Gregory Mobley, Visiting Professor of Hebrew Bible and Congregational Life, Yale Divinity School
Welcome to the Baptist neighborhood on the Yale Divinity School website.
Baptists do not represent a single denomination, but dozens, spanning a diverse theological and cultural spectrum. Baptist congregations are free to be unaffiliated or multi-affiliated.
There are three major groups of Baptists in America, and those groups have multiple denominational expressions.
- African American Baptist groups, the largest of which are the National Baptist Convention and the Progressive National Baptist Convention;
- predominantly but not exclusively Anglo-American Baptists in the South, such as the large Southern Baptist Convention and groups formed from among its progressive dissenters, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and Alliance of Baptists, and
- the American Baptist Churches U.S.A., the Baptist group with the most ethnic diversity and strongest representation in New England.
The Baptist host of evolving communities includes rural, suburban, and urban people with both liberal and conservative views. The commonalities among these varied congregations and denominations include commitments to:
A BELIEVER’S CHURCH: its members have professed personal faith in God through Jesus Christ and have expressed it predominantly through the practice by which they are named: baptism by immersion.
BIBLICAL AUTHORITY and LIBERTY OF CONSCIENCE: Baptist belief and practice is based on the Bible as interpreted according to the dictates of personal and congregational conscience.
PRIESTHOOD OF THE LAITY: Baptists do practice ordination, but stress the primacy of unmediated access to God by every believer, as well as the autonomy of congregations which operate democratically.
YDS students seeking affiliation and/or ordination with a Baptist church must begin with a specific congregation. By the way, there are two within walking distance of YDS, and both are affiliated with the American Baptist Churches U.S.A.
First Baptist Church in New Haven (http://www.firstbaptistnewhaven.org), whose current pastor is a graduate of YDS, and
Christian Tabernacle Baptist Church (http://www.ctabernacle.net), whose current pastor, Keith King is a graduate of Andover Newton.
Steps for Ordination
Note: there is no standard process for all Baptist denominations. The right to ordain rests with congregations, each of which is free to develop its own procedures.
Still, most Baptist congregations share a common path to ordination.
It begins with LICENSURE as voted on by a congregation based on the recommendation of the pastor or a ministerial committee within the church following some initial review of ministerial suitability.
This is followed by a period of formally or informally supervised ministry.
This can lead to ORDINATION by a congregation, almost always with the involvement of other local church with which it is associated. In the American Baptist Churches U.S.A. there is a basic educational requirement of both an undergraduate and seminary degree from accredited schools, with some flexibility for accommodating non-traditional candidates.
For samples of Baptist ordination procedures, let me recommend the following resources:
At the Myrtle Baptist Church in West Newton, Massachusetts, a historically African American congregation in an area with lots of seminarians (from Andover Newton, Boston University School of Theology, and Harvard Divinity School), the following Ordination Packet was developed.
On the website of the American Baptist Churches U.S.A., see this Recommended Procedures for Ordination.
Please do not hesitate to contact Professor Mobley if you have further questions.