Longtime Harvard Chaplain and Theologian Peter Gomes Dies at 68

Harvard's longtime chaplain, Reverend Peter J. Gomes, has died of a brain aneurysm and heart attack at 68, the Harvard Crimson reports.

Gomes "His death was announced in an e-mail to members of the Harvard-Radcliffe Christian Fellowship and confirmed by a staff member at the Harvard University Choir. Gomes was hospitalized at Massachusetts General Hospital this past December after suffering a stroke. He was later moved to Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston. Friends reported as recently as this January that Gomes was recovering and in good condition. They said that he hoped to return to Harvard and deliver the Easter sermon at Memorial Church."

Gomes was a religion professor at Harvard for decades before coming out 20 years ago.

The NYT:

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.”

I had the fortunate opportunity to meet Gomes a few times over the past 15 years. His loss will be deeply felt at Harvard and beyond.

Rev. Peter J. Gomes, Harvard Minister, Dies at 68 [nyt]
(image harvard crimson)


  1. Mark says

    Mr. Gomes became a fighter for our cause late in his life, but he was an eloquent, thoughtful and intelligent man. It’s sad to learn of his death, one less voice for truth in the world.

  2. E. says

    Thank you for mentioning this in your blog, Andy. Very sad to learn of Peter Gomes’ passing. The originality of his thinking impressed me when I was in college–even though I am not a Christian or religious in any way, I was struck by his example of faith that is also freethinking and tolerant. He will be missed by many, I’m sure.

  3. says

    Sad news. He was a wonderful communicator and spoke eloquently and intelligently on issues of theology and sexuality. Unlike many Bible-toting Christians, he actually knew the Bible and used it for purposes other than condemnation.

  4. Alex Parrish says

    I am deeply saddened by this news. I had the pleasure of hearing the Rev. Mr Gomes preach twice — 20 years apart — and yet his words in both of those sermons have stayed with me; I could almost re-preach each of those sermons. Rest in peace, good and faithful servant.

  5. says

    Very sad to learn of his death. He was a brilliant theologian and wrote the book, “The Good Book,” reading the Bible with mind and heart. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in a truer vision of what the Bible truly teaches than most Christian churches have ever preached.
    Rest in peace good and faithful servant.

  6. says

    What a loss! There aren’t too many openly Gay Black theologians around, or haven’t you noticed? He was like an oasis in the middle of a vast desert. The world will sorely miss Dr. Gomes’s integrity and intelligence, but I’m hopeful that other LGBT preachers of color will come to prominence and carry on his good work.

  7. Ethan says

    Thank you so much for highlighting this, Andy.

    I can’t imagine a wiser ally in the fight against the religious intolerance of homosexuality than the reverend professor. Just like his sermons and lectures, Gomes himself was witty, noble, deeply thoughtful, and profoundly compassionate.

    In a time when a number of religions are still quite hateful towards gays, I can’t help but think Peter Gomes was one of our cause’s greatest pioneers.

  8. David in Boston says

    Another thank you for mentioning Peter Gomes passing. I was deeply saddened last night to stumble on this sad news on the NYT web site.

    I didn’t know Peter Gomes personally, but heard him speak several times. His message of acceptance, his rational approach to scripture, and charismatic presence (his voice alone is unforgettable) were a support for me then – 20 years ago – and I am not a Christian. His death is a great loss for the gay and lesbian community.

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