Incredibly sad new to report. Author and professor of Divinity at Harvard Rev. Peter Gomes has passed away at 68. His death, which was first reported by The Harvard Crimson, was confirmed by Emily Lemiska, a spokeswoman at Massachusetts General Hospital, where Mr. Gomes had recently been treated.
The New York Times reports on the life and legacy of Gomes who courageously came out in 1991 on the conservative Ivy League campus.
From The New York Times:
At Harvard, he was the Plummer Professor of Christian Morals at the School of Divinity and the Pusey Minister of Memorial Church, a nondenominational center of Christian life on campus. For decades, he was among the first and the last to address undergraduates, greeting arriving freshman with a sermon on hallowed traditions, and advising graduating seniors about the world beyond the sheltering Harvard Yard.
Then in 1991, he appeared before an angry crowd of students, faculty members and administrators protesting homophobic articles in a conservative campus magazine whose distribution had led to a spate of harassment and slurs against gay men and lesbians on campus. Mr. Gomes, putting his reputation and career on the line, announced that he was “a Christian who happens as well to be gay.”
When the cheers faded, there were expressions of surprise from the Establishment, and a few calls for his resignation, which were ignored. The announcement changed little in Mr. Gomes’s private life; he had never married and said he was celibate by choice. But it was a major turning point for him professionally.
“I now have an unambiguous vocation — a mission — to address the religious causes and roots of homophobia,” he told The Washington Post months later. “I will devote the rest of my life to addressing the ‘religious case’ against gays.”
One can read into the Bible almost any interpretation of morality, he liked to say after coming out, for its passages had been used to defend slavery and the liberation of slaves, to support racism, anti-Semitism and patriotism, to enshrine a dominance of men over women, and to condemn homosexuality as immoral.
My personal memory of Gomes reaches as far back as my junior year in high school when I came across The Good Book: Reading The Bible with Mind and Heart, a work he created to refute all of the "clobber passages" from the bible used to condemn and demoralize gays and lesbians. I'll never forget the spiritual liberation I experienced after reading it and the heated debate that followed my oral presentation on its contents in my literature class. Gomes opened up an alternate interpretation of the bible for me and if it weren't for him I'd most likely be separated from God and the church today. He will be missed.
Watch Gomes discuss what he believed Jesus would say about same-sex marriage in the clip below.