Rev Otis Charles, first Christian bishop to come out, dies

Episcopal bishop the Rev Otis Charles, who became the first Christian bishop to come out as gay to fight for LGBTI rights in 1993, passed away 26 December

Rev Otis Charles, first Christian bishop to come out, dies
01 January 2014

The Rev Otis Charles, a prominent advocate for LGBTI rights from the US Episcopal Church has died following a brief illness.

Charles passed away 26 December in the company of family members at San Francisco’s Coming Home Hospice aged 87.

Charles became the first ever bishop to come out publicly as gay in 1993 soon after his retirement and became a vocal proponent for LGBTI equality from within the Episcopal Church.

After retiring and coming out Charles continued to be a voting member of the Episcopal House of Bishops and in 2003 was one of those who voted to approve the election of the Rev Gene Robinson to be bishop of New Hampshire – the first openly gay man elected to such a high rank within the church.

Only four years earlier Charles was arrested and lead away in handcuffs at the Episcopal Church’s national convention as part of a protest action against the church’s historical treatment of LGBTI people.

In 2004 Charles told the San Francisco Chronicle about his decision to come out publicly.

‘I was ashamed of myself for remaining silent when the church was involved in an acrimonious debate about the whole question of gay people in the life of the church. I couldn’t live with that any longer,’ Charles said.

Charles came out to his wife Elvira in 1976 and the couple divorced shortly after he came out publicly in 1993.

The couple had five children together, who in turn have produced ten grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Charles found love again at age 76 when he met retired professor Felipe Sanchez-Paris and the couple were married in a church wedding in 2004 and then again legally in 2008.

Sanchez-Paris died in July of 2013.

A memorial service is scheduled at 2pm, 11 January at St. Gregory of Nysaa Episcopal Church, 500 DeHaro Street, San Francisco.

HAVE YOUR SAY

MORE TOP STORIES

No thumbnail available

AFA’s Bryan Fischer compares gay people to necrophiliacs

American Family Association spokesman Bryan Fischer has compared gay people to a male nurse who has been sentenced to two years prison for having sex with a corpse
No thumbnail available

Gay man asked by boss ‘Do you have AIDS?’ when he was ill

Employee, who claims he was made redundant because of his sexuality, was called a 'cocksucker' by his boss at a UK waste management firm
No thumbnail available

Elmo gay actor leaves Sesame Street accused of teen sex

Gay voice actor Kevin Clash is denying he had sex with an underage boy, and has taken a leave of absence
No thumbnail available

NCIS star Pauley Perrette on how she became so dedicated to HIV and AIDS awareness

Actress visited HIV ward in NYC and 'everyone in there was alone'
No thumbnail available

Desmond Tutu pleads with Ugandan president to strengthen human rights

Archbishop Desmond Tutu has asked President Museveni to use Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill debate to strengthen human rights and justice rather than restrict them
No thumbnail available

91% of Jamaica wants to keep anti-gay law

Poll finds 68% of Jamaicans feel LGBTI people should not have the same rights as others
No thumbnail available

Russia lawmaker raids gay club with film crew and riot police

'We found 20 teenagers there that were practically having sex on the stage'
No thumbnail available

Ugandan activist honoured with new awards

Jamaican lawyer Maurice Tomlinson is first winner of awards named after murdered Ugandan David Kato
No thumbnail available

Australian soldiers allowed to march in uniform at Mardi Gras

For the first time Australian army soldiers will be allowed to march in uniform at Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras
No thumbnail available

Dolly Parton says she supports same-sex marriage

Country music star and long time LGBTI rights supporter Dolly Parton has announced she supports the rights of gay and lesbian couples to marry