Spiritual Hero:  Rev. Robert Wood (1923-2018)

Rev. Robert Watson Wood, an ordained Congregational minister who started advocating for LGBTQ rights in the early 1960s, died Aug. 19, 2018. In 1960 Wood urged churches to welcome lesbian and gay people in America’s first book on homosexuality and Christianity, “Christ and the Homosexual.”

He went on to become the first member of the clergy to picket for LGBTQ rights, wearing his clergy collar at a 1965 protest. His advocacy for LGBTQ rights continued throughout his long life, although he was so far ahead of his time that his contributions have been forgotten by many.

Wood grew up in Ohio and became aware of his homosexuality in high school. Although he advocated for LGBTQ rights and lived openly with his male partner, he didn’t come out publicly as gay himself until his retirement in 1986. In 1962 Wood met his life partner Hugh M. Coulter, an abstract artist, former rodeo cowboy and a fellow World War II veteran. They lived together as a couple while Wood served as pastor of three different parishes over the next 26 years until Coulter’s death.

Excerpted with permission from an article by Rev. Kittredge Cherry, Qspirit.net. She is an author and retired MCC clergy who served as National Ecumenical Officer for MCC.