THE RELEVANT QUEER: Theologian and Author Reverend Peter J. Gomes, Died February 28, 2011

The Reverend Peter J. Gomes. Photograph by Stu Rosner

“I am a Christian who happens as well to be gay. … Those realities, which are irreconcilable to some, are reconciled in me by a loving God.”

TRQ: Peter J. Gomes, Died February 28, 2011

Theologian and author Reverend Peter John Gomes, the first black person to serve as chief minister to Harvard University, was born in Boston, Massachusetts. His father Peter was born in the Cape Verde Islands while his mother Orissa was a graduate of the New England Conservatory of Music. From an early age, Gomes expected to become a minister. He delivered his first sermon in a Baptist Church at the age of 12.

Gomes graduated from Plymouth High School in 1961 and went on to earn his bachelor’s degree from the abolitionist-founded Bates College. He attended Harvard and earned his divinity degree in 1968. Afterwards, he taught Western civilization at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama for two years before returning to Harvard as Pusey minister at Harvard’s Memorial Church, and Plummer professor of Christian morals.

When a conservative campus newspaper published homophobic articles that lead to hate crimes against gay men and lesbians on campus, Gomes stood in support of angry students, faculty and administrators. Gomes declared himself to be “a Christian who happens as well to be gay.” Coming out changed the course of the reverend’s career.

Gomes became known as a “gay minister” who used his spiritual voice to fight intolerance. Aware that the Bible has been used to defend slavery, support racism, spread Anti- Semitism, and oppress women, Gomes condemns using religious texts to stigmatize homosexuality as immoral. His best-selling The Good Book: Reading the Bible with Mind and Heart, urged readers to embrace the spirit of scripture rather than the letter.

Becoming something of a Republican celebrity, the conservative Gomes gave the benediction at President Reagan’s second inauguration and delivered a sermon at President George Bush’s inauguration. However, in 2006 Gomes became a Democrat and supported Massachusetts’ first black governor, Deval Patrick.

Reverend Peter John Gomes died on February 28, 2011 from complications arising from a stroke. Gomes never married and was celibate by choice.



NY Times

Q Spirit

Harvard News


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