Thursday, February 08, 2007

Hmmmph! Universal Life minister indeed!

This morning's Seattle Times Weekend supplement had a nice article about Washington's beautiful Methow Valley in northcentral Washington, all about a gorgeous place to stay and the many wintertime activities available there.

But it was marred for me by a sidebar whose headline was "He can book your meeting, bless your vows". This blurb featured a guy who is the sales manager of the lodge mentioned and he is an "ordained minister", courtesy of the Universal Life Church, aka mail order company.

I was a bit peeved and wrote a note to the author of the article expressing my irritation that the "ordination" of The Right Reverend Rabbi Mahavishnu, as this fellow names himself, should be mentioned as if it were a legitimate credential.

I would like to believe that neither the author nor the "minister" intended to disparage the years of work I put in to earn my ordination nor the call I experienced which preceded my decision to study for the ministry. But I suspect that, at least in the case of the "minister", he intended just that, to poke fun at something he thinks is silly.

Perhaps in today's cultural milieu, where many clergy and religious folk are often ridiculous and espouse incredibly un-saintly views and behaviors, "to be foolish is human, to spoof, divine".

I'm very likely too sensitive to this issue. I once was asked by the mother of a bride if I was a "real" minister, was Unitarian Universalist the same as Universal Life? I reassured her that, indeed, I had gotten my degree and credentials after a long process of study and training, not by typing in a credit card number on a web site.

I do know that some Pagan leaders, in order to perform ceremonies for their faith groups, need to use the Universal Life credential to legally sign marriage licenses. This is a legitimate use of such a credential, as few seminaries welcome Pagan seminarians.

But in other cases, the Universal Life Church ordination seems to me to be a cheapening of the concept of a Call to ministry and the humbling journey of discernment and formation.


Phil on the Prairie said...

Ms. Kitty--I, too, have problems with the Universal Life Church ministers getting lumped in with those of us who spent years putting in our time studying theology, doing internships, and surviving CPE. Last year a clergy group published an ad in the Minneapolis Star Tribune speaking out against a proposed "Protection of Marriage" amendment in the Minnesota Legislature. Wouldn't you know it, the Universal Life Church "ministers" were there with the rest of us. Argh!

Christine Robinson said...

major irritation to me, too. When people are surprised, I ask them to imagine how their doctor might feel if the local health food store owner started to call themselves a medical doctor. (which I believe is actually against the law.)

Of course there are many kinds of healing. But doctors have done a better job of protecting their boundaries that we ministers have.

Stephanie said...

Hmm...I do know what you mean in many ways.

Though I should say I did get "ordained" this particular way, though mostly to help a friend who was getting married and there was a threat of the minister not showing up and hundreds of seemed like a good idea at the time (and I felt slightly less guilty as at least 50% of my time in grad school was in an MDiv program and CPE).

That said, just about everyone that I know who say dropped out of the ordination process (in many denominations) got ordained with Universal Life. And many of those folks were glbt. I'm not exactly sure what this trend means, but these aren't untrained folks, or people who couldn't get "properly" ordained, but people who needed a wider path in some regard. So while I understand the irritation by ordained clergy with Universal Life, I'm not entirely convinced that it's such a bad thing.

ms. kitty said...

It's interesting to learn that there are other positive uses for a ULC ordination, Stephanie. Thanks for chiming in.

Berrysmom said...

This is a source of major irritation for me, too. (Scratch a "real" credentialed minister and you will probably find someone who is pissed off about the phony ULC ordinations.)

Our DRE is ordained in the ULC, and he uses "Rev" in his e-mail address. This was almost enough to make me not hire him, but I am glad I did, as he has turned out to be a competent teammate.

However, I was ROYALLY pissed off when he conducted a wedding for congregants a few months ago, people for whom I am the minister. I understand why they asked him instead of me (the husband doesn't especially like me, or I him), but he was clueless about the protocol.

I have since clued him in about what to do should this ever come up again, and I am also reassured that it is unlikely to come up because he really doesn't want to do weddings. I helped him figure out how to sy "no" gracefully, and maybe this will become a non-issue.

But AARRRGGGHH! nevertheless!