Whatever happened to heroes? Those people we look up to or want to be like. Some of my earliest memories were of being surrounded by world changing, life moving heroes; men and women of wisdom, faith, education, mission, and success. One such person in my life has been Robert Taylor and I'd like for you to know him!
I was introduced to Robert by my Sainted Mom. He was the dean of her church and the first openly gay Episcopal dean in the United States. She had such great respect and appreciation for him, and he happened to be gay.
As a closeted youth, I couldn't help but notice the connection. Just the introduction spoke volumes to me. Over the years I was fortunate to hear the heart of this world changer, week after week. As anyone will tell you, Robert's ability to communicate is exceptional. I'm pretty convinced he could get up and recite the ABC's and lives would be challenged and changed.
What impacted me the most, however, was his personal investment of spiritual guidance and example in my life and those around me. Now, he's sharing those examples and leadership in his new book, A New Way to Be Human: 7 Spiritual Pathways to Becoming Fully Alive!
Nothing pleases me more than to see Robert's investment reach more people. Now folks will see what I've been so honored to call friend, mentor, and hero for all these years. In fact, Robert's mentor, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, wrote the forward to his book saying, " In a time when some people invoke the mantle of religion to divide and destroy, this book is a reminder of the God of Love who existed before religion."
Among the many that I think this book was written for, the LGBT community can gain so much from its pages! It is his hope that "readers will discover the power of sacred wisdom in the arc of their story, life and voice. That in seeking their own well-being their heart space of love and compassion will expand. When you are grounded in your own well-being you can't help but seek and work for the well-being of others. Then you can't help but know your profound oneness with others. It is a way of living with delight and new life!" As you can see, Robert is an advocate of making a difference!
Recently Robert wrote in his Blog "Like millions of other LGBT people I feared God as a young person because of the religious messages I received that God had disdainful disgust for us. Like millions of other young LGBT people I considered suicide."
As a gay man, Robert's outreach to our community comes from that experience. As I was preparing for this column, I asked Robert what his coming out experience was like. "Like a slow dance with lots of missteps along the way! he said. "At 20 I came out to my family but it didn't feel safe in the oppressiveness of South Africa back then to be totally out. Almost 20 years later I knew I had to be out to everyone to live a life of integrity and wholeness. It was the most important act of claiming my belovedness. No longer was I subject to the threats of being "exposed". When we are out we meet ourselves fully - then we're able to meet others in their fullness, no matter who they are."
Robert has taken that determination and attempted to live his life to impact others. When I asked him how it felt to be the first openly gay Episcopal dean in the United States, his response was golden! "It was one of life's hairpin curves. It also felt like a blessing of oneness. It wasn't so much about me as a reminder that no matter who we are – a person of color, an immigrant, a woman etc. – our leadership is about the inclusion of all people in every sphere of human life. That is cause of celebration and a work worth giving your life for!"
Clearly this is one person who gets community! It's understandable why someone would see him as a hero, but I would wager that he wouldn't like that title very much. Rather, he would urge us to be the hero that we wish to see, for others. As for Robert, he lists Lady Gaga and Harvey Milk as a few of his heroes.
Milk, whose leadership "inspired and terrified" Robert, pushed him. "If I admired him for being such a publicly out leader what did that invite me into?" As for Lady Gaga, "I adore her authenticity. Instead of being a victim of teasing and rejection those experiences are used to open the eyes and hearts of others to generous compassion and justice." Of course his mentor, Desmond Tutu has been a hero for Robert. His "talk about love and all people being part of one human family made me do some serious inner work as I grappled with my identity as a gay man and a human being – how could I be working to end apartheid and yet not accept that I was loved as I am."
Robert continues his life changing work, speaking across the country. You can see his schedule here or even request that he come to your town or group. I can promise you, like me, you'll see him as the hero he is!