Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Open Ordination

Among Christian churches there is "open communion" and "open membership." With the Universal Life Church, we have "open ordination," which I suppose also counts as "open membership."

Rev. Kirby J. Hensley was known to refer to ordaining others as the single most important act of any ULC minister. While marriage and other ceremonies are of course quite important, as is providing pastoral care and fulfilling other duties of ministry, it is through ordination that people from all walks of life are empowered to serve others in ways they could not otherwise. While individual ULC ministers and congregations have a variety of beliefs and practices, ordination is something we all hold in common. If there is any ULC 'sacrament,' this is it. 

"Open communion" refers to the practice of welcoming everyone to participate in the Lord's supper. Some churches, like the Roman Catholics and certain Baptists, limit communion to members in good standing only. Others restrict it to believers who were baptized by immersion. Still others have it open to anyone who professes faith in Christ, or else make no statement other than that it is Christ's table, where everyone is welcome. "Open membership," on the other hand, refers to the practice in some churches that have believer's baptism by immersion only to also welcome as members people previously baptized in other modes (sprinkling or pouring, as children or adults) without requiring re-baptism. The Universal Life Church has no specific policy on either of those matters, leaving it to individual conscience and the practice of the congregations. Ordination, on the other hand, is for everyone. 

If someone wishes to be ordained, you can either direct them to the website, or else simply offer to ordain them yourself. You would then need to send an email (generalcontact@ulchq.com), letter (Universal Life Church Headquarters, 601 Third St. Modesto, CA 95351), or submit the form online (http://ulchq.com/ordination.htm) on behalf of that individual. However, do not ordain anyone without their explicit request. An unwanted ordination might generate a record, but it accomplishes nothing if the person does not want it, or even know about it. 

The idea of ordination is, as I alluded to above, putting people on a path of empowered leadership. Clergy are often able to visit friends, family, and congregants in prisons and hospitals with greater facility than others, and to be certified as a professional chaplain, ordination or endorsement by a recognized faith tradition is required as well. The only denomination of Universal Life able to provide such endorsement for the purposes of formal recognition by the Association of Professional Chaplains is the ULC headquarters in Modesto, California

If you know people who could benefit from ordination, offer them the opportunity, and do what you can to make it easy for them to receive it. The Modesto church will send out the credential to new ministers free of charge, arriving in the mail usually within a couple of weeks. This is a privilege that more of us should exercise. 

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