Board Bio: Rev. Dr. J. Bennett Guess
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 four-person Collegium of Officers. Elected by the UCC’s General Synod in 2011, he is the first openly gay person to serve as a national officer of the 1.1-million-member UCC, which has 5,100 local congregations in all 50 states.
Ben oversees the United Church of Christ’s work in faith formation, worship and youth ministries; ministerial authorization; congregational advancement; denominational analytics and research; church building financing; and support for new and renewing congregations and their leaders.
Ben has worked for the UCC’s Cleveland-based national headquarters since 2000, first as Justice and Witness Ministries’ communications minister and, later, as editor of United Church News. In 2007, he was named the UCC’s Director of Publishing, Identity and Communication, where he helped steer the UCC’s successful “God is Still Speaking” branding campaign; news and public relations; video, web, and social media; book and resource publishing, marketing and distribution; special events, including General Synod; and the denomination’s historic advocacy work in media justice, access and reform.
Ben 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 the M.Div. degree from Vanderbilt University. He completed his D.Min. at Chicago Theological Seminary.
Prior to coming to the UCC’s national offices, Ben 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 congregation of more than 300 people. In 1992, he was a founding co-chair of Kentucky Fairness, the state’s LGBTQ advocacy organization. Guess received the UCC’s Just Peace Award at the 1997 General Synod, in recognition of his life-long commitment to justice advocacy. In 2014, he received the distinguished alumni award from Chicago Theological Seminary.
Ben is a trustee at Andover Newton Theological School in Boston, and he is a leader in numerous denominational, ecumenical and interfaith organizations.
Ben and his spouse, Jim Therrien, live in Cleveland.