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Pathways to Ordination
Historically, Baptists have followed the practice of setting apart certain individuals for special roles as leaders of local churches. This act is called ordination. Circumstances of individuals and of churches are quite different, and because of this, there are varying pathways leading to ordination within the American Baptist Churches USA (ABCUSA). The usual path is to attend an accredited seminary, graduate with a Master of Divinity (M.Div.) degree, be called to minister to a local church or other ministry, and be ordained by a local church following the approval process prescribed by the Ministerial Leadership Committee of ABCRM.
During the time of preparation, the person is usually licensed to preach as a candidate for ordination. This route is called “Standard Ordination” and the status as an ordained American Baptist minister is recognized nationally throughout the denomination.
In exceptional cases, relevant ministry experience may be substituted for a portion of the educational requirements. This process is called “Equivalency Ordination.”
Recognition of Ordination from Another Denomination
Ministers who have been ordained in other denominations and who wish to serve in an American Baptist church or ministry may seek to have their ordination from another denomination recognized. In order for the ordination to be recognized as standard, the educational requirements must be met. Those seeking recognition who do not meet the standard educational requirements may be regionally recognized.
There are cases in which a person gifted for ministry wishes to serve in an ordained position within the ABCRM, but is unable to meet the educational requirements of Standard Ordination. The Region has provided a process whereby such a person may obtain educational training through a series of classes taught within the Region. Satisfactory completion of these classes and other requirements may lead to a “Regional Ordination.” Such an ordination will be recognized by churches throughout the ABCRM, but may not necessarily be transferred to churches outside the Region.
Finally, because ordination is a function of the autonomous local church, a church may recognize the gifts for ministry and the call of an individual within that church and ordain that person without participation by the ABCRM. Because the qualifications and call of the ordained minister have not been validated by the larger American Baptist family, such local ordination is not generally transferable to other churches.
The process leading to each of these ordinations (except local ordination) is described in detail in the Manual for Ordination of Ministers
Individuals seeking ordination or churches wishing to recommend a person for ordination are encouraged to contact the Region office.
For additional information about ordained ministry and placement in American Baptist Churches, visit the Ministers Council website at www.ministerscouncil.org.