Over the years, 56-year-old Frank Corbishley, the chaplain to the St. Bede Episcopal Chapel, has been a friend to UM students in SpectrUM, an organization that promotes education about and acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues.
“Religion is a difficult topic for a lot of our members because they have been hurt in the past, and Father Frank really tries to help heal those wounds,” said a SpectrUM member who has worked closely with Corbishley.
According to the student, who asked not to be identified, Corbishley has always reached out to the group and has attended many of its events.
“He spoke at our most recent candlelight vigil in honor of all the suicide victims who were gay,” said the SpectrUM member. “He spoke about how it’s important to be accepting of others even when they are different.”
The student said that Corbishley is always willing to go the extra mile to reach out to those who have faced discrimination.
“For me, it’s important for gay and lesbian students to know that not all Christians are against them,” said Corbishley. “There are some of us who accept them as they are.”
Corbishley said that many LGBT students who believe Christianity is important to them may feel rejected by the church.
“I want them to know there is a place for them to come where they are accepted,” he said.
Junior Daniel Nystrom, an intern at the church, said Corbishley has become part of his extended family.
“When I started coming out as gay last year, Father Frank was one of the first people I opened up to,” Nystrom said. “Rather than criticizing me, he encouraged me by providing me with a sense of validation and helped me to muster the courage to come out to my parents.”
Susan Elwell, business manager at the church, said that Corbishley has not only tried to offer a safe haven for all students but has also strived to make his co-workers’ jobs easier.
“Father Frank is an incredibly organized, creative and resourceful person,” she said. “He is essentially one of the best people I’ve ever worked for and with.”
Not only has Corbishley shown his dedication to students, co-workers and the chapel, but he is also involved with the preschool located next door to Hillel near UM’s Stanford Drive entrance.
According to Corbishley, the preschool is a partnership between UM and the chapel.
“I love the preschool here,” he said. “I sent my three kids there.”
Corbishley and his wife, Deborah, have three children: 16-year-old Rebecca, 14-year-old Sarah and 10-year-old Caleb.
“I do stuff there occasionally, like read stories to the children on Christmas and Easter,” he added.
Corbishley was raised a Roman Catholic in Syracuse, N.Y.
“I decided not to go to seminary because I wanted to marry and have a family, and this was not an option if you were a priest for a Roman Catholic Church,” he said.
Instead, he earned a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University’s well-regarded School of Foreign Service.
“In college, I took a course taught by a conservative rabbi who emphasized the oneness of God,” he recalled. “In his view, it was a distraction to pray to saints, and I started to agreed with him.”
After graduating, he worked in Washington, where he attended a parish church that wasn’t working for him. Corbishley said that he also had some theological issues with the Roman Catholic Church, as they didn’t give women as many rights as men.