Sabbath Sermon: Adam and Steve

(system) #1

New Pacific Union College chaplain and PUC Church associate pastor Jonathan Henderson took the university’s week of prayer as an opportunity to deliver a message that has resonated deeply with LGBTQ Adventists and their allies.

On Wednesday night, October 8, Pastor Henderson took the PUC Church stage for the third night in a row in a series on relationships. Monday night he highlighted Adam and God; Tuesday focused on Adam and Eve; and on Wednesday, Adam and Steve were the focal point of the conversation.

Henderson started his presentation with a humorous tone, noting that he still had his job, despite the intense nature of his sermons.

After beginning with prayer Henderson asked the audience to recognize his limitations understanding homosexuality. “You need to hear the perspective of those who have walked this journey,” he said. “I am not an expert. I am not the Holy Spirit. I am not the Judge. I am not the prophet. I am your chaplain, who is still on his journey, and I am wanting to understand even better.”

Henderson quoted Matthew 19:3-12 (NIV) to propel his sermon. He focused on verse 8: “Jesus replied, ‘Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.’”

Henderson went on to say that God gave in on this issue of divorce, despite this not having been God’s intent in the beginning.

“You need to realize that God has given in often throughout history to us,” said Henderson.

He cited God’s giving the Israelites a king when they asked for it, even though God was their King. When David, a “man after God’s own heart” became King, he was good, but after time, he became corrupt.

“They [the Israelites] chose to be a part of something that was never God’s original design, but this is the world we live in,” said Henderson. “How I wish we could all go back to the way things used to be,” he continued. “And interestingly enough, God works with us in our own sinful matrix. How often that God has to put up with the way that we chose to do things. It was not God’s will that Eve take the fruit and that Adam also partook in it.”

Henderson stated that maybe even up to 90% of the things that happened in the Bible did not happen as God wanted it to happen.

“And you’ll say ‘but no, it’s God’s will!’” added Henderson. “God is just willing to allow us have our well. That’s it. Let’s just keep it real….just because God knew it was going to happen, doesn’t mean that God planned it.”

Henderson suggested that acting as though God is in control of everything is unhelpful, because then God bears responsibility for every molestation, hungry person, and murderer.

“God isn’t in control,” Henderson said. “He gave that over to you, and look what we’ve done with it.”

Henderson preached that what really upsets God is when people hurt other people. He cited Nineveh as an example, calling it the city of blood where people walked over dead bodies in the streets.

“We keep thinking that ‘Wicked Cities’ was like people at the slot machine in Vegas—people just watching a bunch of porn. When the Bible describes evil, it’s talking about stuff that’s so scary, so disgusting, that even the wicked city doesn’t want to be around itself.”

Henderson stated that sin is everywhere, but for some reason, the church has chosen to focus on one sin that some consider worst of all. People in the church will say that God did not choose to create Adam and Steve; He created Adam and Eve.

People will say that homosexuals are like rabbits, and all they want to do is have sex. Henderson said this is a problem, because these statements dehumanize. “You create all these images as if they are not people that are having soul connections—relating to one another, identifying with one another. You need to understand the foundation of relationships…and it’s not sex! It’s heart to heart connection.”

Henderson admitted that he used to believe it was okay for same-sex couples to “have the soul connection,” but not to engage in sexual activity. As he began to read the Bible, Henderson began to see the situation differently. He realized that God can “call an audible” because the game of life changes.

In Jonah 3:10, Nineveh repented and God saw their repentance, so He changed His mind.

“Listen, the character of God never changes. His heart never changes. His love never changes. It will never–we could never be separated from that. But God will change His mind because we change! The game changes and God will adjust based on the circumstances. Why wouldn’t He? In fact, coaches get fired because they don’t know how to change their game plan within the game!”

Henderson reminded the audience that not everyone will accept or interpret the Bible the same, though some people find that hard to accept.

Henderson pointed out that in the Bible, Christ says some people are born asexual. Henderson suggested that it’s possible for people to be born homosexual. Again, this is hard for some people to accept.

“‘It just couldn’t be that way, pastor, because then somehow we wouldn’t be able to judge them in the same way that we are used to doing...If they are born that way then we might have to be more compassionate and understanding!’ And there’s something wrong with that picture!” said Henderson.

Henderson stated that while some people may be born homosexual, others might be shaped that way by experiences they had as a child. People in the church find this all hard to accept because it is complicated; it isn’t black and white. He went on, noting that people have a tendency to want to fit sins in a box, but one size does not fit all. In the past, people did not believe a white woman should marry a black man, but things change–people change, Henderson pointed out.

He asserted that people believe the Bible governs morality, but oftentimes culture shapes our moral beliefs. “We are afraid of what we don’t understand. We are afraid of what’s different,” said Henderson.

Henderson drew attention to the fact that there is a ministry on Pacific Union College’s campus called Safe Place. He believes that the fact that this group exists on campus is a “tragedy.” PUC itself should be the safe place. “How do you have a sanctuary within a sanctuary?” he asked.

Sometimes, when homosexual individuals “come out,” their parents have a hard time dealing with it. Some unsupportive parents tell their child not to bring their partner around the house. Henderson said that thankfully, this isn’t always where the story ends. Sometimes, parents come around to accept their child, and their child’s partner because they love their child, and nothing can change that.

“If your parents can come to that point, how much more will your heavenly Father, who loves you more?”

Since Henderson’s talk on Wednesday, his words have prompted an overwhelming response.

PUC student David O’Hair, who also works as the editor for the Campus Chronicle, called Henderson’s sermon surprising and great. “The talk addressed the differences between being born, made, or choosing to be part of the LGBTQ community. The honesty and different approach was refreshing to hear,” said O’Hair. “In an age where controversial issues are touched on, but never fully divulged, Pastor Henderson crafted a great message that was able to reach all listeners, not only those personally influenced by this topic.”

O’Hair stated that the “Adam and Steve” sermon seemed to draw the biggest crowd of the series so far. “I honestly have not heard one bad review of the talk or its message. It was well received and led to many discussions outside the sanctuary.”

PUC professor of psychology, Dr. Aubyn Fulton, spoke highly of Henderson’s talk. “This just may be the most powerful sermon ever preached from the PUC pulpit," he said. “What makes Jonathan's talk last night such a landmark is that it so clearly creates the space for pretty conservative Christians, who still might believe that LGBTQ is not quite what God originally had in mind, to still treat LGBTQ people with love and respect. From now on, no conservative Adventist has an excuse for their hate or rejection. We now know it is possible for people with those views to still be loving and respectful - and (I think) from now on we should expect nothing less than this.”

Seventh-Gay Adventists producer Daneen Akers also spoke passionately about Henderson’s sermon. “I was weeping through much of this sermon because I know what a step it is, and it just felt like this—this is what Jesus was talking about when he said his followers would be known by their love,” said Akers. “It’s really just the Gospel, and it’s what Christians should be known for—love and respect, even if we all don’t fully agree. But somehow we’ve gone so terribly wrong, especially around this topic, that tears are shed when someone preaches such a beautiful sermon about what Jesus said it should be all about.”

Jonathan Henderson began working at PUC in September 2014. Previously, he served as the head pastor for Grand Advent Seventh-day Adventist Church in Oakland, California for eleven years.

Watch Adam and Steve:

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

(Elaine Nelson) #2

What a powerful and loving Christian attitude. Oh, how great it would be if this were widely disseminated throughout the world church! That will not happen unless private sources could do this. But how sad that it is very doubtful if the organized church or its leaders would EVER publish this in official church documents.

(Daneen Akers) #3

It really did hit home. Here’s what I posted Wed night, after listening to this sermon: I am wiping away tears right now–the good kind. I’m wiping away tears because I just heard one of the most amazing sermons I’ve ever heard preached on homosexuality as this evening’s week of prayer talk at my alma mater, Pacific Union College. In microcosm, it was a beautiful model of what church could be like. It was humble in the face of the complexity of lived human lives; bold in confronting how our fears and cultural norms have oppressed and marginalized; holistic in seeing our relationships as not just about sexual intimacy but about connectedness and companionship; courageous in calling all to just trust God and love each other well, even if life is more gray and less black and white than we often wish; and ultimately a sanctuary for sharing, listening, and loving. My tears keep coming because I know what a step this is, and I am seeing students feeling loved, safe, and like an equally beloved child of God, some for the first time in their time on campus. This is vision of faith and God that inspires. Thank you Pastor Henderson! And thanks to Spectrum for sharing–I sincerely hope many people chose to watch this in its entirely.

(Brian) #4

I know a PUC Graduate that is gay and now he runs a gay nightclub in Tokyo. Is he a nice guy absolutely/ Does God love him of course. Bur although God loves him does he want him to stay in his sinful state? I know that being attracted to other guys or gals is not a sin, but acting on that sin or the sexual act is a sin according to Paul in the book of Romans. Just as fornicators wont be in Heaven or the sexually immoral wont be in heaven, unless they have been forgiven. I don’t think that gays or lesbeians will be there if they think that they can somehow justify their lifestyle as being Christian, We all struggle with sin but when God calls a sin an abomonation I think I will take him at his word without trying to justify the sin. I think we can all love the sinner but hate the sin.

(Jacqueline Hegarty) #5

Correction: Jonathan came from the Grand Avenue Seventh-day Adventist Church in Oakland.

(Jacqueline Hegarty) #6

“Love the sinner, hate the sin” is judgmental and offensive. Here’s why:

(Jared Wright) #7

It appears that the church may be correctly listed as Grand Advent, though it is located, confusingly, on Grand Avenue in Oakland.

(Jared Wright) #8

It’s interesting how sometimes some of the more colorful examples of individuals within the community get cited as representative of the whole rather than as outliers. There are many more regular, everyday LGBTQ individuals doing regular things than there are gay PUC grads who run Tokyo nightclubs, aren’t there?

(Jonathan Cook) #9

As a recent alumnus of PUC this warms my heart. I could have never imagined hearing such a humble and affirming message from a chaplain on this topic. Most of the messages LGBT people hear from our church are damaging and that is now changing. This should serve as a model for the church moving forward. Bravo, Jonathan!

(Stanschirmer) #10

This is what I wrote Daneen after she shared the sermon with me this week.
//Oh boy. You made this old man’s heart very glad. I cried a bucketful of
tears. I keep thinking that God hates me for being gay. It;s a script
that plays so easily. And then I hear something like this and for a
little while I have hope. Thank you for sharing this. Thank this man for
being brave. I wish he had been my chaplain when I was at Avondale in
the '80’s.//
You want to know why I keep tearing up? I keep thinking about that 5 percent of young men and women in that audience who might not NOW have to go through years of self loathing and fear of being exposed and hated. I am sure they still will struggle with the damage done due to ignorant abusive christians. But maybe they can hold on to this and remember someone said I don’t understand but I love you, I will walk WITH you and not away from you.

(Stanschirmer) #11

Thanks for pointing this out Jared. I am a pretty regular bloke. Except for being creative you might never have known I was gay. I settled down, worked hard, bought and sold a couple of houses, raised a family. Each time I sat in Church and heard yet another homophobic sermon I died a little inside because hidden underneath every attempt I made to straighten myself out was the core truth I knew about myself I was gay I hated myself.
Now things are a bit different. My relationship with my wife is different. We are separated and discovering how good it is to be friends again after so many years. I’m still a family man. I still work hard. I’m still paying off the house. No running nightclubs for me. I don’t have a partner, a boyfriend. I occasionally date. I have some very close friends who know and love me, some are gay and some are straight. My life is pretty bland but I’ve got to tell you; being labelled and having assumptions made about my sexual promiscuity really hurts.

(Ben Blackburn) #12

Correction to the correction!

The Grand Avenue SDA Church changed it’s name to the Grand Advent SDA Church a few years ago. It is still located on Grand Avenue however…

(Source: I am the Tech Director at PUC Church, and so spend a lot of time listening and editing and relistening to the sermons, and Jonathan said this! lol :slight_smile: )

(Ben Blackburn) #13

The “Adam and Steve” sermon video now has over 5100 views in 2 days, with 25-100 currently watching it every time I have checked since that night. Good thing we don’t pay for streaming by the bandwidth! lol
(Speaking of which, donations are accepted as we work towards upgrading our broadcast ministry to HD.
</ shameless plug from the tech director> :wink:

Keep sharing it!

(le vieux) #14

Nonsense! The Bible is clear that God loves sinners; it is equally clear that He hates sin. Can we do any less?

Are you claiming that to even suggest that something is sinful is “judgmental and offensive?” If one of my close friends robbed a bank, I would not stop loving him, but I would hate what he did.

(le vieux) #15

“Henderson went on to say that God gave in on this issue of divorce, despite this not having been God’s intent in the beginning.”

God “gave in?” Then why did He steer us back to the ideal in the NT? Jesus was pretty plain that there is no excuse for divorce, short of adultery. God simply did not interfere with the established customs of the time. The Israelites had been living almost like pagans for a long time, and He tried to slowly guide them toward the ideal. But because of their obstinacy, He was unable to do so. However, when giving the Christian church its marching orders, He set a much higher standard.

PUC professor of psychology, Dr. Aubyn Fulton: “From now on, no conservative Adventist has an excuse for their hate or rejection.”

Speaking of “judgmental and offensive,” Dr. Fulton doesn’t score too highly in that department, painting all conservative with such a broad brush. I have not yet met an conservative Adventist who has expressed hate for homosexuals. We are saddened and even repulsed by their behavior, just as we are repulsed by the behavior of others who do wrong, but that doesn’t prove hatred. As for rejection; yes, we reject that lifestyle, just as we reject the lifestyles of others who have strayed from the straight and narrow; but we do not reject the persons themselves.

(le vieux) #16

“God isn’t in control,” Henderson said.

Of course God is in control. But not in the sense that he dictates our every action. He gives us freedom of choice. He is permitting sin to run its course (within limits), so that we will hate sin as He does, and wish to have no part in it. If He wasn’t in control, we would have destroyed ourselves long ago.

(Bille) #17

A few months ago no one thought that a chaplain in an Adventist University would dare to say such things… even in their own “in-house” private meetings… much less broadcast it live to the whole world!

Eventually “official church documents” will have to catch up to where the actual church IS… or both “official” and “church” may no longer be able to lay claim to those appellations.

(Bille) #18

Pici Birder blc… Apparently you did not actually watch and listen to Jonathan’s sermon. Until you have done so… and even done so twice so you catch the places where his voice gets so soft it is barely hearable… you are REALLY NOT QUALIFIED to make any statements as to what he said, what he meant, or what should be our reactions to what he said.

Just know ahead of time, that he made room for ALL… including folks like you who simply do not understand… … …

(edited slightly to correct one typo)

(le vieux) #19

I was responding the author of the blog, not to the sermon itself. If the author misrepresented what was in the sermon, then it is inevitable that those who respond to him, will have something different to say than those who merely watched the sermon.

When a preacher says something like, “God is not in control,” then he can expect some reaction. But when he denies the sinfulness of homosexual practice (as in the quote below), then he loses all of his credibility. I don’t need to listen to his sermon to know that. And why has he decided that God has changed the rules? Because the current culture demands it? If that were the case, then God should have let the Israelites keep their idols. After all, it was the prevailing culture of the times.

“Henderson admitted that he used to believe it was okay for same-sex
couples to “have the soul connection,” but not to engage in sexual
activity. As he began to read the Bible, Henderson began to see the
situation differently. He realized that God can “call an audible”
because the game of life changes.”

(Steve Mga) #21

Perhaps IF he had been accepted as the Great Guy he was when in college in stead of perceived as some weirdo in his underlying character flaw, he might have found Safety in the SDA church family, Believed in the Safety in the arms of God, and perhaps have found a different occupation.

Too often, in order for an SDA GL,etc person to find safety in the arms of God, they have to LEAVE the Un-Safe SDA church, and find Safety in other God Loving groups. OR, they are so Traumatized that they just leave “Home” altogether and are unable to find their way back.
Sometimes the Effects of Rejection of the Person, the Rejection of the Psyche of the person by others has an Everlasting effect, and there is no return possible because Trauma has KILLED.

I noticed that you mentioned “running a gay bar in Tokyo” with somewhat of a derogatory statement that that is very low in an Occupational Choice.
Perhaps THAT IS his ministry. A good friend of mine died last week. In his lifetime he was a very flamboyant gay Queen. Loved to dress up in gaudy clothes and a wig in his younger years. His lifetime occupation was running various gay bars. But his other business was helping people. On his FB site after his death one person wrote that when he was 15 he came to the bar, Johnny talked the bartender to let him in. He said Johnny helped him to become the successful person he is today. Johnny helped many gays and lesbians to find a life that turned out successful. He began The Rainbow Center in a store front. A help service to GL’s, Trans persons for food, housing. Later he got others to join, a number of churches. Eventually buying an old motel, fixing it up. He helped thousands in his lifetime. Sponsoring housing in 7 counties for GL, Trans persons. His yearly budget was $800,000 a year. So being a gay, flamboyant gay Queen, operating a gay bar may not be so bad of an occupation after all. Johnny was a member of a local Catholic church. Do Catholics appreciate Gays? Do SDAs appreciate Gays any more than Catholics?

Perhaps your Gay Friend saw a Real “Vision” when he opened his Bar for Gays. Maybe it is time to rethink your friendship.

2nd Opinion. PLEASE repost your 2nd Opinion. It complements mine!! Thank you.! Steve.