; editor, Christian Examiner, 1865-69.
Henry W. Bellows stands as the leading Unitarian churchman of the nineteenth century. Through his efforts the National Conference of Unitarian Churches was founded in 1865, a step that ranks as the most important denomination-wide organizational effort of the nineteenth century. After his education at Harvard College and the Divinity School, and a brief ministry in the South, Bellows began a highly successful and influential ministry in New York at the church that would come to be known as All Souls. Bellows had many talents: he was an eloquent preacher, possessed an astute theological mind, and had enormous physical and intellectual energy. But his greatest strength was his force of personality, which made him an effective builder of organizations. His involvement with the northern war effort in the 1860s resulted in the formation of the U.S. Sanitary Commission, and this organizational experience led Bellows to form the National Conference in 1865. It was a historic, although controversial act, because one faction of the denomination feared the centralization of power and the possibility of creedalism that Bellows's efforts represented to them. But Bellows thought that liberalism had to be organized further than it was under the American Unitarian Association, which was composed of individual Unitarians, not Unitarian churches as the National Conference was. Bellows thus assumed the leadership of the Broad Church group in the denomination moderates and liberals whose chief common goal was the institutional strengthening of the liberal movement. The intellectual foundations of Bellows's organizational efforts can be discerned in his 1859 address "The Suspense of Faith in which he noted the crisis that the decay of old forms of faith were causing and held out the hope of a revitalized and universal church of the future Bellows conceived of this as a Christian church, but as Conrad Wright* noted his desire for a Christian identity for the National Conference, which so alienated the radicals, was based largely on his sense of the necessary historical continuity of the Christian past with the present In his sense of the need of an institutional grounding for liberalism, and in his successful efforts to secure that grounding, Bellows changed the course of American Unitarianism.
A. The Suspense of Faith (New York, 1859); Re-Statements of Christian Doctrine in Twenty-Five Sermons (New York and London, 1860); The Old World in Its New Face, 2 vols. (New York, 1868-69): Russell N. Bellows ed Twenty-Four Sermons Preached in All Souls Church New York 1865 1881 (New York 1886)
B. DAB 2. 169: Heralds 3. 23~~3 Conrad Wright, Henry W. Bellows and the Organization of the National Conference in The Liberal Christians (Boston 1970) Walter Donald '(ring. Henry Whitney Bellows (Hoston 1979)