Peter J. Gomes - Theology, Theography, Social Advocacy and Politics

Theology, Theography, Social Advocacy and Politics

Listed by Time Magazine in 1979 as one of "seven stars of the pulpit", Gomes fulfilled preaching and lecturing engagements throughout the United States and Great Britain,

In 2009, he represented Harvard University as lecturer to The University of Cambridge, England, on the occasion of its 800th anniversary.

Gomes published a total of ten volumes of sermons, as well as numerous articles and papers. He was well known for his sermons, particularly for one he delivered in the immediate wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks — a sermon poignantly referenced by Governor Deval Patrick at Gomes's memorial service on April 6, 2011.

He was author of two bestselling books, The Good Book: Reading the Bible with Mind and Heart and Sermons, the Book of Wisdom for Daily Living. The Right Reverend Lord Robert Runcie, 102nd Archbishop of Canterbury, England, ecclesiastical head of the Anglican Communion, said of Gomes's The Good Book that it "offers a crash course in biblical literacy in a nuanced but easy-to-understand style", which is also "lively"; Henry Louis Gates, Jr. called it "Easily the best contemporary book on the Bible for thoughtful people".

His last work, The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus, included extensive commentary and observation on the interrelations of Church and State throughout history and particularly in recent US history.

In 1991 Gomes identified himself publicly as gay, though adding that he remained celibate, and became an advocate of acceptance of homosexuality in American society and particularly in religion:

I now have an unambiguous vocation — a mission — to address the religious causes and roots of homophobia... I will devote the rest of my life to addressing the ‘religious case’ against gays. Same-sex marriage advocate Evan Wolfson described Gomes as an integral contributor to the cause of marriage equality.

He maintained that "one can read into the Bible almost any interpretation of morality ... 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" as paraphrased by Robert D. McFadden in the New York Times (March 2, 2011).

Gomes was a registered Republican for most of his life, and offered prayers at the inaugurals of United States Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. In August 2006, he changed his registration to the Democratic Party (United States), supporting the candidacy of Deval Patrick, who was that year elected the first African-American governor of Massachusetts. (Gomes and Patrick had become friends during Patrick's undergraduate days at Harvard.)

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