Dear Rev. Allen:
Greetings! My name is Michael J. Mazza. I am a PhD student, teaching fellow, and campus journalist at the University of Pittsburgh. I am currently working on a research project on the Universal Life Church, and plan to write an article about it.
I came across the website for True Grace Ministries, and I would like to know if you could answer some questions. Feel free to answer any, all, or none of them as time and interest permits!
Thank you for writing and your inquiry about my ministry. Please note that I speak not as an "official" spokesman or representative of the ULC, but from my own perceptions. My comments to your questions are embedded in your text below. Because of time limitations, I will try to be as brief as possible and ask that you take this into consideration as my answers will not be detailed and many pertinent points and details are not covered, or explained in full.
Thank you so much for your time; I really appreciate it.
- Question: The ULC has been historically known for being on the forefront of
the fight for First Amendment rights (particularly in the area of religious freedom). Does your ministry add to this ongoing struggle? If so, how?
Answer: My ministry does support and uphold religious freedom for all people, which is one of the tenets of the ULC. We state this on our web pages and elsewhere as applicable.
- Question: Gay men and lesbians are a group who have historically been
rejected, and even persecuted, by mainstream religions. What is
your theological and pastoral attitude towards gay people? What
would you like the unchurched part of the gay community to know
about the ULC as a denomination, and about your ministry in particular?
Answer: The ULC is open to all people. This is because of the non-restrictive nature of its two tenets:
1. The absolute right of freedom of religion
Personally, I don't reject but hold such people in Christian love. This does not mean that I condone their acts of homosexuality. I view homosexuality as a sin such as any other act that may be considered sin. I do not reject these people any more than I would a person who commits any other type of sin, such as gluttony, drunkedness, lying, adultry, etc. We all are guilty of sin from time to time. Our goal is not to be overcome with sin, or remain in it, but to be delivered from it. This is possible by our reliance on the power of God and His provision to ultimately deliver us from sin, which is through the faith of Christ Jesus our Lord.
2. To do that which is right
- Question: Because some have tried to abuse their ULC credentials for tax
fraud and other illegal activities, "mail order churches" like the ULC still bear a degree of stigma in some circles. Do you feel that your ministry faces prejudice as a result of the misdeeds, or perceived misdeeds, of such individuals? If so, how do you deal with it?
Answer: Such activities were tried (and are probably still tried) by some individuals under the old incorporated ULC of the 80's and before. Now, the ULC is unincorporated and each minister, or ministry, stands on his own as far as securing a tax free status with the IRS (again, I am not speaking as an "official" spokesman or representative of the ULC but from my own perceptions and understanding). As you say, this abuse by some has caused a certain degree of stigma in some circles towards the ULC and other churches which "legally" ordain ministers by mail or online. I have read various remarks that people have made concerning the ULC and other churches of this type.
In actuality, the ordination of ministers by any church, or religious organization, has not been accepted by all other churches or organizations as valid. For instance, how many times have you know of an ordained Baptist minister filling the pulpit in "official" capacity in a Methodist church, or a Catholic in a Baptist, or other Protestant church, etc.
I have not openly been questioned about the validity of my ordination by anyone. This could be a result of the fact that I take my ordination seriously and try to act accordingly in all aspects of my life and ministry.
- Question: What did you personally find in the ULC that you could not find in any other religion or church?
Answer: The ULC gives me the freedom to believe, worship, teach, etc., as God leads me, and not as some churches or denominations try to force their members, or ministers, into doing these things as the church or denomination sees fit. I am free to minister as God leads me and know the true "freedom that is in Christ".
- Question: What special challenges do you see facing the ULC as a whole, and
your ministry in particular, in the future? What special goals for
the future do you have as a ULC minister?
Answer: The ULC is still faced, to a certain degree, with overcoming some of the stigmas and prejudices (as you mention above) towards it as a true, viable, church, because of some of the misdeeds, or or perceived misdeeds, of individuals associated with it in the past. I see myself and my ministry, as a part of the ULC, fully supporting, and helping, in this edeavor.
- Question: When I write my article, may I quote you by name, or would you prefer to remain an anonymous source?
Answer: You may use my name.
Rev. Ken Allen, D.D.
Question: My question is this: As a ULC Christian, what common ground do you
stand on with both non-Christian ULC ministers and pro-gay Christian ULC ministers? Do you see yourselves as fundamentally autonomous from each other, or does a set of common values unite you on
some level as a pluralistic spiritual/religious community?
Answer To briefly answer your additional questions:
Each ULC minister is independent and autonomous. The common ground
that unites us is the two tenets of the ULC.
1. The absolute right of freedom of religion
2. To do that which is right.
[Then in response to this, Mr. Mazza replied in an email on 8/4/99]
Thanks again, Rev. Allen!
I have been corresponding with a number of ULC ministers by Email,
and on the whole I find this group (yourself included) to be one of the
most diverse and pleasant groups of people I have ever encountered. My
best wishes for you and your ministry.