(RNS) — The pastor of a New York City Seventh-day Adventist church who said in a sermon earlier this month that husbands may rape their wives has been placed on administrative leave.
Burnett Robinson, senior pastor of Grand Concourse Seventh-day Adventist, a church located in the Bronx borough, was preaching on Nov. 13 about wives submitting to their husbands’ leadership, when he said, “Gentlemen, the best person to rape is your wife.”
Now the Greater New York Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church said it has placed Robinson on administrative leave.
“Pastor Robinson deeply regrets the statement and knows it caused injury and has given an unqualified apology,” a statement from the New York Conference said.
In addition, the North American Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church issued a statement saying: “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 Seventh-day Adventist Church has 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.
In his Saturday sermon, a short portion of which is captured in a YouTube video, Robinson appears to be 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.”
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.”
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.
A Change.org petition calling for Robinson’s resignation had more than 1,200 signatures as of midday Tuesday (Nov. 23).
Efforts to reach Robinson for comment were unsuccessful.