Minister Reflects on Attention

Attacked by Right, Gomes Won't Yield

No one expected any surprises from the voice.

Soft but deep, expressive but studied, at once undoubtedly American and somehow Churchillian, the voice had become a steadying influence at the University.

It had lectured to dozens of divinity students. It had delivered hundreds of sermons to the ranks of Harvardians sitting in Memorial Church pews. The voice had even taken part in the inauguration of Presidents Bush and Reagan.

But this past November, the voice of the Rev. Peter J. Gomes, Plummer professor of Christian morals and minister of Memorial Church, made an announcement that stunned campuses and church communities around the nation.

Gomes had read a 56-page issue of the conservative magazine Peninsula--an issue devoted to articles critical of homosexuality--the day before. On a cool late autumn afternoon, and in the same booming tones and grammatically immaculate sentences with which he preaches, the voice carried a new message to students: Their minister is gay.


"I'm a Christian who also happens to be gay," Gomes announced at a Bisexual, Gay and Lesbian Students Association (BGLSA) rally in front of Memorial Church that day. "These realities, which are irreconcilable to some, are reconcilable to me."

The BGLSA supporters, at once stunned and euphoric, hailed the announcement as a victory over campus conservatives.

"I was really proud," says Sandi L. Dubowski '92, former BGLSA cochair. "I feel like it was he biggest coup against people like [the AssociationAgainst Learning in the Absence of Religion andMorality] and Peninsula."

"I think every once in a while in a lifetimewhat you usually do must yield to what you mustdo," Gomes says now of his decision.

While Gomes won the support of the gay andlesbian community, he made enemies of someconservative Christian students.

Peninsula writers immediately attackedthe minister and Summer E. Anderson '92, thecontroversial former president of the RepublicanClub, publicly suggested that Gomes resign.

"I have great respect for Gomes' intellectualcapabilities and his personal integrity, butunless he openly admits homosexual behavior to besinful, I feel compelled to call for his immediateresignation as minister of Memorial Church," wroteAnderson in a November 20 letter to The Crimson.

Anderson says he is challenging Gomes on theissue of Biblical authority rather than on that ofpersonal sexual preference. Gomes was targeted notbecause he is gay but because he preaches thathomosexuality is not a sin, Anderson says.

"[My opposition to Gomes] revolves around theissue of homosexuality, but it's much deeper thanthat. It's about the Bible's authority," saysAnderson, who see Gomes' challenge to traditionalChristian teaching on homosexuality as a threat toother fundamental religious tenets.

"It's so clear that once [the sanction againsthomosexuality] does, that completely underminesthe Christian family," Anderson says.

Gomes a Baptist, says Peninsula staffershave warped Christian principles to suit their ownpurposes.