Called "one of America’s leading preachers," and "the only gay, black, Republican, Baptist preacher most people would ever meet," Harvard pastor Rev. Peter Gomes was a theologian, a professor, an author, an activist, and a leader.
The Boston Globe reports he died Monday evening in Massachusetts General Hospital of complications from a stroke he suffered in early December.
According to the New York Times (via Towleroad) Gomes came out as gay in 1991, while speaking "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." The Times reports his announcement was met with "expressions of surprise from the Establishment, and a few calls for his resignation, which were ignored."
Soon after, he told The Washington Post “I will devote the rest of my life to addressing the ‘religious case’ against gays.” And he did exactly that, through his speeches and sermons, through conversations like this one from 1992 (but still very much relevant today) and in books like 2008's The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus: What's So Good About the Good News? and through his wry sense of humor, on display here in this clip from the Colbert Report, discussing that book.
...And here, when asked about whether Jesus would support marriage between gay and lesbian couples.
Speaking about stereotypes in 1996, Gomes told the Boston Herald:
“I’m always seen as a black man and now I’m seen as a black gay man. If you throw the other factors in there that make me peculiar and interesting — the Yankee part, the Republican part, the Harvard type — all that stuff confuses people who have to have a single stereotypical lens in order to assure themselves they have a grasp on reality.”
(Gomes did leave the Republican Party in 2006, so that he could vote for Deval Patrick in the Massachusetts Gubernatorial Primary.)
Harvard President Drew Faust said in a statement "Peter Gomes was an original. For 40 years, he has served Harvard as a teacher in the fullest sense -- a scholar, a mentor, one of the great preachers of our generation, and a living symbol of courage and conviction."