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POLICIES AND PRACTICES

PREAMBLE
From creation, man was created a social being with the inclination to adapt to the environment he finds himself. But nature has so made it that every social group, be it religious or secular has got its distinctions. These distinctions have to be protected or they are lost.

Different denominations such as the Catholic, Anglican, Presbyterian, Methodist as well as Pentecostals have either come up with laid down policies guiding them or are in the process of doing so. The Nigerian Baptist Convention does not want to be making reference to what others have done but needs to come up with her own policies to guide our people in setting the pace.

The Nigerian Baptist Convention has observed with dismay the abuse of some policies and practices that has consequently impacted negatively on our Christian witness. The argument has usually been that they do not know the position of the Convention on these issues. This has made it necessary for us to express our belief system in clear and unambiguous terms. Our hope is to capture in the most possible terms how we as Baptists should express our faith within the context of our diverse cultural backgrounds that many times differ from the Christian standards in substance and applications.

Ceremonies and cultural practices done by Baptists are expected to be modest in all ways. By modest we mean not being expensive, not pretentious in appearance, manner, conduct and amount spent. May the Holy Spirit lead us to know what is modest.

Details on each issue are hereafter presented below.

BURIAL

A. TREATMENT OF WIDOWS/WIDOWERS

It is observed that some tribes torture women when their husbands die. Such ill treatments may include: the widows are required to sleep on mat, plank or bare floor; be half clothed, forced to eat in broken plates, sleep in the same room with the corpse, drink the corpse-bath-water, shave her head and wear mourning cloth which differentiates them, not to walk in the house, or put in solitary confinement, for certain periods they are not allowed to show sign of smile, seizing the deceased spouse’s property and all other practices that are unchristian. Unfortunately, some sisters-in-law, who are mourning, or widowhood enforcement agents, oppress some of these widows too.

Recommendations:
All the above ungodly practices should be banned in the families to which members of our Baptist Churches belong. No member of the NBC should be subject to such treatment.

1.       It is mandatory for all Baptists to marry under the marriage ordinance in order to protect the interest of the living spouse.

  1. Couples should be encouraged to make their wills.

3.       Churches should be more actively involved in protecting and defending widows and assisting them in other practical ways such as:

·         a. Financial Assistance

  • b. Legal Aid
  • c. Sponsoring them to Retreats for widows

·         d. Encouraging and supporting Ruth Societies.


B. WAKE-KEEPING

It is observed that wake keeping which is normally done a day before the burial has been grossly abused.

1.       In some cases, the visitors that come from various places are housed and fed by the bereaved, thereby putting heavy expenses on them.

  1. Some of those who take part in the wake keeping are never ready in time for the burial the following day.
  2. Many atrocities like drinking of alcoholic beverages, immoral dancing, sexual immorality, stealing are done during this period.
  3. Some unbelievers take the advantage to perform their own rituals in the night of wake keeping.


Recommendation:
There may be no wake keeping for any Baptist member since there is no spiritual benefit derived from it. Where it is observed it should be done only as service of songs.

C. BURIAL DAY

It is observed that corpses are allowed to stay in the mortuary for a great number of days or months either for the purpose of building house for the dead or preparation for big feasts. Frequently the bereaved that need to be helped have been forced to go on borrowing. Some have sold their belongings only to exhibit their flamboyancy at the burial of their parents or beloved ones. Some of the debts incurred at this period have left the bereaved in agony years after the burial.

Recommendations:
1. The corpse should be brought from the mortuary to the church and buried the same day. Unless where the corpse has to travel very long distances, arrangement should be made to keep it somewhere before the burial day.

2.Under normal circumstances no corpse should be kept in the mortuary for over four weeks.

3.Extravagant dressing of corpses and expensive coffins should be discouraged.

4.All burial ceremonies should end on the day of burial. The third, eighth, fortieth or any other second burial should be abolished.

5.Free-will-offering and gifts to the bereaved by the Church should be encouraged.

6.Undertakers, where they are used, should carry out their duties in a manner that will not hinder the smooth flow of things. This includes:

  • Not to desecrate the corpse by toying with it.
  • Not turning the funeral into a money-spinning affair.
  • Not extending the funeral procession unnecessarily.

7.The bereaved should not be burdened with unnecessary demands by the church.

8.Churches should not get involved in interments where fetish practices and elements are introduced. Back to Top

MARRIAGE
The Nigerian Baptist Convention has on several occasions stated her policy on the types of recognized marriage. References can be made to such write-ups like “Practices That Matter in Nigerian Baptist Convention Churches” and others.

There are processes to go through in marriage. Some of these processes have been abused and have become a burden on our young men and women, as well as on the parents. This has left us with a good number of bachelors and spinsters staying above thirty years before getting married. Preliminary preparations and actual performance of the marriage cost money.

A.             ENGAGEMENT

Baptists should restrict themselves to ceremonies that will glorify God. In many areas of Nigeria, because of some unchristian practices introduced by money exploiters into engagement ceremonies, things have become unbearably expensive. Unwholesome practices which may include narrators and money suckers like Igbo-nku (usual pre-weddings, where money is showered on the intending couple) and some other practices have defeated the purpose of Christian engagement. The practice where young people engage in licking of blood is totally paganistic.

Recommendations:

·         All formal and informal pre-engagement practices, which are becoming expensive, should be discouraged. We encourage that introduction, letter writing (both proposal and response where it is practiced), engagement and the wedding should be done on the same day within a reasonable time.

  • Invitation of professional engagement narrators should be seriously discouraged and church engagement teams should conduct engagements of church members.
  • All unchristian items on the engagement list should be dropped.
  • Bride Price: This terminology is a misnomer. The bride price is actually a symbolic contractual acknowledgement of the worth of the bride. Since there is no hard and fast rule guiding this in different places, Baptist families should allow the bridegroom to pay whatever he can afford on the agreement with the in-laws.
  • Where Traditional Marriage is conducted, the church should regularize it within a month.


B. WEDDING

The wedding of a couple even in Bible times involved expenses. Christian wedding is a solemn important ceremony in which God is involved. Unfortunately, it is becoming so elaborate and expensive that many “couples-to-be” either wait till when they are financially buoyant or go ahead and live together as husband and wife without the official wedding. This is a bad testimony to our Christian testimony and brings dishonor to the name of our God.

Recommendations:

·         Wedding ceremonies should not be too expensive. “Couples-to-be” should not mortgage their home in order to have a flamboyant wedding.

  • All unchristian practices like spraying of money should be discouraged.
  • Churches should help couples to perform modest wedding ceremonies.

·         No alcoholic drinks should be served at anytime in accordance with our covenant.

It is also recommended that intending couples before marriage should seek the face of God and undergo voluntary confidential counseling to include:

1.       Pregnancy Test

  1. Genotype Test
  2. Blood Group Test

4.       HIV/AIDS Test

However, the prerogative of marriage should be left with the intending couple after being fully informed of the implications of the test results. This right does not include the pregnancy test. In the case of pregnancy test, the Convention policy still stands that they should not be joined but rather they can receive Church blessing.

GRADUATION
Graduation ceremonies particularly in our Seminaries, Colleges of Theology, or Pastors Schools should be characterized by modesty rather than extravagance.

ORDINATION
Ordination within the Nigerian Baptist Convention is two-pronged: The ordination of Ministers and that of Deacons

1. ORDINATION OF MINISTERS

A.    General Requirements

The process of ordination within the Nigerian Baptist Convention for Ministers shall be understood as this:

·         Ordination right from the Bible is the prerogative of the local congregation.

  • It is the duty of the local Church to request for the ordination of her Pastor.
  • The Conference sub-ministerial committee shall interview the candidates using only the criteria set by the Ministerial Board of the Convention.
  • All ordinations shall be done for all candidates on one day in a common place by each Conference for all candidates approved by the Convention-in-Session upon the ratification and approval of the Ministerial Board within three months.
  • There should be no fanfare and/or elaborate ceremonies.
  • Those who are 65 years and above should not be recommended for ordination.
  • No homosexual, polygamist, drunkard, member of the secret societies, divorcee or person of questionable character should be ordained.

·         There will be no written examinations for candidates for ordination at any level.

B.    Requirements for Churches

·         The Church must be co-operating with the Association, Conference and Convention in terms of finance and promotion of their programmes.

  • The Church must have been established not less than five years or be organized before requesting for the ordination of her Pastor.
  • The Pastor must either be a full-time or bi-vocational Pastor of the Church.
  • Ministers who are workers in our Baptist Building, WMU Headquarters, Theological Institutions, Baptist Secular Schools, or other agencies of the Convention are qualified for recommendation by their Church.

C.    Requirements for Candidates

·         Successful completion of a recognized theological course of study in a Theological seminary and or Pastor’s School approved by the Nigerian Baptist Convention.

  • Evidence of an effective church ministry as reflected in the development and growth of the church of which he is a Pastor.
  • Evidence of Christian Character. That is, a Pastor’s character in all respects should be in harmony with the biblical ideal for a Minister as set forth by the Apostle Paul in I Timothy 3:1-7.
  • Evidence of a conviction of divine call to the ministry. We believe that Pastors should be able to provide, through word and deed, convincing evidence of a divine call to the ministry of the Word. The spirit of the minister should be like that of the Apostle Paul when he said; “Woe is me if I preach not the gospel, (I Corinth. 9:16).
  • Evidence of personal experience and attainment of spiritual maturity. In cautioning that we “lay hands suddenly on no man” and that “a Bishop must not be a novice”. Apostle Paul emphasized the importance of personal experience and maturity of character and personality required of a Pastor. These should also characterize the candidates for ordination by Churches in the Nigerian Baptist Convention.
  • The Pastor must have served the Church for at least two years before being recommended.

The Pastor shall be recommended for ordination after spending two years in the new Church. The Pastor shall also fulfill these:

·         Pastors with Doctoral degrees, Master’s degrees and Bachelor’s degrees in Theology shall be recommended in the second year.

  • Pastors with Diploma degrees shall be recommended in the third year.
  • Pastors with certificate qualifications shall be recommended in the fourth year.
  • Bi-vocational pastors shall be recommended in the third year.

D.    Ordination of Divorced Pastors

A divorcee pastor cannot provide to others the model example of a Christian marriage, which he should preach, teach, and exemplify. Therefore divorced persons do not qualify to serve as pastors and therefore shall not be considered for ordination by the Nigerian Baptist Convention.

2. ORDINATION OF DEACONS

  • The ordination of deacons in the New Testament is the prerogative of the local church.
  • The local church shall consider the counsel of 1Timothy 3:8-13.
  • No known polygamist, homosexual, divorcee, after conversion into Christianity should be ordained.
  • A woman who is married to one man before the husband decides to multiply his wives should not be denied ordination.
  • A drunkard, member of secret society, fraudster, and persons of questionable character should not be ordained.
  • There should be no fanfare and elaborate ceremonies should be minimized.

The deacons in the Baptist Church should not constitute themselves into a Board that would lord itself over their Pastors or their Churches. We emphasize that the deaconate of a local Baptist Church should remain as assistants to the Pastor and with the Pastor should together understand their role as the servants of the whole Church.

CHURCH SOCIETIES

Although not all our Churches nationwide have Church Societies, in the Churches where they exist, some advantages have accrued there from. However, we also note that there are excesses. These include:

·         The over-burdening of members or encouraging them to go into debts for contributions.

  • Looking down or despising those who do not belong to any Church Society.
  • Treating those who do not belong to Societies as isolated beings or ostracizing them.
  • Holding meetings at a time that conflict with Church activities.
  • Consequently, the committee recommends that:
  • Membership of Societies is optional.
  • Societies should be focused on missions and evangelism.
  • Members should uphold Church covenants.
  • Members should actively participate in Church Organizations like MMU, WMU, Youth, BSF, Lydia, RA, etc. which cater for the interaction of the small groups.
  • Society celebration should be modest.

DEDICATIONS: CHILD, CHURCH AND HOUSE

In as much as we cannot discourage sharing, we expect the Church to be a pacesetter for the community. Even when the financial strength is there, Baptists are not to forget our goal to witness. A moderate service should be held. The Unreached or less privileged should be remembered when planning for the reception. This also goes for house, car dedication, etc.

The spirit of sharing is recognized and should be encouraged. Nevertheless, no one should go into debt in order to celebrate. All celebrations should be done within the reach of the celebration(s) with all modesty.

INDUCTION
Induction is the formal transfer of both physical and spiritual authority and leadership of a local Church to the Pastor. This event should be carried out on one Sunday morning in the worship service within the first month of the resumption of the Pastor into office.

DRESSING
In view of the prevalent moral decadence in our society, we appeal to all our members, Church organs, and Churches to use every opportunity to seriously discourage seductive dressings such as body hugs, spaghetti strap, off-shoulders, transparent cloths, that reflect underwear, see-me-through blouses, bell bottom, mini skirts etc. among our girls and even women. Christian ladies should continue to dress decently in order to win others to Christ and to enhance our Christian witness among people of other faith.

Since our Pastors and their wives have been models of what Christian dressing is, they should continue to help our ladies through prompt corrections, advice, as well as stressing appropriate dress patterns during weddings for both bride and bridal train.

COURT CASES

Crises within the Baptist Family should be resolved in accordance with the Convention Constitution, as amended. All cases in Court instituted by individuals, churches, associations or conference or group of persons against the Convention or any of its components should be withdrawn from Court.

Any person or group of persons who institute litigation, and who fail to withdraw such cases from Court as directed, face the danger of being disfellowshipped from the Convention family. Such recalcitrant member(s) will not be accepted back into the fold until the misconduct is purged.

PRIVATE THEOLOGICAL INSTITUTIONS

The Convention regulation promotes the establishment of Theological Institutions by the Conferences and the Convention. In other words, no private individuals, no local church or even association can legally establish a theological institution.

However, there have been reported cases of Pastors who have established or are still contemplating establishing such unrecognized schools contrary to the regulations. Some claim ignorance of the policy while others claim that they felt the necessity to establish such institutions in order to meet the needs of their churches.

In the light of the above, the Convention:

Re-affirms clearly its policy on this issue through the Conference, Associations and Churches to avoid proliferation by Nigerian Baptist Convention Pastors.

Ministers should endeavour to adhere to the policy of the Convention on the establishment of schools.

With due respect to the autonomy of the local congregation, for the corporate existence of the Convention, such autonomy should recognize and abide with the norms of the Convention.

The Convention has not accredited any theological institution established by individuals nor will she recognize the certificates issued by such institutions.

The Convention should encourage the training of lay-leaders by the Churches for the purpose of starting House Fellowship Churches. These Churches will hire the service of our trained Pastors when they are ready.

Any violation of the policy for establishing Theological Schools should attract discipline ranging from suspension to dis-fellowshipping, depending on the circumstances surrounding such action.

BI-VOCATIONAL MINISTERS

Ordinarily, the Gospel Ministry demands a total commitment of the Pastor. It is a 24-hour call a day. In other words, the gospel ministry is a full-time job. Ideally, the Pastor should devote his full energy and God-given talents to advance the course of the Gospel Ministry.

However, there are some circumstances in our situation that will warrant the Pastor to take up a part-time job. These may include

Inability of the local church to adequately remunerate the Pastor and his family.

Invitation to serve the Lord through the Society.

The urge to practicalize a learnt trade or profession.

Invitation to help in an Institution particularly Conference or Convention-owned Institutions e.g. teaching in a Bible School, College of Theology or Seminary, Chaplaincy in medical institution or other related positions or employments.
In-as-much as the Convention is interested in establishing more churches, we recognize that calling of full-time Pastors may not be possible always. Therefore there is need to allow Pastors to engage in part-time ministry.
However, this should be left at the discretion of the Church. It must be fully discussed with the Church before the Pastor gets involved. This must be fully documented in well spelt-out terms to avoid abuse in the future and to protect the Pastor involved.

INTERIM PASTORATES

A. PASTORS SERVING IN NIGERIAN BAPTIST CONVENTION INSTITUTIONS

For Pastors who teach in our Theological Institutions, serve as chaplains in our medical institutions work in the Baptist Building, WMU Headquarters, or Conference Offices, etc., can accept interim pastorates for six months renewable only once, making a total of one year. All pastors in this category should wait for two years after the end of an interim pastorate before accepting another one.

B. RETIRED NIGERIAN BAPTIST CONVENTION PASTORS

Retired Pastors above 70 years of age should not be called as interim pastors.

APPRECIATION SERVICES

Appreciation services for Pastors should continue and this should be done periodically. Appreciation services should also be done for those working in Convention Institutions and agencies at least once every five years.

LORD’S SUPPER

A. This should be observed as often as possible but at least once in a quarter.

B. The elements should include:

Bread with or without yeast. However biscuits or wafers may be used. A non-alcoholic beverage should be used.

C. Only ordained Baptist Ministers should administer the Lord’s Supper.

D. Only Christians who are baptized by immersion may participate.

BAPTISM
a. Only those who have genuinely professed faith in Christ should be baptized.

b. These candidates should be presented to the Church for approval before baptism.

c. Only ordained Baptist Ministers should baptize.

d. Baptismal candidates should be decently clothed for the service.

NEWLY ESTABLISHED CHURCHES

A newly established Church should have an identity that is a name.

It should be encouraged to actively participate in the cooperative programme of the Association, Conference and Convention from the onset.

Newly established Churches should be organized within the first five years of existence.

Requirements for Organization:

i. A place of worship

ii. It may have a pastorium or a rented apartment for the Pastor.

iii. There must be a Pastor

iv. They must have organizations like MMU, WMU, Youth, Sunday School,Church Training

v. They must be contributing to the Association, Conference and Convention

vi. It must have at least not less than ten baptized members.

Organization Service: When a Church is ready for organization, it should inform the mother Church of her intent. The mother Church shall inform the Association and get them to participate in the planning and service of organization. During the service, the mother Church presents the certificate of organization to the newly organized local autonomous Baptist Church or congregation. This service should not be elaborate. Back to Top

REVIVALS
Two revival services in a year are recommended. These can be complemented with special emphasis through teachings, seminars, and workshops. Normally, Baptist Ministers should be invited to lead these revivals. Churches and their Pastors should agree on the number of times the Pastor can be away for outside engagement without prejudice to the fact that the primary responsibility of the Pastor is his local Church.

MUSIC
Christian music without worship is incomplete. Thus: We encourage our Churches to avail themselves of the ministry of Music Ministers who are theologically trained. The use of Music in worship should be decent as against sensuous and distractive. Our worship is to glorify God. Thus, it should not be allowed to become theatrical or mere entertainment.

FUND RAISING

All churches co-operating with the Nigerian Baptist Convention should henceforth refrain from using non-Christians in their Church fund-raising programmes. That such co-operating Churches should be encouraged to raise whatever funds they need for their projects from amongst the membership of their Churches and other Christian bodies.
Churches are encouraged to start projects they can finish in a short period of time of about five to ten years.

CHURCH ENVIRONMENT

The Ministry of the Church is a life-mediating ministry. It is a contradiction to find Churches worshipping in an environment of filth, stench and decay. Nigerian Baptist Convention Churches are encouraged to be mindful of the quality of their worship environments and to keep them clean both in their physical interiors and exteriors.
Congregations are encouraged to plant flowers and lawns and culture them to keep their environments tidy and dignifying.

SECRET CULTS

Realizing that membership in a Secret Society(* see attached appendix for a list of such societies) and the taking of oath of membership in the society are both contrary to the teaching of the New Testament (See Matthew 10:26; John 18:20; I Corinthians 3:16; 2 Corinthians 6:14:17; Ephesians 5:11-12; and James 5:12), the Nigerian Baptist Convention which accepts the New Testament as its rule of faith and of Church policy, re-affirms its stand on Secret Societies as follows:

No Pastor, Official or Officer of the Nigerian Baptist Convention shall be a member of any Secret Society whether it be foreign or indigenous. Anyone of these persons who is known to be a member of the Society shall be relieved of his position in the Convention.

Any member of a Baptist Church who is known to be a member of a Secret Society shall forfeit his membership in the fellowship of a Baptist Church.

Any Church member who has lost his membership in a Baptist Church because of his association with a Secret Society can be accepted back into the full membership of the Church only upon a verbal and written renunciation of his membership in the said Society.

No Baptist Church co-operating with the Nigerian Baptist Convention shall recognize any known member of any Secret Society (foreign or indigenous) as a member of the Church in full standing. Any Church, which condones such members of Secret Societies within its fold shall be expelled from the fellowship of the Convention.

The Church shall deny any member of a Baptist Church who in his lifetime was known
to have been a member of a Secret Society a Christian burial.

We urge all our Churches to refrain from inviting members of Secret Societies to officiate at important Church functions.

TRADITIONAL MEDICINE

While there could be genuine and honest use of traditional herbal medicine devoid of evil influence, it is the view that it is difficult to distinguish between this use and the involvement of occultic and demonic elements. Thus, in order to avoid creating confusion, doubt, suspicion and above all, bringing the name of Christ into disrepute, no Nigerian Baptist Pastor should be involved with such practices.

CHURCH REQUESTING FOR PASTORS’ CURRICULUM VITAE

Churches, which need information on their pastors or prospective pastors, should ask from the pastor, Conference Secretary or the Convention President. In cases of pastors who are about to graduate, such inquiry should be made from the appropriate Theological Institutions.

CHURCH EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE/CHURCH COUNCIL

Churches should use Church Council instead of Church Executive Committee. The Pastor is always the chairman of both the church council and the church-in-conference.

CHURCH LEADER

There should be no church leader in any Baptist church when there is a pastor.

CONFLICT BETWEEN PASTOR AND HIS CHURCH

Any conflict between the pastor and his church should be resolved internally. Failure to do so the matter should be referred to the association, if it could not be settled at that level, it should be referred to the Conference and subsequently to the Convention. No pastor should be paid three months’ salary in lieu of notice without proper investigations about whatever may be the grievances against him.

PASTORS ATTENDING NON-BAPTIST THEOLOGICAL INSTITUTIONS

Any Baptist trained in a non-Baptist Theological Institution, as a minister of the Gospel should not serve as pastor in any Baptist church. Such a minister must spend a minimum of one year in a Baptist Theological Institution. It is only then that the concerned pastor can be recognized by the denomination. However any Baptist pastor who wants to attend a non-Baptist Theological Institution must have obtained a minimum of diploma in theology from our Baptist Theological Institution before proceeding to such theological institutions.

CONDOM
It is known that the use of condom is highly associated with promiscuity in addition to the fact that condom-use is not absolutely protective against contracting HIV/AIDS. In the light of this knowledge, the Nigerian Baptist Convention dissociates herself from promotion of condoms as a reasonable alternative measure to chastity.

HOMOSEXUALITY
We affirm the biblical teaching of marital union between a man and a woman, and the Nigerian Baptist Convention categorically condemns any sort of union between individuals different from this biblical standard.

EXAMINATION MALPRACTICES

All Baptists should insist on diligence to study and hard work of their children and wards. All Baptists should shun examination malpractices.

ETHICAL BEHAVIOUR OF BAPTISTS IN PUBLIC LIFE

We believe that it is the inalienable right of every citizen to take part in the government of his country through the exercise of his civic rights such as voting. It is also true that some citizens due to their special abilities and interests may be called upon or opt to give their full time to politics and in so doing may be active in party politics. Such persons should put first their loyalty to God to whom they are ultimately responsible for the use of their opportunities. Therefore any Christian who is actively engaged in full-time politics is under divine obligation to influence his party to embrace principles of morality and righteousness. This will further require that if the political party in which a Christian is active conducts itself in a way displeasing to God and contrary to Christian teaching, such a person should dissociate himself from the party until the policies and practices are made right.

A. CONVENTION WORKERS

1. All workers (ministerial or non-ministerial) in the Convention - Church, Association, Conference and Convention - should stay clear of active participation in politics and political parties. A worker should not introduce party politics into the Church or Convention. A worker should not use the influence of his office as pastor or leader in the Convention to persuade the people toward a political party. A worker should be neutral in party politics.
2.Any worker in any Convention institution-Church, educational, medical, or other enterprises-before accepting a post in public service, should seek and receive the approval of his employer.

3.If a worker seeks election into a state or Federal legislature or holds chairmanship of public corporation, he should be given a leave of absence without pay.

B. GENERAL

1. When Baptists accept appointments in public life they should use such appointments as opportunities for Christian witness. We expect Baptists who hold public offices to take a strong stand against using, serving and selling alcoholic beverages and tobacco.

2.The Convention reserves the right to call to order any one in public office whose Christian witness is questionable.