Dot’s Reading Room: On Making it Official

August 4, 2023
Dot's Reading Room by Dorothy Bergin

It’s the wedding season. Do you remember when only the clergy – Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, or other faiths- performed wedding ceremonies?

These days, it is almost becoming rare that a minister does the deed. Here’s a recent article written by Dusty Hoesly, a Postdoctoral Researcher in Religious Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara, which appears in “The Conversation.” She titled her study:

“Just about anybody in America can officiate a wedding, thanks to the internet – and one determined preacher.

“That preacher was Kirby J. Hensley, born more than 100 years ago in North Carolina. 

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“Hensley had a habit of getting into arguments about his beliefs, even within his own congregations. So he decided to create a church where you could believe just about anything you wanted, or not anything at all – and the Universal Life Church was born in 1959.”

The Universal Life Church has generated a number of offshoots, with the result that only about half of weddings in the U.S. today are officiated by traditional clergy or other officials. Hoesley, who herself has performed marriages, writes, “It’s a trend with no signs of stopping, and it reflects key themes about religion and American culture.”

If you have a wedding coming up, either as a participant or guest, you may find this article of interest. 

Here is the link: https://theconversation.com/just-about-anybody-in-america-can-officiate-a-wedding-thanks-to-the-internet-and-one-determined-preacher-207953

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John Gibbons
August 7, 2023 9:45 pm

Dot’s observations are correct: fewer marriage ceremonies take place in sanctuaries. The secularization of society is progressive & deserved: too many faith communities retain holier-than-thou attitudes that discourage affiliation. Who needs a guilt trip?

Still I feel some regret that mail-order clergy diminish regard for those who devote years & dollars & study to theological education, including pastoral marriage preparation & counseling.

With tongues only somewhat in our cheeks, we clergy have a term for those who pay a few bucks for mail order certification: they who cross our union lines are indeed…SCABS!

John Gibbons
August 7, 2023 5:56 am

There’s a term for mail-order clergy: SCABS!

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