Peter Gomes, preacher and author, dies at 67

Tue Mar 1, 2011 1:00pm EST
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By Ros Krasny

BOSTON (Reuters) - The Reverend Peter Gomes, a prominent preacher, author and professor at Harvard University who participated in the inauguration of two U.S. presidents, has died at age 68, the university said on Tuesday.

Gomes died at a Boston hospital on Monday from complications arising from a stroke in December.

"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," Harvard President Drew Faust said in a statement.

An American Baptist minister, Gomes had served at the nondenominational Memorial Church of Harvard University since 1970 and was a member of both the Divinity School faculty and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard.

In 1979 Time magazine called Gomes "one of the seven most distinguished preachers in America." He amassed 39 honorary degrees and was an Honorary Fellow of Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge.

Gomes was the first black minister of the Memorial Church, and after coming out as homosexual in 1991 in response to gay-bashing on the Harvard campus, became a voice for increased tolerance in society.

"The question should not be 'What would Jesus do?' but rather, more dangerously, 'What would Jesus have me do?'" Gomes wrote in his 2008 book "The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus: What's So Good About the Good News."

"He came to ask human beings to live up to their full humanity; he wants us to live in the full implication of our human gifts, and that is far more demanding."   Continued...

<p>The Reverend Peter Gomes, Pastor of Memorial Church at Harvard University and Plummer Professor of Christian Morals at Harvard, speaks in support of marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples and against a proposed amendment to the state constitution banning same-sex marriage during a rally inside the Massachusetts Statehouse in Boston February 10, 2004. REUTERS/Jim Bourg</p>