23 November 2021 | Burnett Robinson, senior pastor of the Grand Concourse Seventh-day Adventist church in New York City (United States), is under fire for remarks that apparently encouraged the rape of wives by their husbands.

“I want you to know upfront, ladies, that once you get married, you are no longer your own. You are your husband’s,” Robinson said in a video clip that can be seen here. “I emphasize that because I saw in court the other day on TV where a lady sued her husband for rape. And I would say to you, gentlemen, the best person to rape is your wife. But then it has become legalized.”

The remarks sparked outrage among many, and a petition was started on Change.org two days ago, calling for Robinson’s resignation. At the time of publishing, more than 900 people had signed the petition.

“This kind of ideology is demonic and has no place in the church. To have such blasphemy preached from the pulpit is a gross misrepresentation of God and brings untold harm to men, women, and children and to the cause of Christ. Any church leader with this mindset is not in any way fit to serve in a leadership capacity, no matter what their talents may be,” wrote April Pakula on the petition for Robinson’s resignation.

In the video clip, Robinson appears to reference the biblical passage Ephesians 5:22 (KJV): “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.” 

But people, including those in the denomination, were quick to rebut Robinson’s remarks.

Lemuel V. Sapian, a Master of Divinity student at Andrews University Theological Seminary, who also signed the petition, wrote, “May I quote from a more divinely inspired individual who God used to guide the SDA Church: ‘The exercise of force is contrary to the principles of God’s government; He desires only the service of love; and love cannot be commanded; it cannot be won by force or authority. Only by love is love awakened.’ – Ellen G. White*, Desire of Ages, pg. 22.”

Other leaders in the church have reached vastly different interpretations than Robinson on Ephesians 5:22. Edyta and Darius Jankiewicz, who serve as the South Pacific Division associate ministerial secretary (women in ministry) and field ministerial secretary and Spirit of Prophecy coordinator, recently wrote a well-researched article in the magazine Adventist Record titled, “To Submit, or Not to Submit, That Is the Question.”

In it, they said, “The fact that Paul addressed wives directly was a further indication that submission could not be demanded, but rather, was to be voluntary. Thus, in stark contrast to the practice of ancient Greco-Roman men, Christian husbands were not to claim authority over their wives, as the first allegiance of a Christian wife was to Christ.”

An anonymous source told Adventist Today that Burnett was to meet “with the brethren” yesterday about his comments. The outcome of the meeting is unknown at this time.

Update: as of 23 November, the Greater New York Conference and the North American Division have released a statement saying that Robinson has been placed on administrative leave.

On November 22, the story was reported by the Religion News Service. 


*Ellen White was a co-founder of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and is considered by many in the denomination to be a prophet.

(Photo: Burnett Robinson, senior pastor of the Grand Concourse Seventh-day Adventist church in New York City (United States), is under fire for remarks that apparently encouraged marital rape. Photo via screenshot.)

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