If you are a member of, or a frequent visitor to the La Sierra University Church of Seventh-day Adventists, or if you regularly view our web site, you will have noticed that we have a long history around here of intentional commitment to full gender equality in the life and ministry of the church. This understanding grows out of our response to the everlasting gospel of God’s uncompromising grace. Our commitment is evidenced by the words we use to describe what church means to us, by the manner in which we conduct our ministry placement process, and even by the composition of our pastoral staff.
We’re also aware that you may have seen an Amazing Facts broadcast by Doug Batchelor that presented a very different view of women in ministry. The program, entitled “Women Pastors: A Biblical Perspective,” was televised on February 6, 2010, from the Sacramento Central Seventh-day Adventist church in northern California. (If you missed the broadcast, and would like to view it, you can log onto the Amazing Facts website and follow the links under “Everlasting Gospel” to the sermon.)
Many of our local church members are regular viewers of the Amazing Facts telecasts and hold in sincere esteem its President and Speaker. Consequently, as you can imagine, the “Women Pastors” program resulted in many questions being asked of us by our members, questions about the obvious and confusing incongruities between Batchelor’s position on the Bible’s instruction concerning the call to ministry, and the position taken on the issue by the Southeastern California Conference and the La Sierra University Church.
This on-line guide to the Batchelor sermon is a public step toward answering those many questions. Part 1 scrutinizes the shape of Batchelor’s argument. Part 2 analyzes his content. We are praying that by examining Batchelor’s preaching outline and quoting his words, as well as by urging that the topic be presented in an accurate biblical, historical, and cultural perspective, that we might, without sarcasm or slight, come closer to an unimpaired understanding of how God is calling His children, both women and men, to His service at this exciting time in earth’s history.
BEFORE YOU BEGIN. This study guide will serve you well if you just want to quietly explore a topic that currently, again, is generating a lot of discussion throughout North America and around the world. It also will be useful in the setting of a small study group. Divide the guide into sections, assign one or two sections to be studied in advance, and use the outline to gather each member’s comments and opinions and structure your discussion. Regardless of how you use the guide, please keep the following in mind.
A. Proceed with caution. This is a highly charged topic. Batchelor calls it “a volatile subject.”
- Would it be possible for everyone to take a deep breath before they speak? And smile? Let’s try to stay friends throughout the discussion.
- Listen to the tone of your voice. If you’re agitated or frustrated, everyone will become tense. If you are sarcastic or biting, your point will be lost in the vitriol.
- Check your facts ahead of time. Strive to present accurate facts rather than conjecture.
- Limit your discussion to one point at a time rather than trying to cover the entire scope of the issue all at once, or bouncing from one element of the argument to another.
- Ask those who disagree with you to fully explain the points they make rather than assume you know what they mean.
- Try to stick to positively explaining your perspective rather than negatively portraying someone else’s opinion. It’s better to say, “This is how I’ve been taught...” or, “My study has led me to believe...” than, “You have to have a twisted mind to believe something so wrong as that.”
B. State your preference. What resources will you bring to the discussion?
- I prefer to use the Bible and only the Bible in this discussion, and will attempt to let the Bible speak for itself rather that add my interpretation. (Do you think that’s possible?)
- In addition to the Bible, I prefer to listen to how commentators and religious authors have interpreted the passages.
- I simply prefer doing what we say we’re going to do. If we agree to use the Bible only, let’s use only the Bible. If we want to hear commentary, let’s be fine with commentary, but distinguish between what is commentary and what is from the Bible. (If your group agrees to base your discussion only on the Bible, could you also agree to appoint an “arbitrator,” someone to listen for and point out extra-biblical references?)
Women in Ministry
Part 1: Understanding the Shape of Batchelor's Argument
Is it possible that women today are hearing and accepting God’s call to a full, unrestricted pastoral ministry? Or does the biblical purpose for women in ministry limit that call? Should being a pastor be reserved exclusively for males?
Does the Bible support only one position, or can you use the Bible to argue several positions? What other sources are permissible to quote while maintaining a “Bible only” position?
Answer the study guide questions and, if you’re studying in a group, share your responses.
Then refer to the full outline under the title, “Batchelor’s Outline.” (The statements in that outline appearing in quotation marks are taken directly and without editing from the manuscript of the sermon, “Women Pastors: a Biblical Perspective,” by Doug Batchelor.)
A. What gifts has the Holy Spirit given to you? Read these familiar passages on spiritual gifts. As you’re reading, ask these questions:
Who gives the gifts? To whom are the gifts given? For what purpose are the gifts given? Do you find any discriminating factors in the giving (only to Jews or Greeks, for example, only to free or slave, male or female)? How is Jesus glorified and honored by our accepting the gifts and using them in His service? How are you putting your gifts to work in your local church? (See A. 1. b. in “Batchelor’s Outline.”)
B. Consider the phrase “those who have a more liberal bias.” What do you think it means? Is it a positive or negative comment? Would you use the phrase to compliment someone? Or disparage them? To what issues do you think the phrase might apply in your world?
Circle the numbers below by each action of Jesus that you think might have opened Him to the charge of having a “more liberal bias.” (See A. 3. h. in “Batchelor’s Outline.”)
- Questioning His teachers when He was 12 years old (Luke 2:41-48).
- Eating and drinking with “tax collectors” and other “sinners” (Matthew 11:19).
- Not condemning a woman “caught in the act of adultery” (John 8:1-11).
- Not living by the strict traditions of His religion (Mark 7:1-5).
- Breaking the Sabbath, according to the religious leaders (Matthew 12:1, 2).
- Reinterpreting Scripture, applying it in a “new” way (Matthew 5:21-30).
- Spending time with people who were marginalized by His society (John 4:1-42).
C. What does it mean to base one’s position “on the Bible”? Circle the statements below that come closest to explaining your position. (See B. 1.-3. in “Batchelor’s Outline.”)
- A Bible-based position quotes Bible verses.
- I don’t do anything the Bible specifically prohibits (“Don’t covet’).
- I do only what the Bible commands (“Love your enemies”).
- A Bible-based position applies Bible principles.
- A Bible-based position makes the context of the Bible’s commands relevant in contemporary settings.
- A Bible-based position specifically encourages me to do more, not less, to become more like Christ.
D. Explore the crucial differences between two words scholars often apply to Bible study: “exegesis” and “eisegesis.” Then answer the questions below. (See C. 1.-3. in “Batchelor’s Outline.”)
Exegesis describes the way we study a text searching for historical, cultural, or semantic clues that will help us better understand and apply the passage.
Eisegesis is the process of introducing our own subjective interpretation or bias into a text, resulting in a skewed or inaccurate reading of the passage.
What’s the difference between making a personal application of a Bible passage and explaining that passage on the basis of a preexisting personal opinion? Why do you think it’s important to try to keep our own opinions out of the interpretation of the Bible?
In searching for “historical, cultural, or semantic clues that will help us better understand and apply a passage,” would we look for those clues in the passage itself? In other writings by the same author? In the life experiences of the writer? In the life experiences of the community who first heard the passage? In the history of the translation of that passage?
As we approach Bible study how influenced do you think we are by the following factors? How would you propose to limit the leverage of such factors?
a. The language we speak
b. The place we grew up (Los Angeles, for example, instead of a remote village in Israel)
c. The time we live (1st century Palestine, 16th century Italy, or 21st century Hong Kong)
d. Whether we’re young or old (a child or a great-grandparent)
e. The one who first told the stories to us (a parent, a Sabbath School teacher, or a skeptic)
Is it worrisome to you that, over the course of centuries, different Bible commentators have suggested varying understandings of biblical principles? Can you imagine a situation in which a Bible truth remains just as true and just as holy and just as applicable, but still is interpreted differently from an earlier interpretation, 3,000, or 500, or 50 years ago? Concerning such truths, what stays the same and what changes?
E. What do you remember from high school and college Church history courses? For much of the 2,000 years of the Christian church, up to our day, there has been a preponderance of theological agreement that Sunday was the Sabbath, that the soul went to be with God when the body died, and that only men should be ordained as priests and pastors. How would you respond to the following arguments? (See D. in “Batchelor’s Outline.”)
“I do not believe that for the last 2,000 years of church history we’ve been wrong about the sacredness of Sunday. Did the church suddenly wake up and discover new Bible verses?”
“I do not believe that for the last 2,000 years of church history we’ve been wrong about where the soul goes after death. We need to stay with the faith delivered to the fathers.”
“I do not believe that for the last 2,000 years of church history we’ve been wrong about only allowing men to be pastors. Aren’t we just afraid of being accused of being chauvinistic, rigid, unbending, and socially backwards and primitive?”
Why do we make the case so strongly in evangelistic meetings that the truth must not be attributed to Scripture plus ecclesiastical tradition?
F. Imagine you’re interviewing two candidates for the position of Senior Pastor in your church. After your committee has become well acquainted with both candidates you make the following evaluations:
- Candidate A communicates more effectively than Candidate B.
- Candidate A has an advantage in the processing of information. The logical and task oriented part of the brain is communicating well with the relational and emotional part.
- Candidate B may have scored a few points higher on an IQ test.
- Candidate A showed greater composure under stress than Candidate B.
- Candidate A befriended the members of the search committee and showed enthusiasm for meeting their needs. Candidate B would be a great companion if you found yourself in a fight on a battlefield.
- Candidate A admitted to experiencing pain; B denied it for a longer time.
- Candidate B more easily rotates objects in his brain and thinks well in 3D.
G. Opposing Views. Two writers, speaking recently about the resurfacing clergy abuse crisis in the Roman Catholic Church, took opposing views in their analysis of the situation.
One writer (a book author and CNN contributor) argued that the charges against priests represented a “campaign of coordinated attacks by liberals” aimed at “destroying religion” and “undermining the church’s authority.”
The other writer (a Pulitzer Prize winning newspaper columnist) referenced the Catholic Church’s ban on women priests: “If the church could invite women to be priests and end the sordid culture of men protecting men, it could be an encouraging sign of humility and repentance, a surrender of arrogance, both moving and meaningful.”
How do you view the women-in-ministry debate in the Adventist church? Do you think it primarily is a liberal/conservative issue? A male/female issue? Is it about church authority? Do you see any similarities or differences between our church’s discussion and the Catholic controversy? What would be a “moving and meaningful” solution for you?
Don’t stop now! Keep studying. Part two is the response by the Southeastern California Conference of Seventh-day Adventists to the February 6, 2010 Doug Batchelor sermon.