GCMW Note: This letter was originally written and sent out to West Angeles members following substantial protest of the appearance of Dr. Peter Gomes, a gay cleric from Harvard University at Bishop Blake’s church. It is unedited.
Clarification Regarding the Visit of Dr. Peter Gomes to West Angeles Church
By Bishop Charles E. Blake November 22, 2003
During my more than forty years of ministry, I have been blessed to develop many circles of friendships and working relationships. One of my most prized circles is a group of Holiness Pentecostal young people who reside in Boston. They are led by Pastor Eugene Rivers, and are primarily students and graduates of Harvard University. I am proud to be considered by them as their spiritual father. This Azusa Fellowship, as they are called, have been my invaluable helpers and my associates in the efforts that I have made on behalf of the people of Africa, and especially the children of Africa.
It was through this Azusa Fellowship that I became associated with another of my partners, Harvard University. It was Harvard’s Center for International Development that hosted a two-day briefing for me, and a group of ministers selected by me. Several department heads and professors briefed us on the tragic statistics of suffering, poverty, and death in Africa. It was during that briefing that my heart was in a special way turned toward the orphans of Africa.
The people of West Angeles Church, our friends from Boston, and others from around the world joined together to support the Pan African Children’s Fund which now supports one hundred and ten orphanages in sixteen African nations. That number increases almost daily as others are added to the list.
As a result of these and other accomplishments, the Harvard Divinity School, the Harvard Foundation, and the Memorial Church, joined together to confer upon me the Harvard “Humanitarian of the Year” award. It was at this event that I delivered the speech, “The Joseph Paradigm: Toward a New Pan African Vision”. Across the world, presidents, government officials and economic leaders have read and been influenced by this message which was delivered by me at Memorial
Church at Harvard University. Professor Peter Gomes, the Pastor of the Church, hosted the event, and graciously hosted an elaborate dinner in my honor at his home. About fifteen distinguished guests were present. His church is the official campus church at Harvard. Harvard is one of the leading universities, if not the leading university, in the nation and possibly the world.
A year later, I was invited back again to Memorial Church to preach at the Sunday morning service attended by Administrators, faculty, and students of Harvard University. I was honored to preach the Gospel at Harvard. To my knowledge, I am the only Holiness Pentecostal minister to preach there in recent years. The people were blessed, and we still receive requests from individuals for copies of the message which I preached there. Professor Peter Gomes again was my gracious host who honored me, and the pastors who accompanied me. He again invited us to his home for a delicious dinner. The fifteen guests around the table participated in extensive conversation regarding the plight of Africa and the work of the Pan African Children’s Fund and Save Africa’s Children. On none of my three visits did Dr. Gomes behave inappropriately, or say anything inappropriate. He did not attempt to restrict my preaching or my ministry in anyway. A Holiness-Pentecostal preacher preached to hundreds of people many of whom had never heard or seen a Holiness-Pentecostal preacher before. The door of Harvard, with its thousands of young people who will be world leaders, was repeatedly opened to me not only by Dr. Gomes, but by a host of individuals at Harvard.
When Dr. Gomes subsequently informed me that he intended to visit Los Angeles, it was my joy, and my obligation, to invite him to do as he, on more than one occasion, had allowed me to do at his church, Harvard’s Memorial Church. He came to West Angeles Church, and he preached twice on one Sunday morning. His text was Romans 12:1, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” His preaching was true and faithful to the text, and approximately seventy-five people gave their lives to the Lord on that day, and became members of West Angeles Church.
Following his visit to West Angeles, several individuals began to fax, e-mail, and distribute information regarding Dr. Gomes, which indicated that he had in the past uttered words and committed actions which conflicted with Bible teachings and Christian morals. I had not seen any of the data that they distributed. I was unaware of the facts that they communicated about his past. I did not know of his advocacy of an unbiblical and immoral lifestyle. But, based on these revelations regarding him, these individuals have proceeded to make accusations against me. They have accused me of having “close affiliation with Gomes and others from the gay movement.” They have accused me of sanctioning and approving his lifestyle. This is patently false. One anonymous item even includes a question of me bringing Dr. Gomes to my home. The innuendo of these things is disturbing to say the least. Let me say to every individual who may have heard such inflammatory things, this is simply false information. It never happened. This man has never been to my home. It is understandable that good, well meaning people might hear such misleading statements and be offended, confused and even outraged. I am outraged and offended, also. There is too much at stake to leave this unanswered.
So please let me say clearly to all who will honestly hear my heart. Let me say it for myself. My allowing him to preach at West Angeles Church in no way indicates my support or endorsement of any of the unbiblical teachings or actions described in the distributed material. I was unaware of these teachings and involvements. Yet I apologize to all who were offended in any way.
For forty-six years, I have preached the gospel of salvation and holiness. For thirty-four years, I have served West Angeles Church. I have stood and still stand for righteousness and biblical moral standards. I have stood for marriage, which, by definition, must be between a male and a female, a man and a woman. I have stood for the integrity of the family. I have stood against and preached against all manner of sin and unrighteousness. Homosexuality has never been and will never be my temptation. But all sin is sin. The practice of homosexuality is a sin. But, it is not the only sin. I have also stood for forgiveness, mercy, and respect for all human beings. It has been my joy to see God forgive thousands of people for all kinds of sins and transgressions. I have seen people whom nobody thought could ever change, change into productive saints and servants of the Lord. Everybody is in the process of some kind of change. Many times we may judge someone for what they were, while God has already made them into something and someone new and different.
As soul winners, as the salt of the earth and the light of the world, we must reach out to those who are entangled in the web of sin. I hope that our church will not be known as a place of judgment and negativism, but rather as a place where any sincere person can come and find love and forgiveness. As I travel the world, I deal with all kinds of people. I met Larry Flynt, the owner of Penthouse at a restaurant a few days ago. I don’t know what would happen if he came to church. I have another acquaintance who is a bar and nightclub owner. I don’t read Penthouse, and I don’t drink. But, I love everybody, and I will talk to anybody. Some of them will visit West Angeles; some of them will follow me here to West Angeles. When they do, I hope that West Angeles Church will welcome them and extend to them the redeeming love of Jesus Christ. After all, all of us practiced sin until God saved us, and even after that, God still has to work on us. “And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Cor 6:11)In Mark 2:15-17, the Bible says: 15 “Now it happened, as He (Jesus) was dining in Levi’s house, that many tax collectors and sinners also sat together with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many, and they followed Him.16 And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eating with the tax collectors and sinners, they said to His disciples, “How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?”17 When Jesus heard it, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”