While every effort is made to keep this posting up-to-date, we urge you to contact the Regional Office directly with your questions to receive the most current information.

The document, Ministerial Standards, Policies & Procedures, is the source of information below. If there is a discrepency between that document's most recent revision and adoption and material you find on this page, the document is to be preferred. All efforts are made to have these two be the same. (See below: Abbreviated Steps to Ordination)

Affirming God's Call through...


From Ministerial Standards, Policies & Procedures adopted by GRR Board, January 2011, pp. 4-5:

In American Baptist life, churches are the only ordaining authority. Ordination is neither a right nor an entitlement to be claimed by an individual. A church prayerfully ordains, not to endow with power nor to confer social status, but as a public affirmation of what God has already done. A church chooses to ordain a person because they have discerned evidence of a Godly call, have witnessed gifts of ministry, have seen satisfactory preparation for ministry, and accept the candidate to minister among them.

American Baptists affirm that ordination requires the candidate for ordination is serving in a place of service, i.e. an American Baptist Church or other ABC Ministry. Because ordination is the process that a church enters to affirm the calling, giftedness, and service of the candidate, ordination cannot be detached from a place of service.

Churches may license individuals for a variety of reasons. For example, licensure may affirm a specialized kind of ministry (home visitation, children's ministry, etc) or be part of sending a student to seminary. However, the Great Rivers Region does not treat licensure as a necessary pre-requisite for ordination. Likewise, there are circumstances in which a "commission" rather than an ordination or license may be appropriate (e.g., a short-term mission trip).

While only churches ordain, it is a consequence of our associationalism that churches seek the advice and counsel of partner churches in the process of ordination. The prerogative for churches to perform ordinations is preserved by calling this process of advice and counsel "recognition." While the hope is that churches will participate in this "recognition" process, local churches have the final say on whom they will and will not ordain.

The most important prerequisite for ordination, the call of God to a specialized ministry, does not readily yield itself to particular standards that a denomination or local congregation might establish. This is why the call must be tested by other prerequisites or standards, especially those having to do with educational standards, evidence of gifts and character for ministry, clarity about the proposed type of service in which the candidate intends to serve as an ordained minister. In these three areas it is quite appropriate that the local and the wider church (in the case of denomination, American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A.) establish standards for ordination.

The Process

American Baptists affirm that Ordination requires a place of service in an American Baptist Church or other ABC Ministry. Ordination is the process that a church enters to affirm the calling, giftedness, and service of the one serving. Therefore, it cannot be detached from a place of service. For more, see the Summary or view the video clip, "Ordination with ABC" by Gary Reif. (Choose the format best for you: Quicktime, RealMedia, WindowsMedia)

Role of the Local Church Congregation

  • The appropriate board or committee of the church to which the candidate belongs shall meet with the candidate to gain information as to eligibility for ordination. (See Ordination Process Summary)
  • The appropriate committee and the pastor, if they consider the candidate ready for ordination, shall recommend that the Council on Ministerial Standing and Ordination meet with the individual prior to the Area Committee Ministry Committee's ordination examination counsel. The appropriate local church committee shall supply, or take steps to supply, the COMSAO with all information at its disposal.
  • COMSAO will report its decision to the appropriate Area Committee and the church through the Area Minister.
  • The Area Committee will follow its own procedures for examination of the candidate and making a recommendation to the church.
  • A date for ordination and order of service can then be set by the candidate and the church.

Role of the Candidate

After conferring with his/her pastor, the candidate should seek counseling from his/her Area Minister as to procedures leading to ordination.

The candidate shall be responsible for:

  • Submitting documents as required by the COMSAO
  • An official transcript from all schools attended that documents successful completion of work and graduation (if appropriate).
  • Providing written references as required by COMSAO.

The candidate should inform the appropriate local church committee and leaders concerning his/her readiness to proceed with the ordination process.

The candidate may select a sponsor. The role of the sponsor is to be an advocate for the candidate as she/he shares his/her theological stance and concept of ministry in meetings before COMSAO, the Area Committee, and examination councils.


1.  Church, candidate and Area Minister meet to review procedures and establish a course of action.  Application materials will not be sent to candidates without the authorization of an Area Minister.

2.  Application materials are submitted to COMSAO
These include: Completed information form, Endorsement by the church, References, Educational transcripts, Documentation of ABC History & Polity, Documentation of Professional Ethics training, Candidate assessment (Midwest Ministry Development Center), and Ordination paper (the outline provided and page limits must be followed)  

3. COMSAO meets with candidate (after all application materials are received) 
This interview is not to be confused with the “examination” (except for those who have been previously ordained in another denomination, or those seeking Privilege of Call). 

The work of COMSAO is credentialing by:

(a) assuring that all the documentation is in order

(b) addressing  issues which may have arisen as part of the candidate assessment by Midwest Ministry Development Center

(c) questioning about ethical boundary issues and fitness for ministry

(d) ascertaining the congeniality of the person for ministry in American Baptist life [key issues today are women in ministry, ecumenism, theological diversity, and support of ABC mission & ministry]

(e) reviewing the Ordination Paper with the primary intent of helping prepare the candidate for the Examination Council,

(f) establishing personal and professional relationship with the candidate.

4. COMSAO makes recommendation to the appropriate Area committee

5. The Area convenes an Examination Council (Area procedures vary on how this is done)

6. The Examination Council announces its findings and recommendation

7. The church plans and conducts ordination service, then reports it to the Region.

COMSAO is the Council on Ministerial Standing and Ordination.  The Regional Ministry Board adopts ministerial standards and policies regarding ordination, and has assigned the execution of those policies and procedures to COMSAO.  The Council is composed of six ABCUSA-recognized clergy in good standing, who have been appointed by the President of GRR.  The Executive Minister serves as the Recording Secretary.

The “ordaining church” must be the church that petitioned COMSAO regarding ordination and should be the “place of service” for the candidate.