PUC Legal Counsel Requests Removal of "Adam and Steve" Video

(system) #1

On Wednesday, archival video of pastor and Pacific Union College Chaplain Jonathan Henderson’s widely viewed “Adam and Steve” sermon from his Fall Revival series at PUC disappeared from the PUC Church livestream page. The video had garnered over 33,000 views and quickly spread virally on social media before suddenly going offline.

Spectrum featured the video on October 10 as that day’s Sabbath Sermon. It became one of the most viewed articles for the month of October.

Following the unheralded disappearance of all the videos from the Fall series, we asked the PUC Church and the college campus where the video went.

In response to our inquiry, PUC President, Dr. Heather Knight, sent the following reply through the office of Vice President for Enrollment and Marketing, Jennifer Tyner:

We appreciate the interest in the recent Fall Revival at Pacific Union College, which occurred now some 3 weeks ago. However, we do not want the intentional integration of Adventist faith and learning, which happens daily at PUC, to be overshadowed or misunderstood because of this series of presentations, which has garnered great interest and many varied responses from members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Heather J. Knight, Ph.D. President Pacific Union College

In an email message, Mark Witas, the Lead Teaching Pastor of the PUC Church, filled in the details of the video’s removal from the church livestream page, noting that it stemmed from a request by the university:

As far as what has happened to videos that were posted...these are decisions that have not been made by me. PUC's legal counsel asked us to take the series down at this time. My heart breaks when I see in the many sides of this issue angry people online that represent the different views on this subject within our church. I believe they are making it even harder for some to step into our churches to learn about the all embracing grace of Jesus. As for me, I want to connect as many people to the vine as I possibly can.

Jonathan Henderson spoke very briefly about the situation, reiterating only that the decision to remove the series of videos involved the university’s legal counsel and was “very disappointing.”

While it was unclear, after conversations with college administration and with church leaders, what precipitated the decision to remove the video series after its three weeks online, a PUC spokesperson confirmed that numerous comments reached the president’s office, both in favor and in disapproval of the “Adam and Steve” video in particular.

One email exchange between former PUC employee Gigi Beckham and President Knight insight into what detractors had to say. Beckham posted an unedited copy of the exchange publicly on Facebook. Her letter to Knight read in part:

“As a current nursing student and former employee at the Records Office, I have wonderful memories of the events and people here. Unfortunately, the atmosphere on campus is such that I feel I cannot, in good conscious, encourage my daughters to attend this school. Should they attend here, my concern would be that they would no longer abide by the guidance and principles I felt convicted to teach them.

After listening to Pastor Henderson’s sermon, I felt the time had come to voice my disappointment and concerns and forward them to your office for your records. I appreciate your leadership of the school. The campus is beautiful, but, as a parent, the moral atmosphere of a college takes priority as a factor in choosing a school for my daughters. May the Lord continue to guide you in your work. Sincerely, Gigi C. Beckham

President Knight, in her reply to Beckham (also posted in its entirety on Beckham’s Facebook page), said that she was “taking steps to counsel with Chaplain Henderson who is a new employee of the College” (Henderson began as chaplain on September 1, 2014).

“I hope that we will be able to win back your trust, and that you will see PUC as a wonderful institution to which to send your wonderful daughters at the appropriate time,” Knight said in the message. Beckham thanked the president, but remained nonplussed.

News of the removal of the video spread quickly online. Tweets, Facebook posts and emails swirled like Autumn leaves all day Wednesday and into Thursday. One attention-grabbing tweet from an account purporting to be PUC Campus Ministry (@pucministry) said, “For the record PUC Campus Ministries does NOT support the removal of Pastor Henderson's week of prayer sermon.” Pastor Witas from the PUC Church and VP Tyner from the college both confirmed that the account had no official relation to the college, and neither one knew the person behind the account. The account owner did not respond to requests for comment.

While news of the “Adam and Steve” video’s removal moved fast, so did efforts to bring the video back online. Several YouTube accounts re-posted the video within hours of its disappearance. One account, called “Adventist Snowden,” created a companion Facebook page Thursday morning.

In addition to the copies of the video posted online, archival podcasts from the Fall Revival series including the “Adam and Steve” message remained live on the PUC Church website. They were not deleted along with the video.

Pastor Witas corrected a rumor that surfaced in the wake of the video's removal that the church's livestream service had been suspended and that any videos posted would need review and approval by college administration. First, Witas noted, the livestream service for the church remains active. Jon Henderson is scheduled to preach this coming Saturday, and the service will be broadcast live. Second, well before Henderson's famous Fall Revival series, the church and college had begun discussing the recording and distribution of college event videos filmed in the church's auditorium. That layer of approval became necessary in part because several speakers with specific contract stipulations, notably Dr. Benjamin Carson, have recently spoken for the college's colloquy. Some contracts forbid recordings altogether.

Before publishing this article, we heard from numerous current PUC students and recent grads who shared their reactions to the university’s removal of the "Adam and Steve" video.

“I think that this a big issue in the Adventist church,” said PUC sophomore Brett Dickinson, “but one that is not discussed enough because people are afraid to approach the situation. I felt the sermon was the best commentary I have heard on the subject. I was really sad when I was told the school took it down from the website.”

Nic Miller, the PR and Marketing officer for PUC’s student association was not surprised by the video’s disappearance. “The PUC Student Association met to talk about what’s going on with Henderson; we want to support him,” said Miller. “He is our chaplain.”

Ashley Vance, a recent graduate and Gay and Straight People (GASP) member of over four years at PUC, was disappointed to see the series scrubbed from the web.

“Frustrated and resigned are my biggest emotions,” she said in a phone interview. “This is what happens at PUC, we take a step forward and then it gets pulled. I was almost expecting something like this would happen again.”

Vance describes the cycle she has seen many times on the PUC campus, and how she hopes it will change. “This is what happens. Both sides get up in arms and there is anger for awhile. And then we start talking. I just wish we could cut the angry part out and get back to listening and understanding why people think and feel the way they do.”

Film/Theater major Camilo Nazar said Pastor Henderson's message opened up a conversation that many young people never had with a leader of the church. “It created a new level of trust between church and youth,” he said.

“I don't think people realize how much harder life gets for a young person if they are gay and how hard it is to feel like they belong in a Christian church, Adventist or otherwise. The fact that the sermon was taken down is heartbreaking.”

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/6377

(Jonathan Cook) #2

Do we know what rationale PUC’s legal counsel gave for the removal of the video? By removing the video it has caused an actual scandal. Evidently a message of love and inclusion is too radical and dangerous a message to send from the pulpit at PUC. Count me as a disappointed alum.

(Jonathan Cook) #3

Evidently someone who had a copy of the video has posted it online. Here is a link for those interested in viewing it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJvQaqnfM-w

(Carrol Grady`) #4

This situation is holding a mirror up to the great divide in our church. I would be interested to know what percentage of responses were affirmative, and how many were negative.

(Tom Loop) #6

This sermon was bound to be radioactive to the larger church. Just imagine for a minute how this further fueled the rumors that already circulate among the “faithful” that Adventist colleges are fostering all kinds of heresies et al. About now their presses are most likely running overtime and cranking out all kinds of histeria. I attended a conference on this subject at Andrews in 2009. There were all kinds of “reports” spread around about that conference that were so overboard. It was ridiculous, and no one there even hinted of acceptance of same-sex relationships being okay.

So put yourself in the shoes of the college president and consider the consequences if the video hadn’t been pulled.
How many parents would decide not to send their kids to PUC. I know where I was on this subject as little as six months ago and where I am now. Two years ago when I was deciding whether to send my daughter to PUC, a sermon like this would have raised some red flags. I was already skeptical about some things I had heard back then, but I let her go anyway. Let’s just say I’m glad she went.

Now I know folks who are upset over the college pulling this sermon have reasonable reasons to be peeved. I can imagine how those students who feel front and center stage here as they must live with the day to day issues of being gay must feel about now. Put yourself in their shoes as well. Better yet, put yourself in their shoes first, before you even open your mouth to protest a group on the campus of PUC that is trying to be a safe haven for students in the crucible of all this. Think about them and their need for someone to talk to about their fears and struggles. Put your clobber texts away long enough to get to know some gays and you’ll get an attitude adjustment big time. Be sure and park your yuck factor at the door. No one needs a conditonal love arm around them.

Minds change slowly. I know mine did. I think one of the problems is people are fearful of what they don’t know.
This has become such a lightning rod issue in the church, with battlelines drawn and swords poised for a duel, that we often forget that we are suppose to behave as christians.

In the final analysis, we must ask WWJD. Yes, I know the text you are thinking about, the one where Jesus says “go and sin no more.” It seems like that is the part that is trumpeted, while the “neither do I condemn you” is muted, or worse yet deleted. Remember now those were Jesus words to a hooker. Why is it that so many people see gays in such a debased paradyne? There is always this call for repentence from people who don’t even know if there is anything going on in a person’s life to repent of.

Billy Graham once was asked, what he would say if his son told him he was gay. He said “He would love him even more.” Graham later added that “It is the Holy Spirits job to convict, God’s part to judge, and my part to love.” Now there is a 1corinthians 13 man in the flesh. .I believe we need to do the same.


I remember seeing this short 7 min clip of a pastor named David Wilkinson (Non-denominational), a couple years ago or so. And I believe with all my heart that this is the type of preaching we need too. Where you say "Woe is me, for I am ruined!

I would really pray and hope some of you would watch this, as I said, its only 7 mins. Word of warning though, if you like smooth things then I advise you not watch it, it gets quit emotional and heart breaking.

A Call to Anguish - David Wilkerson

(Dee Roberts) #8

I am actually surprised it stayed up as long as it did, but I find it interesting that the legal counsel go involved. This is so reminiscent of the story of Christ in the temple as the leading legal minds of the Jewish religious leadership approached Christ to inquiry about the “law”. Of course Christ’s response in love god and the second is like it, love your fellow man as you love yourself. Somehow we fail to grasp it institutionally…

As for PUC’s president, I’m sure she has been under the gun both from the institutional SDA hierarchy, and some of the deep pockets. I am sure that as with most professionals there is a driving desire to maintain position for both the individual and the institution as the success of both is tied together. Managing a volatile issue like this “well” is good for both the individual and the institution.

We can rejoice that this sermon got preached and that so many saw it, and I expect many more will via other sources…

(Steve Mga) #9

Like some others, I am surprised the Sermon stayed on the Internet as long as it did.
This is just ANOTHER incident where Moneyed Persons control the ability to have
rational dialogue in the church.
Back in the early 80s it was Money that pressured Southern to decimate their Religion
Department and a number of pastoral-teacher careers were ruined, and at least one
even left the church for another denomination.
This is another example of the RIFT between Generations, the Generation Gap is the
biggest problem in the Church. The younger Generation would like to discuss Issues,
the Older Generation wants to sweep the Issues under the Rug and pretend they are
not there. And refuse to acknowledge them and refuses to allow them to be discussed.
And then we wonder WHY persons ages 15 to 30 lack interest in the Church.

It may be TRUE that THIS parent would not want her older teen child to attend PUC.
However, it is the ability to discuss “Adam and Steve” in an open way that will decide
many others that PUC IS a Safe place to go, and will apply for Admission just because
of this. 33,000 SDAs watching a Week of Prayer presentation is no SMALL event!!!
Over 6000 persons looking at this Spectrum comment is also no SMALL event!!!

(Allen Shepherd) #10

Of course it could never be that there is a genuine honest disagreement with actions of the church or university. The lady who wrote the letter was courteous
in her rehearsal of why she would not send her daughter. So why this “moneyed persons” statement?

You see Steve, It is not some evil conspiracy that supports the teaching of the church on this issue, but folk that have a interest in keeping it from the blemishes that would make it an improper witness or a place to train children for godliness.

Didn’t you suggest recently that the owner of a gay night club was a person of virtue? Maybe the Religion Dept of PUC should introduce some new courses: “God and Gay Clubbing 101” or “Brothels and Bathhouses: The Inner City Witness 402”? I am not sure you know the difference between right an wrong. (Excessive. - website editor) Could we trust you with our children?

(Allen Shepherd) #11

Or a message of compromise and unwillingness to deal faithfully with the teachings of the institution that hired him.
Of course he is fee to preach what he wants, but as a paid employee, he should probably support its teachings. Managers at McDonald’s don’t promote Burger King while on the job. Or should they be allowed?

(Rohan Charlton) #12

Managers at McDonald’s don’t promote Burger King while on the job.

Excellent analogy.

Agreed. A corporate entity protecting its trademark and thus ensuring the loyalty of its customer base.

Well said.

The most important message of Christianity:love and total absolute over and over redemption, marginalized for the business model.

Sad eh?!

(George Tichy) #13

The legal counsel is being blamed for the absurdity, but I am not sure… It may be just the use of the “scapegoat technique” to obscure the real deal.
Manipulation and withdrawal of information are certainly at full force in this case…

(George Tichy) #14

I wonder whether anyone at PUC thought that by just making the video “disappear miraculously” would work. Are those people so naive? They must have known that in the YouTube era this type of info can no longer be hidden from the public.

(Chris Blake24) #15

“This is what happens. Both sides get up in arms and there is anger for
awhile. And then we start talking. I just wish we could cut the angry
part out and get back to listening and understanding why people think
and feel the way they do.”

Thank you, Ashley Vance, for this prescient and pithy comment. I wish the same.

Dialogue is required for enduring, redemptive growth on any perspective.

(George Tichy) #16

Well, TW’s counterpart (church leader) in Rome is opening the doors. There is now an option available for those who are SDA gays and finding the SDA’s doors being closed on them. It seems that the official Adventism is not willing to even have a conversation about the issue.
It will end up backfiring on those failing leaders.

(Floyd Poenitz) #17

How sad. It is like being given a present and then having it ripped out of your hands because you aren’t deemed worthy of receiving such a gift. Too many people playing God in this scenario.
We are more attuned to appearances and perceptions (our outer garment) than we are of what counts and that is on the inside that folks can’t see but that they can feel. What is playing out here at PUC speaks volumes to this and sends out a clear message of where the school stands on this issue. It is not a safe place for those who aren’t robots.

(George Tichy) #18

One of my parakeets told me some time ago that the PUC President’s goal was, since the beginning, to make PUC a fine and very faithful “Adventist” institution, a model of what traditional and conservative Adventism is.

This was apparently one of the reasons why @afulton Professor Aubin Fulton had some friction with her some time ago. As reported, Aubin had the audacity to deal with reality… And he still does!..

(George Tichy) #19

ALL fast food chains use buns and burgers. Just prepared slightly different…

(Dee Roberts) #20

Funny how little birds in my neck of the woods have said the same thing…

(Tom Loop) #21

This was pathetic. I would rather have a tooth pulled without novacane than listen to this guy for an hour. I see that his rant is born out of anguish. He would rather curse the darkness than turn a light on. Such methods are becoming more marginalized with each passing day. Why doesn’t he instead lift high the joy found in a life committment to Jesus, instead of seeing darkness everywhere. The world is indeed a dark place if that’s what one is looking for. It only attracts more darkness, because misery loves company. George ? Elmer? Could either of you squeeze this guy into your busy schedule for some help in trying to get him to take his blindfold off.