Saturday, March 16, 2024

The Different Paths of Ordination: Universal Life Church vs. Traditional Denominations

Ordination is a significant milestone in the journey of becoming a minister, but the path to this milestone varies greatly depending on the denomination or organization. In traditional denominations, such as the Unitarian Universalist Association or the United Church of Christ, the process is rigorous and lengthy. Prospective ministers typically complete a bachelor's degree, a Master of Divinity, a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education, among other requirements, before finally being granted ordination. In the Unitarian Universalist Association, even after ordination, "full fellowship" as a UU minister requires a couple more years of good behavior.

In stark contrast, the Universal Life Church (ULC) practices open ordination. Anyone who applies for ordination with the ULC receives it immediately upon agreeing to support freedom of religion and to do only that which is right. The determination of what is right is left to the discretion of the individual minister.

This difference in approach highlights a fundamental philosophical divergence. In traditional denominations, ordination is the culmination of a rigorous process, a final validation of the candidate's readiness for ministry. For ULC ministers, however, ordination is just the beginning of their journey. It's a starting point from which they can choose to pursue further education, such as a Master of Divinity or Clinical Pastoral Education, or to seek recognition from the larger community as a minister.

For some, ordination with the ULC might be seen as a novelty, or a convenient way to officiate weddings for friends and family. But for others, it's the first step towards building their own unique ministry, tailored to their personal beliefs and aspirations.

In summary, while traditional denominations view ordination as an important milestone in a well-defined career path, the ULC sees it as the first step to an open future, one that each minister is free to shape according to their own vision.

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