Pastor Who Condoned Marital Rape Resigns; Questions Remain

Dr. Burnett L. Robinson, former senior pastor of the Grand Concourse Seventh-day Adventist Church, resigned on November 24. Robinson had been put on leave after telling his congregation that “the best person to rape is your wife” during a sermon preached on November 13. In the sermon, Robinson said that married women belong to their husbands and falsely suggested that raping one’s spouse is legal.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/11518

This particular case lends itself for an extensive case study. While the remarks by Dr. Robinson are outrageous, toxic and plain wrong by any reasoning, there obviously is more to the story than the excitement of social media would suggest. Just a few questions:

  • If indeed he has a history of violent behaviour - how come he was employed by the GNYC?
  • What do we make of the cheering of his church for his sermon(s)? Are there implications to that?
  • How unique is his position on “submission” (absurd as it may appear here)?
  • What do the intense calls to fire him immediately (i.e. without due process) say about ourselves?

None of these questions intend to relativize the wrongs of Burnett Robinson in any way. It rather is a feeble attempt to raise the systemic question of sexual violence and abuse of power - which will not be answered by simply removing (disfellowshipping, ostracizing, shaming) the offender.

Perhaps this case offers an opportunity to look at the broader picture and not go back to business as usual once this particual “case” (BR) is resolved to our satisfaction.

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it’s difficult to overlook the possibility, or even probability, that Robinson felt he had a green light to articulate his marital rape comments with the audience he was speaking to…after-all, pastors aren’t usually ignorant of what their congregations think and feel, nor do they normally craft their sermons without reference to what they know their congregations believe…

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It seems telling to me that the conference administration was not aware of the sermon until it was circulating on social media. That means that nobody attending his church when he preached that sermon, saw any reason for concern (or at least, not enough reason for concern to report it to his superiors!).

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It seems to me this goes to the question of how, and exactly who’s being “converted” in Adventism’s rush to reverse declining membership by evangelizing people in cultures which have little or no understanding of the history of the sect into which they’re being baptized, nor any concept of how internally conflicted Adventism is at this point in its history.

As I mentioned a few times recently i spent a year in West Africa. And while I know that doesn’t make me an anthropologist, I can say that I worked on a daily basis with some of the most decent, open and caring people I’ve met, before or since.

However, if I had been there as a missionary and my job was to baptize a guy who had previously asked me, in all seriousness, if the astronauts found god when they landed on the moon, I would hope and pray that I instantly felt an abject revulsion for my occupation.

Selling EGW as god’s latest prophet may be as easy as taking candy from a baby in many third world circumstances but it is no more moral than that.

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I suggest that it is Important to Note that the Title of the Sermon is at least related to a Classic AMAZING FACTS pamplet printed with Lurid Color Illustrations and found on the Literature Evangelism racks of our churches for DECADES… I do believe that I saw a revised version of one of them earlier this year here in the Midwest whilst visiting family… google…google… Yes… Here it is — “Has Holy Wedlock Become Unholy Deadlock.”

A Review of ALL such “Literature” could be salutary…No?

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All not so new for me here. Have a former boxing champion as now “converted” to ministry career - - oh boy, his sermons and - once, years after - his public confession - - -
What did he learn for himself in his Bible lessons before baptism and what in our seminary ?

(Greatly admired as a “voice from Heaven” by his auditorium !)

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A sad illustration of how ignorant many people, including pastors, are of the Bible. When Pastor Robinson preached about “submit yourselves to your husbands” Ephesians 5:22), he totally overlooked the passage that says “slaves obey your masters”. Colossians 3:22. Both verses considered to have been written by Paul.

Did he really think he could preach one verse and totally ignore the other which I doubt he would agree with?

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Repeatedly : There (well, quite seldom, I admit) I got acquainted with quite crude, brutal men, converted, feeling a call for ministry, seminary, ordained - - the atmosphere in their family - their private mater ! - and “powerful” preaching from the pulpit, “powerful speech” (well, ordinary, that is all !) in their writings, - - and in Church having their fan clubs !

I would assume that. And it speaks for the conference that they acted immediately and clearly, and allowed the NAD to get involved as well. They even apologized (and published the apology of Robinson) - impressive, because they admitted some responsibility here. It could be and hopefully will be a learning moment though. The conference apparently was oblivious to what kind of person they had hired. Are we to believe they could not have noticed? What is it that experienced conference administrator fall for phonies - on the basis of “powerful” rhetoric? Seems to me we have a lot to learn - check our theology, check our common sense and our priorities.

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Why are so many missing the elephant in the room? This is precisely the culture which Ted has counted on to suppress WO. There are more Adventists in Africa by far than there are in the Western World. The fact that this pastor could present this kind of sacrilege before his congregation without immediate repudiation, shows just how the culture in that part of the world looks at women in all aspects of their society including the ministry. I have said it several times on this blog that this is the society that still practices female genital mutilation in some places. It explains why we are still grappling with WO. This bares the very bones of Ted’s ability to squash WO at the GC.

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Where did this Pastor receive his education? How long has he been ordained? He obviously does not know how to give Bible Based sermons.

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Nd did nobody of his teachers, of his pastor guiding him into ministry, ever notice this crude attitude of brutality , now exposed in his sermon we learned of ? How about his other sermons and ministerial advices ?

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It’s very very depressing that attitudes like this seem to be common in a church that should be based on equality and respect especially between men and women. It’s simply not OK, ever, to consider that wives are owned by husbands, or that woman should be subordinate to men. The saddest and most disturbing sermon I ever heard was at a beautiful young couple’s wedding where the (white) pastor / youth director told them that she now belonged to him and had to obey him. Luckily they were so much better than that and have a happy and equal relationship. However, we were so disturbed by the sermon and the impact it could have had on a different couple.

Virtually every wrong towards women is found in different religious systems. It’s salutary to realise that every horrible thing in Margaret Attwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale has actually happened to women and most have been in the context of abuse of power by men in religious structures.

I think the Adventist church can only redeem this attitude clearly by endorsing woman and, belatedly, agreeing to the full ordination of woman. The refusal to do so is shaming this church and empowering men to look down on women.

It’s time to rise up against this evil in our midst en masse and with total clarity of purpose.

It’s only when we work fully together, equally and with total respect that the magic can happen.

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I agree completely, WO is certainly one issue where the authoritarians of the church prefer to continue discrimination, but it is not the only one. God’s love is either free and unconditional, or it is only available to those who can be good enough.

I had a similar experience some years ago. A pastor, with whom I had attended college performed the marriage ceremony for one of my daughter’s close friends, who had just graduated from college herself. The homily was so unflattering and defamatory to women, that I was horrified. Happily, like your young friends, this couple was oblivious of his remarks. I approached the pastor afterwards, since I knew him and asked if his marriage was in trouble. He was baffled, and I responded by stating that I could not understand how any presiding minister could be so negative without some extreme, negative experience of his own. I hope he got the message.

It sounds like an audit of pastor’s wedding sermons is the place to start.
This organisation also needs a formal complaints procedure so that concerns can get linked to a person’s employment history.

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See or hear something, record it and say something. Light clears the darkness.

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