Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Saint Leo University's New Doctor of Theology Program

This could be of interest to Universal Life Church ministers, although keep in mind that this is a serious degree program. You'll need an earned accredited Master's degree in a relevant field (divinity, philosophy, religious studies, etc) among other things to get in, and it's no cake walk once you get started. A full description from Spotify is below.

In this episode of the Saint Leo 360 podcast, we preview the new Doctor of Theology degree program that Saint Leo University is launching this year. We caught up with Dr. Stephen Okey, associate professor of theology, religion, and philosophy and director of this new doctoral program, to further discuss this new and exciting terminal degree. During the conversation, Dr. Okey spoke about:

  • His background in terms of education and career
  • The types of doctoral degrees in theology and how a Doctor of Theology (ThD) is unique
  • The inspiration behind Saint Leo University starting the Doctor of Theology in Applied Theology program
  • An overview of applied theology as a discipline
  • The types of prospective students this doctoral program is intended for
  • The prerequisites for admission to the program
  • Where the program will be offered and the low-residency portion
  • The credit hours needed for completion and an estimated length of the program for students
  • An overview of courses and topics to be covered in the program
  • An overview of faculty members who will teach in the program
  • How a ThD can specifically benefit graduates in their careers
  • What sets this Doctor of Theology program apart from others
  • Learn More about Saint Leo University’s Doctor of Theology (ThD) Program
To learn more about this new Doctor of Theology degree program offered by Saint Leo University, check out the program page at

Contact Dr. Okey with any questions about the program at

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

The Universal Life Church: A Haven for Spiritual Seekers and Believers

The Universal Life Church, founded by Kirby Hensley in the early 1960s, has become a means of empowerment for people seeking a non-traditional religious experience. With its message of inclusivity and acceptance, the church has attracted a diverse membership that ranges from Buddhists to Pastafarians.

From its earliest days, the church identified a niche that wasn't being served by traditional religions and filed it ably. The movement of the Universal Life Church onto the internet took what Hensley was offering and made it accessible to anyone in the world at the click of a mouse. Today, the 21st-century iteration of the Universal Life Church functions by applying the same principle to religion as technologist Stewart Brand famously said, "information wants to be free."

The original Universal Life Church, based out of Modesto, California, has been at the forefront of this movement. It has consistently maintained its message of inclusivity and acceptance for over six decades, making it a stalwart in the religious community. While there have been internal conflicts with other groups claiming the Universal Life Church name, the Modesto-based church has remained steadfast in its message.

Furthermore, the church has also managed to maintain financial transparency, an admirable trait for any religious organization. Unlike many other churches that pass the plate for offerings, the Universal Life Church does not, and instead relies solely on product sales to ordained members. This unique approach to funding shows that the church is not just interested in making a profit but also genuinely wants to provide a service to its members.

In addition to this, the Universal Life Church has been instrumental in promoting the idea of online ordination. This has made it easy for people who wish to serve as ministers to do so without having to go through traditional seminary training. This has been particularly important for people who might not have the financial resources or time to attend traditional religious institutions.

In conclusion, the Universal Life Church based out of Modesto, California, has been a source of inspiration for people seeking an inclusive, non-traditional religious experience. The church's message of acceptance and inclusivity, as well as its financial transparency, sets it apart from many other religious organizations. Its dedication to making ordination accessible to everyone, regardless of background or financial resources, is also commendable. The Universal Life Church has been a significant force in promoting religious freedom, and it is a vital institution in today's society.

Sunday, April 16, 2023

The Protestant Roots of the Universal Life Church

The Universal Life Church (ULC) is an interfaith religious organization that was founded in 1962. While the ULC is not strictly Protestant, it was born out of key Protestant principles. The ULC is Protestant in its emphasis on individual conscience, the ordination of all as an expression of the priesthood of all believers, the right to free speech, and the rejection of dominant religious norms.

One of the key features of Protestantism is the emphasis on individual conscience. This means that Protestants believe that each individual has the right to interpret scripture and religious doctrine for themselves, guided by the Holy Spirit. The ULC shares this emphasis on individual conscience, as it allows its members to create their own personalized beliefs and practices. The ULC also encourages its members to explore and discover their own spiritual paths, rather than adhering to strict religious dogma.

Another way in which the ULC is Protestant is through its practice of ordaining all who seek it, regardless of their background or qualifications. This is an expression of the Protestant doctrine of the priesthood of all believers, which states that all believers have direct access to God and do not require a priestly intermediary. Similarly, the ULC believes that everyone has the potential to be a spiritual leader and encourages all of its members to explore their own unique calling.

In addition, the ULC is committed to the right of free speech and the rejection of dominant religious norms. This is another hallmark of Protestantism, which emerged as a reaction against the dominant religious institution of the time, the Roman Catholic Church. The ULC believes that everyone has the right to express their own beliefs and opinions, and that no one should be forced to conform to the beliefs of the dominant religious culture.

Of course, there are some important ways in which the ULC differs from traditional Protestantism. For example, the ULC does not place the same emphasis on the Bible as a source of religious authority and guidance, and its beliefs and practices are not limited to those of Christianity. However, the ULC shares many of the core values of Protestantism, such as the emphasis on individual conscience, the ordination of all as an expression of the priesthood of all believers, the right to free speech, and the rejection of dominant religious norms.

While the Universal Life Church is not strictly Protestant, it shares many key features with Protestantism. The ULC emphasizes individual conscience, encourages the ordination of all who seek it, values the right to free speech, and rejects dominant religious norms. These values reflect the Protestant emphasis on personal autonomy and individual spiritual growth, and make the ULC an appealing option for those who are seeking a non-traditional, inclusive spiritual community.

Friday, April 14, 2023

Understanding Universal Life Church Courses

Since the early days of the Universal Life Church (ULC), courses leading to diplomas such as "Doctor of Biblical Studies" and "Science of Understanding Life" have been offered. Rev. Kirby J. Hensley, the founder of the ULC, was an iconoclast who enjoyed topping idols and subverting the established order. Thus the offer of ordination for all, and the specific naming of these religious courses. Those same, original courses are still available through the Universal Life Church headquarters in Modesto. You pay the fee, you take the course, and you collect your diploma. So, how should we understand these courses?

Religious organizations are free to offer coursework in their beliefs without regulation. It may not be accredited by a regional accreditor or the Association of Theological Schools, but it's valid within the boundaries of the religion. Other denominations do the same thing, though they don't necessarily use such august titles. One good example of this is Community of Christ, a global denomination based in the midwestern United States and descended from the Latter Day Saint tradition begun by Joseph Smith, Jr. They have what they call their "Temple School," offering courses in such things as "Introduction to Scripture" and "Priesthood Ministry." The intent of these courses is to provide basic training especially for people who will be assuming leadership roles. Another denomination doing something similar is the Unitarian Universalist Association, which operates the UU Institute to educate and empower members for various forms of leadership and ministry. Course offerings include "Developing and Managing a Music Program" and "Unitarian/Universalist Colonial Legacy: Are We an Imperial Faith?"

Notice that in both examples above, a fee is charged for the course, as is the case with what the ULC offers. In all cases there is some level of reading and reflection required, as well as quizzes and/or exercises. The only real difference between what the ULC offers compared to those other denominations is the way our course are named. Otherwise it's the same principle and practice.

Since the ULC is a non-creedal denomination in which everyone is free to follow their own conscience, these courses do not convey dogma. They were written from the perspective of Rev. Hensley, and have the function of making the student think. The conclusions you draw are your own.

Being the Universal Life Ministerial Formation Network it is also important to note that these courses will not be recognized by accredited universities and seminaries, so you can't complete a Masters degree through the ULC and expect that to be accepted as the basis for PhD studies at Yale or Harvard, for example. Further, they will not be recognized as a basis for seeking certified chaplain status with the Association of Professional Chaplains. For that you will need accredited coursework.

Hopefully this has helped provide a way to understand the meaning and purpose of ULC courses. You are encouraged to order one and give it a try. You might enjoy it.

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Ordination for Empowerment and Equality

Are you tired of being told that you don't belong because of who you are? The Universal Life Church (ULC) is here to change that. We believe that everyone should have the freedom to practice their faith as they choose without interference, regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, or faith background. We see ordination as a liberatory act that empowers people to act on their desire to work for a better world.

At the ULC, we were founded on two key tenets: to do that which is right, and to allow everyone the freedom to practice their faith as they choose (so long as they do not infringe upon the rights of others). These principles are not just words on paper; they are deeply ingrained in our philosophical beliefs, which manifest themselves as Church policies and principles.

Unlike other faith communities that may seek to exclude individuals based on their background or beliefs, the ULC welcomes everyone. We appreciate the diversity of faiths in the world and believe that all individuals are equal. Our goal is to tear down barriers to ordination rather than put them up, making it as easy as possible for individuals to get ordained and get started on the important stuff: practicing and sharing their faith.

When you become ordained with the ULC, you agree to follow the basic tenet of doing that which is right. We seek to uphold this philosophy and lead by example, supporting charities and projects that create positive change in the community and beyond. The ULC is not just about talk; it is about action.

In conclusion, the Universal Life Church is a faith community that values every individual, regardless of their background or beliefs. Our mission is to provide a home for those who have trouble finding that place elsewhere and to support the rights of our ministers to express their faith as they please. If you're tired of feeling excluded from traditional faith communities or seeking a faith community that embraces diversity and inclusivity, then the Universal Life Church is the perfect option for you. Apply for ordination today and become part of a community that empowers you to make a difference in the world.

Wednesday, April 5, 2023

General Theological Seminary is Struggling

The General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church, the oldest seminary of its kind, is undergoing significant changes at the end of the current school year. While there have been rumors that the seminary is closing and selling its Manhattan campus, its shared President with Virginia Theological Seminary, Dean Ian Markham, has stated that this is not the case. However, the school is at a crucial point and is implementing a five-year plan that will determine its sustainability. The plan comes after years of deficit spending, deferred maintenance, and wishful thinking prior to General’s governance consolidation with VTS.

As part of the sustainability plan, General Seminary will conclude its residential program and solely offer a hybrid Masters in Divinity program. This move will result in a reduction of faculty from eight to four, and faculty will no longer live on campus from the end of the fiscal year 2023. The seminary is currently operating with a budget deficit of more than $2 million per year due to a downturn in the market, a fall in revenue, rising operating costs from urgent campus maintenance, and increased staffing costs.

General Seminary's position has receded over the years due to a decrease in enrollment, and properties on its campus have been sold off to pay down $40 million in debt. The seminary counts only 50 students, with a full-time enrollment equivalent of 31.3, and three full-time faculty, with a full-time enrollment equivalent of 4.50. This is down from the 61 enrolled seminarians at the end of the 2013-2014 school year.

The seminary is not the only one within the Episcopal Church to see significant changes in recent years. Other institutions have sold campuses, laid off faculty, and merged with other seminaries. As of now, Nashotah House, University of the South (Sewanee), VTS, and Seminary of the Southwest are the only degree-granting Episcopal Church seminaries offering traditional residential programs, while Church Divinity School of the Pacific, the only West Coast seminary of the Episcopal Church, has announced the conclusion of traditional residential study.

General Seminary's graduates include both orthodox and progressive clergy, among them Anglican Church in North America Archbishop Emeritus Robert Duncan and retired Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson. While the seminary is facing significant changes, it remains to be seen whether the sustainability plan will allow it to continue or if it will be the end of the road.

Monday, April 3, 2023

Rawlings School of Theology is Not for ULC Ministers

(CC BY-SA 4.0)
If you are considering pursuing a Master of Divinity degree, it is important to carefully consider your options before choosing a school. One school that may come up in your search is Liberty University's John J. Rawlings School of Theology. However, before making any decisions, it is worth exploring some of the concerns raised about this institution.

First and foremost, it is important to note that Rawlings School of Theology is the largest seminary in the world, with an enrollment of over 94,000 students taking online classes and 15,000 students on campus. While this may seem impressive, it is important to consider the quality of education you will receive in such a large and busy institution. With an FTE of 86 and only 16 reported full-time faculty members, it is clear that most professors are part-time or adjunct. This lack of full-time faculty sets Rawlings School of Theology apart from traditional seminaries and raises questions about the quality of education you will receive.

Additionally, while Rawlings School of Theology is currently an ATS accredited seminary, it may be difficult for Universal Life Church ministers to be admitted due to the questionnaire that applicants are required to fill out. This questionnaire asks for the church where you are a member in good standing, as well as for the pastor's name, and also lists several theological positions that you must affirm in order to be accepted. Given that many ULC ministers hold beliefs that are considered irregular by traditional Christianity, or don't have membership in a local church, they may not be eligible for admission.

It is also worth noting that while SBC seminaries used to be the largest seminaries in America, only five of them have grown over the past 30 years, while one has experienced an 82% drop in enrollment in its M.Div. degree program. In contrast, other schools such as Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Central Baptist Theological Seminary have experienced significant growth over the past three decades. Additionally, several new schools have emerged, presenting students with new opportunities for theological education.

In conclusion, while Rawlings School of Theology may seem like an attractive option due to its size and relatively affordable block rate of $2,750 per semester, it is important to carefully consider the quality of education you will receive and whether you are eligible for admission. With so many options available, it is worth exploring other accredited seminaries listed on the ATS website to find a school that fits your budget and beliefs.

Saturday, April 1, 2023

How to Become a Universal Life Church Minister

If you have ever wondered how to become an ordained minister, you may have heard of the Universal Life Church (ULC). The ULC is an interfaith organization that allows individuals to become ordained ministers online. In this blog post, we will provide you with all the information you need to become an ordained minister with the Universal Life Church.

The first step to becoming an ordained minister with the ULC is to submit a written request. You can mail your request to the ULC headquarters at 601 Third St. Modesto, CA 95351 or email it to The ULC does not accept requests for ordainment over the phone.

When submitting your request for ordainment, make sure to include your full legal name, current mailing address, and a note stating that you would like to become an ordained minister. If your name is questionable, the ULC may require proof of your name, such as a photocopy of your driver's license. However, if you are changing your last name due to marriage, the ULC does not require proof of the name change.

Once you are ordained with the ULC, you will receive an explanatory pamphlet and a certificate with your name and the date of your ordainment. However, if you are currently incarcerated, you will not receive these materials.

The ULC offers a minister's package that includes a specially printed certificate with your name and a gold foil seal, a minister's handbook, and a wallet ID with your name and address. This package is available for a small fee.

As an ordained minister with the ULC, you are authorized to perform any duties or ceremonies that other ordained ministers of any faith or religion can perform. However, some states may have specific instructions for ministers, so it is important to check the state laws section of the ULC's website.

While the ULC accepts online requests for ordainment, all ordainment is done at their headquarters in Modesto, CA. It is important to note that other websites claiming to provide online ordainment are not affiliated with the ULC and do not provide proof of ordainment, unless they are expressly authorized by the ULC headquartered in Modesto, California.

The ULC does not charge a fee for ordaining ministers, but they do accept donations. If you would like to support their organization, you can make a donation when you submit your request for ordainment.

In summary, the Universal Life Church is an organization that allows individuals to become ordained ministers online. To become ordained, you must submit a written request including your full legal name and a note stating that you would like to become an ordained minister. Once ordained, you will receive a certificate and a minister's handbook. As an ordained minister with the ULC, you are authorized to perform any duties or ceremonies that other ordained ministers can perform. The ULC does not charge a fee for ordainment but accepts donations.
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