Stanford University The Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute
Harvard minister, Theologian, and Author, Reverend Peter J. Gomes, died on Monday, 28 February 2011
March 15, 2011

Reverend Peter John Gomes died on Monday, 28 February 2011 at age 68. His death was first reported by The Harvard Crimson and later confirmed by a Massachusetts General Hospital spokeswoman. Rev. Gomes passed away due to complications following a stroke.

An only child, Rev. Gomes was born to parents, Peter Lobo and Orissa White Gomes, on 22 May 1942 in the Cape Verde Islands off Africa's west coast.  His mother a graduate from the New England Conservatory of Music, raised him in Plymouth, Mass.  He attended Plymouth High school, graduating in 1961. Four years later he recieved in B.A. in History from Bates College in Lewiston, Me.  Continuing his education and fulfilling the expectations that he enter the Christian ministry, he obtained his bachelor of divinity degree from Harvard in 1968 and was ordained a Baptist Minister.

After spending two years teaching Western civilization in Alabama at the Tuskegee Institute he returned to Harvard to become the assistant minister of Memorial Church.  In 1974, he became the Plummer professor of Christain morals and Pusey minister of Memorial Church, positions he held until his death.  In 1979, Time magazine honored him as one of the nation's best preachers.  At Ronald Reagan's second inauguration he was selected to give the benediction.  Four years later, he gave the National Cathedral sermon at George Bush's inauguration.

His early work as an author focused on early american religion, specifically the Pilgrims.  In more recent years both his written work and sermons have been focused on refuting literal and fundamentalist interpretations of the Bible.  He urged Christians to follow the spirit and not the letter of biblical passages and to treat the Bible not as one book but as a "library".  This change in focus came after he appeared before students, faculty and administrators, who were protesting a conservative campus magazine, announcing that he was, "a Christian who happens as well to be gay."  This pronouncement put his career and reputation a new trajectory, giving him new focus.  In an interview with the Washington Post a few months later he said, "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.”  

Remaining true to his word, Gomes dedicated much of his later writing and oration to questions regarding intolerance and religious fundamentalism.  This, however, did not limit his scholarly work as he continued to widen his interests to include the study of early American religions, Elizabethan Puritanism, church music and the African-American experience.

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