16 April 2023 |
In the 1970s, a defrocked Adventist pastor said he could “cure” homosexuals of their same-sex attraction. The leaders of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists strongly endorsed Cook’s untested program, and authorized financial investment in—and church publicity for—Cook’s gay-change ministry, called Quest Learning Center, located in Reading, Pennsylvania. Quest was embraced by Christians inside and outside of our denomination, since Cook offered an answer to a difficult theological and behavioral question.
Sociologist Ron Lawson, who has done the most complete study of the phenomenon, called him “the dominating intellectual force within the ‘ex-gay’ movement.” But instead of curing people, Cook abused his counselees, initiating sexual encounters with them. Instead of apologizing, the church doubled down on their support for him. Ron Lawson, whose research broke the story of Cook’s abusive “ministry,” will tell us the story of one of the church’s most shameful promotions, from his own experiences with Cook and his interviews with Cook’s counselees.
Ronald Lawson was Professor in the Department of Urban Studies at Queens College, the City University of New York, where he taught courses focusing on the sociology of religion and political sociology. He is also the President of the Metro New York Adventist Forum, a position he held for 41 years. He is completing a book, Apocalypse Postponed, that will give a sociological account of international Adventism, the first major study of a global church. He lives in Loma Linda, California.