The Baptist denomination is the second largest in the United States, and is also among the largest in the world. It is also one of the most culturally diverse denominations in the world, having thousands of umbrella organizations and non-denominational churches that are apart of the larger fellowship of Baptist denominations.
Among the diversity of Baptists, there are different ordination requirements, all of which are conferred in the local church. There is no such thing as a “Universal Ordination,” as all Baptist Churches are locally autonomous and only grant the practice of ordained ministry for use in that specific church, their local association, or affiliated national body (for example, ordination in the American Baptist Church does not constitute ordination in The Progressive National Baptist Convention).
As Protestants, Baptists have historically selected lay ministers, without any specific educational requirements beyond the minister’s gravity of Baptist polity, distinctives, articles of faith, systematic theology, and the candidate’s saving faith. While ordination requirements vary, each denomination tends to have a two-tier process that begins with licensure for Gospel ministry, then ordination.
Students should be in touch with their local church and pastor to determine the specific requirements for their Baptist denomination. It is recommended that students take courses to gain facility in biblical languages, Old and New Testament, leadership and administration, pastoral care and counseling, preaching and worship, Christian theology, Early Christianity and the Reformation, and Baptist polity.
It is also advisable for students to seek out field education sites that will allow them to explore the financial operations and structure of the local church.
The process for ordination in the American Baptist Church is listed below:
The candidate for ordination shall have completed the requirements for Tracks I, II, or III as defined in “Recommended Procedures for Ordination…as Adopted by The Ministerial Leadership Commission and the Ministers Council of American Baptist Churches USA” (PDF). The candidate should make an initial contact with the Region Minister, and maintain contact throughout the process.
1. The candidate shall submit the following documents to the Region Staff person for the State Advisory Committee:
- A letter of recommendation from the local church Board of Deacons or other appropriate board. This must be submitted at least two months before the next scheduled State Advisory Committee on Ordination meeting.
- A letter of recommendation from the Pastoral Relations Committee of the local Association following a meeting with that committee stating their actions and findings of the readiness for ministry by the candidate.
- A copy of his/her college, seminary, lay pastor program diploma or equivalent, and/or transcript.
- A copy of his/her certificate of licensing by the church in which membership is held.
- Indication of which of the three tracks (as listed in the “Recommended Procedures…” or in a document provided by the State Advisory Committee). [Note: Under Track II (experience equivalent) and Track III (where the candidate is seeking ordination under the lay pastor training program provision, and an additional three years of acceptable pastoral experience following graduation is required by the State Advisory Committee on Ordination), detailed evidence of appropriate experience must be submitted to the Committee at least six weeks prior to the date of the scheduled Committee meeting the candidate plans to attend.]
- A signed copy of The Covenant and Code of Ethics for Professional Church Leaders of American Baptist Churches of The Ministers Council of ABC/USA.
- Indication of satisfactory completion of a course in American Baptist History and Polity at a seminary or with a person approved by the State Advisory Committee on Ordination. (A recommendation of an approved tutor may be obtained through the Region Staff person for the State Advisory Committee).
- Completion of a comprehensive career and candidacy assessment program sponsored by or in consultation with an American Baptist related Career Development Center within five years prior to examination by the State Advisory Committee on Ordination. A copy of the report is to be requested by the candidate to be sent to the Committee (Region Staff Person).
2. The candidate shall prepare an Ordination Paper (theological statement) and twelve copies of the paper are to be submitted to the Adjunct Staff Person at least four weeks before the scheduled meeting of the Committee. The following format should be followed:
- 12 pages maximum in length.
- 1” margins all around.
- Times New Roman or Arial Font.
- 12 point font size.
- Lines should be numbered in left margin.
- Pages should be numbered in bottom center.
- Label each section with only one spacing line to separate sections.
3. Upon completion of steps one and two above, the candidate shall seek an appointment to meet with the State Advisory Committee on Ordination at one of their regularly scheduled meetings.