Sunday, September 9, 2012

Out Spotlight

Today's Out Spotlight is minister, a distinguished and honor veteran, author, advocate and gay pioneer.  Today's Out Spotlight is Robert Wood.

Robert Wood was born in Youngstown, Ohio, to Edith and Harold Wood. He enlisted in the army after Pearl Harbor, was called to active duty in February, 1943, and participated in the invasion of Italy that fall. He was wounded during battle on Monte Maggiore and spent almost two years in recuperation and rehabilitation. He was honorably discharged in November, 1945. He received two Battle Stars, a Purple Heart, a Combat Infantry Badge and the Bronze Star for "heroic achievement in combat".

After the war Wood went back to school on the G.I. Bill and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1948 and Oberlin School of Theology in 1951. He acknowledges having his first homosexual experience in the military and later met a man at Penn who "brought him out."

Wood was ordained in the Congregational Christian denomination on June 17, 1951 in Fair Haven, Vermont then served on the staff of Broadway Tabernacle in New York City for two years, moving on to pastor in Spring Valley, New York, for 11 years; follow by an inner-city congregation in Newark, New Jersey, for 13 years; and finally in Maynard, Mass. for 8 years. During his ministry, he also served six years on the United Church of Christ's Board for Homeland Ministries and another six years on the Board for World Ministries.

Rev. Wood engaged Christian attitudes toward homosexuality throughout his ministry. In 1956 he wrote an article entitled "Spiritual Exercises" for a gay physique magazine Grecian Guild, in which his photo in a clerical collar appeared.

After meeting Donald Webster Cory, author of the ground-breaking 1951 book The Homosexual in America, he started writing a book on Christianity and homosexuality. Christ and the Homosexual was published in 1960 by Vantage Press. Wood's photo appeared on the dust jacket and his congregation was identified in the book. The book helped begin the dialogue between organized religion and the GLBT community.  All 5,000 printed copies were sold.

He was honored with Awards of Merit from the Mattachine Society and The Prosperos that year. In August, 1962, Wood was a featured speaker at the Ninth Annual Conference of the Mattachine Society.  Rev. Wood participated in the seminal gay and lesbian civil rights demonstrations from 1965 to 1969.

 In 1962, he met American abstract artist Hugh Coulter, an ex-Air Force man, and cowboy who was touring in a rodeo.  They lived openly as a couple in all three of Robert's parishes over the next 27 years. He was among the first clergymen to advocate for same-sex marriage.

He retired from parish ministry after serving continuously for 35 years and 1,610 Bible-based sermons and now lives in a retirement community in New Hampshire. In 1993 he provided written testimony on behalf of lifting the ban on gays in the military before the House and Senate Armed Services Committees.

Both The Advocate and Out have called Rev. Wood a "pioneer for gay rights" in America.  In June, 2001, he was honored as a gay pioneer and author by the Christian Association at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the only clergy included in the television documentary "Gay Pioneers" produced as a part of the National History Project. His biography, written by Steven Law, is awaiting publication.

Rev. Wood remains an engaged advocate for GLBT equality.


the real m said...

Happened to see this on the web. - After drawing national attention for his attempt to muzzle a football player who supported gay rights, a Maryland delegate walked back his position Sunday and said Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo should be allowed to speak out in favor of same-sex marriage. "Upon reflection, he has his First Amendment rights," Del. Emmett C. Burns Jr., a Baltimore County Democrat, said in a telephone interview. "And I have my First Amendment rights. … Each of us has the right to speak our opinions. The football player and I have a right to speak our minds."

Cloud 9 said...

Fantastic spotlight. :)

tweet said...

Tara Henley ‏@TaraRHenley

I have to say, watching Jake Gyllenhaal & Anna Kendrick rap along to Cam'Ron's "Hey Ma" kinda made my whole week. #sup #endofwatch

11:25 PM - 9 Sep 12 · Details

sass said...

Great spotlight. TY
Love all news and pics from TIFF and great/good reviews...Can't wait.

Seaweed said...

Rev. Wood, what a wonderful man and proud advocate for so many years!

Thank you.

Jersey Tom said...

I keep wondering if the Baltimore Ravens player who made the video to support gay marriage is gay himself. He didnt say in the video. Be awesome if he would come out

Jersey Tom said...

God I love how European men can look at each other with love and passion. I just imagine Nadal and Djokovic kissing in my avatar.

destiny said...

What an amazing story. I've never heard of Wood, and had no idea that an openly gay man had his own congregation as far back as the early 60s.

Jersey Tom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jersey Tom said...

Jake must be such a lonely guy. I wonder why a catch like him cant meet a nice girl to settle down with. He wants children so much. He has told us a hundred times:-)