Frequently Asked Questions
1. What Do American Baptists Believe?
American Baptists do not ascribe to any creed for a mandatory belief system. However, a description of American Baptists can be made through declarations affirmed by the General Board of the American Baptist Churches USA.
Those descriptions of our basic beliefs can be found in several documents, some of which have official endorsement by the General Board of the American Baptist Churches USA. They include “We Are American Baptists” and “10 Facts You Should Know About American Baptists.”
2. How Do We Support American Baptist Missions?
There are a number of ways churches provide mission support for the work and ministry we do together as American Baptists. United Mission is our primary way of providing financial support for all we do as American Baptists. A portion of UM giving supports the six institutions of the Central Region (Central Seminary, Ottawa University, Bacone College, Murrow Indian Children’s Home, Sunset Home and Prairie Homestead). Another portion of UM giving supports our wider denominational ministries including International Ministries, National Ministries, and ABC/USA denominational connections. The final portion of UM giving supports the ministries we share together in the Central Region, including pastoral search assistance to local congregations, camping and youth ministries, mission education and leadership training opportunities, new church planting, support of Bethel Neighborhood Center and other ministries that provide nurture and encouragement to Central Region churches and clergy.
We also support American Baptist Mission through several special offerings throughout the year. In the Fall, the World Mission Offering is received to support the work of International Ministries and the missionary work being accomplished around the world. The America For Christ Offering is received in the Spring to support the work of American Baptist Home Mission Societies and the missionary work being carried out in the United States and Puerto Rico. Also, one third of the AFC remains in the Central Region to support vital ABC/CR ministries. The One Great Hour of Sharing Offering is our most effective way to provide emergency and ongoing financial aid in the face of natural disaster and devastation. In recent years, OGHS funds have been distributed to victims of Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf; the tornado that struck Greensburg in 2007; Hurricane Ike in Texas in 2008; and most recently, the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. The Retired Ministers and Missionaries Offering is a special offering received each winter as a way of saying ‘thank you’ to retired ministers and missionaries for years of faithful service to the cause of Christ. The ABC/CR Region Offering is another way Central Region Baptists support the ministries of the Central Region. 100% of gifts given to the Region Offering are used to support the ministry and mission of the American Baptist Churches of the Central Region.
3. What is the Purpose of the Central Region?
In 2001, the Board of Directors of the American Baptist Churches of the Central Region discerned, after a year-long study, that we are currently called to “Grow Healthy Churches to Fulfill Christ’s Mission.” Our initial mission statement was adopted to give direction to working out this vision.
Since 1979 when the Kansas Baptist Convention became the ABC of the Central Region, the purpose as stated in the Rules of Procedure for the Board of Directors has been:
The goal of the ABCCR shall be:
Because of the call of God as revealed in Jesus Christ, we seek:
To nurture loving interpersonal relationships;
To develop participation in the decisions that affect person’s lives; and
To choose all areas of human concern as the arena for living, experiencing and sharing the gospel.
4. What is the Process for Clergy Ordination in the Central Region?
While it is only the local church that has authority to ordain individuals for vocational ministry, the Region Council on the Ministry (RCOM) is given responsibility for guiding churches and individuals through a process which results in denominational recognition of ordination. For more information, contact your area RCOM representative nearest you.
Coordinator of RCOM: Jan Smith
Southeast Area: Jerry Neeley
East Central Area: Melissa Newberry
Northeast Area: Scott Berry & Michael Thomas
Cross Roads Area: Kevin Hazelton & John Pattison
Western Area: Chris Prater
5. The Predominant ABCCR Position on Homosexuality
While the denomination does not speak for any local congregation or individual, there is a predominant position in the ABCCR on this question. The General Board passed a resolution in 1992 that says, “Homosexuality is not consistent with Christian teaching.” This position is binding on the General Board, the national structures and their staffs and is recommended to Regions and churches. See the ABC Time Line of Responses.
At the time, our General Secretary, Dr. Roy Medley of the American Baptist Churches, USA, sent a letter explaining the denominational policies. Region Executive Ministers are also Associate General Secretaries of ABC/USA and are bound by these policies.
Within the American Baptist Churches of the Central Region, our response to this issue has a consistent history. The first Statement of Concern, passed in 1979 by delegates at the Annual Meeting, was entitled, “Ministry with Homosexuals.” Again in 1983, the Central Region Board of Directors adopted another resolution on homosexuality. And then in 1992, the Board of Directors adopted the denomination’s resolution, “Homosexuality is not consistent with Christian teaching.” This was reaffirmed by the Central Region Board Executive Committee action in May, 2004. In the Central Region we have upheld this resolution with resolve. The Region staff and Executive Minister abide by this resolution and conduct themselves accordingly in their work with Central Region churches, departments and committees.
6. Do Pastors Have a Code of Ethics?
Ordained clergy within the American Baptist Churches/USA are asked to subscribe to the Covenant and Code of Ethics for Ministerial Leaders in the American Baptist churches. This Code of Ethics was prepared by the Ministers Council and serves as a way to help clergy maintain accountability in the exercise of life and ministry. Click here for a copy of the Code of Ethics.
7. Is Our Church Prayer List in Violation of HIPAA Laws?
Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) – Effect on Church Prayer Lists
HIPAA was created for four reasons: (1) To ensure continuity of health care coverage when changing jobs; (2) To combat waste, fraud and abuse in health care and health insurance; (3) To simplify administration of health insurance thereby improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the health care system; and (4) To protect the privacy of health information.
Title II of the HIPAA law includes requirements for ensuring the security and privacy of individuals’ medical information. The standards aim to maintain the right of individuals to keep private information about themselves. HIPAA covers medical records and other “individually identifiable health information” (communicated electronically, on paper, or orally) that are created or received by covered health care entities that transmit information electronically.
Although the kind of information protected by HIPAA is broad, the requirement to keep such information private applies only to health care entities that create or receive such information and who transmit information electronically. In the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website on HIPAA, there is a set of “Frequently Asked Questions.” Question number 190 is, “Who must comply with these new HIPAA privacy standards?” The answer provided by HHS is health plans, health care clearinghouses and health care providers who conduct certain financial and administrative transactions electronically. Clergy and churches are NOT listed, and I cannot locate any provision that would apply in regard to prayer lists or visitation. (On the other hand, church owned health care facilities and clergy who provide care for a fee may well be required to comply with HIPAA.
To date, HIPAA has impacted clergy patient lists and notification by a health care facility that a church member is in their facility. Many such institutions in Connecticut had a “professional courtesy” practice of calling clergy to notify them that a member of their church was admitted to their facility. Now, hospitals and health care facilities can only inform clergy about parishioners in the facility if the patient is told in advance that facility notifies clergy or maintains a clergy patient list and the patient does not object. Because of the rule, many facilities have decided it is easier to just not notify clergy that a church member has been hospitalized and to cease providing a patient list for clergy.
General common sense must still dictate care in placing a person on a church prayer list, as different people will react differently to public disclosure of their health information. Use caution with respect to the level of detail provided. Clergy should continue to respect the privacy confidentiality of information they learn while in a health care facility or from a church member. However, HIPAA was not intended to limit our ability to pray for others; and to date, we know of no lawsuit arising solely out of an earnest prayer by one for another.
The above information is from the Ministers Council website, www.ministerscouncil.com
8. Do I Have to be Ordained in Order to Perform a Wedding?
State Regulations Regarding the Solemnizing of Marriages
23-104a. Solemnizing marriage; persons authorized to officiate. (a) Marriage may be validly solemnized and contracted in this state, after a license has been issued for the marriage, in the following manner: By the mutual declarations of the two parties to be joined in marriage, made before an authorized officiating person and in the presence of at least two competent witnesses over 18 years of age, other than the officiating person, that they take each other as husband and wife. (b) The following are authorized to be officiating persons: (1) Any currently ordained clergyman or religious authority of any religious denomination or society; (2) any licentiate of a denominational body or an appointee of any bishop serving as the regular clergyman of any church of the denomination to which the licentiate or appointee belongs, if not restrained from so doing by the discipline of that church or denomination; (3) any judge or justice of a court of record; (4) any municipal judge of a city of this state; and (5) any retired judge or justice of a court of record. (c) The two parties themselves, by mutual declarations that they take each other as husband and wife, in accordance with the customs, rules and regulations of any religious society, denomination or sect to which either of the parties belong, may be married without an authorized officiating person.
43-7. Solemnization of marriages. A. All marriages must be contracted by a formal ceremony performed or solemnized in the presence of at least two adult, competent persons as witnesses, by a judge or retired judge of any court in this state, or an ordained or authorized preacher or minister of the Gospel, priest or other ecclesiastical dignitary of any denomination who has been duly ordained or authorized by the church to which he or she belongs to preach the Gospel, or a rabbi and who is at least eighteen (18) years of age. B. 1. The judge shall place his or her order of appointment on file with the office of the court clerk of the county in which he or she resides. 2. The preacher, minister, priest, rabbi, or ecclesiastical dignitary who is a resident of this state shall have filed, in the office of the court clerk of the county in which he or she resides, a copy of the credentials or authority from his or her church or synagogue authorizing him or her to solemnize marriages. 3. The preacher, minister, priest, rabbi, or ecclesiastical dignitary who is not a resident of this state, but has complied with the laws of the state of which he or she is a resident, shall have filed once, in the office of the court clerk of the county in which he or she intends to perform or solemnize a marriage, a copy of the credentials or authority from his or her church or synagogue authorizing him or her to solemnize marriages. 4. The filing by resident or nonresident preachers, ministers, priests, rabbis, ecclesiastical dignitaries or judges shall be effective in and for all counties of this state; provided, no fee shall be charged for such recording.
9-11-213. Persons who may solemnize marriages. (a) For the purpose of being registered and perpetuating the evidence thereof, marriage shall be solemnized only by the following persons: (1) The Governor; (2) Any former justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court; (3) Any judges of the courts of record within this state, including any former judge of a court of record who served at least four (4) years or more; (4) Any justice of the peace of the county where the marriage is solemnized, including any former justice of the peace who served at least three (3) terms since the passage of Arkansas Constitution, Amendment 55; (5) Any regularly ordained minister or priest of any religious sect or denomination.