Executive Minister, United Church of Christ's Local Church Ministries
The Rev. Dr. J. Bennett Guess is Executive Minister of the United Church of Christ's Local Church Ministries, and a member of the UCC's five-person Collegium of Officers. Nominated by the 55-member Local Church Ministries' board of directors, Guess was elected by General Synod delegates in July 2011, and is the first openly gay person to serve as a national officer of the church.
Guess earned a B.A. degree in journalism from the University of Kentucky. He completed graduate studies in public administration and public policy at Murray State University, and earned his M.Div. degree in 1991 from Vanderbilt University Divinity School. He received his D.Min. degree in preaching from UCC-related Chicago Theological Seminary in 2001.Prior to coming to the UCC's national offices, Guess was a local church pastor for 12 years, including eight years as pastor of Zion UCC in Henderson, Ky., a congregation that grew from 12 elderly members to a vital, justice-focused, multiracial, open and affirming congregation of more than 300 people. He also helped create the Paff Haus Justice and Peace Center, a justice cooperative that housed offices for more than a dozen regional and statewide advocacy organizations in Kentucky and southern Indiana. In 1992, he co-founded the Kentucky Fairness Alliance, now the state's largest and most visible LGBT rights organization. Guess received the UCC's Just Peace Award at the 1997 General Synod in Columbus, Ohio, in recognition of his life-long commitment to justice advocacy.