More UnitariansAlcott, Amos Bronson Burleigh, Celia C. Channing, William Henry Cordner, John Dall, Caroline Wells Healey Furness, William Henry Harper, Frances Ellen Watkins Higginson, Thomas Wentworth Hosmer, Frederick Lucian Johnson, Samuel Judd, Sylvester Latimer, Lewis Howard Lowell, James Russell Ripley, George Savage, Minot Judson Sears, Edmund Hamilton • Sullivan, William Laurence Taft, William Howard Walker, James Weiss, John Wendte, Charles William Wooley, Celia Parker
William Laurence Sullivan
|William Laurence Sullivan|
The Roman Catholic priest who converted to Unitarianism, and became a renowned preacher. Sullivan was born in East Braintree, Massachusetts on November 15, 1872 the son of Patrick and Joanna Sullivan, who had come from Ireland the year before. Sullivan was a good student who loved books and sports. His father died when he was 14. He graduated from Quincy High School, and then went on to Boston College, and then St. John’s Seminary in Brighton, Massachusetts. Then he moved on to Catholic University of America where he earned an S.T. B. and an S. T. L.. Sullivan had longed to be a priest since childhood, and he was ordained a Paulist in 1899. He was an outstanding scholar who was steeped in the classics, and he became a professor at St. Thomas’s College. During this time he became interested in Modernism. This was to prove his undoing as a Catholic, especially after Pope Pius X condemned Modernism in an encyclical in 1907. At this time Sullivan was a priest of a Paulist church in Austin, Texas. He was threatened with excommunication if he did not submit, and ultimately decided he had to leave the church.
Sullivan lived in Kansas City for two years wondering where his future lay. After he moved to Cleveland, he discovered the Unitarian church there and its pastor, Minot Simons. He went to New York and taught at an Ethical Culture school, and then decided to become a Unitarian minister in 1912. Sullivan was called to the new Church of All Souls in Schenectady, New York that year. Soon thereafter he published Letters to His Holiness Pope Pius X, where he condemned the Vatican. He also began to build a reputation as a preacher, and moved on to be associate minister at All Souls Church in New York City, traveling back and forth to continue ministering in Schenectady at first. In 1915 he became the senior minister at All Souls. He spent a period as a mission preacher for the American Unitarian Association (AUA) on the West Coast when he was at All Souls. This role as missionary preacher became his job in 1922, when he worked under the auspices of the Unitarian Laymen’s League. From 1924-28 he served the Church of the Messiah in St. Louis. Sullivan taught summer school at Meadville Theological School, and also became a popular lecturer. Although he intended to write more, he finally took another parish, the Unitarian Society in Germantown, Pennsylvania from 1929-35, where he died while still active on October 5, 1935. His prime reputation was as a preacher and lecturer, and retreat leader both inside and outside Unitarian circles, but he still managed to publish some writings during his lifetime, especially ones in response to Catholicism. His most famous work was his autobiography, Under Orders: The Autobiography of William Laurence Sullivan (1944). He also reviewed books for the New York Herald Tribune. Sullivan was known as an ardent theist and defender of Unitarian Christianity who felt that humanists were really atheists who were afraid to use the word.