Church ordination study finds ‘room for improvement’ in SBC churches

The ordination process of Southern Baptist churches is a weak spot when it comes to protecting congregations from sexual predators, according to a report released May 9.

The report, “Above Reproach: A Study of the Ordination Practices of Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Churches,” was conducted by Jason A. Lowe, an associational mission strategist in Kentucky, in response to a Feb. 10 Houston Chronicle report on sexual abuse among Southern Baptist churches.

Lowe began polling pastors and other Baptist leaders across the SBC on Feb. 20, two days after SBC President J.D. Greear presented 10 calls to action from the Sexual Abuse Presidential Advisory Study, one of which was to enhance the ordination screening process.

Ordination, a process that sets a person aside for ministerial service, is left up to each individual Southern Baptist congregation in keeping with the SBC’s policy of church autonomy. Churches may review a person’s salvation experience, pastoral call, qualifications and potentially his experience or seminary training to determine if he’s an appropriate candidate, according to sbc.net.

In late February and early March, Lowe gathered 555 survey responses from pastors (60%), associational and denominational leaders (17%), deacons (9%), retired or former pastors (5%) and others (9%) across 34 states to find out how their own ordination processes were conducted. He released his findings in a 42-page report and noted five significant points of interest:

  1. SBC ordination practices have significant room for improvement.
  2. Discussions regarding a candidate’s sexual purity are sparse, but on the rise.
  3. SBC ordination practices are changing in both positive and negative ways.
  4. Ordaining churches in more populated areas set higher standards for their ordination candidates.
  5. Larger churches are more thorough in their examination of ordination candidates.

The full report is available at www.tabonline.org/ordination. (BP)