by Monte Sahlin
By Adventist Today News Team, June 26, 2014
Last Sabbath (June 21), Dr. Samuel Pipim was re-baptized by the Columbus (Ohio) Ghanaian Seventh-day Adventist Church. The pastor was out of the country at the time, but the decision was discussed and voted by the church board and a church business meeting. Three years after his confession of adultery, the group decided to accept his plea for forgiveness and re-instatement as a lay member. In the Adventist denomination the local church has no authority to re-establish his status as clergy. That would require action by a conference in consultation with its union conference and appears to be highly unlikely.
His previous home church in Michigan had repeatedly declined to re-baptize him after a previously scheduled re-baptism two years ago was canceled with the discovery of additional occasions when he engaged in sexual misconduct. Pipim was born and raised in Ghana, and he was originally baptized and later entered pastoral ministry there.
Pipim was employed for a number of years by the Michigan Conference as director of secular campus ministry and completed a PhD in theology at Andrews University. In May, 2011, he confessed to sexual misconduct with a young woman student during a trip to Africa. The Michigan Conference accepted his resignation from pastoral ministry and terminated his employment, and the Lake Union Conference rescinded his ordination. His local church in Michigan dropped his membership.
In October 2012, Adventist Today reported that the Lake Union Conference had circulated a letter to church administrators in North America and around the world asking that invitations for speaking appointments and writing assignments not be extended to Pipim since his clergy status and Adventist church membership had been ended.
The letter said that Pipim had been "admonished not to engage in public ministry such as speaking and … writing." He is employed by a private ministry in Michigan and the letter said that he had "continued to take speaking appointments [and] written a book." The letter expressed concern about Pipim's possible harm to mislead people in the Adventist movement and beyond. "We feel these limitations are important for the physical and spiritual safety of church members."
Pipim's rebaptism has the potential to generate controversy and significant division among Adventists. He has been a leading voice against allowing women into the ordained ministry and has taught that the Bible precludes women from leadership in the home or the church. He also played a leading role in the organization of GYC, the independent youth ministry now called Generation of Youth for Christ.
Some Adventists have suggested that there is connection between his sexual misconduct and his perspective on the role of women. Others have pointed out that he has worked closely with many young women through the GYC organization and perhaps should not do so in the future.
Other Adventists have pointed out that normal denominational practice is to allow a person dropped from membership because of adultery to be re-baptized after a year. They stress that the usual attitude of the denomination has been to extend grace and forgiveness in such situations.
The issues surrounding Pipim can easily become a wedge in the very diverse Adventist community in North America and maybe elsewhere. They could pit immigrants against the native-born, advocates for women against those who believe women should not exercise leadership, conservatives who think the sexual misconduct issue is being prolonged to prevent him from speaking out on ordination against more progressive members who think he has no moral basis to speak out. Divisions of gender, nationality and even race can come into the discussion about Pipim. Within three days of the posting of a picture of his re-baptism on a private Facebook page, nearly 150 individuals had expressed their views one way or another.