Thursday, October 10, 2013

Ordinations online?

It has come to my attention that some of the people in our United Methodist family have gone on the internet and purchased ordination certificates from a number of websites.  Lay people as well as local pastors with limited sacramental privileges are getting these certificates.  Some have performed weddings and consecrated communion using the authority of these ordaining bodies.  Some have seen it as a way to qualify for tax exemptions. The process is very simple and it requires no seminary training, interviews or screening.  Literally anyone can become ordained and hold ministerial credentials using this method and some sites do not even charge for this service. 

This is not in any way condoned by the United Methodist Church, the Philadelphia Area, the bishop or the cabinets.  The process of ordination in the United Methodist Church is rigorous and intentionally thorough in order to protect the church and its people from those who could potentially do harm by a lack of training, theological grounding, experience and supervision.  The integrity of our process and Wesleyan heritage is diminished when people purchase ordinations for the sake of convenience.  I urge anyone holding such ordinations to go online and remove themselves from these organizations immediately.  I ask pastors and lay leaders to teach about the process of ministry and why our system, with its many requirements and standards, needs to be regarded as sacred, respected and non-negotiable.  It is an affront to those who have worked hard, studying many years in seminary, spending much money, making many personal sacrifices when others, maybe unknowingly, seek ordinations in an easy, anonymous way. 

Furthermore, anyone who has an ordination certificate has joined another denomination and is no longer a member of the United Methodist Church.   The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church (2012) reads as follows:   “If a pastor is informed that a member has without notice united with a church of another denomination, the pastor shall make diligent inquiry and , if the report is confirmed, shall enter “Withdrawn” after the person’s name on the membership roll and shall report the same to the next charge conference.” Paragraph 241.

Thank you for your attention to this matter and for the continuing journey of faith we have in which we hold one another accountable in love.  


  1. Perhaps all need to review the issues of this topic. There are clergy and bishops who are stating they will go against the denominational laws to officiate at same-sex marriages. The marriages are one issue but the willing ignoring of the policies, rules, and laws of a denomination by these 'leaders' is far more troubling than an online ordination. I am sure both such ordinations and law breaking clergy/bishops will receive equitable censure... or will they?

  2. Thank you Bishop Johnson for holding us accountable in love!

  3. Excellent! People need to know this. I've seen some perform baptisms and not be clergy in the UMC and wondered - how is it possible to have loyalty to two denominations? It's snot!