Ministerial status

September 23, 2011

The Washington Post reports that 31 percent of wedding
couples pick a friend or family member to preside at the ceremony rather than a
minister. While real ministers may publicly lament this
sign of decreasing religiosity, many are no doubt secretly happy to be involved
in fewer weddings with couples who have no religious inclinations.

The Post says that many of these friends-as-ministers go the trouble to
obtain mail-order ministerial credentials for the wedding ceremony. This
trend has proved a boon to the Universal Life Church, which provides free and
immediate ministerial credentials to 700 people every day via the Internet ("Welcome! You are about to become an ordained minister with the
Universal Life Church").

This trend in mail-order ministers has been apparent
for some time to those who scan the wedding announcements in the New York Times, which are weirdly
fascinating with their unapologetic celebrations of elite status. Along with
reporting on each couple's impressive set of resumes, the Times always devotes a line to the person who performed the
wedding. Episcopal priests once predominated in these pages, but they are no
more common these days than the ones who (as the Times duly notes) "became a Universal Life minister for the
occasion." The movers and shakers of society might once have thought it tacky
if not absurd to be married by a person whose ordination is universally
understood to be meaningless, but not anymore.

Meanwhile, columnist Katie Baker offers a hilarious guide to status in the U.S.
based on the pattern of wedding coverage in the Times. She imagines a "matrimonial moneyball" in which the Times awards points not only for
advanced degrees and Ivy League connections but for having a name (such as
Chester Reed or Allison May) that could be inverted (Reed Chester or May
Allison), for having a mother who runs a "gallery," and for getting married on
"the groom's grandmother's farm."

Comments

From Universal Life Church World Headquarters, Inc.

Your blog is not completely accurate, while Ordination is FREE since it is a sacrament, ministry credentials are not. For faith based Ministers, law enforcement, DOC, FBOP, most hospitals and nursing homes they look for a faith based, endorsed Minister picture ID card, even for wedding Ministers, some counties or states do not require credentials but most do. In fact many are starting to request faith based, picture ID cards as well. Also understand there is a huge difference between faith based ordination and ordination as a simple wedding ministers through non-Headquarters sanctioned ULC's. We are recognized as the only Universal Life Church World Headquarters, by local, state or federal offices and/or authorities. ULC's in Modesto or Seattle have NO traditional doctrine of faith and marriages performed by their Ministers in Bucks County, PA., NY, NC and elsewhere has been questioned, marriages have even been annulled. For more information: http://www.ulcnetwork.com

not quite accurate

I think you have made some assumptions that are not quite accurate (and a bit insulting to the many couples who simply, lacking a ministerial relationship, choose to have a friend marry them).

An ordination of this type is far from meaningless; it provides the couple with a way to be married by someone who actually knows and cares about them, rather than someone who would "secretly be happy" not to if their personal spirituality was not up to snuff. This judgmental attitude could possibly be part of the reason that fewer couples are not only choosing not to be married in the church, but not to be involved with any church in any way. I would assume that a vast majority of ULC ministers get certified to do one wedding for one couple. Many states allow that with or without ordination; a few allow the couple to marry themselves.

Maybe if the clergy was less interested in what constitutes status and more interested in how individual spirituality could be well served, we'd be seeing less ULC ministers and more couples with church homes.

Amateur Hour

There is another aspect to this and I don't see discussed enough -quality control. Simply put, traditional ministers are highly trained professionals; the ordained-for-a-day categorically are not. And in my experience, the latter tend to create wedding ceremonies that are shallow, cluttered and entirely too long. I find it amusing that people will spend a small fortune for flowers, dresses and catering but leave the officiating to a rank amateur.