(William) Norman Pittenger (July 23, 1905 - June 19, 1997) was a foremost
20th century pioneer in the exploration of human sexuality within a Christian
context. His 1967 Time for Consent: A Christian's Approach to
Homosexuality was probably the first work in the English language by a
prominent theologian that argued for the full acceptance of committed same-sex
relationships within the Christian Church. After the publication of this book,
courageous for his era, Pittenger became discreetly open about his own
homosexual orientation. His circumspect, long-term relationship was with Carlo
[family name unknown], a gentleman he had met in Europe. For several decades Dr.
Pittenger included in his scholarly pursuits writings about human sexuality, and
he supported gay movements for equality - including Integrity, the Episcopal
Church’s official association for LGBT individuals. In 1975 he gave the keynote
address to the first national convention of Integrity entitled "Making a Case
for Gays in the Church and in the Ministry."
Born in Bogota, New Jersey, Pittenger studied at Columbia University (N.Y.)
and subsequently at General Theological Seminary (N.Y.) where he earned the
degree of Bachelor of Sacred Theology (1936) followed by a Master of Sacred
Theology degree (1939). He was ordained deacon on June 11, 1936, and priest on
Feb. 24, 1937, in the Episcopal Church. Berkeley Divinity School (CT) awarded
him an honorary Doctor of Sacred Theology degree (1949), and General Seminary
also granted him an honorary S.T.D. when he retired from its faculty in
A leading, international process theologian, Pittenger was a faculty member
at General Seminary from 1935 to 1966, first as a tutor and later as the
seminary’s professor of Christian apologetics, a full professor from 1951
to 1966. He then moved to the University of Cambridge (England), where he was
made an honorary senior member and resident of the University’s King’s College
and a part-time lecturer in Divinity.
Dr. Pittenger’s most substantial work, The Word Incarnate: A Study of the
Doctrine of the Person of Christ, was published in 1959. Earlier, in 1951,
he had coauthored with James A. Pike The Faith of the Church, the
authorized theology text for laypersons in “The Teaching Series” of The
Episcopal Church. The list of his nearly ninety books on a wide variety of
philosophical, theological and historical topics is accessible on the website of
the Library of Congress at http://catalog.loc.gov/. A
Festschrift (i.e., a volume of writings by various people collected in
honor of someone notable) Lux in Lumine: Essays to Honor W. Norman
Pittenger (1966), was presented to him at the time of his retirement from
General Seminary. His 1969 essay “Process Theology” is available in the “All
Handouts” subsite of http://www.philosophy-religion.org/.
Additionally, ten of his books are online at http://www.religion-online.org/;
search Pittenger in the “Index By Author”.
In addition to his writing and teaching, Dr. Pittenger was active in the
ecumenical movement and had been at various times chairman of the North American
Theological Commission on Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches,
president of the American Theological Society, vice president of the American
Church Congress, Standing Committee on the Church and Social Problems of the
National Council of Churches, and chaplain for the Guild of Scholars of the
Episcopal Church. He lectured internationally and was a visiting professor at a
number of universities.
Dr. Pittenger died at Cambridge in 1997 - just five weeks short of his 92nd
Resources for further Pittenger biographical information:
- Donald S.
Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church: A
User-Friendly Reference for Episcopalians (2000).
(updated 2004) – a library reference series published by Thomson Gale.
- Excerpts from Aldrich R. & Wotherspoon G., Who's Who in
Contemporary Gay and Lesbian History, from WWII to Present Day (2001).
- http://andrejkoymasky.com/liv/fam/biop2/pitt2.html .
- Episcopal Church Archives at http://www.episcopalarchives.org/
Search “Pittenger” in the “All” Collection for: The Living Church (July
27, 1997) Obituary -- Norman Pittenger; and The Living Church (September 14, 1997) Lyndon
Harris, “Recalling William Norman Pittenger 1905-1997”.
- William Hurdman and Nigel Hancock, “The Revd Dr. Norman
Pittenger” (reflections on his life and thought); access within http://www.ely.anglican.org/parishes/camgsm/Majestas/1997/November.html
(This biographical statement provided by Richard T. Nolan.)