On October 8 2014 PUC Chaplain Jonathan Henderson, as part of a week long series of meetings on human sexuality at Pacific Union College, preached a sermon that he titled “Adam and Steve”. That phrase, so often used as a cheap and thoughtless putdown of LGBTQ identity and relationships, was wonderfully re-purposed as a way of imagining a space for LGBTQ people within the Church. Without either condoning or condemning LGBTQ relationships Pastor Henderson challenged the community to find ways to love and accept each other, even when we don’t agree. “We are not the vine, or the gardener” and “Trust God, Love each other” were the main concluding points. After the sermon students, straight and LGBTQ, swarmed the front of the sanctuary, hugging each other and laughing, caught up in the enthusiasm of finally hearing a message that captured the essence of the gospel. More than a few students were heard to exclaim: “This is why I wanted to come to a Christian College”. LGBTQ students, most of whom were used to hearing nothing but rejecting and hateful messages from their church, were overwhelmed, some running down to embrace Pastor Henderson amid equal parts of of smiles and tears.
For two weeks the GASP community at PUC was invigorated with a new hope that perhaps the transformations we have seen in the student body over the last seven years had finally begun to be felt in the higher levels of the Church and the College administration. Pastor Henderson’s sermon was not liberal, nor was it conservative – it was radical in the way that gospel of Jesus is radical, challenging each of us to examine and confront our own prejudices and intolerance, while offering comfort to those most marginalized and oppressed. The video of his sermon, posted, as all sermons preached in the PUC Church are on Livestream online viewing service, received more than 30,000 views, far more than any other sermon had ever received. Alumni and other Adventists, and even non Adventist Christians all over the world heard the message, and contacted us to say they were writing with tears in their eyes, profoundly moved that finally a true Christian message of love and welcome was being preached on our campus. Many of these included summaries of their own stories of pain and oppression in Adventist communities.
Tragically, on October 29, the PUC Administration had its attorneys order the PUC Church to remove Pastor Henderson’s sermon from the online site. The college refused to give any explanation for this action, though it seemed likely to have been influenced by vocal and often toxic complaints from some on the more conservative end of the Adventist spectrum, who seem to have interpreted the absence of moral condemnation and rejection as approval of LGBT marriage. In the absence of any official explanation from PUC administration, many in the LGBTQ and allied community were tempted to interpret the removal as a rejection of Pastor Henderson’s message of love and justice.
A copy of the video was archived and has been posted on Youtube, where as of the date of this posting it can still be viewed:
As of the date of this posting the PUC Administration has still refused to explain its action, and has refused an invitation by students to come to a GASP meeting to engage in a conversation about the issue designed to increase mutual understanding.
Those interested in learning more about these events may want to read related articles at the following links:
- Spectrum article on the removal of the Video: http://spectrummagazine.org/blog/2014/10/30/puc-legal-counsel-requests-removal-adam-and-steve-video
- A PUC student explains why the removal of the sermon left her “Heartbroken and Angry”: http://spectrummagazine.org/blog/2014/11/09/pacific-union-college-student-i-was-heartbroken-and-angered
- Statement by SDA Kinship: http://sdakinship.org/index.php/about/kinship-statements/1036-kinship-response-to-removal-of-adam-and-steve-video-by-puc.html