LGBT+ Unitarian Voices

Slideshow of images

  • The project celebrates the campaigns, advances and achievements of LGBT+ people in the Unitarian movement and wider society

  • Today Unitarians lead the way in offering same-sex marriages in the UK

  • The project features interviews with veteran LGBT+ Unitarians, including Derek McAuley, Rev. Dr Ann Peart, and Rev. Jeff Gould

  • The project draws on archival materials and research to present the stories and voices of LGBT+ people over the decades

LGBT+ Unitarian Voices
“There have been enormous changes in the last 70 years. In the early parts of that stage, male homosexual acts were still illegal. I think in common with the rest of society, views have changed enormously. I’m proud that Unitarians have helped in that change.” – Ann Peart

This exhibition is the outcome of an exciting project exploring the brave, inspiring, and sometimes challenging experiences of LGBT+ people in the Unitarian and Free Christian denomination. The project celebrates their stories by recording, archiving, and sharing them here and online. We have carried out oral history interviews with Rev. Dr Ann Peart, Rev. Andi Phillips, Derek McAuley, and Rev. Jeff Gould. Their words are shared here, alongside documents from many of our congregations and from the archives at Essex Hall. Working with Harris Manchester College, Oxford, we have used these sources to tell the unique story of LGBT+ Unitarians and to shed light on the hidden history of their struggle for inclusion within the Unitarian movement and beyond. The project is led by two Unitarian HQ staff members, who are both trained historians: Dr Lizzie Kingston Harrison and Rev. Dr Rory Castle Jones. They have worked closely with an advisory panel made up of LGBT+ Unitarians and with Kate Alderson-Smith, Fellow Librarian at Harris Manchester College, Oxford.

“Learning from our past, celebration of our past and who we are now, lifting up LGBT+ Unitarian voices – this is something I want to get behind and endorse. It is a good and necessary thing and there is a great deal of foresight in doing this now.” (Andi Phillips, interviewed February 2023)

LGBT+ Unitarian Voices Timeline

More info about the project


Do you have any photographs, leaflets, posters, banners, newspaper stories, documents, or any other items that help shed light on our movement’s LGBT+ story? We are also interested in including written reminiscences and we invite you to send those stories to us. Click here for more information and for the Archive Donation Form.

pop-up exhibition

After the project launch at the General Assembly of Unitarian & Free Christian Churches’ Annual Meetings in April 2023, a pop-up exhibition will be on display at Essex Hall (Unitarian HQ in London), Harris Manchester College Oxford, and then around the UK. If you would like the pop-up exhibition to appear in your church, community space, or other venue, please get in touch!


Derek McAuley, Ann Peart, and Jeff Gould

Derek McAuley was born in Northern Ireland, before moving to England and later becoming a Unitarian at Cross Street Chapel, Manchester. Derek served as Chief Officer of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches from 2009 To 2019, the first “out” LGBT+ person to hold such a senior leadership position in the denomination. Watch Derek’s interview in full here.

Rev. Dr Ann Peart is the first openly lesbian Unitarian Minister in the UK, former principal of Unitarian College Manchester, former Information
Officer at Unitarian HQ, former President of the General Assembly and Honorary member of the General Assembly. Watch Ann’s interview in full here.

Rev. Jeff Gould comes originally from Massachusetts, USA, and trained for the Unitarian ministry at Oxford, before serving congregations in Liverpool, Lancashire and Cheshire. He is currently minister to Dean Row and Hale Barns Unitarian chapels. As an “out” gay minister, Jeff has been greatly involved in the movement towards LGBT+ inclusion within the Unitarian movement since the 1980s. Watch Jeff’s interview in full here.

Rev. Andi Phillips is minister of Upper Chapel, Sheffield.

project leaders

Rory Castle Jones, Lizzie Kingston Harrison, and Kate Alderson-Smith

The project is led by two Unitarian HQ staff members, who are both trained historians. They are supported by an advisory panel made up of LGBT+ Unitarians and have been working with Kate Alderson-Smith from Harris Manchester College Oxford.


Lizzie earned her doctorate from the University of Sussex in 2010 with a thesis on the Unitarian radical Joseph Priestley. After a career in teaching, she joined the Unitarian HQ team in October 2021 as our Congregational Connections Lead. Lizzie grew up in Norwich and now lives in Suffolk with her husband and daughters. The beautiful coastal countryside and the grounded and welcoming community at Framlingham Unitarian Meeting House helped her to find a spiritual home. Contact Lizzie.


Like Lizzie, Rory left a career in education to work for the Unitarians. After earning his doctorate from Swansea University with a thesis on the radical thinker Rosa Luxemburg in 2016, he joined Unitarian HQ as our part-time Communications Officer in 2018 and completed his ministry training in 2021, beginning a ministry at Gellionnen Chapel near Swansea the same year. He lives in the Swansea Valley with his husband and their two dogs. Contact Rory.