Robert V. Taylor is on a mission to bring more compassion into the world.
That's not surprising, considering his longtime friend and mentor is a Nobel Peace Prize winner.
Taylor's philosophy of life emulates the peaceful and spiritual ways of the famous South African activist and retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
It was Tutu who encouraged Taylor to flee persecution and death threats as a young man in his native South Africa and to build a new life in America.
Taylor, now 54, went on to become the nation's highest-ranking openly gay Episcopal priest.
He resigned his position as the head pastor at St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral in Seattle three years ago after a split with the church board and decided to pursue a different direction in his life as a writer and lecturer.
When he's not somewhere in the world encouraging audiences to tap into the full potential of their humanity, he's spending time writing at his home in rural Benton County with his partner Jerry Smith.
In April he published a book, A New Way to Be Human: 7 Spiritual Pathways to Becoming Fully Alive, that's already drawing praise.
"A New Way to Be Human will become well thumbed as you return to it time and time again to be reminded of what is essential to your journey: that God longs for us to be people of love and compassion," wrote Tutu, who authored the forward for Taylor's book and attended the launch of the book in Los Angeles last spring.
Taylor's book is part memoir, part guidebook that takes readers on a literary journey that bypasses religion and dives right into the spirituality of becoming a compassionate human, both personally and in the work force.
"We live in a world with a huge deficit of compassion but that can change because we're all hard-wired for compassion" Taylor told the Herald. "When we truly get to know ourselves and our own story, we can then put together all the elements to develop compassion and tenderness within ourselves and therefore for others."
Taylor said he felt the first tugs toward the ministry when he was 16. But it wasn't until he met Tutu in the late '70s that he knew for sure the clergy was his calling.
It was also when he became an activist in the anti-apartheid movement, opposing the system of racial segregation and discrimination against nonwhites.
Even though he is white, Taylor got involved because he believes all people are equal, and he continues to fight peacefully for that cause today.
At the time, Taylor was especially moved by Tutu's speech at a large funeral for a slain anti-apartheid activist in Capetown.
"There were about 30,000 people there, and I was one of very few white people in attendance," Taylor recalled. "There were many speakers at the service but when Tutu went to the podium to speak his words there was no trace of anger in his tone or malice in his heart."
Instead, Tutu spoke about love and compassion, and that violence is not the answer. And the people listened.
"I listened," he said.
As Taylor became more vocal about social injustices in South Africa, threats against his life escalated. His mother and father, who no longer are living, feared for his safety, but they never insisted he stop.
"My parents were kindly to all people, but they still worried about my safety," he said.
When government officials threatened to throw him in prison, Tutu stepped in and told Taylor to leave the country and go to the United States.
He was just 22 when he hopped a plane to New York City and was taken in by Tutu's friends.
"I met a wonderful group of people who looked after me until I settled in," Taylor said. "Their way of life was so much different than mine. The first time they took me to get a hamburger, I picked up a knife and fork to eat it and they thought that was the funniest thing they'd ever seen."
His new American friends kept asking questions about life in South Africa and this made Taylor a little uncomfortable.
"I was raised in a family where you did not talk about yourself, so it was all very foreign to me," he said. "But they also wanted to hear the human stories of the people of South Africa."
In New York, Taylor studied divinity and earned a master's from the Union Theological Seminary in Manhattan in 1984.
Taylor wasn't able to visit his parents or brother again until the '90s, when bans were lifted on exiled political dissidents.
"What impresses me now is the spirit of optimism I see in South Africa today," he said.
From his experiences as a conscientious objector for social injustice in the '70s to becoming an openly gay Episcopal pastor in the U.S. have taught him the value of being a peace-loving person.
Not even the dissension over the service of gays and lesbians as ministers and priests that continues in many religious organizations has dampened Taylor's passion for wanting to build a kinder, happier and more compassionate world.
He spent eight years as pastor at St. Mark's Cathedral in Seattle and resigned in 2008 after a year of turmoil with his board of directors over his management of staff and because he said he didn't share the same visions for the church.
In his years in Seattle, Taylor was known for his community outreach and interfaith efforts, and for tackling social-justice issues, including homelessness, reported the Seattle Times.
He agrees it was time to move on.
Taylor said he loves living in the Tri-City area because the people have been wonderful. When he has time, he attends All Saints' Episcopal Church in Richland, where he said the congregation is so welcoming.
While he lives in a more conservative part of the state now, he doesn't focus on the discrimination of people who do not approve of his lifestyle, he said, because he staunchly believes everyone has a right to their own opinion on that score.
Today, he has an even greater devotion to being a tireless advocate for all people, to developing places for the homeless, AIDS/HIV victims, veterans, underprivileged children and the elderly, as well as writing and sharing conversations with people.
"My life is more influenced by spirituality than religion, and I believe more and more that people feel the same way," he writes in his book. "The old way of being human accepts the cynicism of the world with a resigned, bystander/victim mentality about life. The global economy, conflicts and seismic shifts of social media and technology result in uncertainty, anxiety, and apprehension about the unknown.
"But the new way of being human reveals spiritual truths about the holy in your life, egging you on to discover how your stories connect to the stories of those you might least expect."
A New Way to Be Human is available on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble Booksellers stores.