Still in my mind, a wedding ceremony is performed by a minister, priest or rabbi, or perhaps by a judge for those who do not want a religious wedding, or cannot agree on which religious tradition to follow. But I am well out of the mainstream it appears. Anyone can now perform a wedding ceremony.
I looked at the weddings announced in yesterday’s New York Times. Sure, there were some traditional ceremonies. But there were also the following:
1. “E____ S_____, who became a minister of the American Marriage Ministries for the event, officiated.”
2. “The ceremony was led by the groom’s father, Dr. R______ E. K_________, who received permission from Massachusetts to officiate.”
3. “H________ F_______, a friend of the couple who became a Universal Life minister for the occasion, will officiate.”
4. “M_____ S. R__________, a cousin of the groom and a Universal Life minister, officiated…..”
5. “M_____ W________, a Universal Life minister, officiated.”
6. “S______ R______, a Universal Brotherhood minister, will officiate.”
7. “D_______ R. B_________, a son in law of the bride who received a one day solemnization certificate from Massachusetts, officiated.”
8. “L____ T______, a friend of the couple who became a Universal Life minister for the occasion, officiated.”
9. “D____ P_______, a minister ordained by the One Spirit Interfaith Seminary, officiated….”
10. “The Rev. F___ A____, an interfaith minister who was ordained by the New Seminary, officiated.
11. “R_____ Y_____ , an uncle of the bride affiliated with the Church of the Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness, took part.”
The Universal Life Church appears to offer free ordination to anyone over 13 who fills out their name and address, and gives them a password and an email address. It bills itself as the “world’s largest on-line religious organization”. It has no doctrine, but says that members must do “that which is right” and respect all other religions and religious freedom. Hey, what could be wrong with that? (By the way, the status of ULC ministers to perform valid marriage ceremonies, according to the various state laws, is discussed in some detail in Wikipedia.)
To apply for ordination from the Universal Brotherhood, in addition to filling out your name and address, they ask you to submit a short biographical essay on your spiritual path, a “spiritual biosketch” (which does not seem to be graded, but does become a part of your permanent record). Here, the doctrine seems to be that you affirm to dedicate your life to the “brotherhood of mankind”.
To be ordained by the One Spirit Interfaith Seminary, it appears that you have to go through two years of classes. The focus of the organization seems to be to provide spiritual counselors and leaders for the “unaffiliated community”. The New Seminary, which adds a study of various world religions to a study of spirituality in general, also has a two year program (which can be accelerated in one year).
The church of the Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness is perhaps the most controversial of these organizations, having been called a “cult” based on the centrality of its founder, a former Mormon who created this organization (in California, of course) following a near death experience as a result of a multi-day coma. It seems somewhat different from the other organizations, but does seem to have a particular theology or life-style requirements.