Sunday, July 15, 2007

Job Titles, Legitimacy, and Calling: Ordination in the Universal Life Church and Marriage

So what do we make of the fact that all the Universal Life Church needs for ordination is a name, address, and email? Are "real" ministers called to ordination in this church? Is this "legitimate" ordination? And who decides if it's "legitimate"? Let's first look at motivation for ordination in the ULC.

1. It's my contention that many people choose ordination with the Universal Life Church not in order to have a life-long ministry in a formal church or to mock ministers ordained after lengthy discernment processes and education, but to perform a wedding ceremony. One wedding ceremony. That's why Tori Spelling seems to have done it, Jamie did it for this purpose, and so did I. So perhaps what we really have is a problem with the way marriage is legally described and weddings are performed.

Marriage in and of itself could be an entirely separate post, but let's leave it at the fact that marriage is a state-governed legal institution in this country with an implicit violation of separation of church and state. Marriage can be viewed as a religious committment with a legal license, a legal committment officiated by a member of the clery, or a purely legal commitment, but it is not purely religious (for the people allowed to marry by the state) because there's a legal contract involved.

On a practical level, many couples who do not belong to either a church or know a judge choose to be married by someone they know and respect who can only perform the ceremony legally with ordination with the Universal Life Church (or a similar denomination with a relatively easy ordination process). Does that make their marriage less legitimate? Certainly not legally.

Next post: 2. Universal v. Universalist, 3. what the NT says, and 4. doctors, lawyers, and ministers, oh my.