Burnett L. Robinson, a New York pastor and marriage counselor who has spent more than 35 years in ministry, apologized and resigned from his post at the Grand Concourse Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Bronx last Wednesday after he declared in a sermon that “the best person to rape is your wife.”
“Pastor Burnett Robinson has resigned as the senior pastor of the Grand Concourse Seventh-day Adventist Church, and as a worker in the Greater New York Conference,” the Greater New York Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church explained in a statement.
“The Greater New York Conference of Seventh-day Adventists recognizes many have been deeply harmed by the sentiments expressed by Robinson. The views he expressed are wrong and not accepted by our church.”
The conference assured that “rape” and “sexual assault” are “crimes and should always be treated as such.”
“We will continue to educate and counsel all pastors, seminary students and staff to fully understand that this type of rhetoric is abhorrent and unequivocally unacceptable,” the statement concludes. “We will continue to pray for and seek to become stronger advocates on behalf of survivors and those still living with violence and abuse. The Seventh-day Adventist Church condemns any language or behavior that perpetrates or encourages any type of violence against women. We humbly apologize and ask for forgiveness.”
The controversial clip was taken from Robinson’s Nov. 13 sermon. The footage was shared on YouTube and other social media by Sarah McDugal, an author, speaker and abuse-recovery coach who grew up Adventist. The clip sparked online outrage as over 2,800 supporters have backed an online petition calling for Robinson’s resignation.
In his sermon, Robinson appears to contend that rape is legal in marriage because Christian wives are expected to submit to their husbands.
“In this matter of submission, I want you to know upfront, ladies, that once you get married, you are no longer your own. You are your husband’s. You understand what I’m saying?” he said. “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.”
Shortly after McDugal shared the clip on YouTube on Nov. 22, The Greater New York Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church apologized, noting that “Pastor Robinson deeply regrets the statement and knows it caused injury and has given an unqualified apology.”
The conference added that Robinson’s comments “caused great harm and reopened the wounds suffered by so many.”
“We pray for their healing,” the conference said. “Adventists believe in the dignity of all people, and no one should be the object of violence of any kind for any reason.”
The North American Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church also issued a statement condemning Robinson’s message.
“We wholeheartedly condemn any form of behavior or rhetoric that perpetrates any type of violence against women — or any person. This is not what the Seventh-day Adventist Church believes,” the organization assured. “We stand in support of the statement issued by the Greater New York Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, and we pray for those who have been hurt by the harmful and unfortunate comments that were made.”
A now deactivated page on the Grand Concourse Seventh-day Adventist Church’s website described Robinson as a “people-centered” leader and “marriage counselor.”
“Dr. Robinson knows how to relate cross-culturally, and his altruism is very evident the moment you come in contact with him. In addition, he is a plain, practical, profound, dynamic, didactic, and authoritative pulpiteer — a pastor with a passion for youth and great compassion for the aged,” the church website read. “As a pastor, evangelist, professor, marriage counselor, and friend, Dr. Robinson is always ready and available to impact all within the scope of his influence. He has the ability to minister to you in the way that you need.”