James Stoll, 1959 | Photographer unknown | 14010
The New York Times remembers Rev. James Stoll, one of America’s first priests to come out, in 1969. Mr Stoll died in 1999 probably of tobacco smoking related conditions.
Mr. Stoll, one of the first openly gay ministers in America, had a difficult life, and his demons seemed to follow him to an early grave. But he was hugely responsible for introducing American churchgoers to gay rights. … Over the next year, newly emboldened, Mr. Stoll wrote articles about gay rights and delivered guest sermons at several churches.
In July 1970, at their general assembly in Seattle, Unitarians passed a resolution condemning discrimination against homosexuals and bisexuals. Other churches soon liberalized, too. In 1972, for example, the United Church of Christ ordained an openly gay man, and today there are openly gay Episcopal priests and Lutheran ministers. Having pioneered an important change in American Christianity, Mr. Stoll never returned to the ministry. In fact, it seems that he could not. According to letters kept at Harvard, sent in 1970 between church members and Unitarian officials, Mr. Stoll had been suspected of drug use and of inappropriate sexual advances toward young people in the Kennewick congregation. The circumstances of his departure made it unlikely he would find another pulpit.