Concern About Gomes' Preaching
To the Editors of The Crimson:
We, the Concerned Christians at Harvard, are calling for the resignation of the Reverend Peter J. Gomes from the position of Minister in Memorial Church of Harvard University. The point at issue is not Gomes' personal behavior, whatever it may be, but his public defense of homosexual practice as part of a complete Christian life.
In a recent statement to the Harvard community, President Rudenstine said that the basic questions "is whether Peter Gomes is fulfilling the essential duties of the important post he holds." We applaud Rudenstine's articulation of this important standard. Surely among the "essential duties" of the Minister in Memorial Church is attention to the moral and spiritual well-being of those under his care. It is this important trust which Gomes has violated by lending the sanction of his office to the practice of a vice which Scripture and the Church historically have unanimously condemned as morally and spiritually destructive.
We are concerned, then, about the effect which the Rev. Gomes' novel teachings might have on those in the University community who are confronted with vitally important--perhaps eternally important--moral decisions about themselves and the way they will choose to live their lives. Gomes has no advice to offer such people except that they should "define" themselves, and insist upon those self-definitions in relation to others." We grant Gomes that this kind of exhortation to a "self-defined" life has a long tradition. Indeed, it may fairly be said that Adam and Eve were the first to take it up.
We believe, on the contrary, that the Christian life is a life whose limits are prescribed by God and whose terms are defined by divine law, a life in which we are defined by God, and not ourselves. Regardless of the particular content of Gomes' admonitions concerning homosexual activity, such misleading general claims regarding Christian ethics much call into question his ability to offer constructive moral advice to the community under his care.
We find Gomes' support for Christian homosexual activity theologically distressing for a number of reasons. The most obvious of these is that such activity is explicitly prohibited by the Mosaic law. We would remind Gomes that, even according to the Christian division of that law into moral, civil and ceremonial precepts, the moral law of the Torah retains its divine authoritative force for Christian life. A minister in Gomes' owl sober Calvinistic tradition should be especially mindful of this fact.
More important, we believe that the decision to lead a life of active homosexuality is a repudiation of the goodness and purpose of the creation of man in two kinds: male and female. It is within this context that St. Paul's well-known criticism of homosexual activity as a sign of blindness to the created order and of the universal rebellion against God must be understood.
It is not necessary to insist upon a literalistic interpretation of Scripture to see the moral law apparent in the natural order; nor is it necessary to split fine theological hairs to appreciate the importance of this moral issue to fundamental doctrines regarding creation and redemption upon which the Churches of Eastern, Roman and reformed Christendom have always been agreed.
Within the context of the University, however, we concede that the issue of responsible moral stewardship is of primary importance. If the University refuses to oversee the mission of Memorial Church, who will do so? The Memorial Church is not organized under the ecclesiastical auspices of any denominational hierarchy; her congregation is little involved in her government. If the Minister in the Memorial Church is not to be established as an absolute ecclesiastical lord, then he University which helps to finance the Memorial Church must take some responsibility for overseeing her mission and activities. And, although the Memorial Church exists within the walls of the College, we should remember that general standards of academic freedom are not necessarily those by which a man called to exercise the responsibilities of Christian ministry should be judged.
"We in the Christian Church do not have to apologize for the Church. We do not have to apologize for those who use the Church and its faith to advance their own private agendas and issues," the Rev. Gomes has said at a recent rally. We will not apologize for the witness of the Scriptures or of the Church against the practice of homosexuality within the Christian life. The Rev. Gomes has done much in the past to sustain witness in the Harvard campus. He is a formidably eloquent speaker and one of the foremost preachers of our day. His leadership within the larger Harvard community in race relations and other areas deserves the highest commendation. Gomes has won the personal affection and regard of many at Harvard and beyond; he is a man worthy of a great deal of respect.
Nevertheless, we find the peculiar moral agenda which the Rev. Gomes has recently assumed disturbingly inappropriate for a man holding the office and bearing the responsibilities of Christian ministry. Therefore, it is with sorrow, but with a firm sense of the moral importance of out endeavor, that in the absence of some change of heart on the part of Gomes, we feel bound as Christians and members of the Harvard community to call on the Rev. Gomes to resign his position as Minister in the Memorial Church. Sumner E. Anderson '92 Christopher B. Brown '94 Robert K. Wasinger '94 E. Adam Webb '93 Tom Woods '94 Concerned Christians at Harvard