Online Ordination: Questions and Answers
Christian ordination is assigned under full authority of God. We know this biblically particularly when we examine the works, faith, and Christ-anointed dedication of the Apostle Paul.
In Galatians, we read:
“I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.
For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. But when God, who set me apart from birth[a] and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus” (Galatians 1:11-17).
Saint Paul (also called Paul the Apostle, The Apostle Paul or Paul of Tarsus) (Ancient Greek: Σαούλ Saul and Σαῦλος Saulos and Παῦλος Paulos, Hebrew: שאול התרסי Šaul HaTarsi (“Saul of Tarsus”). Paul’s influence on Christian thinking arguably has been more significant than any other New Testament author. His influence on the main strands of Christian thought has been demonstrable: from St. Augustine of Hippo to the controversies between Gottschalk and Hincmar of Reims; between Thomism and Molinism; Martin Luther, John Calvin and the Armenians; to Jansenism and the Jesuit theologians, and even to the German church of the twentieth century through the writings of the scholar Karl Barth, whose commentary on the Letter to the Romans had a political as well as theological impact. He is the patron saint of London.
What is online ordination?
Online Ordination is recognition by an established religious organization when you have satisfied their requirements to enter ministry (Although, entering ministry is by the calling of God and not the permission of man). If you are called by God, then online ordination may be for you. Online ordinations are as legal as any other type of ordination granted by men.
Is my ordination legal?
Yes. In fact, ordinations are not controlled by any government entity. Churches and other ministries are allowed to determine who they may ordain into the ministry. Once you have been accepted for ordination by Christian Discipleship Ministries, and added to our database, you will then be ordained. Your ordination is considered legal and as valid as any ordination issued by any other religious entity. There is no legal distinction between an online ordination and any other issuing group, institution, or individual.
What makes online ordination legal?
In 1974, the United States government was sued by the Universal Life Church in response to the government’s challenge to their right to have a tax-exempt status. When the judge ruled on this case, he also addressed the question of mail-order ordination, independent church charters, etc. While the Universal Life Church is not really a Christian ministry, nevertheless they performed a great service to all non-traditional ministries by fighting this case in court and eventually winning.
The following is an excerpt from the court’s decision in this case. The Universal Life Church is referred to in the case as Plaintiff:
“…an Honorary Doctor of Divinity is a strictly religious title with no academic standing. Such titles may be issued by bona fide churches and religious denominations, such as plaintiff, as long as their issuance is limited to a course of instruction in the principles of the church or religious denomination… The statute is silent as to recognize honorary titles conferred for some meritorious recognition.”
The court then addressed the issue of whether the ordination of ministers, granting of church charters, and the issuance of Honorary Doctor of Divinity certificates are substantial activities which do not further any religious purpose. The following is excerpted from the court’s decision:
“Certainly the ordination of ministers and the chartering of churches are accepted activities of religious organizations… The fact that the plaintiff distributed ministers’ credentials and Honorary Doctor of Divinity certificates is of no moment. Such activity may be analogized to mass conversions at a typical revival or religious crusade.”
Now here is the real core of the court’s decision, and the portion that guarantees the legality of your ordination:
“Neither this Court, nor any branch of this Government, will consider the merits or fallacies of a religion. Nor will the Court compare the beliefs, dogmas, and practices of a newly organized religion with those of an older, more established religion. Nor will the Court praise or condemn a religion, however excellent or fanatical or preposterous it may seem. WERE THE COURT TO DO SO, IT WOULD IMPINGE UPON THE GUARANTEES OF THE FIRST AMENDMENT.”
So you can see, your ordination is completely legal and every bit as respectable as an ordination from any other church. If you’d like to read the complete case decision, it’s filed in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California, and Civil No. S-1954. Therefore, online ordinations are perfectly legal within the United States of America.
How does ordination issued by Christian Discipleship Ministries different from an ordination from the Universal Life Church, World Christianship Ministries, or other online ordination issuances?
In our opinion at Christian Discipleship Ministries, it is important to note that the Universal Life Church, while it is a church, is not a recognized as a Christian church. Their only doctrine of belief is that one should “do what is right.” They do define, “what is right.” This doctrine chooses to leave that up to the discretion each individual member. The ULC openly, and as a matter of policy, embraces all belief systems, including and not limited to atheism. Thus, an atheist may be ordained by the Universal Life Church. These are all freely and publically stated policies of the ULC. If however, you are a Christian who has been ordained by ULC, we would encourage you to considered applying for our Christian Bible Studies and ordination program.
Other such ordination group like Christian Discipleship Ministries, United Faith Ministries, and others, are what are referred to as “Ordination Ministries.” These ministries are also sometimes referred to as “mail-order ordination services.” As such, they do provide a service, and do fill a need and it not the position or intention of Christian Discipleship Ministries to claim otherwise, or to defame them in any manner. Only as matter of contrast, we can only base our opinions on publicly available documentation. To the best of our research, they do not have a church membership outside the scope of their own ordination records that stated, they do not claim to be churches. They are in fact, “Ordination Ministries”.
What is the difference between ordination granted by Christian Discipleship Ministries and ordinations granted by other ministries?
Christian Discipleship Ministries, is an Online World Christian Church (since 1997), based on the God’s, “Holy Bible” and His teachings. Christian Discipleship Ministries is committed to spreading the Gospel of our Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus. We have an international membership (over 40 countries) of 30,000 Christians. Our worldwide church membership is free to anyone in need of God’s love and saving grace of our Lord, Jesus. We take God’s ordination serious, and you can be assured that your ordination as issued by Christian Discipleship Ministries is presented from an established, Christ-centered, Christian-purpose church.
Are all ordinations considered equal?
Legally speaking, all online ordinations are considered equal. That stated, morally, you may not want to be associated with organizations which issue ordinations to non-Christian practitioners. We only issue ordinations to Christians who are called by God to further their ministries.
Why does Christian Discipleship Ministries require successful completion of their Bible Study Program before issuing a Certificate of Ordination, while others simply send out email ordinations upon request?
Although, we believe all Christian’s are ordained by God, we believe it is our responsibility to “equip God’s Saints” with His divine Word, “the Holy Bible.” For this reason, we required all ordination candidates to successfully complete our 66-chapter, Christian Seminary Bible Course along with “live” online Bible webinars, prior to issuing any ordination by Christian Discipleship Ministries. Through our Bible training program, we are better able to develop and nurture personal relationships (Christian fellowship) with our students (brothers and sisters in the Lord). This process helps us determine how we can do our very best to serve God by better ensuring that we are more than adequately equipping His Saints.
What documentation do I need to prove that I am ordained?
Once ordained, we expect our ministers to go into the world and serve God at his or her best. God’s knows it is tough out there and as an ordained minister, you must be taken seriously without exception. For this and for legal reasons, ministers should have ordination papers in their possession. Each of our documents is individually prepared for each newly ordained minister.
Christian Discipleship Ministries prepares and provide the following Ordination credentials:
- An original signature of the ordaining authority. (As most states now require this to meet registration requirements)
- A Certificate of Ordination. (This gives the document and authenticity that governmental officials have come to expect)
- A certified Letter of Good Standing
- A certified Ordination Identification Card.
Can I perform weddings with an online ordination?
Yes. However, many states require you to be a pastor of a church located within the state in which you wish to perform weddings. If you are not already a pastor of a church, then you would need to start a church before you will be recognized by the state as a wedding minister. We provide you with a World Christian Ministries’, Church Charter Certificate. Nonetheless, we strongly recommend that you contact your state and local government agencies to clearly identify what is required of you BEFORE performing any type of legal wedding ceremonies.
As an independent minister, it is your responsibility to comply with all of the laws in effect at the time you perform a wedding. Failure to do so may subject you to civil and criminal proceedings. We have compiled the current state laws regarding the performance of marriage, see the current laws here. The laws regarding the performance of marriage have a tendency to change periodically, always contact the appropriate government office to assure your eligibility before performing a wedding ceremony.
Please be advised that the following states are very restrictive as to whom they will authorize to perform marriages: Delaware, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New York, New York City, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. In many cases, independent ministers are not allowed to perform marriages in the above states. Make sure you contact the appropriate state offices to determine whether or not you will be allowed to perform a marriage before you make any commitments.
If for some reason you cannot legally perform a marriage within a state, here is a way to work around the problem: Have the couple buy their marriage license and then have a Justice of the Peace perform a quick civil union ceremony. Then the couple will be free to engage in a Christian celebration of their marriage including the taking of proper vows officiated by you, the Christian minister. The legal aspects of the marriage would then be taken care of and the happy couple could get on with their lives in a Christian fashion. This is also done in other countries where the government officiates all of the marriages.
For a more detailed listing of State-byState requirements, please click here.
Will my ordination be recognized by other churches?
Most organizations have their own ordination requirements and do not necessarily recognize ordinations issued by other entities. However, that decision rests entirely with the organization that you are applying to.
My church pastor or elder told me that my online ordination is invalid because it didn’t come from a denomination, or accredited Bible college. Is this true?
No, your online ordination carries the same legal status that his or hers does. Denominational affiliation nor graduating from a Bible college or university; is not required in order to be recognized, or perform the duties of an ordained minister. The calling of God should supersede any rules that man has devised to control entry into the ministry.
Is my ministry granted tax exempt status by Christian Discipleship Ministries?
No, only the IRS can grant tax exempt status. You need to apply directly to them in your own name.
How do I go about incorporating my ministry and filing for 501(c3) status?
We recommend that you contact the Internal Revenue Service direct, or visit their website for more information:
Can my online ordination be revoked?
Yes. If it is brought to our attention that a minister is not living a life consistent with the scriptures, then that person’s ordination (issued by Christian Discipleship Ministries) may be revoked at the discretion of World Christian Ministries. In order to maintain your ordination (as issued by Christian Discipleship Ministries) permanently, you must be living a life consistent with God’s requirements as found within His holy scriptures.
No substitute for professional advice.
Material available on Christian Discipleship Ministries is general information and opinion which we hope will be useful. It is not intended to be, nor is it a substitute for, informed professional medical, legal, financial or other advice. You should always seek independent professional advice from a person who is licensed and/or knowledgeable in the applicable area before acting on any opinion, advice or information available on Christian Times Online.