Viewpoint: Henderson Preached and The World Did Not End

(system) #1

This past weekend my church, the Arlington Seventh-day Adventist Church, hosted the current pariah of Adventist circles, none other than Pacific Union College’s Jonathan Henderson. In case you have been under a rock for the last few weeks, Jonathan presented a sermon for PUC’s Fall Revival entitled "Adam and Steve."

The sermon caused, of course, a great stir in the Adventist blogsphere. There were those who found his sermon to be a call for compassion toward the LGBTIQ community and nothing more. There were others who heard a call for total inclusion of the community and absolute surrender of Adventist standards. I count myself as part of the former group and not the latter.

Jonathan had been scheduled to speak for our Young Adult Festival of Praise many months before his sermon at PUC. His topic for our program was The Great Controversy. As a result of the firestorm his comments generated there were a number of people who strongly expressed a desire that we rescind our invitation to Jonathan to speak. The reason given was that if we allow him to speak here we would be endorsing his perceived endorsement of homosexuality.

After thoughtful consideration of the content of his message in consultation with my pastoral staff and discussion with my church board we decided it was consistent with our core values to leave the invitation on the table for Jonathan to speak. We have always sought to be a Fellowship of Love, Acceptance and Forgiveness. We haven’t always met this objective, however, that doesn’t preclude us from taking the journey.

My personal support for bringing Jonathan here was for the following reason had multiple reasons. 1) He is a gifted speaker. We need to have the very best speakers before our people who can clearly proclaim the Gospel in a language and manner that everyday people resonate with. 2) I think that our people are mature enough to be able to decide for themselves on some of the pressing issues of the day and are not going to just blindly follow someone just because they gave a sermon on a subject four states and 1,700 miles away. 3) In regard to his sermon it is my belief that as we seek to minister to a broad assortment of people that we are going to have times when people say things that we personally or collectively may disagree with and when that happens we need not resort to cloture.

As a pastor I have on multiple occasions counseled with homosexuals and their parents and have observed the deep pain and anguish of these folks first hand. Much of the pain they have felt has been a result of the great sense of rejection and judgment they perceive from the church. I personally do not desire to add one more burden to people who are already suffering.

I have a sermon that addresses some of the issues Jonathan raised but mine is entitled “Where are the Whores and Perverts?"* The title is intentionally inflammatory. I chose those words because I believe they reflect the pejorative nature of the charge the Pharisees frequently leveled against Jesus when they spoke about his close association with “Sinners.” When they used that term they were using their equivalent of the slurs I include in my title.

Regardless of what your beliefs are about homosexuals or any other marginalized group everyone needs to hear the message of a soon returning Savior. Christ told us that when he was lifted up He would draw all to Him. We need to lift up Christ and not focus on tearing people down.

When relating to people who seem to be resistant to the Gospel I try to take the counsel of Ellen White in the book Life Sketches of James and Ellen White. She says:

But if your companions and children will not come, if you cannot win them to yield to the claims of truth, make their lives here as pleasant as possible; for all they ever will enjoy will be this poor world. But let not your duty to them interfere with your duty to God. Pursue a straightforward course. Let nothing they may do or say provoke an angry word from you. You have a hope that will yield you consolation amid the disappointments and trials of life. Your companions and children who will not be induced to tread the narrow, cross-bearing pathway with you, have not this divine consolation. They should have your pity, for this world is all the heaven they will have.”1

Our churches should be overflowing with "whores," "adulterers," and "perverts" of all sorts. Because we should be overflowing with the love of Christ in our conduct, sermons, small groups, community services, Pathfinders, Sabbath Schools and everything that we do.

If we are faithful to this then Holy Spirit will have the room to work with people and bring about the transformation that is promised throughout the Scriptures. If we persist in being hateful, condemning people, then we will ensure our slide into death as a movement.

Jonathan was successful in lifting up Christ in the context of The Great Controversy and the amazing thing is that the world did not end because we allowed him to speak. We will still provide food for a couple of hundred people this week through our Revive Community Care. Our small groups will continue to meet and nurture one another. And we will still strive to be a Fellowship of Love, Acceptance and Forgiveness. We just need more "whores" and "perverts" in our ranks.


*The sermon title has been edited slightly over concerns of an offensively derogatory slur in the original title.

1Life Sketches of James White and Ellen G. White (Seventh-day Adventist Publishing Association, 1888), 335.

P. Kevin Wells is the Senior Pastor of the Arlington Seventh-day Adventist Church in Arlington, Texas and a Ph.D. candidate in Philosophy of Religion from the B.H. Carroll Theological Institute.

Image: Younger Generation at the Arlington Seventh-day Adventist Church

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

(Tom Loop) #2

Thank-you for replacing that terrible word. I’m not too hot about the one you used for a replacement either, but I’m not going to nitpick. I have been reprimanded by web-ed for those times i have gone to excess with humor and satire. I like what this minister is trying to do, However care should be taken in sermon title and words used from the pulpit. While Jesus rebuked the Pharisees, he called them white washed sceplicers not SOB"S. He only called them empty tunes
because they violated every principle of godliness and refused to see their own self righteousness. If anything is to be learned from what happened to Henderson’s sermon, it’s that conveying a message that can be misunderstood or offensive can be lethal.


Yeah, I too agree that it was best to remove that word. I’d probably go one better and remove the word “whores” from your sermon title also. I dont know, the way its used just seems like your trying too hard in the shock value department, and it may backfire on you.

Please dont get me wrong, its nothing more than just some friendly advise.

(Robert Sonter) #4

Kevin, thank you for this mature and compassionate perspective. If only we could all follow the counsel you outline here, both the church and the world would be a much friendlier place. The Spirit would continue to convict people of sin, probably with far greater success than presently occurs.

(Tom Loop) #5

P.S. The last sentence sort of ends the blog with a flat tire. The word “pervert” . I hope i am not being oversensitive here. but pervert has been a term that for too long has been used by many to describe gays. Years of being called perverts has made life a miserable existence for too many lgbt too long.

(Steve Mga) #6

“faggots”, “perverts” either word is OK. The reason is, I believe that this is what members RELLY say in their minds when the word Homosexual [the nice word] is used in public behind the pulpit.
The word “publican” in the time of Jesus would be the words “faggot” and “perverts” and “whores” of our day. Jesus said when they went to church to meditate and pray, they went home justified, where as the person who had the “holier than thou” attitude did not.
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John speak to us Seventh day Adventists, in the pews, at the welcoming door, really more than we would like to think. AND that is WHY We Do Not THINK.
In our minds, WE would welcome the Publican, but “faggots”, “perverts” they have NO PLACE “sitting next to me”. And a Trans sitting next to me with my children by my side… I can feel the sweat now, as I have to explain to my kids by my side… What if I had to touch a Trans sitting next to me with a Welcoming Hand Shake!!! OR, if my church passed the Peace as some do mid service, and I had to shake a welcoming hand with a “pervert”, a “faggot”?? Can feel the sweat now!

Perhaps the reason most SDA church services do not “Pass the Peace” mid service is, We dont want to touch sinners. As we can see on Spectrum, the word “faggot” makes us uncomfortable because we have to look at what we are Thinking. We like the “nicer” word “Pervert”, IF that is a nicer word. Even here on Spectrum, we want to continue to keep some words under the rug too so we dont have to see in print what our mind thinks. Have to acknowledge what out mind thinks in front of God, the world, and our friends.

Acknowledging our Spiritual Un manageability, our Un reasonableness, is the FIRST step into Wholeness with God.

(Luke S) #7

If our pulpits should be overflowing with “whores,” “adulterers,” and “perverts”, why does the author not invite Sam Pipim to come speak at his church?

(2nd Opinion) #8

Was this article about Jon Henderson or Kevin Wells? I wholeheartedly disagree with the use of derogatory terms in a sermon title that was apparently meant to refer to LGBT persons, among others. Such associations are highly unfortunate and ensconcing them in a title only perpetuates the worst kind of stereotypes. Whore is a term that blames and belittles women for a a problem rooted in male attitudes and abuses of women. Sweden has understood this and greatly reduced prostitution in that country by tackling the male side of the issue. Pervert is a term often used to sweep LGBT persons, pedophiles, and such all into a single category. This, too, is highly demeaning. Rather than shock the saints, this title only heaps more scorn upon those already suffering from so much abuse and misunderstanding. Why should they have to listen to your sermon to be “un-offended” Mr. Wells? Why should your title become just one more micro-aggression? Your need to be clever is playing fast and loose with the deeply painful world some must live in every day of their lives.

(Tom Loop) #9

2nd opinion
I couldn’t agree more! Steve, I hear what you are saying and I know the 3 of us are of similar opinions here, but this “shock jock” approach is NOT the way to go. You are trying to use a story of the Good Samaritan approach here to get people to look at thermselves in a mirror, and i don’t think that it works like this. Try putting black people in the
place of lgbt and use a familuiar slur and you’ll see what I mean. Now there was a time in the not too distant past that I would howled my head off if anyone would have tried to make such a comparison of the oppression of blacks in the pre civil right days to having any similarity to the plight of gays today. While I don’t see institutionalized discrimination against gays today like there was once against blacks back then, there is still a hidden and blatant sterotyping of lgbt
that is very unchristlike and downright disgusting to me now.

Now I realize some folks are going to misread me or come to conclusion opposite of what I am saying, so if this is the case, please reread slowly what I have just said, and when you do it, try to put yourself in the shoes of lgbt people who are just wanting to be loved and be considered part of the human race, and not some distorted view of who you think they are. It will make a world of difference, I hope.

One of the problems with blogging is not being able to engage in the give and take of face to face conversation. but it’s all we got that can connect us here, so it does have advantages of making some kind of conversation that wasn’t available in ages past.

(Junior Breyer) #10

Years ago, as a freshman in high school, I visited the John F. Kennedy grave site, with its eternal flame. It was very quiet. Two men stood nearby, holding hands and silently crying. We walked away, and my father labeled them with a word I’m uncertain of now, and I asked what that meant. He told me it meant men who liked other men. Maybe a touch of scorn was in his voice when he used “the” word, but no further explanation was needed, and I never heard him say it again up to the time he died at age 90, two years ago. But then again, when he heard Elizabeth Talbot give her sermon on Mary Magdalene, something about it bothered him, while I thought it was, and still is, the greatest sermon on God’s love and forgiveness. Sometimes I wish Jesus hadn’t said He who is among you without sin, cast the first stone, because stoning becomes almost a directive, like, “Don’t hit your sister” becomes “hit your sister”. An early and common technique in teaching sex education classes used to be having the kids bring out all the “bad words”, writing them on the chalkboard, then saying them many times while asking the kids what the words meant, until a lot of the mystery was diluted down to facts. We have a choice, to speak our words and to remember someone’s “whore” is Christ’s Mary Magdalene.

(Steve Mga) #11

That is WHY we have to Acknowledge our Spiritual Un manageability, our Un Reasonableness so that we in the PEWS can take that FIRST STEP toward Wholeness.
To See the Person and NOT see a verbal slur we attach to the Person.
To See the Person Whom God loves.
To See the Person for Whom Christ died.

Like in your class, we have to confront the Verbal Slur by saying it Out Loud, by Writing it on the Black Board for us all to See. To get the Real Facts about the word so we can get it our of Our Vocabulary. To be able to say to each Slurred person, I love you like God loves you. I love you like Jesus loves you. Come, let me give you a hug for God, a hug for Christ, and a hug for me. Sit here next to ME in MY pew. Share MY hymbook with ME. Share MY bible with ME.
Only THEN will our Higher Power be able to Restore you, Restore me to Sanity.
Only THEN can we become Willing to make Amends to ALL the persons we have harmed [including ourselves by our attitudes, name calling, shunning].
With our Spiritual Awakening we begin to practice the principle of Seeing People as God and Christ sees them. As Isaiah 38:16 says, "You have cured me, and given me life…You have kept my soul from the Pit…You have thrust all my sins [looking at Your son, Your daughter as worthless] behind Your back!"


I would say that the reason people, now days, dont use that word is the same reason why people dont use the N word to describe a black person. Its derogatory and low, and holds with it a bus load of bad history. It can, very quickly, make a bad situation much worse. It stirs something up in people, which I dont believe can serve any good purposes.

(jeremy) #13

i posted this before, but i think it got lost in the shuffle…this article appears to believe that jonathan is the current pariah of adventism…i don’t think this is true at all…other than a few conservatives who misunderstood “adam and steve”, i actually see a lot of support for jonathan…i think this entire episode is unfortunate - it’s a simple misunderstanding that i think will resolve itself in time…

(Steve Mga) #14

With 40,000+ seeing the Spectrum articles and the video of the actual delivery, I would say what this is going to do is begin allowing for discussion of the issues in some places. Hopefully to increase more “Safety” in our universities, hopefully increase more “Safety” in our Academies. Hopefully to increase more Adventist Congregations that promote themselves as “Safe” places to worship and to be accepted as the Seventh day Adventists who they are.
I do know of SDAs who attend every Sabbath in their local church, but have had to have their membership in a church two states over. In order to be baptized, they did so in the Atlantic Ocean, which in itself was a very moving and holy scene.
Perhaps because of Jonathan we will have to be seeing fewer of these dismissals of persons saying they love God and demonstrating it in their lives.

(Jared Wright) #15

A brief word on the editorial decision here. Usually, the editorial decision-making process is not made a matter of public discussion, although I think that in this case, it is worth noting.

After the first version of this story was published with the language in it you refer to, Steve, I had a lengthy discussion with a member of the Spectrum community who strongly objected to the use of the slurs this Viewpoint piece employed. This individual has been on the receiving end of horrible abuse in which homophobic slurs played a prominent part, and the use of those slurs in print called back all that abuse.

I do not oppose the use of inflammatory language just because people find it inflammatory. As someone who has made a living out of conveying meaning through language, I understand very well the rhetorical aim of inflammatory language. However, when language has the effect of causing damage of any kind to members of this community–especially those who have been abused and marginalized, it is appropriate to draw lines. Especially when points can be effectively made without language that calls to mind physical, emotional, psychological or spiritual abuse.

(George Tichy) #16

OMG!!! How do I stop laughing now??? Help!!! Help!!!

(Carrol Grady`) #17

Thank you so much, Kevin! I believe if Jesus were here that is who he would invite to church. But only if the church were ready to welcome and love them as brothers and sisters. It’s like the Tony Campolo story when his answer to what kind of church he was the pastor of was "a church that throws parties for prostitutes at 3:30 in the morning - I’m sure you’re familiar with it. I’m always so grateful when I find a church that welcomes anyone who wants to come - and especially when it is a large church like yours!

(Carrol Grady`) #18

I suspect that next to the Seventh-Gay Adventist film, Jon’s sermon will have the biggest effect in continuing this conversation in our church.

(Steve Mga) #19

I understand where you are coming from when you recite the pain of those who frequent these halls of discussion. I have spent weekends with many of these persons. Some who have been thrown out of their Seventh day Adventist church. One Baptist lady converted to SDA by her partner and the pastor of that church would not allow the Baptist lady to become an SDA. SHAMEFUL!! I was there when the Baptist lady became no longer a Baptist but Seventh day Adventist when she arose out of the Ocean. I have heard and seen the painful stories.
I have heard Seventh day Adventists chatter in crude and demeaning words about GLs, Ts. But, in my mind, if we do not confront the crude and demeaning words that are being used to denagrate those for whom Christ died, we will not release either the GLBTIOs or the Local members of the Seventh day Adventist church from the AWFUL bondage that these Words hold both groups in.
We have to confront Pain if we are going to CURE Pain. We have to Name the Pain so it can be treated. And the only way to do that is to confront the Abuse that the Local SDA church, the World Wide SDA church has poured out on this World Wide Minority of God’s children. We have to Confess our Sins toward this Community of Believers. We have to do this so we can welcome them into fellowship With God, For God.
I recognize the Pain and Suffering. Again, I have seen it, I have heard it, I have read it in print by “good” SDAs as THEY have caused it.
That is why I still stand by my posts here on this topic.
This Abuse and Torture of God’s Children Has To Stop Sometime.
Perhaps Spectrum will be the catalyst to bring this about.
Thank you for letting me share [as people in recovery are used to saying].
May we ALL reach “Recovery”! Steve.

(Interested Friend) #20

And should they be baptized and become members before forsaking known sin?
In The Grip of Truth