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Mail Order and Internet Churches

Mail Order and Internet Churches

1310

American Fellowship Church

225 Crossroads Blvd., No. 345
Carmel, CA 93923

The American Fellowship Church (originally named the Mother Earth Church), was formed in 1975 by T. H. Swenson, as an independent church which believes in individual responsibility for spiritual growth and development. Described as a church without walls whose members are widely scattered, ministers are invited to unite daily in prayer and meditation at 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. (Pacific Standard Time). The International Clergy Association is a division of the church open only to ordained ministers. It publishes a directory of members and offers correspondence courses.

Membership: In 1991, there were approximately 15,000 members.

Periodicals: Newsletter.

1311

Brotherhood of Peace and Tranquility

(Defunct)

The Brotherhood of Peace and Tranquility was a fellowship of semi-autonomous churches which included local autonomous congregations and a "Church of the Brotherhood," a single worldwide congregation of individuals. Individual churches varied widely in belief and practice. The brotherhood operated the Academy of the Brotherhood, its teaching arm, which offered training to ministers as well as courses for members who wish merely to improve their religious knowledge. Both resident and nonresident instruction was offered, and the curriculum was slanted toward the psychic. Both the academy and the church were headquartered in Costa Mesa, California.

1312

Calvary Grace Christian Church of Faith

Current address not obtained for this edition.

The Calvary Grace Christian Church of Faith was formed in 1961 by the Rev. Dr. Herman Keck, Jr. of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, who began his ministry as a member of the Calvary Grace Churches of Faith. In 1962, he began calling himself the international superintendent and established Faith Bible College. The Church resembles its parent body.

Membership: Not reported.

Educational Facilities: Faith Bible College, Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Faith Theological Seminary, Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Sources:

Bruns, Bill. "Praise the Lord and Pass the Diploma." Life (November 14, 1970): 69-78.

1313

Calvary Grace Churches of Faith

Current address not obtained for this edition.

Among the first of the mail-order churches is the Calvary Grace Churches of Faith formed in 1954 (chartered in 1958) by Angelo C. Spern of Irwin, Pennsylvania. It issues ordination certificates on application to "worthy Christians who have accepted (the) Lord Jesus Christ as the Savior." The International Chaplain's Association functions as the churches' missionary arm.

Membership: Not reported.

Educational Facilities: Calvary Grace Bible Institute, Rillton, Pennsylvania.

1314

The Church of Holy Light

(Defunct)

The Church of Holy Light was a small mail-order church that ordained ministers and chartered congregations. The church asked only that candidates felt called to preach. An initial $50.00 offering was asked of new applicants. Nothing has been heard of this church for many years and it is presumed to be defunct.

Membership: Not reported.

1315

The Church of Seven Planes

PO Box 294
Cooper, TX 75432

The Church of Seven Planes, like the Universal Life church that preceded it, was founded in 1978 to provide any who asked the opportunity to become legally ordained apart from any consideration of money or particular religious belief. Ordained individuals may then, if they so choose, organize their your own church(es), and obtain a church charter from the Church of the Seven Planes. The church was founded by and is currently led by Robert J. Guffey, its archbishop.

The Church of Seven Planes was created around seven basic beliefs; (1) that there is one supreme being, that may be called by many different names; (2) there is no single true religion; (3) that everyone is entitled to their own beliefs; (4) that it is not each person's right to tell others how to believe, think, dress or behave; (5) that we should treat others as we want to be treated; (6) that we learn from each other and from our inner self; and (7) that nothing is impossible, miracles happen all the time. (It should be noted that a similar position is held by House of F.A.M.E. Mansions of Glory.)

The church believes that any truth or a revelation is not a truth for a person unless they see it for themselves. They hold that there are some essential ancient truth, but do not expect the ministers who they ordain to accept them. These underlying beliefs are that "the soul of man is immortal and its future is the future of a thing whose growth and splendor have no limit; that the principle which gives life dwells within us and without us. It is undying, and eternally beneficent. It is not seen or heard or felt, but is perceived by the man who desires perception;" and that "each man is his own absolute law giver, the dispenser of glory or gloom to himself, the decreer of his life, his reward, is punishment." The church also endorses the ancient practice of laying on of hands (in a religious sense) to help bring about the healing and comfort of others.

Potential ministers may apply to the church of ordination. When the ordination certificate is granted, the church also grants a doctor of divinity degree. The church has designated bishops (who have the power to ordain in the church's name) in many states as well as a bishop for Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

The related Interfaith School of Theology grants a variety of degrees based on life experience and nonresidential courses taken.

Membership: Not reported. In 2001, the ministerial director listed 22 ministers in the United States and eleven more worldwide.

Educational Facilities: Interfaith School of Theology, Cooper, Texas.

Sources:

The Church of Seven Planes. http://www.sevenplanes.org/. 14 April 2002.

1316

Church of the Holy Monarch

Current address not obtained for this edition.

Describing itself as a "church without walls," the Church of the Holy Monarch is headed by Dr. Robert Walker and Archbishop R. M. LeRoux. It was founded in 1976 and ordains ministers and charters churches. Ministers are asked to respond to a nominal accessment to remain active clergy in the church.

Membership: Not reported.

Periodicals: The Monarch Messenger. Send orders to Box 116, Port Orange, FL 32019.

1317

Church of Transition

200 NE 48th Terr.
Miami, FL 33137

The Church of Transition emerged in the 1980s as a nondogmatic, nonpolitical, and loosely organized association of ministers and churches. It was founded by Bruce Cole, designated as First Minister. The church initially provides credentials for ministers who follow a spiritual path and wish to assist others from their spiritual orientation. The church has no requirements of belief, and practice and ministers are prohibited from requiring the members of their congregations to adhere to any particular belief or practice. Ministerial candidates, who must have the equivalent of a masters degree in a helping profession (social work, counseling, etc.), are privately tutored by one of the present ministers prior to ordination. Most ministers come out of a Western mystical tradition.

Membership: In 2002 there were approximately 20 ministers in the United States, two in Canada, and one in Mexico. Several of the ministers had formed congregations, but no count on members had been taken.

1318

Church of Universal Brotherhood

Current address not obtained for this edition.

The Church of Universal Brotherhood offers (for $10.00) a kit that includes an ordination certificate, a Doctor of Divinity certificate, and complete instructions on forming a church. The Church was founded by Michael Valentine of Hollywood, California, with the purpose of helping people become aware that they are in charge of their own beliefs. The Church admonishes members to love themselves, love their brothers and sisters as they do themselves, and take control of their lives as they see fit. Their Church believes that all is one. The goals of life are best attained, according to the Church, by getting high and staying there, raising the vibes, cherishing the world, and praising God for his grace.

Freedom is a keynote with the church, which encourages ordinations as a means of releasing power for good. Members of the Church say people are in prison, but they deserve to be free and must get the necessary help. The prime virtue is the constant striving for self-mastery. Three tools available to aid the seeker are mirrors, water beds, and hypnosis.

Membership: Not reported.

1319

Crown of Life Fellowship

PO Box 9048
Spokane, WA 99209

The Crown of Life Fellowship was formed in 1967 at Pullman, Washington, by the Rev. D. H. Howard. It functioned for several years as a fellowship at the University of Washington and then moved to Spokane, and more recently to Oregon. In 1970, the small Spokane group began to place advertisements offering ordination and, by 1972, had ministers in most of the states and provinces. The Fellowship functions as an association of ministers drawn from a diverse theological spectrum. There are no doctrinal requirements for membership.

The church supplies a short course leading to a Doctor of Divinity degree. Through its periodical, Crown of Life FellowshipNews, it informs members of their privileges as ordained ministers. Many of the churches function as house churches and study groups.

The Crown of Life Fellowship sees itself as continuing the work of A. K. Mozumdar, who began a teaching ministry in Spokane in 1914. For the next 40 years, from the southern California headquarters of the Messianic World Message, Mozumdar preached a "universal message" of the God within. His teachings represented an attempted synthesis of Hinduism and Christianity. The Fellowship has sponsored the republishing of Mozundar's major work, The Triumphant Spirit.

Membership: Not reported.

Periodicals: The Universal Message. Send orders to Rte. 2, Box 190, Albany, OR 97321.

Sources:

Mozumdar, A. K. The Triumphant Spirit. Marina Del Rey, CA: DeVorss & Co., 1978.

1320

First International Church of the Web

c/o Rev. David M. Ford
4202 Windsor Spring Rd., No. 131
Hephzibah, GA 30815

The First International Church of the Web is one of spectrum of new religions operating primarily as a community of people in cyberspace who stay in contact through email and the Internet. It was established February 7, 1997, by Rev. Dr. David M. Ford, its pastor. The church has committed itself to utilizing the Internet for (1) Christian evangelism, (2) providing ministry to members and others through a number of items on the webpage (including the prayer request message board, chat rooms, and a bulletin board for threaded discussions); and creating an equipping ministry for Christians through the linking to high quality of quality online Christian resources (for example, free correspondence and e-mail based Bible lessons and other Bible education resources).

The church is a conservative Christian organization that affirms the bible as the inspired Word of God, the Trinity, and the saving work of Christ. It defines the church as a living spiritual body of which Jesus Christ is the Head and of which all regenerated persons are members and asserts that all Christians are ordained by the Holy Spirit to spread the Gospel of Christ. While affirming the essentials of Christian doctrine, the church believes the Love of Jesus Christ is the greatest gift of God and take precedence over all differences among Christians of a theological, denominational, ideological, or physical nature.

The church provides free online legal ordination for those seeking to serve as clergy and free independent church charters for new Christian ministries. It also offers instructions for any who would like to start a web-based church. The church is a member of the International Alliance of Web-Based Churches, an ecumenical body that is managed by Rev. Ford.

Membership: Not reported.

Educational Facilities: St. Luke Evangelical School of Biblical Studies, Hephzibah, Georgia.

Periodicals: The First International Church of the Web Herald.

Sources:

First International Church of the Web. http://www.ficotw.org/index.html. 12 April 2002.

1321

Hilltop House Church

(Defunct)

On November 1, 1971, newspapers across the United States carried pictures of Sadie, a Labrador retriever in Terre Linda, California, who has been ordained a minister in the Hilltop House Church by Archbishop Ben F. Gay, its founder. Gay, former president of Holiday Magic, Inc., a cosmetics firm founded by the late William Penn Patrick, founded the Hilltop House Church in 1970 in San Rafael, California. He had formerly been ordained by the Missionaries of the New Truth, a Chicago-based group. The guiding precepts of the Hilltop House Church were the golden rule and John 8:32, "Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free."

Inherent within the Hilltop House Church was a certain cynicism toward religion as a whole. Ministers were ordained for $15.00 and a registration form. They were then promised promotions for recruiting other ministers (a structure quite similar to Holiday Magic's program). The church's stated goal was to ordain 48 bishops, 24 monsignors, and 12 vicars. Ministers were offered ordination simply because of all the benefits ordination brings.

On January 8, 1973, after a year of protesting tax shelters offered to churches, Gay, in a letter to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, asked that the tax-exempt status of his church be canceled. This act was a dramatic protest of the large, nonreligious, tax-free holdings of other churches.

1322

Holy Gospel Church IV, Inc.

Current address not obtained for this edition.

The Holy Gospel Church IV, Inc., was founded in 1977 in New Port Richie, Florida, by Rev. Mario J. Sautte, the church's patriarch. It is described as a liberal church organization without any traditional doctrine. It is the belief of the church that each clergy person has a right to serve god in their own way according to their own religious convictions. It is Christian, interfaith, and nondenominational. The Church accepts belief in God, the divinity of Christ, and the power of prayer, but these are not required beliefs by those ordained by the church.

The church is prepared to ordain anyone who professes a call to the ministry. There are no educational nor creedal requirements. The church also issues doctor of divinity degrees upon application. The church charters congregations, but does not cover individual congregations with its tax-exempt umbrella. Local churches must gain tax exemption on their own. Foreign members can be found in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Ghana, Lebanon, Haiti, and Mexico.

Membership: In 1992 the church reported approximately 10,000 members, 1,000 clergy, and 33 congregations in the United States. There were approximately 20 clergy and five congregations in Canada. There were some 10,000 members in 12 countries around the world.

1323

House of F.A.M.E. Mansions of Glory

3846 W. 133rd
Cleveland, OH 44111

House of F.A.M.E. (Father Almighty's Messengers Epiphany) Mansions of Glory was founded in 1993 by Rev. Donald E. Jones. The organization offers ordination to ministers who request it.

As a young man, Jones became a student of the healing principles taught by seventeenth-century Austrian magnetic healer, Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815). Since 1950, he has practiced what he terms "Mesmer's Thaumaturge Attunement" and converted in the basement of his home into a chapel where he could teach others the holistic healing practices that not only included magnetic healing but a spectrum of natural healing practice such as naprapathy. Attached to the F.A.M.E. ministry is the House of F.A.M.E. School of Mesmer's Thaumaturge Attunement, through which training in healing is offered so that ministers may provide people with a genuine faith healing service held from a consciousness based in the golden rule of love. Classes are residential and attendance as sessions held at the school in St. Augustine, Florida, are integral.

The beliefs of the organization are based on the Golden Rule (Do unto others as you would have them do unto you), considered a common base of all religions, and the Royal Law of Liberty, wherein all religions would exists in One Righteousness of Love, loving others as they love themselves. The ministry suggests that humankind is reaching a climax but will, before the end, awaken and repent for its disobedience to The Golden Rule. Worldly humanity entertains enmity with Love (God is Love); the worldly misguided hate with a vengeance.

In a more formal statement of its position, F.A.M.E. acknowledges belief that (1) there is one supreme Spirit being; (2) that there is no one religion, but various interpretations that lead to the center core of faith, Universal Love; (3) that everyone is entitled to their own belief; (4) that we do not possess the right to tell others how to believe, think, worship or behave; (5) that we should treat others as we want to be treated; (6) that we learn from each other as well as our inner self; (7) and that nothing is impossible and miracles happen. (It should be noted that a similar position is held bythe church of Seven Planes.)

The Ministry of F.A.M.E. welcomes to its membership any who are seeking truth from error; it does not require members to accept its beliefs and stands prepared to ordain anyone who asks for it in the assumption that s/he is seeking the truth as are other F.A.M.E. ministers. Those holding ordination in other organizations may also be ordained at the same time in the F.A.M.E.

Membership: Not reported. Ministers are scattered across the United States and are also found in Germany and Australia.

Educational Facilities: House of F.A.M.E. School of Mesmer's Thaumaturge Attunement, St. Augustine, Florida.

Sources:

House of F.A.M.E. Mansions of Glory. http://www.fameministry.org/ or http://www.famenglory.org/. 14 April 2002.

1324

Life Science Church

Current address not obtained for this edition.

Similar to the Universal Life Church is the Life Science Church, formed by Archbishop Gordon L. Cruikshank. He offers to ordain "those gifted people that have been called to the ministry and for various reasons have been denied the right to fulfill their mission because of lack of formal education and/or college or seminary training." Ministers may be ordained by sending in $25, an application form, and a short thesis on "what the Ministry means to me and how I can serve." All ministers receive an ordination certificate and a Doctor of Divinity degree from the Life Science College. Churches are chartered for $35.00. Ministers may become bishops by recruiting others for ordination.

According to Cruikshank, the science of life consists of learning to live to the fullest. Freedom is the most important part of life, especially freedom of religion. Although the church is not doctrinally oriented and stresses freedom of belief, each minister makes a "non-denominational affirmation of faith."

Since the 1970s, the Life Science Church has become associated with the Posse Comitatus, a right-wing tax protest group in the Midwest. Ministers have been accused of using the church as a tax-dodge and of involvement in several violent confrontations between members of the Posse and the legal authorities.

Membership: Not reported.

1325

Ministers for Christ Assembly of Churches

PMB 107, 6630 W. Cactus, B107
Glendale, AZ 85304

Ministers for Christ Assembly of Churches was founded in 1988 by the Rev. Dr. J. Gardner, who also serves as its president. The church makes ordination of ministers and chartering of churches available on line (or through the mail). The church offers seven courses each of which contain seven lessons. Those interested in ordination may enroll in the courses (for a set fee). The only textbook used in the courses is the King James Version of the Bible. Following completion of the course (and students may move at their own pace), the student may apply for ordination. A ordination certificate will be issued as soon as the final tuition payment is made. That ordination is kept active by the paying of an annual dues to the church.

The church has a short statement of faith that affirms belief in the Trinity, the promise of God to baptize believers with the Holy Ghost and with fire, and the great commission (to evangelize the world).

Membership: Not reported.

Educational Facilities: Ministers for Christ Bible Institute, Glendale, Arizona.

Sources:

Ministers for Christ Assembly of Churches. http://www.ordination.org/. 12 April 2002.

1326

Missionaries of the New Truth

(Defunct)

The Missionaries of the New Truth was formed in 1969 by Frederich W. Zurndorfer and David A. Muncaster of Chicago. The organization immediately began to advertise, offering respondents ordination and a Doctor of Divinity degree. Advantages offered included the right to ordain others in the church's name, the authority to conduct weddings, tax exemption, cash grants for doing missionary work, draft exemption, and reduced rates for ministers at hotels, theaters, and on public transportation. A statement of belief says man is a seeker of truth. The church urges its ministers and members to seek truth, recognizing that subjective truth will differ from person to person. The higher truth is synonymous with God. By 1971, the Missionaries of the New Truth had ordained 7,000 ministers, signifying the church's success. However, the organization was beset with problems. Following an expose in the Chicago Tribune, the Illinois state's attorney general filed suit, charging the group with fraud in soliciting funds to establish schools and churches that never materialized. In addition, Muncaster and several leaders of the church were seized in a drug raid and were accused of running the largest hallucinogenic drug factory in the Midwest. Following their conviction, the church dissolved.

1327

Omniune Church

Current address not obtained for this edition.

The Omniune Church was formed by the Rev. M. S. Medley, former international president of public relations for the Life Science Church. The Omniune Church is based upon the ideal of building a church from the bottom up, democratically. Individual member participation is stressed. Beliefs are drawn from ethical liberalism and include emphasis on freedom of belief. The Omniune Church Creed asserts the following: "Believe what ye will, so long as ye do good to thy fellow man: for verily, he that doeth Godly deeds is a Godly man: and he that hath loving kindness in his heart hath God in his soul." The seven great laws of life further enlarge the Omniune perspective: 1) do unto others what you would have done unto you; 2) give the world love and kindness, for you reap what you sow; 3) believe in your own worth and turn from error toward improvement; 4) take nothing which the owner has need of, neither his property nor his life; 5) love and honor God and your fellow man–harm neither by word or deed; 6) seek wisdom, justice, peace and a better life for all; and 7) live joyfully, simply, naturally, sharing God's bounty, moderate in all but love of God and God's creation.

The church stresses function over form in organization and advises congregations, instead of hiring a paid minister, to divide the minister's duties and appoint unpaid volunteers to fulfill those duties. Any person can then become the speaker, conductor, clerk, organizer, instructor, steward, or counselor. These seven officers are designated elders and any assistants are deacons. Congregations are small and close-knit. They are advised to split rather than become too big. In 1973, there were 17 missionary ministers. There were missions in Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago and Atlanta. There were approximately 500 members. Headquarters are in Breckenridge, Texas.

Membership: Not reported.

1328

Praise Christ Ministries

PO Box 71514
Newnan, GA 30271

Praise Christ Ministries (along with its affiliates Praise Christ.net and Be Ordained) were founded by Ray Nix, who serves as the organization's pastor and director, and his wife, Sonya Nix, who in 200 accepted a call to ministry utilizing the Internet. They has become involved in Internet ministry in the 1990s while serving pastorate in North Caroline and Georgia, but in 2000 decided to go into Internet work full time. The Praise Christ site carries a wide range of religious resources which may accessed through its many features.

Through the "be ordained" aspect of the organization, the Nix's recognize the calling of God on many people, and facilitate their receiving ministerial credentials. They also acknowledge the role of life experience in maturing someone and preparing them to engage in ministry. The only requirement for ordination is that a person applying be a baptized believer who has made a public profession of faith in Jesus Christ. They ask for a short account of one's salvation experience to accompany the ordination form. Otherwise, the Council of Praise Christ Ministries will ordain any candidate who presents themselves, via the Internet, for Christian ministry.

In addition, Praise Christ Ministries looks to equip those whom it has ordained and to that end is offering correspondence and online courses for any who feel the need to continue in their education and further sharpen their ministerial skills.

Praise Christ Ministries offers a profession of faith that acknowledges the Trinity, Jesus as the Son of God, salvation by faith through the grace of Jesus, God's loves of all people and the Bible as the infallible Word of God, and the literal existence of heaven and hell. They emphasize an approach to the Bible that centers on the covenants of God with humanity rather than dispensationalism. Though not Pentecostals, they also have adopted the five-fold ministry of Ephesians that looks to leadership exercised through apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, and assume the operation of the spirituals gifts (I Corinthians 12) in the contemporary church. Their own statement was derived from that of the Fellowship of Ministers and Churches International. However, these beliefs are not imposed on those who seek ordination.

Membership: Not reported.

Sources:

Praise Christ Ministries. http://www.beordained.org/faq.htm. 14 April 2002.

1329

Progressive Universal Life Church (PULC)

PO Box 276265
Sacramento, CA 95827

The Progressive Universal Life Church (PULC) was founded by Pastor Jack J. Stahl, who serves as the minister for the congregation in Sacramento, California. He also functions as a psychic and spiritual counselor. PULC have been developed as a "Spiritual Holistic Ministry" that includes an emphasis on the healing of the mind, the spirit and the body. This emphasis included attention to the claims of holistic health and the techniques of natural healing. Stahl notes that the Bible has many references to healing and offers dietary advice.

PULC offers ministerial licenses, doctoral degrees, and certified Psychic Science courses leading to a diploma. The ordination certificate and doctoral degrees are offered for a small offering to the church. Various courses are offered on a distance learning basis toward the doctoral degree and the psychic science certificate. Those who complete the psychic science course are authorized to begin their career as a professional psychic. Degrees are also offered in hypnosis, metaphysics, religion, and biblical studies.

Membership: Not reported.

Sources:

Progressive Universal Life Church. http://www.pulc.com/index.htm. 14 April 2002.

1330

St. Matthew's Churches

PO Box 21838
Tulsa, OK 74121

Little is known about the St. Matthew's Churches of Tulsa, Oklahoma (also known as St. Matthew Publishing, St. Matthew 18:19 Publishing, Church by Mail, Church and Bible Study in the Home by Mail, and Prayer by Letters). The organization, founded in 1951, specializes in evangelism through the mail typically establishing contact with potential adherents through mass mailings. The messages emphasize the abundance of God and the blessing that he is bringing into the life of the recipient. There is a request that the recipient mail back their requests for prayer and to sow a seed of biblical good luck by enclosing an offering.

Because of the unusual and impersonal nature of the initial approach, many people have contacted agencies such as the Better Business Bureau concerning the ministry, but it has refused to cooperate by supplying information concerning its inner workings– -charitable activities, management, program, etc. Relations with adherents is always through the mail.

The church presents itself as an evangelistic body that tries to convert the world to Christianity. It points out that it has never made any charitable solicitations, since it is not a charity.

Membership: Not reported.

Sources:

Better Business Bureau report on St Matthew's Churches. http://www.give.org/reports/stmatthew.asp. 10 May 2002.

1331

Spiritual Life Concepts

Current address not obtained for this edition.

Spiritual Life Concepts was founded in the 1970s by Archbishop James L. Lowery as a cyberspace church that provides ordination to ministers and charters churches in the Christian tradition. It was originally created to train God's servants. Lowery also serves as chancellor of the organizations school. He is in his work assisted by Bishop E. L. Moton, the chairman of the Executive Council of Bishops, and the national ministry team consisting of Rev. Vickie Justice and Rev. Ruth Rambo.

Spiritual Life Concepts assumes a conservative Christian position that affirms the Bible as the inspired Word of God, the Trinity, and the saving power of Christ. The Holy Spirit is seen as a gift bestowed to empower and equip the believer for effective service in the world.

The Spiritual Concepts school offers a curriculum of fourteen courses of Bible Study in which the Bible (preferably the King James version) is the only needed textbook. A Licensed Ministers Certificate is granted when one enrolls in the course of study and an ordination license is granted to all students who complete it.

Contact with Spiritual Concepts is through its website at http://www.atslc.com/.

Membership: Not reported.

Educational Facilities: Spiritual Life Concepts, Inc., School of Ministry and Seminary & Bible Institute.

Sources:

Spiritual Life Concepts. http://www.atslc.com/. 14 April 2002.

1332

United Christian Ministries International (UCMI)

7488 N. Brown Rd.
Columbia City, IN 46725

United Christian Ministries International (UCMI) was conceived as a nondenominational Christian ministry based upon the teachings of the inspired writings of the Bible (with no additional or manmade doctrines) and a belief in the one true church of which Jesus spoke that unifies all Christians. UCMI's primary goal is to establish new Christian ministries in the Body of Christ. The basic premises is that there is no biblical or necessary reason for individuals who wish to be ministers to attend/graduate from a formal seminary. UCMI believes that many people are already qualified for the ministerial role but do not have either the time or financial resources to complete a seminary program.

UCMI, founded in 1998 by Steven B. Smethers, will grant an ordination to anyone who applies the only requirement being that they operate within biblical Christianity. It also grants church charters. Individual ministers may name their own church, though they cannot pick an already used denominational name. UCMI does not supply a corporate membership that includes tax-exemption, each chartered church must apply for tax-exemption separately. While ordination is free, there is a charge for processing papers and supplies, however, there are no annual renewal fees. UCMI also provides a variety of resource material that many have found useful in carrying out their ministry-pastoral manuals, Bible software, baptismal certificates, etc. The related United Christian Ministry Institute provides correspondence courses for ministerial training, including both the bachelor's degrees an advanced degrees (masters and doctoral).

Churches associated with UCMI may also become a part of United Christian Assemblies International, founded in 2000, a fellowship of independent churches for mutual support and growth. Within UCAI, each assembly adds resources they possess so that these resources become a pool from which all may draw. Such resources may include teaching materials, ministry resources, and/ or materials to help in managing individual assemblies.

Membership: Not reported.

Educational Facilities: United Christian Ministry Institute, Columbia City, Indiana.

Periodicals: UCMI Ministry News Letter.

Sources:

Christian Ministry Handbook. Columbia City, IN: United Christian Ministries International, n.d.

United Christian Ministries International. http://www.ucmi.org/ucmi/. 12 April 2002.

1333

United Church of the Apostles

Current address not obtained for this edition.

The United Church of the Apostles is a small mail order church that charters congregations and ordains ministers. The Church believes in freedom of religion. It sees its purpose as seeking to unite people and to open them to the beauty and great handiwork of God in everyday life.

Membership: Not reported.

Periodicals: Church Newsletter, Lindenhurst, NY 11757.

1334

Universal Free Life Church

Current address not obtained for this edition.

The Universal Free Life Church was formed in 1969 by the Rev. Dr. Arthur H. Fox, assisted by the Rt. Rev. Richard H. Kerekes and the Rev. Diane Fox. There is no doctrine; the Free Life Church recognizes the individual's right to his own beliefs. In 1970, the Church reported 1,100 centers in the United States (912 on college campuses) and 43,000 members. No verification of these claims was ever made, and no centers of the church's activity have been located during the 1980s.

1335

Universal Life Church

601 Third St.
Modesto, CA 95351

Kirby Hensley (b. 1911) was an illiterate Baptist minister from North Carolina. He educated himself and, in the process, was influenced by his readings in world religion. Over the years, he conceived the idea of a universal church that would bring people of all religions together, rather than separating them. In 1962, he founded the Universal Life Church, having previously opened a "church" in his garage in Modesto, California. Though Hensley had his own ideas about theology, he felt others had a right to their own theories. He began to ordain ministers for no fee, for life, without question. He would present a signed ordination certificate and a one-page information sheet covering the ordination ceremony merely for the asking.

In the late 1960s, Hensley attained the status of a minor folk hero as the media discovered his activity and gave it national news coverage. He would often address large college classes and ordain the audience instantly and en masse. Though ordination was free, a Doctorate of Divinity cost $20 and was offered with ten lessons explaining how to set up and operate a church. In the state of California, however, he was enjoined from issuing a degree from an unaccredited institution, so the Church's Department of Education was moved to Phoenix, Arizona.

While the Universal Life Church has no doctrine of its own, Hensley has developed an eclectic theology that includes the following beliefs: people are reincarnated; the soul is the continuing essence of man; God is substance manifest in natural laws; Jesus was a man more intelligent than most men; heaven is nothing more or less than the position of having what you want; and hell is when you do not have what you want. He has also developed an elaborate concept of history. According to Hensley, two thousand years before the Biblical flood man began to multiply on the earth, and church and state became separate. Thus began a 6,000-year spiritual dispensation which will end in thirty years of turmoil around 2000 A.D. By that time, the church and state will be reunited under the Universal Life banner. To implement his ideas, Hensley has formed the People's Peace Prosperity Party and has run for both governor of California and president of the United States. Hensley has also initiated several "reforms" by marrying a couple in a trial marriage and marrying two females at the 1971 Universal Life Church Festival.

The Church is organized very loosely. An annual convention is held. Subsidiary structures include the Universal Life Church Press Association. By 1974, churches belonging to the Universal Life Church were functioning in most states, and ministers were located in every state and many foreign countries. By 1977, the Universal Life Church claimed to have ordained more than six million ministers, some 25,000 of which had reportedly formed congregations that met regularly, usually as small groups in house churches.

Membership: In 1998 the church reported "missions" of members in the United States, 17,000,000 million worldwide, and more than 60,000 churches.

Educational Facilities: Universal Life University, Modesto, California.

Periodicals: The ULC News.

Remarks: The Universal Life Church has remained a constant source of controversy, having been targeted by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service as a tax-dodge. Congregations that claimed a Universal Life charter and ministers that claimed a Universal Life ordination have been carefully scrutinized, and charges of profit-making businesses and various clandestine organizations operating under the Universal Life Church's protection have been periodically reported. The Church has responded to the IRS and resulting negative image of the Church by filing suits against the IRS, moving to overturn denials of state-tax exemption and seeking recognition of its ministers to perform marriages. While the problems with the Internal Revenue Service have done little to slow the Church nationally, they have led many congregations originally chartered by the Church to seek their own charters.

Sources:

Ashmore, Lewis. The Modesto Messiah. Bakersfield, CA: Universal Press, 1977.

Hensley, Kirby J. The Buffer Zone. Modesto, CA: Universal Life Church, 1986.

——. A New Life. Modesto, CA: The Author, 1983.

1336

Universal Life Mission Church

Current address not obtained for this edition.

The Universal Life Mission Church, also known as the General Council of the Apostolic Sabbatarian Baptist Churches of America, Inc., was founded by Kenneth Russell Lyons, its bishop. The Church was originally chartered by the Universal Life Church, but in 1977 the Church was independently incorporated. The Church is a sabbatarian group. It believes in the Bible as its only guide, preferring the New International or World Version published by the Jehovah's Witnesses.

Membership: Not reported.

1337

Universal Matrix Church

4102 Meadowsweet St.
Pasco, WA 99301

The Universal Matrix Church is one of a spectrum of Internetbased religious groups founded at the end of the twentieth century that will supply ordination to any who seek it. Its stated purpose is to free people from the bondage imposed by traditional religious dogma. It is the church's belief that most contemporary organized religious bodies keep their members in a form of mental bondage. A true church will, in their opinion, free people.

The Universal Matrix Church projects as a basic belief the idea of righteous self-determination. They encourage each one to "Do that which is right;" however, they leave the duty of determining exactly what is right for the member himself/herself. Members are encouraged to promulgate the idea of the freedom for others to make their own decision about what is correct behavior.

The church bases its existence on the biblical understanding that it is God, not other humans, who calls people to the ministry (John 15:16) and constitutional guarantees of religious freedom.

Ordination in the church is free, though a small one-time only donation is requested to cover the church's office and printing expenses. The church is led by its Chancellor and Prefect of Ministries. The church does not charter congregations. It is a member of the International Alliance of Web-Based Churches.

Membership: Not reported.

Sources:

Universal Matrix Church. http://members.tripod.com/~unmatrix/. 7 May 2002.

1338

Universal Ministries

PO Box 31
Milford, IL 60953

Universal Ministries is a nondenominational interfaith organization that emphasizes the rights of people to worship as they please. In this regard, they will ordain anyone who requests it. It was founded by Rev. D. E. Hickman and other ministers originally ordained by the Universal Life Church who wished to extend the basic perspective originally articulated by Kirby Hensley (1911-1999). The new ministries doctrinal approached is summarized as, "The Doctrine of this Ministry that we 'Do what is right, live fruitful lives, be true to ourselves and the God each of us worship, while causing no harm to others, and accept the individual's right to worship as they see fit within the laws of their respective countries."'

Universal ministries have designated some of its ministers as bishops who have the duty of helping ministers in locating any local ordinances or regulations concerning religious practices (and many American communities have significant ordinances affecting marriage, location of churches, etc.), and assistance in creating and promoting an individual independent ministry. Currently, bishops exist in Georgia, Texas and the United Kingdom.

The associated Universal Ministries School of Theology offers a spectrum of degrees of an honorary nature (including a doctorate), and is developing degree programs that will include a course of study. The school will also accredit anyone who asked, based upon their own experience, as an ordained psychic.

Membership: Not reported.

Educational Facilities: Universal Ministries School of Theology, Milford, IL.

Sources:

Hickman, D. E. The Gospel of Christ's True Disciples. Milford, IL: Universal Ministries, n.d.

Universal Ministries. http://www.universalministries.com/index2.html or http://www.auburn.edu/~allenkc/ordform.htmluniversalministries. 23 April 2002.

1339

World Christianship Ministries (WCM)

PO Box 8041
Fresno, CA 93947

World Christianship Ministries (WCM) is a worldwide Christian ordination outreach ministry which through the 1980s and 1990s was providing an alternative to seminary for individuals who wished to be ordained immediately and initiate their own ministry. WCM offers a number of needed resources for such ministries, including materials on the Bible, music, organization, getting started, and religious freedom laws. It also offers "true to the Word" Bible study courses and various ministerial handbooks.

WCM ordains by application through the mail. It also invites the ministers who receive ordination from it to be a part of the World Christianship International Association.

Membership: Not reported.

Sources:

http://www.psnw.com/~wcn/.

1340

World Harvest Church

4595 Gender Rd.
Canal Winchester, OH 43110

Alternate Address: Breakthrough Media Services, Box 2029, Vancouver, BC Canada V6B 3P8.

World Harvest Church, founded in 1977, is the 12,000-member mega church pastored by Rod Parsley (b. 1957), a poplar Pentecostal/charismatic leader and televangelist. As a young man, he accepted the tutoring of prominent Pentecostal leader Dr. Lester Sumrall. Current facilities of World Harvest Church, opened in 1987, include a 5,200-seat auditorium. The church operates from a mainline Pentecostal perspective that affirms the Bible as the infallible Word of God, the Trinity, the saving work of Christ, and the baptism of the Holy Spirit. It understands that Christ's the redemptive work includes provisions for the healing of the human body in answer to believing prayer.

Breakthrough Media Ministries, that handles Parsley's broadcast ministry produces his show, "Breakthrough," now carried on 1,400 stations in North America and on Europe 7 that covers Europe and the Middle East. Bridge of Hope, the world missionary arm combines evangelism with various humanitarian programs to the poor.

Over the years, many otherwise independent ministers have been attracted to Parsley's ministry and others have received training at the World Harvest Bible College. In the 1990s, in response to a felt need to build relationship and break barriers to fellowship, Parsley founded the World Harvest Church Ministerial Fellowship. It ordains pastors and accepts into membership pastors previously ordained elsewhere. The fellowship sponsors an annual Raise the Standard Pastors and Church Workers Conference.

Membership: Not reported.

Educational Facilities: World Harvest Bible College, Columbus, Ohio.

Sources:

Parsley, Rod. The Day Before Eternity. Carol Stream, IL: Creation House, 1989.

——. No More Crumbs: Your Invitation to Sit & Feast at the King's Table. Carol Stream, IL: Creation House, 1989.

——. On The Brink-Breaking Through Every Obstacle into the Glory of God. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2000.

World Harvest Church. http://www.breakthrough.net/wh_church.htm. 14 April 2002.

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