* J. Robert Williams; First Openly Gay Episcopal Priest
The Rev. J. Robert Williams, 37, the first openly gay minister to be ordained in the Episcopal Church, and who was asked to resign just six weeks after his controversial ordination in December, 1989. Williams renounced his association with the Episcopal Church in 1991, but continued to work as a Christian priest, joining the Western Orthodox Catholic Church in America. The group is a small denomination unaffiliated with Rome or the Eastern Orthodox Church. Williams’ ordination marked the first time an openly gay man was allowed into the traditional Protestant denomination’s priesthood and it reopened a debate over whether sexually active homosexuals should become priests. He was asked to resign from the clergy after publicly criticizing the church’s teachings on sex and marriage. Williams refused to resign but gave up his position as head of the Oasis, a gay ministry at All Saints Episcopal Church in Hoboken, N.J. Among other things, Williams said Mother Teresa would be better off if she had sex, monogamy was as unnatural as celibacy and Jesus Christ had a gay lover. The following year, 1991, Williams was denied permission to act as a priest in the Massachusetts diocese, where he had led a healing ministry in Provincetown on Cape Cod. He renounced his association with the church later that year. In Boston on Dec. 24 of the complications of AIDS.