I've discovered an army of Southern Baptists, usually silent in public, who feel empowered to comment on blogs, and their comments are both needed and thought provoking. One such layman, a highly educated professional himself, wrote a comment on last week's post about mail order degrees obtained by some Southern Baptist pastors. Tom Kelley did not comment about fraudulent degrees, but instead wrote about D.Min degrees, degrees that are legitimate post-graduate degrees for many Southern Baptist pastors. However, Tom expressed his disapproval that these pastors either insist on being called "Dr." or even allow others to address them as "Dr."--a distinction that the D. Min degree does not afford. Tom explained his feelings in this manner:
"One thing that bothers me is the number of pastors who complete D.Min. degrees and then refer to themselves (or allow others to refer to them as) "Dr." As a practitioner's degree, the preface of Dr. for a D.Min. grad is not appropriate, as it is with an academic's degree, such as a Ph.D., Th.D., or even Ed.D.In light of Tom's perceptive--and in my opinion, accurate--comment, I would like to thank Kevin Ezell, President of this year's 2010 Pastors' Conference in Orlando. No speaker is listed as "Dr.". Most speakers have earned the D.Min degree. A couple have earned Ph.D's. It is right to do away with all titles when SBC pastors are called to preach the word of God. Christ Himself spoke about being careful of considering oneself superior to those to whom one speaks (Matthew 23:8). Thankfully, the SBC Committee on Order of Business has adopted a similar approach when presenting speakers.
It's appropriate, if one sees a need, for a D.Min. to follow their name with their "letters", just as a lawyer can follow their name with J.D. (Doctor of Jurisprudence). But one should no more call a D.Min. grad "Dr." than one would call a lawyer "Dr." This is because the purpose of both degrees serve as terminal degrees in the practice of one's "craft"; the degrees are not intended as scholarly qualifications.
In fact, a pastor with a Ph.D. should not be called "Dr." in reference to his position as pastor, only in his work as a professor or theologian. Even someone with an M.D., a profession notorious for insisting on being called Dr., would be out of line to think his mechanic should call him "Dr." when he gets his oil changed.
Context is key."
Do you agree that the D. Min is not an academic research degree, and that pastors desire to be identified as a person with this degree, they should abstain from "Dr." before their name, and simply go with D. Min after their name, as would an attorney with a Juris Doctorate degree? Or do you believe that a pastor with a D.Min should be called "Dr." and introduce himself as "Dr."? It seems that most Southern Baptist pastors with a D.Min believe it is both normal and expected for their congregations to refer to them as "Dr.". I think Tom Kelley has made some valid points about this being an errant practice.
In His Grace,