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Dr. W. Norman Pittenger

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Sometime during the 1970s Dr. Pittenger was invited by his long-time friend Canon Clinton R. Jones of Christ Church Cathedral in...Read More

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(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 1966.

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 birthday. 

(This biographical statement provided by Richard T. Nolan.)

Additional Resources

  1. Donald S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church: A User-Friendly Reference for Episcopalians (2000).
  2. Contemporary Authors (updated 2004) – a library reference series published by Thomson Gale.
  3. Excerpts from Aldrich R. & Wotherspoon G., Who's Who in Contemporary Gay and Lesbian History, from WWII to Present Day (2001).
  4. http://andrejkoymasky.com/liv/fam/biop2/pitt2.html .
  5. 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”. 
  6. 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

Created: 2/27/2006 3:54:22 PM

Modified: 2/26/2014 2:20:59 PM

Biography: February, 2006