But he suggested a fourth reason: Mr. Wood did not out himself in the book. In fact, he would not do so until he retired as a pastor in 1986, although he lived openly for many years with his partner, Hugh Coulter, a former rodeo cowboy and artist, at parishes in Spring Valley, Newark and Maynard, Mass.
“Perhaps had he written as an ‘out’ gay author who spoke openly from his own experiences,” Mr. Schlager wrote, “the book may have attracted a wider readership.”
Mr. Wood was at ease with his decision to remain quiet about his sexuality.
“We chose not to ‘out’ ourselves but to live our lives as a caring, loving couple and let parishioners and everyone else accept us as they found us,” he said in an interview in 2007 for a 50th-anniversary book published by the United Church.
Mr. Coulter died in 1989. Mr. Wood leaves no survivors.
Robert Watson Wood was born in Youngstown, Ohio, on May 21, 1923, to Harold and Edith (Beard) Wood. His father was an electrical engineer, his mother a homemaker.
Mr. Wood left the University of Pennsylvania to fight in World War II in North Africa and Italy with the 36th Infantry division. He was wounded in battle — earning a Bronze Star and other medals — and spent nearly two years recovering. After being discharged, he completed his bachelor’s degree at the University of Pennsylvania and later graduated from the Oberlin School of Theology in Ohio.
He encountered prejudice in school and the military. In an interview in 2000 for an Oberlin L.G.B.T. history project, he recalled a meeting with fellow undergraduates who frightened him by quoting negative Scripture verses about homosexuals.
“I realized they were using these texts to bash me and other homosexuals,” he said, “so I decided that when I went to seminary, I would learn my Bible as well as or more than they did so I could use Scripture to confront them.”
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