Pastor Doug Batchelor, speaker/director of Amazing Facts and senior pastor of the Sacramento Central Adventist Church says that women can minister (verb), but not be ministers (noun). In a sermon entitled "Women Pastors: A Biblical Perspective," Pastor Doug spent sixty one minutes laying out the argument against ordaining women as elders or pastors.
Batchelor's weekly television and web program, The Everlasting Gospel, begins with the affirmation that “The greatest need of mankind is a revelation of God’s love as revealed in the life of Christ.”
In the sermon firmly denouncing women ministers, Batchelor lays out 28 tenets pertaining to the roles of women in the church. Those premises are outlined below as articulated in the sermon along with general responses and specific critiques.
Batchelor begins by saying his prayer is that God will take charge of the service—that it will be “His truth.” Batchelor acknowledges that this is “a volatile subject,” and states that he wants to “generate more light than heat.”
"Not everyone is going to agree with my understanding and my interpretation of these passages," he says, adding that he hopes to appeal to the audiences' minds more than their emotions. His goal, he says, is to address what the word of God says on this subject.
Watch all 61 minutes, courtesy Amazing Facts
Batchelor's twenty-eight principles are outlined below with the time in which they appear in the film following in parentheses.
Premise One – Everyone in this room falls into two categories: You are a boy or a girl—a man or a woman. It has been that way since the beginning.
Premise Two – “Trouble began when woman wandered from man’s side, and instead of listening to the clear instructions she had received from the Lord and from her husband not to take from the forbidden tree, she independently made a different decision (3:35-3:50). Man, instead of leading his wife, submits to his wife (4:15).
Premise three – All the relational problems in the world today spring from this interruption of God’s design for the relationship between God and man and woman (4:20-4:30).
Premise four – The result of the curse is that the man would rule (reign, govern, have dominion and power) over the woman (Genesis 3:16, supplemented by Strong’s Concordance). God had to establish from the very beginning, because the devil would try to destroy the family, that there needed to be authority in the family. So the Lord went back to his original design—man was created first (6:00-6:15).
Premise Five – All of history has been altered in the last 50-60 years. Up until the feminist movement, the church understood for 1,900 years that the final authority was to rest solely with husbands and men pastors (6:45-7:25).
Premise Six – Because of men’s greater physical size and strength and abuse of their leadership roles, certain rights that women should have had have been denied. Any movement that begins with just principles often goes too far. The feminist movement went well beyond equal pay for equal work and protection against discrimination and sexual intimidation in the workplace (all of which Batchelor supports). Batchelor’s mother, whom he describes as a former leader in the women’s lib movement said she could no longer be part of the movement because many of them were “angry lesbians that wanted to be men.” Part of the agenda is to “demasculate” men. (7:50-11:15)
Premise Seven – Women have been “flowing in” to leadership roles because there has been a vacuum of male leadership both in society and the church (11:20-11:40).
Premise Eight – There is a wide spectrum—a kaleidoscope of ways that all men and women can minister (11:50).
Premise Nine – The word seminary shares the same root as the word semen, so it’s interesting that so many women study in the seminary (12:28-12:38).
Premise Ten – That 51% of protestant seminary students are women owes to social pressure rather than recognition that the church has been holding women back—If pitting social pressure against new understandings of the Bible, it is 100% social pressure, zero percent epiphany (13:10-14:15).
Premise Eleven – The Bible says that only men should be ordained as pastors. God originally said that sacred offices of holding authority, baptizing and leading communion should be reserved for men (15:10-15:35).
Premise Twelve – Men and women not only have different outward plumbing, but also different inner wiring, and even if we don’t understand those differences, the word of God is still the word of God. Nevertheless, some differences:
- Women tend to communicate more effectively than men; women have more connections between left and right hemispheres in their brains. Consequently, in discussions women will often bring up random, unrelated topics.
- Men on average score five points higher on an IQ test.
- Men have “fight or flight” reaction to stress, whereas women “tend and befriend.” For that reason, men are better suited for combat.
- Women excel in language because there are more connections between the hemispheres in their brains. Men deny pain longer than women do. Women cannot mentally rotate objects in their brain as well as men can.
We’re different creatures in many respects. Men and women should have different roles because God has said there should be a difference (16:00-19:45).
Premise Thirteen – Galations 3:28, which says in part there is neither male nor female but all are one in Christ Jesus, pertains only to salvation. The statement must be mitigated with everything else Paul says (20:15-21:00).
Premise Fourteen – Women can preach, teach, chair board meetings, give Bible studies, do evangelism and be prophets (21:15-21:43).
Premise Fifteen – It is easier to support from the New Testament that God has ordained that only men should be pastors and elders than it is to support the Sabbath. It’s easy to support the Sabbath. Anyone who does not come to the conclusion that there is a distinction from Adam through Revelation in the roles of men and women in the church have to go through phenomenal mind-bending gymnastics to escape the plain truth (22:20-22:40).
Premise Sixteen – When Scripture says “honor your father and mother,” it always gives deference to the father first. In the “Hebrew mind,” the father was the sun in the family, and the woman was the moon that reflected the light of the father. The father was the priest leader of the family and God communicated through the priest to the family. The biblical evidence of this is that Joseph dreamed that the sun, moon and stars bowed down to him, which was interpreted as father, mother and brothers. This clearly reveals order to the family. (24:40-25:25)
Premise Seventeen – According to I Corinthians 11:3, the head of every man is Christ and the head of every woman is man; the head of Christ is God. These are really plain statements. This shows that not only is there an order of authority in the family, but there is also an order of authority with God. To dispute this is to say we believe we deserve a better relationship than the Father, Son and Spirit. (25:45-26:27)
Premise Eighteen – There are more commands in Scripture for men to love their wives than for women to love their husbands because it is easier for women to love than for men. (27:25-27:35)
Premise Nineteen – If you spend too long on plainly reading the Bible, pretty soon it’s not going to mean what it says anymore. (29:58)
Premise Twenty – The Church is an extension of the family. You can’t have one order in the family where the man is the priest leader, and a different order in the church where the woman is the priest leader (31:30-31:50).
Premise Twenty One – God “winked” at the times of ignorance that allowed for polygamy and slavery in Scripture, but God does not wink at gender roles because they derive from the Garden of Eden (33:15-33:45).
Premises Twenty Two & Twenty Three – I Timothy 1:11-15 (Let a woman learn with silence, in submission—I don’t permit a woman to teach or have authority over a man but to be in silence because Adam was formed first, then Eve. The woman was deceived and fell into transgression, but she will be saved in childbearing, submission and self-control) could be quickly misunderstood if we’re not careful. Paul was referring to women’s fault-finding and attempts to usurp authority over men in churches.
I Timothy 3:2-5 clarifies by showing that a bishop must be blameless and rule his household well, because if he can’t rule his house, he can’t take care of the church of God. This shows that churches are extensions of our family. As goes the family, so goes the church and as goes the church, so goes the country (36:25-39:40)
Premise Twenty Four – Women are not condemned for prophesying. There are many women who prophesy throughout Scripture (42:10-42:45).
Premise Twenty Five – There is no sense arguing against anecdotal evidence that suggests God blesses churches through women who preach and teach because God can bless even when it is not his ideal. (44:15-45:15)
Premise Twenty Six – Ellen G. White is powerful support of everything said thus far. She never said women should be ordained as pastors in all her many years of preaching, teaching and prophesying. Appealing to Ellen White’s ministerial credentials is a straw man argument. In fact she was issued the credentials after James dies so she could stay on the church payroll. The word ordained was stricken from Ellen’s credentials at the same time with the same pen as her credentials were issued (46:35-48:11).
Premise Twenty Seven – There is nothing wrong with women preaching and teaching, giving Bible studies or doing evangelism when they do it under the authority of the pastor who is a man (48:12-48:40).
Premise Twenty Eight – Women can serve in any other way, but where God draws the line is here: Women cannot be ordained as pastors or elders. There are no biblical examples of women serving as apostles or priests (49:00-).
There are several commendable points in the sermon. For a community with a high view of Scripture, Batchelor's stated goal of being faithful to the Bible is laudable. In addition, Batchelor's stated support for equal rights and equal pay for women and his affirmation of God's calling on women in various forms of ministry deserves plaudits. The recognition (premise 14) that women can teach, preach, chair boards and prophesy is an important one.
The sermon rightly cautions that this issue has proven divisive, and is appropriate in calling for light, not just heat.
However, there are also numerous factual, biblical, historical and logical problems in the sermon that must be subject to scrutiny. Many premises (e.g. 5, 6, 7, 10, 15, 18, 19, etc.) confuse personal conjecture and fact. To present inference and assumption as verity is fallacious at best.
Regarding premise one (Everyone here is either a boy or a girl...): While it may be true for those in that room (the Sacramento Central SDA Church), sex is not as neatly bifurcated as Batchelor makes out. Experts estimate that as much as one percent of the U.S. population is transgendered as a result of gender reassignment procedures, and more significantly, at least as many are intersexed (exhibiting mixed sex traits). This reality poses a significant problem when tying job suitability to sexuality.
Regarding premise two (trouble started with the woman leaving her husband's side and not heeding his advice): This is simply unbiblical. The Bible says, “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves” (Genesis 3:6, 7).
Premise 28 (no women apostles) is also unbiblical. Paul references Junia as an apostle (Romans 16:7) in a passage full of examples of women significant to the church's life and mission. Junia is without a doubt a feminine name, occasionally erroneously transliterated as "Junias," a masculine name that was unknown whereas Junia was very common.
Historically speaking, the sermon's assertion that Ellen White never said anything suggesting women be ordained is inaccurate. Here, a familiarity with a work from the Andrews University Press, Women in Ministry, proves helpful. In it, Andrews professor Jerry Moon discusses numerous statements by Ellen White in which she affirms women in ministry, most explicitly in Testimonies Volume VI: "It is the accompaniement of the Holy Spirit of God that prepares workers, both men and women, to become pastors to the flock of God" (321-322).
In the July 9, 1895 issue of the Review and Herald, Ellen White recommends an ordination service for women, saying, "Women who are willing to consecrate some of their time to the service of the Lord...should be set apart to this work by prayer and laying on of hands." Moon concludes that Ellen White understood ordination as "an ordinance of appointment and consecration that may rightly be conducted for both men and women" (pp. 204).
Dismissive statements calling feminists "angry lesbians" or suggesting that women don't belong in the seminary because the word shares a semantic link to semen is shoddy logic (or lack thereof).
It must be noted that there are a total of zero Scriptural passages in which God says that men may be ordained pastors or elders, but that women cannot be.
To say that women may minister in the church, but they cannot be ministers is absurd. It yields absurd policies like the one that allows Ella Smith Simmons to be the vice-president of the General Conference but not the president.