Christ and the homosexual

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This book was published in 1960 by the Rev. Robert Wood, a Congregationalist minister.  Wood, a gay man, was upset at how Christians condemned homosexuals without attempting to understand them.  After an unsatisfactory search for material dealing with ministering to homosexuals, he decided he would write his own book on the subject.

There are five sections in this book.  In the first section, he demonstrates there was a wide variety of people among the homosexual population in the 1950s.  Homosexuals did not fit into any neat stereotypes.  The second section discusses various trends in society influenced by homosexuals and trends affecting homosexuals themselves.  For example, gay men made jeans and men’s cosmetics popular in the 1940s and 1950s.  He continues in the third section with an overview of the difficulties homosexuals faced and the problems society incurred from its attitudes to homosexuality at that time.  The fourth section points out some of the ways that the church failed to be Christ-like in dealing with the homosexual population.  Finally, in the fifth and most important section, he suggests ways in which the church might approach gays and lesbians. He urged churches to learn about homosexuality and welcome them into their congregations without them having to stop being homosexual.  In contrast to the scientific understanding of the day, he asserted that in most cases homosexuals could not change their orientation.  He even declared that two men or two women could have a genuinely loving relationship, and such couples should be able to enter the institution of marriage.

Wood’s friends and colleagues urged him not to use his real name, but he not only dismissed their concerns, he included his portrait on the cover and listed his parish in the foreword.  Three thousand copies of the book were printed and every copy sold, but in spite of that, it was never reprinted and copies are scarce today.  Wood stated years later that he received no negative reactions, but he never quite felt secure after publishing the book.

In 1962, he started openly living with another man, the artist Hugh Coulter.  They remained together until Coulter’s death in 1989.  When one of his parishioners was later asked why the congregation accepted their relationship, he responded that Wood was a really good pastor.  In the 1960s, Wood participated in early gay rights demonstrations wearing his clerical collar.  He continued to minister to gays and lesbians in various parishes until his retirement in 1986.  At the time of this posting, he was living in a retirement home in New Hampshire.

Posted by Mika

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