Yes, it really is true and legal - you too can become an ordained minister online, instantly and for free, but what exactly is it all about?
Founded in 1959 by the Reverend Kirby J.Hensley, the Universal Life Church is based in Modesto, California and, astonishingly, it boasts over 18 million ministers world-wide. Once ordained, ministers are legally permitted to carry out religious ceremonies in many areas of the USA. In other countries ministers would be unable to perform such priestly duties, but there would be nothing to stop someone using the title and expecting the respect associated with it. You could, for instance, include the title on a UK driving license without question.
Sounds too good or weird to be true? Not really. Remember where the church is based and all becomes crystal clear - the ULC is about money and the tax exemptions that are automatically granted to churches and their ministers under American law. Become ordained and you are in good company because many rich and famous people have already got there before you for those very tax benefits.
On it's home page the ULC declares that, "We believe everyone is already a member of the church and is just not aware of it yet". Perhaps what they really mean to say is that everyone is a potential source of income for the ULC, but is hopefully not too aware of it. No, they are not content with simply using the church to keep more of their own dollars in their pockets and they have many 'offers' to tempt dollars out your pockets.
Once ordained you receive an ordination certificate by email as proof of your new title, but for a price you can receive a certificate with the title of your choice. You can be a Bishop, Seer, Prophet - should the be profit? - Swami, High Priest or even a Wizard - the list goes on and on and you can even request a title of your own invention. But that isn't all. Rev.Hensley has also formed his own 'university' and grants - for a price - doctorates in such subjects as metaphysics, divinity and religious science.
The ULC is not the only 'church' offering ordinations on the internet. The Essene New Life Church offers courses to become a minister, but the price tag of $285 leaves the ULC as the dominant player.
In case you are wondering, yes, Religious Truth signed up to become a minister a long time ago! How about you?
© Religious Truth 2001