Overview of Ordination Process
ABCRM values the ministry of its professional church leaders and will strive to provide support for them through mentoring, educational opportunities, and pastoral support in maintaining healthy congregations.
American Baptist Process
Historically, Baptists have followed the practice of setting apart certain individuals for special roles as leaders of local churches, as missionaries, and chaplains. This act is called ordination. As Baptists, only local churches ordain ministers, but their ordination is recognized at the national or regional level. American Baptist Churches USA recognize various pathways to the recognition of ordination which are described below. In the ABCRM, a special committee called the Ministerial Leadership Committee (MLC) helps guide candidates through the ordination process.
The standard path is designed for those who graduate from an accredited seminary with a Master of Divinity (M.Div.) degree. A person who receives a “Standard Ordination” is recognized as an American Baptist minister throughout American Baptist Churches USA.
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. 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.
In some cases, a person gifted for ministry is called serve in an ordained position within the ABCRM, but is unable to meet the educational requirements of Standard Ordination. ABCRM has provided a process whereby such a person may obtain educational training through a series of classes taught in cooperation with Northwind Institute. 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 ABC churches outside the Region.
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. 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.
In exceptional cases, relevant ministry experience may be substituted for a portion of the educational requirements. This process is called “Equivalency Ordination.”
Steps to Ordination
Applicants for ordination need to understand that this is not a quick process. They should understand from the outset that this will take time and there are no “guaranteed ordinations.” The steps described below will take several months to a couple years to complete.
A prerequisite to seeking American Baptist ordination is that the applicant be an active member of a local ABCUSA congregation.
Applicant contact ABCRM office and meets with Ministry and Mission Coach to discuss pathway to ordination.
Applicant submits Application and $100.
Applicant submits letter from local American Baptist church recommending applicant for ordination.
Applicant submits autobiographical sketch/personal faith journey.
Applicant submits educational transcripts from university and seminary.
Applicants who have been ordained by another denomination must submit a copy of their ordination certificate and contact information for ordaining church or denomination.
Applicant requests four people to complete references and provides reference forms.
Applicant meets with the Ministerial Leadership Committee (MLC) to share faith journey and call to ministry. (MLC will vote if the applicant will move forward in the ordination process.)
If approved to move forward by the MLC, write a theological paper describing their personal theological beliefs. In the case of recognition from another denomination, this paper will reflect the candidate’s theological journey since ordination.
The candidate will schedule an appointment with recommended agency to complete psychological profile. (In some cases, a complete report from Clinical Pastoral Education supervisor might be acceptable.)
Candidate completes an American Baptist Polity class.
If the candidate is seeking recognition as chaplain, he or she needs to meet separately with the Chaplain Subcommittee of the MLC.
Candidate meets with Ministerial Leadership Committee for a second time to discuss theological paper and other issues. At this point, the MLC can 1) recommend the candidate to the local church for ordination, 2) deny request for ordination, or 3) recommend further steps to prepare candidate for ordination.
For a more detailed description of these steps, see the Ordination Process Checklist.
All documents must be submitted at least two weeks prior to meeting with the MLC or the meeting will be postponed at the discretion of the MLC Chair.
The process leading to each of these ordinations (except local ordination) is described in detail in the Manual for Ordination of Ministers.
For additional information about ordained ministry and placement in American Baptist Churches, visit the Ministers Council website at www.ministerscouncil.org.
Online Resources for Ordination Applicants
Click on the link for the document desired
Guidelines for Spiritual Narrative (Please download and use template for paper)
Guidelines for Theological Reflection Paper (Please download and use template for paper)
ABCRM is aware of the various dynamics that impact those who feel called to ordained ministry. Many are now seeking ordination later in life and are not able to take the time or are unable to pay for to pursue a Masters of Divinity. Many who are seeking ordination are already engaged in ministry.
ABCRM has partnered with Northwind Institute to provide online classes that meet the educational requirements of the Regional Ordination. These classes can be taken at your own pace.
Online Classes offered through Northwind Institute:
Church History and Polity
ABC-USA History and Polity
Missional Church and Evangelism
Practice of Ministry and Church Administration
Theology and Practice of Worship
Visit the Northwind Academy website for course information and availability.
Live classes in the following subjects will be offered through ABCRM as needed:
Practice of Ministry
And other subjects as required/available
Professional Boundaries Class
Creating Healthy Boundaries Together
Most clergy are clear about their professional and personal boundaries. They maintain healthy relationships with members of their church. They pay their taxes on time. They care for their families.
Okay, maybe they could lose a few pounds and perhaps they could be more attentive to their self-care, but they are doing pretty well. So why is ABCRM encouraging all clergy and even laypersons to take the online class, The Importance of Maintaining Healthy Boundaries?
When clergy do violate professional or personal boundaries, the consequences are devastating. Devastating to themselves, their families, the church, and anyone else involved. It is also a reality that with the advent of social media, we need to think in new ways about relationships and what we share online as well as face-to-face.
Withdrawal of Recognition
Recognition by the American Baptist Churches of the Rocky Mountains of any ordination can be withdrawn and the minister’s name removed from the professional registry upon the recommendation of the Region’s Ministerial Leadership Committee. Such recommendation shall be made only upon due cause. “Due cause” shall be the violation of the standards outlined in The Covenant and Code of Ethics for Ministerial Leaders of American Baptist Churches and following the process outlined in “An Ecclesiastical Process for Review of Ministerial Standing” described in the ABCRM Ordination Manual.
In extreme and unusual situations, circulation of an individual’s profile generated by ABPS may be placed on hold by the Executive Minister of ABCRM. This action is to be taken only upon written notification to the individual and the ABPS, and after consultation with the Region’s Ministerial Leadership Committee. To preserve the rights and responsibilities of all persons involved in such actions, the ABCUSA developed the following process, which has been adopted by the ABCRM Region Board on March 9, 2007.
Clergy who have had the recognition of their ordination withdrawn can appeal in writing to the Executive Committee of the Region Board.