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You can order a dizzying array of goods and services over the Internet today. Books, music, computers, dating services, stocks, automobiles -- it's all a click away. Religion is no different than any other aspect of human life in this respect. Everyone -- from the largest established churches to the most exotic emergent religions -- offers various ministries right over the Internet. But one unique church takes Internet ministry to the most radical extreme. The Universal Life Church (http://www.ulc.org) will ordain anyone to the ministry for free, for life and with no regard to race, gender, sexual orientation, nationality or theological position. And they'll do it online.
It doesn't matter whether you are a Christian, Satanist, Kabbalist, Wiccan, atheist, or a creator of your own "homemade" religion. The ULC, from its international headquarters in Modesto, Calif., and its monastery in Tucson, Ariz., welcomes all.
It's no joke. ULC ministers have the legal authority to perform weddings and funerals, to start their own congregations, and to take advantage of many of the fringe benefits that priests, rabbis and ministers of other religious organizations enjoy.
The ULC actually pre-dates the cyber-era. This unique denomination was established in 1962 by Kirby J. Hensley, an illiterate former Baptist from North Carolina.
Fed up with the hypocrisy and dogmatism of the mainstream churches, Hensley began ordaining anybody -- without question -- for free. Full page articles about him in Time (21 Feb. 1969) and Newsweek (5 May 1969) added to his status as the Robin Hood of American religion.
Hensley's church has spent nearly four decades fighting those who have challenged its legitimacy. Supported by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, however, the ULC has far more victories than defeats under its belt.
- Source: The Robin Hood of American Religion Goes Online, The Pitt News, University of Pittsburg, via Excite News, Sep. 1, 1999
The Universal Life Church (or ULC) is a religious organization that offers anyone semi-immediate ordination as a ULC minister free of charge. The organization states that anyone can become a minister immediately, without having to go through the pre-ordination process required by other religious faiths. However the ordination application must be checked by a human in order to be official, therefore true ordination usually takes a few days. This organization, its ordinations, and its honorary doctorates (many of which do not require fulfilling any academic course or standard of achievement), are not generally recognized by larger traditional churches.
The ULC was founded in 1959 under the name "Life Church" by the Reverend Kirby J. Hensley [23 July 1911-March 19, 1999 - AI]. Disappointed with the Pentecostal church, Hensley decided to venture on his own to find his religion. After five years of studying various religions, according to his own statements, Hensley concluded that the proper religion may differ for each man, and everyone is entitled to choose his or her own religion. No one should be criticized or condemned for wanting to practice the belief of his or her choice.
In 1959, Hensley, with the help of his new wife, Lida, moved to Modesto, California and founded the first Universal Life Church as "Life Church", later incorporating with the State of California on the 2 May 1962 as "Universal Life Church". Hensley served as the minister of the congregation and President of the Board of Directors until his death in 1999, at which time there were many independent branches of the ULC worldwide. The Modesto congregation grew rapidly over the years. The Church spread throughout the West Coast, and today claims to have congregations located all over the United States and parts of Canada and many other parts of the world. The organization also claims to have a membership of 22 million ULC ministers worldwide.
The Universal Life Church offers a variety of doctorates, such as Doctor of Divinity, Doctor of Universal Life, and so forth. Generally these doctorates require the recipient to take one or more courses, pay a modest fee, and in some cases pass a test. For example, the Doctor of Immortality degree is awarded upon the candidate reading the book "A New Life - Do You Want It?" by the Reverend Hensley, correctly answering 75% of a set of questions based on the book, and donating at least $29.99 US dollars.
Dedicated ULC members state that they truly believe in freedom of religion. In other words, they want every member to be able to pursue their own spiritual beliefs without interference from the government, church agencies, or any other outside agency. Their one creed (or doctrine) is "Do only that which is right."
A major criticism of the ULC is that it accepts all peaceful religious beliefs, holds no views of its own, and is therefore not a "true" church. Various religious groups have spoken out against its practice of immediate ordination without any requirements, suggesting that such an ordination is not even worth the paper it is printed on. Supporters of "open ordination" point out that none of the founders of the world's major religions had advanced religious training.
- Source: Universal Life Church, Wikipedia. Last accessed: Aug. 1, 2007
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