Trick question because there are no “SBC” pastors. The SBC (Executive Committee, seminaries, state convention, local associations) does not ordain clergy, Not one. Not ever. Thus, the “SBC” cannot revoke any individual’s ordination.
We all knew that, right?
Ordination is a bit of a scandal itself in the SBC. There are no standards, no requirements, no accepted practices, no training, no apprenticeship, nothing, nothing, nothing. As an obscure, old codger blogger once (or twice, or thrice) wrote, “some SBC churches would ordain a ham sandwich.”
It’s all about local church autonomy, of course, something that is a reality in SBC life regardless of the issue. Any local, individual church may ordain anyone they wish, in whatever manner they wish, and need not consult anyone about it, not even Jesus.
The combination of (1) the concept and teaching of ordination in the New Testament being a rather obscure and soft doctrine, it’s not described and prescribed directly at all, and. (2) our system of local churches ordaining for life and then the distinguished Reverends moving around from church to church make for some difficulty with the whole business of ordination as a standard practice
One of the abuse advocates asked recently if anyone had ever heard of an SBC minister being defrocked. I volunteered the single instance in my knowledge, and that lone example over about a half-century of being involved as an adult in SBC life and SBC churches.
The case was a pastor who left his wife and church for another woman. No dispute about the facts. Not really any desire by the adulterous pastor to maintain his credentials. The matter was presented, absent sordid details, to the ordaining church. A vote was taken. The ordination was revoked. That was that.
Perhaps you have examples.
There is really no system by which any association, state convention, or the national SBC; nor any seminary or other SBC entity; nor any SBC elected leader can initiate a move to revoke anyone’s ordination. The ordaining church only can do this. They could be threatened with expulsion but in all likelihood the offending pastor has long since left that church anyway.
A few humble suggestions about these serious matters:
1. Could the Executive Committee, the six seminaries as a group, compile and recommend best practices to the local churches about ordination. Who should be ordained. The biblical basis for the same. The actual practice of it. The importance of examination of the candidate. All those things that make it a serious matter. It’s depressing to hear a pastor say that his ordination was a joke.
2. I’m not seeing clear to have an SBC registry of ordained clergy. I don’t think it is possible to do this but if there is a workable plan, I’m open to being persuaded. I fear a registry would imply SBC approval.
3. There are some ordained clergy who should be defrocked, de-ordained, and probably flogged. A case of child abuse should include the ordaining church revoking ordination. I’ve presided over several ordinations. None of these individuals are in the same church, some are close by, others far away, still others out of the ministry. I’m long gone from being that church’s pastor but if I knew about an egregious case, I wouldn’t hesitate to call my former church and lay the matter before them.
4. In general, seems to me, not a lot of churches even care about a prospective pastor’s ordination. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe search committees vet this along with other things.
5. The idea of a process of restoration is a recent invention in SBC life. I never heard of any formal process whereby a fallen pastors submitted himself to a process of restoration. Not a bad idea as long as we make clear that some sins so damage the individual’s reputation that they should never return. Besides, we’re all independent actors anyway. We don’t have to submit to anyone for anything. If a fallen pastor can sell the next church on himself, that’s all that is needed.
6. Aha, ordination as a route to our sacred clergy government tax break, the minister’s housing allowance. Why should the state influence what we do about this? Yet it does and we happily participate in it.
Mark Terry wrote recently about revoking ordination. A distinguished professor, he has much more to say than I, and he wants a database. I’m not there yet, but persuade me, Doc.
This is a perpetual topic in SBC life:
Above reproach: A study of the ordination practices of SBC churches (Jason Lowe). Lowe compiles data, self-selected respondents, not the best way to understand exactly where the SBC is on this but very valuable nonetheless.
Some (Jimmy Scroggins) don’t believe in transferable ordinations. I don’t see this position as ever prevailing in the SBC where a pastor may serve dozens of individual churches (though most probably serve just a handful).
LifeWay Research has a new survey of attitudes towards adulterous pastors: Pastors Split Over Ministry Return Time Frame for Pastors Who Commit Adultery. Read it. One in 50 pastors say “not at all,” that is, adultery today back in the pulpit tomorrow. Only 27% declare the adulterous pastor to have disqualified himself.
If nothing else works, your ordination is revoked and you can’t get it back you can always start your own church. You approve of yourself, right? Who else is needed? Come to think of it, this might be the underlying problem.
I didn’t approach celebrity pastors and church leaders. They are not like you and me. Get a $10 million settlement and say ‘ see ya!’ What a messed up church world we have these days.