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Rev. Robert W. Wood
(May 21, 1923 - living) U.S.A.

Robert W. Wood

UCC minister


Robert was born in Youngstown, Ohio, to Edith and Harold Wood. Robert 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, and received numerous decorations including the Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for "heroic achievement in combat."

Subsequently, Robert 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. Robert acknowledges having his first homosexual experience in the military and later met a man at Penn who "brought him out."

Robert was ordained in the Congregational Christian denomination on June 17, 1951 in Fair Haven, Vermont. He served on the staff of Broadway Tabernacle in New York City for two years and then as pastor in Spring Valley, New York, for 11 years; in an inner-city congregation in Newark, New Jersey, for 13 years; and finally in Maynard, Mass. for eight years. During this time, he served six years on the United Church of Christ's Board for Homeland Ministries and another six years on the Board for World Ministries.

Robert 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, Robert started writing a book on Christianity and homosexuality. Christ and the Homosexual was published in 1960 by Vantage Press. Robert's photo appeared on the dust jacket and his congregation was identified in the book. All 5,000 printed copies were sold.

Robert 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.

In 1962, Robert met Hugh Coulter, an ex-Air Force man, artist 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.

Robert 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.

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.


Source: The LGBT Religious Archives Network - http://www.lgbtran.org/Pioneers.asp

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