Dr. Lowell W. Livezey (February 15 1943 – December 9 2007) was a leader in the field of congregational studies and urban ministry research. At the time of his death, he was Professor of Urban and Religious Studies and Director of the Ecologies of Learning Project at New York Theological Seminary.
Life and career
Born in Erie, Pennsylvania, Dr. Livezey directed large studies of urban congregations in Chicago and Boston—the Religion in Urban America Program at the University of Illinois, and the Metropolitan Congregational Studies Project at Harvard Divinity School. The Chicago project (1992–2002) resulted in the book Public Religion and Urban Transformation (New York University Press, 2000), as well as more than 35 scholarly papers and conferences. Lowell W. Livezey studied, taught, and wrote on the agency of religious organizations—especially churches, synagogues, mosques, and other worship centers—in large urban areas. Using ethnographic data assembled in collaboration with colleagues and students in Chicago, Boston, and New York, he argued that the “religion factor” is more salient than often recognized in the economic, demographic, and spatial restructuring of modern industrial cities.
Dr. Livezey received the B.A. from Swarthmore College and the Master of Theology and Doctor of Ministry degrees from the University of Chicago School of Divinity. He also studied at the University of Keele in Staffordshire, England. While an undergraduate at Swarthmore, he founded the Chester Home Improvement Project (CHIP) in Chester, PA where his commitment to urban ministry began. After receiving his doctorate, Dr. Livezey spent two decades in the peace movement. His first job was with the World Without War Council, first in Chicago, then as the organization’s National Director in New York. He then went on to serve as Administrative Director, undergraduate program, of the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University. This work inspired him to conduct a study of how NGO’s conceived of human rights, beginning his second career in studying communities, meanings, culture, and social change. After publishing Nongovernmental Organizations and the Ideas of Human Rights, Dr. Livezey turned his attention to congregations, founding the Religion in Urban America Program. He then taught at Harvard as Luce Lecturer in Urban Ministry at Harvard Divinity School and directed of its Metropolitan Congregational Studies Project. In 2005, Dr. Livezey became Professor of Urban and Religious Studies and Director of the Ecologies of Learning Project (EOL) at New York Theological Seminary, funded through a major $2 million grant from Lilly Endowment, Inc. of Indianapolis. With EOL, Dr. Livezey considered the entire New York metropolitan area to be his research laboratory.
Dr. Dale T. Irvin, President of New York Theological Seminary, stated that “Lowell Livezey was a person immense insight, wisdom and compassion, a person of great integrity and depth, and an outstanding colleague. He embodied the values of teaching, learning and research that lie at the heart of the scholarly endeavor. He also was a friend, a caring human being, someone around whom community is easily formed. In the language that is familiar to the people of faith, Lowell has simply been a blessing to NYTS. Lowell helped us all understand the life and work of the churches and especially the intellectual task of preparation for ministry more clearly.”
Dr. Peter Paris, Professor of Christian Social Ethics Emeritus, Princeton Theological Seminary and NYTS Trustee, stated that “Lowell Livezey had a great passion for all matters pertaining to human rights and social justice and especially the many and varied ways that religious institutions inspire and initiate those endeavors.”
Dr. Craig Dykstra, Senior Vice President, Religion, Lilly Endowment, stated that “Lowell Livezey’s work on religion and urban culture is path-breaking—a permanent contribution. His patient, generous and imaginative work with pastors and other religious leaders in Chicago, Boston and New York, as well as with scholars, will bear great fruit for many years to come.”
Dr. Livezey died of pancreatic cancer at his home in New York City with his wife, Dr. Lois Gehr Livezey, at his side. Dr. Gehr Livezey, who retired in 2006 as Professor of Christian Ethics at McCormick Theological Seminary, served as Director of the Globalization Project of the Center for World Christianity at New York Theological Seminary.