Burnett Robinson Rape
Dr. Burnett Robison, who recently said, "the best person to rape is your wife," preaches at Grand Concourse Seventh-Day Adventist Church in New York on Oct. 24, 2021. (Source: Video Screengrab)

Pastor Tells Men: “The Best Person to Rape is Your Wife”

By Sarah Einselen

A New York pastor recently told men in a video clip posted on YouTube that “the best person to rape is your wife.”

The pastor, Dr. Burnett L. Robinson, is senior pastor of Grand Concourse Seventh-Day Adventist Temple in New York City. And in the clip, Robinson urges womento submit to their husbands and tells them, “In this matter of submission, I want you to know up front, ladies, that once you get married, you are no longer your own. You are your husband’s!”

Robinson then expresses dismay that a woman can sue her husband for rape and states, “I would say to you, gentlemen, the best person to rape is your wife.”

The video was posted by Sarah McDugal, an advocate and abuse recovery coach.

McDugal told The Roys Report she obtained the clip from a Nov. 13 sermon through another pastor. The full sermon appears to have been hidden from the church’s YouTube channel. The most recent video on its playlist of Robinson’s sermons is set to private.Burnett Robinson rape

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McDugal, who grew up Adventist, has shared an online petition calling on Robinson to resign.

She also said she’d sent the clip to someone with the North American division of the Seventh-Day Adventist (SDA) Church.

The Roys Report reached out to the church and the North American division, but neither responded immediately.

Some 1.2 million people, including celebrities like Ben Carson, belong to more than 5,000 Adventist churches in the United States and Canada, according to the division’s website. SDA schools also number in the hundreds, mostly primary schools.

Robinson has pastored Grand Concourse SDA Temple since 2013, according to the church’s website. He’s also been a guest speaker at Adventist conferences stateside and internationally. His social media shows he studied religion at Andrews University, the Adventist church’s flagship university.

But the doctrine he preached is common in some fundamentalist evangelical circles, too.

The Duggar family’s church teaches women that they’re required to provide sex whenever their husbands want. And Lori Alexander, whose blog “The Transformed Wife” has more than 128,000 fans on Facebook, has also said wives are obliged to have sex even when they don’t feel like it.

The passage Robinson is likely referring to is 1 Corinthians 7:1-6, which states:

. . . The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent . . .

Yet the context of 1 Corinthians 7 is 1 Corinthians 6:18-20, which says, “You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”

Author and advocate Rebecca Davis said Robinson’s use of this passage is “a perfect example of twisting Scriptures” to accept abuse.

Robinson “is saying you are not your own, you belong to your husband,” Davis said. “But the Scriptures say you are not your own, you belong to the Lord. That is a huge difference. So what he’s doing is putting this earthly authority over you in the place of God. That is promoting idolatry, promoting a godlike status for the husband and it ends up being heresy.”

“Lots of people promote it,” Davis added, “but this pastor is just saying it more clearly than a lot of people do.”

UPDATE: The Greater New York Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church has released a statement apologizing for Robinson’s comments and announcing that he’s been placed on administrative leave. His remarks have caused great harm and reopened the wounds suffered by so many,” the statement said. “We pray for their healing. Adventists believe in the dignity of all people, and no one should be the object of violence of any kind for any reason.”

The statement adds that “Pastor Robinson deeply regrets the statement and knows it caused injury and has given an unqualified apology.” 

Similarly, the North American Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church has also released a statement. “We wholeheartedly condemn any form of behavior or rhetoric that perpetrates any type of violence against women — or any person,” the statement said. “This is not what the Seventh-day Adventist Church believes.”

Sarah Einselen is an award-winning writer and editor based in Texas.

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27 thoughts on “Pastor Tells Men: “The Best Person to Rape is Your Wife””

  1. Wow!

    The Devil sure rules in that pulpit! Spiritual adultery in the pulpit at its worse ! Wolves authorizing the worst kind of abuse !

    And husbands live move your wives as Christ loves his church !

    Christ lived and died and served his bride ! No where is there force of any kind but only service ..

    Too bad this demon in the pulpit left out the most important part of that passage and command in marriage

    To Serve men ! Not to be served is the heart within marriage

    1. God has clearly commanded the husband in His Word to “love your wives.” Rape is a criminal offense and has nothing to do with love. This pastor needs a greater understanding of true biblical love as given in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. Love is patient and kind never forceful or violent. True martial love is sensitive, caring and does not insist on its own way. The more the husband loves his wife as Christ loved the church the happier they both will be.

  2. Even if we take “. . . The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent . . .” on its own, it does not support the spin the pastor would be putting on it.
    This Biblical conception clearly has two equal partners, neither of whom can (without “mutual consent”) deny each other bodily access. This condition clearly fulcrummed within a much greater context to which the Bible speaks.
    That the pastor skews the husband-wife relation to a subservient sexual-servant status for the wife, and then can view rape within marriage as consistent with the Bible’s broad message; would seem to involve two mutually dependent conceptions which together break with the Bible’s broad message (from the point of view or conviction of many), and breaks with the secular law (with no room for argument there), and breaks with emerging cultural views (where powerful constituencies are pressing for human relation at odds with that which the pastor believes in).
    Incidental, but meant a lot to me. Watched the Sarah McDugal video on this sermon. Then a next SMcD video came up automatically; in which Sarah “came out” on a public stage, as an autistic survivor (and mother of autistic children). I also self-identify as autistic, while rejecting the prevailing medicalised model of the autistic. It was lovely to see her doing what she did, with such style and strength and authenticity

    1. “. . . The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent . . .”
      I’m finding there is a lot to this Biblical edict. Its phrasing suggests crucial personhood, interpersonality, and free agency. It seems to sit on the boundary between the Biblical project and hermetic, and the wider context within which that project plays out. It speaks crucially to what marriage means and is within that project. The phrasing is also in line with current progressive cultural thinking about equality and sensitivity to one another.
      However we view and understand sexuality, from both Biblical and secular viewpoints, its clearly a fundamental locus, in which much of necessity is mediated (procreation, intimacy, transcendence of self), and across which much can and does go wrong in the human project.
      We can view the Biblical project as seeking to civilise and transform and sublimate the animal in us. Seeking to create and mediate a society somewhat transcending that animal plane. In that sense we can view and experience our persons and bodies as given over to God, in terms that the Bible indicates this giving over is to be had.
      Perhaps the pastor lost his theological balance, in giving over too much to consideration of the sexual animal in men. Perhaps what he now needs is for him to listen to and hear what women might now have to say to him. That listening and hearing perhaps should come before he returns to what the Bible and God are to and for him.

  3. Amazingly another pastor NOT quoting Jesus, and Christians are still shocked/confused as to how a pastor would reach this conclusion.

    1. ‘Not quoting Jesus’. Do you mean, not quoting the words attributed to Jesus, and possibly in summary form, in the gospels, or all the words inspired by his Spirit: the entire Bible?

      1. What I see in current church culture is the placing of Paul over Jesus to validate their message. I have seen pastors/Christians argue that it doesn’t matter what Jesus taught because Paul has redefined or given us a new standard to live by. We are seeing this “Paul standard” in real time. Any pastor/Christian who does not hold their teachings/beliefs to Christs standards, have their foundation is built on sand, not rock, and we are seeing the fruits of this practice.
        They argue Paul was HS inspired, but any man outside of Christ, is still susceptible to sin and ego (ex. Moses hitting the rock 2x, Peter immediately getting rebuked after being told he would lead the church, etc …) and without Jesus as the foundation we lose the message. 20-30 years ago a pastor during the second part their sermon would compare their actions/teaching/sermons to what Jesus said/did to validate what they were preaching. We do not see this anymore, the modern pastors quote Paul.

        1. I think you should familiarize yourself with the orthodox understanding of the inerrancy and infallibility of the scriptures. There is no essential conflict between the gospels and the other New Testament writings. All are authoritative and inspired scripture.

          1. GH:
            The point is that Paul is being misused by pastors for financial gain, control, unquestionable leadership/power, and unaccountably of their actions.
            Pastors avoid M, M, L, and J like the plague because when you take their sermons (that twist the scripture to their own benefit), and compared it to what Jesus taught us, that twisting quickly unravels and reveals their deception.
            Where in my reply (to D. Green) did I claim that any scripture is in error? If you are going to engage in the discussion or lecture me, please try to address the issue I am discussing and not deflect by misrepresenting what I said.
            Having said that, I will take your suggestion, reread/study the orthodox understanding reached by men and compare it to what Jesus taught. If you will do the same, we can discuss it. Fair enough?

        2. Apologies if I misread you, but a statement like the following sure sounds like you are saying Paul’s writings contain errors:

          “They argue Paul was HS inspired, but any man outside of Christ, is still susceptible to sin and ego (ex. Moses hitting the rock 2x, Peter immediately getting rebuked after being told he would lead the church, etc …) and without Jesus as the foundation we lose the message.”

          It also seems like you are trying to drive a wedge between the words of Jesus in the gospels and the words of Paul in his letters, although both are equally authoritative God-breathed scripture and Jesus authorized Paul to speak authoritatively on his behalf, along with the other apostles.

  4. Not only does this man not belong in the pulpit, he should be arrested. His wife and any other female he comes in contact with is a potential victim of this twisted kind of “thinking” Disgusting, really very disgusting.

  5. “The statement adds that “Pastor Robinson deeply regrets the statement and knows it caused injury and has given an unqualified apology.” I’m not buying his apology-what he said-he believes. I do not think this was an off the cuff remark. Shame on him or anyone else that believes this nonsense.

  6. I am glad that he has been removed from the pulpit and put on leave. Here is an opportunity for this man to have a complete change of heart and to reexamine what the Bible actually says and means. I hope he has repented.

    1. Lois not sure what you mean… The true Israelites were those and are those who have the same faith as Abraham and not just the race of Abraham.

      1. I believe the idea is not everyone who claims to be a Christian is one. There will be those who say, “Lord, did we not do …..in your name. He will say depart, I never knew you”. It’s also the idea of the wheat and tares growing up together.

  7. This is detestable spiritual abuse. It emphasizes the need to not deify pastors. They can be mistaken. They can believe things that are wrong and harmful. They can be malicious and evil.

    I do want to praise the 7th Day Adventists for dealing with this in a forthright manner. Too many denominations have failed to act in the face of obvious malfeasance, but they acted rightly in removing him from his position. This teaching was indefensible.

    The best way to honor God is by treading closely in the footsteps of holiness and truth. Regardless of consequence.

  8. Many wouldn’t use Rebecca Davis’ book as a scholarly approach to this subject. Thomas Schreiner says it well in his 1 Corinthians commentary, “Neither spouse has authority over his or her body. Husbands’ and wives’ bodies belong to their spouses, and therefore their is no warrant for one spouse to say to the other that he or she has decided to abstain from sex out of devotion to God.”

    However, that does not warrant rape nor does it mean to demand sex! Yet it is sinful to abstain from a sexual relationship in your marriage. You belong to the Lord, and in this belonging to the Lord in regards to this context you belong to your spouse. As does your spouse belong to you. Weddings are a declaration of mutual submission, lack of autonomy of one’s body. It is an expression of the Triune gospel and it never seeks its own but that of the other’s joy. Philippians 2:1-11 is really about a Trinitarian mindset. Lacks autonomy and subjugates authority. That’s a biblical perspective.

    Author and theologian Stephen Um states it this way, “Marriage is a one-flesh union and is intended to be a literal melding of identities, i.e., an abandonment of autonomy” Another perspective is, man is head of his wife. Not in essence or nature but in function. That is clear in the Bible. It isn’t a cold doctrine but a warm expression of the Gospel!

    1. Chris, you said-“That is clear in the Bible.” That phrase used by so many, often means it is clear to one and not to others.

    2. KC, I do agree with you that mutual submission is the best interpretation of the Pauline passages on marriage. But I can’t see that mutuality means throwing autonomy completely out the window. Nor can I agree with the individual you quote, that marriage is a melding of identities. This smells of codependency. “One flesh” is a metaphor and it can be pushed too far.

      If autonomy means “I can do whatever I want,” then of course it can’t exist in marriage (or any loving relationship, since I will be constrained by considering the needs of the other person). But if autonomy means “I have the right to my own feelings, thoughts, needs and preferences,” then respecting autonomy is essential to safe, nurturing relationships.

      I do think that definition is crucially important. The pastor whose egregious words triggered this discussion seems to think that marriage negates a woman’s right to her own needs and preferences, so marital rape
      is incomprehensible to him. He’s wrong, but not only because men are called to love their wives and not use them. He’s also wrong because neither husbands nor wives sign away their God given individuality upon marriage.

  9. “Some 1.2 million people, including celebrities like Ben Carson, belong to more than 5,000 …”

    Is it possible to have just one conversation where politics aren’t squeezed into the discussion?

    Are you saying that the church is bad because of Dr. Carson’s membership, or that Dr. Carson is of low character because he is a member?

    If being a member represents a persons character, then all 1.2 million members need to be revealed, if not, let’s stick to the person making the statement and those that support it.

    1. I would think the fact that Dr. Carson is Adventist would lend credibility to the denomination. This fact simply gives some context for a denomination that may not be well known.

      1. I understand what you are saying, but when writing an article about a pastor advocating raping your wife (or any other disgusting character/moral/ethical trait), anyone mentioned in the article will automatically be associated with the statement or behavior. The public tends to default to guilt by association, and there needs to be an awareness of how the general public processes information.

        Here are some other SDA celebrities/politicians that could have been included:

        Sheila Jackson Lee (D) – U.S. Representative, 18th congressional district of Texas
        Little Richard
        Manuel Noriega – Iran-Contra affair
        Desmond Doss- WW2 medic featured in Hacksaw Ridge
        Angus T. Jones- 2and1/2 Men actor
        Lee Boyd Malvo DC sniper was raised SDA
        Salt – from Salt N Pepa
        The Isley Brothers
        Will Keith Kellogg (cornflake guy)
        James E. Graves Jr. – Federal Judge
        Greg Mathis – TV judge

        Only a Trump appointee was used as an example of a celebrity member and that stands out. If Ben Carson released a statement condemning or supporting the pastors comments, I would understand his inclusion.
        Thank you for the reply, for I had not considered the context you presented.

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