(RNS) — In a sermon about wifely submission, the pastor of a New York City Seventh-day Adventist Church went on to suggest that husbands may rape their wives.
“I would say to you gentlemen, the best person to rape is your wife,” said Burnett Robinson, senior pastor of Grand Concourse Seventh-day Adventist, a church located in the Bronx borough.
The pastor’s words, captured in a 1 minute and 21 second video clip, were apparently preached on Nov. 13. They generated a Change.org petition calling for Robinson’s resignation. As of Monday (Nov. 22), the petition had 355 signatures.
In his sermon, Robinson says, “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? 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.”
Robinson was apparently preaching from a passage from the New Testament’s Letter to the Ephesians, in which the Apostle Paul says, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.”
The passage made news headlines back in 1998 when the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, amended its statement of faith to include a declaration that a woman should “submit herself graciously” to her husband’s leadership.
Issues of women and gender and sexuality continue to trouble segments of the conservative evangelical movement, especially in light of the #MeToo movement, which attempted to break the silence on sexual abuse and harassment.
In 2018, one of the leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention came under intense criticism after he suggested that wives abused by their husbands should focus on praying and not seek divorce. That leader, Paige Patterson, was later fired from his position as president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, for allegedly lying about and mishandling complaints of student rape.
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The Seventh-day Adventist denomination is far smaller, with about 1.2 million members in the U.S. and Canada and more abroad. It traces its origin to William Miller, who predicted that the world would end in the mid-1840s based on his reading of the Book of Daniel. When that failed to occur, Miller’s followers split into smaller groups, one of which eventually became the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Seventh-day Adventists are best known for observing Saturday as their Sabbath.
Neither Robinson nor a spokesperson for the Seventh-day Adventist Church were available to return phone calls.