TIME, CNN, and CBS News have covered the controversy surrounding Gomes’ statement
CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts (FR) – On November 12, 1991, Peninsula, a conservative student journal at Harvard University, published its 56 page critique of pro-homosexual politics. Immediately following its release, a furor erupted which has continued unabated. Faculty members, administrators, student groups and virtually every other student publication at Harvard have denounced Peninsula’s assertion that homosexuality should be viewed by society as morally wrong.
The most surprising statement came from Harvard’s Plummer Professor of Christian Morals, Peter Gomes, who condemned Peninsula’s homosexuality edition as a “moral mugging” and proclaimed from the steps of the Memorial Church where he presides as chaplain: “I am a Christian who happens as well to be gay.”
This came as a surprise to many who have known Gomes over the years. He is one of the most widely respected ministers in America and is considered by many to be a conservative evangelical. Yet Gomes, a member of the American Baptist Churches, has skirted his own denomination’s statement condemning homosexuality. This is shocking even to those who have been aware of Gomes’ anti-literalist view of Scripture. According to one minister in the Cambridge area we interviewed, the Harvard professor has always maintained a weak view of Scripture as being the authoritative Word of God.
In response to Gomes’ shocking revelation, a 50 member student group, Concerned Christians at Harvard, has formed with the purpose of forcing Gomes’ resignation as campus chaplain. Conducting a candlelight prayer vigil at Harvard’s Memorial Church in late February, Concerned Christians’ founder Sumner Anderson denounced Gomes’ assertion that it is acceptable to be a Christian and a homosexual.
Concerned Christians at Harvard wants Gomes to resign because he does not represent the biblical view of homosexuality held to by evangelical Christians. Yet Harvard President Neil Rudenstein dismissed the issue as not being the responsibility of Harvard to take part in a “theological debate where reasonable people of different religious persuasions hold different views.”
Now that it appears unlikely that anyone in Harvard’s administration will ask Gomes to resign, the Concerned Christians group faces a dilemma: How do you openly confront homosexuality as the Bible treats it – as sin – while remaining compassionate and sensitive in an otherwise unsympathetic atmosphere?
Says Peninsula editor Roger Landry, “The group started because of what Gomes taught on homosexuality – that it is not a sin. To say that the Bible is not relevant on homosexuality is to say that the Bible is not relevant on anything.”
“We’re walking a tightrope,” Landry admits. “We’re not trying to throw stones at anybody. We never thought that Gomes was an evil person. In fact, prior to his announcement, many of us thought that he was an excellent preacher. But what Sumner Anderson said is true: it’s more the gospel of Gomes than the gospel of Christ. We plan to keep the prayer vigils going just to let people know that we do not agree with Gomes’ teaching on homosexuality.”