Jenkin Lloyd Jones, born in Wales in 1843, was brought to the United States by his parents in 1844 and was raised on a pioneer farm in Wisconsin. Several of his ancestors, including Jenkin Jones and David Lloyd, had been pioneer ministers in the Arminian movement in Wales. Jones enlisted in the Union army during the Civil War as a matter of conscience, fighting in the battles of Vicksburg, Chattanooga, and Missionary Ridge. He was mustered out in 1865 as a confirmed opponent to war, a position he maintained throughout his life. Upon graduation in 1870 from Meadville Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania, he
In 1874, Jones became secretary of the Western Unitarian Conference, a position he held until 1884. He infused new life into the dying organization, moved its headquarters to Chicago in 1880, and devoted all of his time to the Conference, giving up his church in Janesville. He helped found the weekly magazine Unity in 1878, dedicated to "Freedom, Fellowship and Character in Religion," and remained its editor until his death. He set up a Sunday School society which published numerous lessons and vigorous tract-publications. But Jones also led a movement within the Western Conference for ethical rather than theological unanimity
Soon after the foundation of All Souls Church Jones dropped the word "Unitarian". He felt that denomination built a fence around religion and he did not want his church, even by remote implication, to exclude anyone. This church became the nucleus of Jones' even more ambitious project, the Abraham Lincoln Centre, founded in 1905. Lincoln Centre was a combination social, civic and religious center in its early years, with All Souls Church at its core, but it also provided a gymnasium, manual training, domestic science classes, reading rooms, libraries, lecture courses, as well as study classes in subjects including religion, citizenship, literature. Jones' idea of universal religion inspired the World's Parliament of Religion, in connection with the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. He was the moving force behind the movement as well as its General Secretary. He also sailed on the Ford Peace Ship Mission in December 1915 and became the chairman of the Committee of Administration after the withdrawal of Henry Ford due to illness. He maintained his pacifist viewpoint until his death and in 1918 his editorial opposition in Unity to war in general and American participation in World War I led to the suspension of mailing privileges of the magazine by the United States Postmaster-General. Jones also founded
He was the author of numerous works, among them: An Artilleryman's Diary (1914); The Faith That Makes Faithful, with W. C. Gannett (1886); Jess: Bits of Wayside Gospel (1899); A Search for an Infidel (1901); and Love for the Battletorn Peoples (1916). He received an honorary LL.D. from the University of Wisconsin in 1909.
Jones died at Tower Hill, Wisconsin, in 1918.