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How Do I Become an Ordained Minister?

Louisiana and other states require ordained ministers to provide credentials before performing weddings.
Many Christian denominations require that ministers have a detailed understanding of the Bible.
Ordained ministers can perform wedding ceremonies.
Individuals may become ordained ministers via various websites for a fee.
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  • Written By: G. Melanson
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 14 July 2014
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An ordained minister is one who has been consecrated to carry out the ceremonies and rights of their religious denomination. In the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, and Oriental Orthodox churches, to become an ordained minister is to become a priest, bishop, or deacon. In other religions, ordained ministers are associated with different titles. In Buddhism, one can even be ordained posthumously. While different religions vary in their processes of ordination, the majority still share the common theology that prohibits women from this role. Exceptions include such churches as The United Church of Canada, The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, The Lutheran Evangelical Protestant Church, and various denominations of Judaism.

Individuals who are in the process of becoming ordained are sometimes referred to as “ordinands,” while the ordination rituals or liturgy are referred to as an “ordinal.” Before the age of the Internet, studying at a seminary was most often required in order to become an ordained minister of any religion. Today, one can quickly get ordained via various websites, which offer ordination for a fee. For example, the nondenominational Universal Life Church (ULC) of Modesto, California sells ordinations among other products, and allows an individual to become an ordained relatively inexpensively.

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Although the efficiency of online ordination may be ethically questionable, someone who has become ordained online can legally administer weddings and sign marriage licenses, just like any other religious official. As long as the person is in good standing with his or her church, he or she is legally entitled to solemnize a marriage in most U.S. States.

There are some U.S. states that require more than just online ordainment from individuals who wish to perform religious ceremonies. States such as Arkansas, Louisiana, Delaware, Oklahoma, and Virginia require ordained ministers to provide the state with a copy of his or her credentials and/or address prior to performing weddings. Rhode Island, Nevada, and Ohio all license their state’s ministers, while the state of Tennessee's requirement for ordination to be a “considered, deliberate, and responsible act” might implicitly restrict someone who has become an ordained minister online.

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Discuss this Article

stl156
Post 5
I do not know what to think of the online ordained sites. To me they have pros and cons and to be honest I think that the Universal Life Church does have a legitimate message they try to send.

They do not charge for people to become ordained, but they rather allow them the option to contribute money, if they want to have a hard copy of their certification, otherwise it will just be in their database where it can easily be looked up.

I work at a court house and is incredibly rare for someone to complain and call out the person asking what their certification is. So in reality the Universal Life Church does make money, but most people do not need to buy the certificate, so it is not a very lucrative enterprise which shows they are not out for money.

This is what I know about this particular church and I would like to know more about other types of ordained minister sites that one could look up, so people can talked about and critique them.

jmc88
Post 4

@kentuckycat - Your opinions and beliefs may be valid, but keep in mind that religion is very complicated and basically anyone can preach what they feel is right at any time.

This type of certification allows someone to have a self discovery approach to their teaching as well as allow them the chance to preach their own view of religion, or lack there of to a group of people that want to follow them.

Now these people are rare and in reality, the online ordained minster sites offer it because of the marriage aspect.

I know several people that have done it just because they only trusted a family member to perform the ceremonies and were not too religious minded to begin with.

I personally did it because of a friend having a quickie wedding as her fiancee was unexpectedly going to be shipped off to Iraq in the next week and they could not organize everything so quick.

kentuckycat
Post 3

@titans62 - I agree that this was odd. To be honest I feel like these types of sites are an insult to people who have put years and years into their profession.

I guess it is ok if someone is doing it for a reason such as to perform the marriage ceremonies, which would not really be for a profit, but I know that there are people that actually make a living preaching because of certification that they did not pay for or even go through any training for online.

I really wish that they would look into sites, such as these and see which ones are scams and which ones are ones that are actually looking to offer a service to people and I wish states would reform their laws surrounding people that get their certification this way.

titans62
Post 2
I will say I did not think that there was any possible way that someone could become an ordained minister online. To be honest it may seem a bit sacreligious if someone were just to do this as a joke, but I will say it does come in handy if someone needed to perform the ceremonies to officially marry someone.

I will say when I did it, it was literally just a point a click ordeal, and the only thing I had to pay for was the certificate, if I just wanted to have a hard copy in my files.

I found this to be almost too good to be true so I called the courthouse and asked them and they said it was legal in Illinois and that it was really not a big deal and if by some chance someone were to question the validity of the ceremony I could simply show them the certificate or contact the organization I was ordained for.

anon254288
Post 1

Maybe you can assist me.

I have been a licensed Local Pastor in the United Methodist Church for 28 years, and now that I am retiring I am not permitted to perform the Sacraments of the Church. I obtained my M.DIV at Drew University in 1994.

Is there information that you can provide me on how I could be ordained an ELCA. What would the process be?

Warren B.

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