Jokingly proclaiming that Presbyterians will never decide on full acceptance of gays and lesbians because they like talking about sex too much, openly gay Harvard University divinity professor the Rev. Dr. Peter J. Gomes recently brought his unique take on religion and homosexuality to McCormick Theological Seminary's annual reunion event.
Gomes, an American Baptist minister, gave three lectures at the event, held April 30-May 1. McCormick is one of 12 theological institutions in the country associated with the Presbyterian Church ( U.S.A. ) .
Gomes dotted his second lecture, Communicating the Word in the Public Square, with references to gay issues, specifically the Presbyterian Church's struggle over whether to allow the ordination of openly gay clergy and recognize gay unions.
" ( Officials ) are not eager to split the church again," he said. "I hope that you will make the right decision. I think you know what I think."
The Presbyterian Church's governing board currently prohibits gay marriage, ordination and ministry. Gay-rights advocates in the church scored a victory earlier this year when a proposal to ban Presbyterian clergy from performing same-sex union ceremonies was voted down by the church's presbyteries in mid-March.
Gomes also encouraged GLBT Presbyterians and their allies to keep fighting and working alongside those in the denomination who oppose gay rights.
"Yes, we are to labor with our brothers and sisters in the gospel whether they will hear it or not," he said. "As long as we are bound together by the covenant of grace, we are tied together."
"I am for persistent conversation as long as there is breathe in the body," he said. "Don't abandon our brethren, even when we disagree."
The Presbyterian Church's next national assembly is set for June 9-16 in Louisville. Church members said there are between 20 and 25 gay issues brought before the assembly each year for a vote, and they range from very pro- to very anti-gay.
Gomes said he believes the civil rights advances of the last century...such as those relating to women and minorities...have come "because Christians had discerned that it was the right thing to do." He predicted that the same would be true of gay rights.
In response to an audience question on Jesus' opinion of homosexuals, Gomes said, "Jesus said nothing on the subject of homosexuality. We have no evidence of anything. What would Jesus do? Look at what he's done with similar ... people. He would accept them as they were ... . He keeps company with those who the respectable do not keep company with. Hang everything through love God and love thy neighbor. I think we have a pretty good idea what he would want us to do."
Gomes has been the minister in The Memorial Church at Harvard University since 1970, and he was named the Plummer Professor of Christian Morals in 1974.