Since the U.S. Constitution requires separation of church and state, almost anyone in the United States can become an ordained minister. Becoming ordained, however, does not guarantee you can perform marriages, especially in Pennsylvania.
Decide which path to ordination makes sense for you
Choose a path to ordination. In Pennsylvania, there are three : mail-order, online and traditional seminary school combined with the requirements of each denomination. World Christian Ministries saysthe online ordination process is quick and easy. The Universal Life Church points out, though, that online ordination does not gaurantee that you can perform weddings in Pennsylvania. The traditional path to ordination requires seminary school combined with the requiremens of each denomination. This requires an investment of time and money, but may be better suited to those seeking careers as religious professionals.
Research popular online ordination organizations, which include the Universal Life Church, World Christian Ministries, The Ministerial Seminary of America, and Spiritual Humanism.
Select an online ordination organization that reflects you and follow its application process. Online ordination organizations differ on philosophy. Some, like the Universal Life Church, require those seeking ordination to pledge to do "only what is right." Others like World Christianship Ministries, require an acceptance of Christian ideals. Some, like the Ministerial Seminary of America, offer online courses to supplement their ordination. Once you select an organization, follow its online application process or print out forms to apply by mail.
Obtain a Masters of Divinity degree and complete the requirements of a selected denomination if you want to follow a traditional path to ordination. This route combines formal education with the requirements of a denomination. For example, according to the United Methodist Church Board of Higher Education and Ministry, those seeking ordination must also provide written responses to specific ministry questions and pass a psychological assessmen and credit and criminal background checks. According to Drew University, most religious professionals obtain a Masters of Divinity degree, a prerequisite for ordination in most mainline Christian denominations. In most cases, you need a bachelor's degree before you can pursue a Masters of Divinity. According to U.S. College Search, 108 Pennsylvania colleges offer divinity programs.
- Mail-order and online ordinations are legal was well as quick and easy. In 1974, The Universal Life Church sued the U.S.s government on a tax matter, and the court's decision in that case established the validity of such ordinations. According to the church, during this case, the judge ruled that the federal government could not "consider the merits or fallacies of a religion" nor "compare the beliefs, dogmas, and practices of a newly organized religion with those of an older, more established religion."
- Though the federal government cannot decide who can be ordained, Pennsylvania can determine who can legally perform a wedding there. The Universal Life Church's website notes that certain counties in Pennsylvania require marriage officiants to have a regularly established church or congregation and a wedding performed by an online-ordained minister who does not meet these requirements may not be valid.
- According to the Ministerial Seminary of America, several online ordination sitesare scams. To ensure your online ordination credientials are legitimate, the Ministerial Seminary of America recommends making sure the website lists an easy-to-find phone number and the names of its board members and members, has a physical address, is incorporated and sends a hard copy of your certificate through the mail.
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