Bob Barzan | Profile



Robert Barzan, writer, publisher, activist, and founder of White Crane Press and White Crane Newsletter, the first journal devoted exclusively to exploring gay men's spirituality, was born in 1952 in Ontario, Canada, and moved with his family to San Francisco in 1956.

His passion for social justice and interest in Catholic liberation theology inspired him to join the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in 1975 and the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in 1976. He completed a Master of Arts degree in Counseling Psychology at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, and a Master of Divinity degree at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, California. He was ordained in 1985. He was the first openly gay priest in Missoula, Montana, and was active in the Missoula AIDS Taskforce. Tension between Catholic teaching on homosexuality and his own sexuality and beliefs led him to leave the priesthood and Christianity in 1987.

In San Francisco, in 1989, he started White Crane Newsletterand continued as its publisher until late 1996 when Toby Johnson became publisher. To expand on his writings, Barzan hosted numerous events, salons, support groups, and discussion groups at the San Francisco apartment he shared with his friend Nathan Thies. Between 1992 and 2000, hundreds of gay men participated in these events. Barzan inspired them to think about and share with each other what was most important in their lives. Many then wrote for the newsletter.

Barzan has written extensively in the area of spirituality, especially as it applies to everyday events like cooking, walking, gardening, sex, and work. His writings have appeared in numerous books, pamphlets, journals, magazines, and newspapers. His writings fall into four areas: gay men's spirituality; nature spirituality; the spirituality of sex; and ritual as a spiritual path, all from a perspective that is not theistic.

Important in Barzan's thought is the distinction between healthy and unhealthy spiritualities. Spirituality, he explains, has to do with how we learn to love, be more compassionate, generous, forgiving, to live authentically as individuals, and as members of the larger community including nature. A way of life that lessens abilities in these areas is an unhealthy spirituality. A way of life that deepens them is a healthy spirituality.

In late 2000, he moved to Modesto, California, and retired from the state university system in 2003. In 2005, Barzan founded and is the executive director of the Modesto Art Museum (http://modestoartmuseum.org). He is one of the founders of the Modesto Gay/Lesbian Film Festival, has organized numerous other festivals including the Modesto Reel Food Film Festival and the Modesto International Architecture Festival, hosts a monthly Philosophy Café, and assists various nonprofits organizations in the Modesto area.

Barzan can also be found online at http://www.linkedin.com/pub/bob-barzan/18/638/44a

(This biographical statement provided by Bob Barzan.)

Biography Date: June, 2004

Additional Resources


Catholic (Roman) | Author/editor | California | San Francisco


“Bob Barzan | Profile”, LGBTQ Religious Archives Network, accessed April 23, 2021, https://lgbtqreligiousarchives.org/profiles/bob-barzan.


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