I first felt the call to ministry in 1992, when I was involved with the Roman Catholic Church. I attended the Roman Catholic Seminary program for one year (1992-93) in Fresno, California…before realizing that the church of my youth was no longer speaking to the needs of my life and heart. After leaving the formation program, I began drawing away from the Roman Catholic Church over the next two years after my departure. Ultimately, I never returned to the program. My feeling of being called to ministry service never left me. In 2001, I heard about the ULC. After looking into this church a little deeper, I discovered the ULC would meet my needs and my current place in life. I then made application for ordination into the ULC in February of 2001. Thus began my course of ministry.
The Universal Life Church began in 1959 in Modesto, California with the founder, Bishop Kirby J.Hensley, as the first ULC President. President Hensley was raised as a Baptist in North Carolina. He left his own church when he recognized the many differences that existed among the known religions, and the rifts that were caused between them. As such was his aim and purpose to create a place where the many could become one, the ULC is not defined as a religion in any traditional way. Instead it represents (in a symbolic sense) all of the known religions of the world – a place of unifying everyone together. The formal denomination of the church is known as “Universal Life”. Bishop Hensley desired a “universal” church which would bridge the gap between people, and break down the walls of all the world religions. The main offices in Modesto still serve as the International Headquarters for all ULC Ministers around the world to this day, and is often referred to as the “Mother Church” (a church building is attached to the main offices). Informal meeting/worship services are held every Sunday morning at 10:00 AM at this location. We have millions of ministers throughout the world, in various forms of ministry and congregational work.
Today, the ULC is much more than simply another non-traditional church. It has evolved into many other branches of ministry and areas of focus through its ministerial leadership. It is a multi-level concept, an idea…a way of looking at the world through different eyes. It was Bishop Hensley’s hope that all people could oneday live together in peace, away from bias and religious bigotry. He was seen by many people as an irreverent radicalist, and they occasionally disagreed with his views. There were still those who understood that he was trying to create a change in folks…at the very least, get them to think more about the world in different ways. Yet because of his ideas (and those of people like him), the redefined concept of ministry, church, religion, and spirituality continues to exist today. This was the dream of the ULC founder. Bishop Hensley remained the president of the church until his death on March 19, 1999. Bishop Hensley’s surviving wife…Lida G. Hensley, served the church as his successor in 1999 until her passing on December 31, 2006. On January 14, 2007…the church board elected Andre Hensley (the late Bishop’s eldest son) as the new Church President. Aundre Hensley has worked at the church since 1977.
I am fully recognized and empowered by the Universal Life Church (ULC) which is an organized and established religious body, having completed the steps required with them for ordination. I am also recognized and empowered by the state as appropriate by virtue of the recognition from the church body. I have full ministerial authority to carry out the functions and duties of the ministry, in the same and equal respect as any other minister – qualified as necessary. This means that I have the same power of office in all general respects of the clergy virtually anywhere, equal to the status of any other minister from any other church or religious/spiritual community….whether licensed, ordained, called, or elected. The only exceptions to the power of my office, is a prohibition against performing circumcisions (known as the brit mila, most traditionally a religious practice within the Jewish faith which requires special medically oriented training and experience by those qualified to perform the rite); and that no service or ministry may be performed which violates any laws of the land – i.e. claiming illegal drug use as a religious practice (which in this last case is true for all ministers). The ULC is in the process of making application for authorization to operate in the various provinces of Canada.
Every organized church or religious body sets their own requirements for recognizing who within their membership can or will serve as clergy. There are no special requirements where government authorities are involved (in the U.S. at least), for this process. There is no officially organized set of standards, practices, or requirements adhered to between religious groups that minister candidates must complete to become clergy. Each church may have a completely different set of requirements for recognizing its ministers – ranging from simple acknowlegment to complex rituals, degrees, and church certifications. Ministers of any faith do have an obligation to follow a “generally accepted” set of ethical practices for professional conduct, (however I will not address those here). The only concern the state holds is that you be authorized by a religious body or by the state itself, in order to solemnize marriages. In that instance, clergy become “officers of the state”. In most cases clergy of any faith, religion, denomination,etc. are granted the statutory authority for that purpose.
It is a very common misunderstanding that in order to be a minister of any denomination, one must have a theology degree – M.Div. This is not the least bit true – (though most commonly required for traditionalChristian denominations). It is only through traditional social custom,and lack of understanding that this perception exists. This does not make it a requirement (except in the specific church itself). Theology was not required for my ordination, and my ministry is spiritually (rather than religiously) based…as stated on my profile page. Some clergy also serve as hospital chaplains, which requires special training along with a college degree. (This is a special field ofministry, with very different dynamics than what most ministers deal with from day to day). Hospital ministry is not a form of validation for any member of the clergy, nor is it a requirement for general ministry work…but rather a branch of ministry to those in need of special care while hospitalized. So in general the process to becoming a minister is to choose a faith group you desire to be a part of, and fulfill the requirements for that group as it pertains to them, in being recognized as a member of the clergy.
My ministry is focused on (among other good qualities)…spreading love, compassion, social justice, acceptance of people’s inherent differences (instead of simply “tolerance”), peace in the world and with each other, and helping folks to pass that message along. It is not forced on anyone. I do not proselytize, or offer the proverbial “hell, fire and brimstone”. As a non-traditional minister, I am far more open and non-condemning with those I minister to (compared with most traditional clergy). I do this through an everyday interaction with people, teaching them how it is possible to think for themselves…to live spiritually rather than religiously. (My experience has shown me that in many respects this approach to living a spiritual life connected to a sense of Deity is more powerful). I tend to think of it as sort of a “human angel” approach of helping people. In addition to these ministry goals, I also provide all of the customary church sacraments from a spiritual perspective, and various non-sacramental services as well. I maintain a very strong relationship with the ULC leadership.
As an Ordained Minister I provide all of the customary services of the Ordained Ministry to those who desire them (within the law as it applies). I conduct these services with great respect for the spiritual improvement of the individual(s) involved, as the primary focus of my work. I am an inter-denominational and non-denominational Ordained Minister. I provide ministry to people of all faith based communities and spiritualities, however I do not represent any one particular religious or spiritual practice exclusively. I do not presently sheperd a local church congregation (by choice). The majority of my interactions with others is on an itinerant 1/1 basis, so I tend to work where spirit leads me. By virtue of my office, I hold regular status as a member of the Ordained Clergy in all respects…with full recognition from the ULC and the state, as appropriate.
When I began my quest to create a ministry website, my initial intent was simply to provide a point of connection between myself and the cyber world…as it were. I had no idea at the time, it would become the site it is today. I knew little about website design, and still find myself learning as I go. At the inception of “http://www.RevBerthel.com” in December of 2003, I decided that my aim and purpose would be to create an extension of existing ministry – i.e. ministering to people via the web, as well as one-on-one, face to face. Mainly, this site serves as a point of information for others who wish to know more about me and my ministry work. My ultimate vision for this site, is that when people come to it from anywhere in the world, they can leave and take something good with them from it to help them in their own life.
In my ministry work, I am actually very eclectic on a broad spiritual level. However I do not use religion directly in my ministry. I am very different from most ministers in this way. No one wants (any) religion shoved in their face. So, I come from spirituality…the one place I have found that levels the playing field to a considerable degree. I do have an understanding of some of the basic concepts of many religious faiths, but I adhere to no single one exclusively in my ministry work. Even on a personal level, while I feel drawn to a more metaphysical frame of reference, I do incorporate ideas and concepts from several religious structures. (Hopefully, if you have come this far, you’ve read theprevious question at least once).
If by faith you mean hope, I firmly embrace it. Now the question is “faith in what”? Well, how about holding a faith that we as human beings (and even the whole world) are taken care of, provided for, and loved…and that whoever or whatever God is, the ultimate nature of God will be revealed to us as we mature. Until then, faith becomes a form of trust…which is built up over time by the surmounting of life’s obstacles with the aid of something out there…greater than ourselves. I hold a largely metaphysical, non-religious, multi-faceted spiritual outlook on life and in my communion with divinity. In this way, I see the duality of The Creater as both masculine and feminine (as well as omnipresent and omnipotent).
Not in the traditional sense as defined in many religious doctrines. Here is why, (and feel free to disagree or do your own spiritual search on this subject): It is my experience (given the nature of what a belief is in and of itself) that when you “believe” in something, your mind discovers that in order to accept the belief as true…it must do “mental gymnastic tricks” to convince itself that what it believes to be true, is in fact “true”. This process often involves creating or building another belief to support or give credibility to the preceding belief. Thus begins an indoctrination cycle of myth, blind trust, and non-thinking behavior. Now the concept of a fact, is altogether different. In those cases, no belief is usually required. Because facts are often supported by empirical evidence…the mind needs little convincing because of the reality of proof that usually exists to a given factual idea or situation.
I know that God exists (or what is commonly referred to as “God” exists in a supreme entity sense) because there is something that regulates all living things through the life cycle. However, I don’t define what that “God-like” thing is, for that would be belief. And without hard evidence, any conclusions I make are simply beliefs in the absence off acts. In order to remove those beliefs, one would need to be willing to conduct research in order to discover the truth. Most folks believe what their church believes, through indoctrination and convincing of what they interpret religiously. There is no right or wrong about it…it just is as it is – for that space of time in our lives. Religion (if we are not careful) can serve as a surrogate parent for us. Most traditional religious leaders don’t appear to want you to notice any of this at all. Further, (at least by appearance), they would rather you trust that what they tell you to believe is indeed factual.
When you don’t actively work to think for yourself, and you simply accept as true what you are told to believe (even if it may not be true), taking the issue on religious faith or trust…it then removes your personal power of self-discovery in finding truth (if you have not already voluntarily given it up). Beliefs are not facts – a very important distinction. It is irrational to think otherwise. Its a fact that you hold the beliefs, but those beliefs are not factual. I encourage you to come to your own conclusions about these issues. Beliefs work…but they should only be temporary – soon to be replaced with self-discovery of the world around you. I should also point out that I am not against religion, but I am also not for the removal of one’s personal power when it comes to being told what to think or how to think about anything. My suggestion, search for the truth, confirm your ideas, and stick with facts you know are true about life.
Yes. However, at the present time, I enjoy working with people 1 on 1, as I can be more of a direct assistance to those I serve. I am leaving the door open for the future, in performing congregational work. It would if considered, start with a small group, and then manifest into a larger form later. I would want to have an eclectic approach to church ministry focus, similar to that of the style of the ULC Mother Church.
Biblical interpretation varies from one person to the next, and from one religious sect of Christianity to the next (not to mention Non-Christians). While the Bible is recognized in the Christian community (largely) as a volume of sacred scripture, I use the Bible collectively with other metaphysical, spiritual, and secular writings as a foundation for my ministry work. I embrace the best teachings in all religious/spritual scriptures, doctrines of faith & worship, or other outside works that exemplify unconditional love, unconditional compassion, unconditional tolerance, unconditional peace, unconditional mercy, grace, and unconditional acceptance. It should be clearly noted however, that with these ideas in mind I do not condone criminal activity. At the same time, I encourage each person I help to choose a path for themselves that works in their own life, or to live from a spiritual framework. In either case, seek for truth as you live.
I generally minister from a spiritual framework, using the best teachings of those religions (as previously mentioned) in my ministry. I do not enter into theological debates, and I leave those matters to people who choose to focus their energy on one form of doctrine or another as they see fit. I am not a minister of any religious tradition exclusively – I work with all people from all faith backgrounds equally in my ministry work. It is my experience that we can learn something of value, worth, and goodness from all of the world’s religions and spiritual faiths that people hold regarding the above tenets. Now, as stated earlier…when I speak of acceptance of others, their actions and so forth, this is not to say that I condone, for example, the issue of crime. I do not condone crime. What I am referring to, is about accepting people as they are – a creation of God, with all of the complex and varied differences that make up individuals between each other. The second part to this Philosophy, is not allowing one’s bigotry, bias, or hatred to be masked or justified through some narrow religious belief. The ability to refrain from this particular way of thinking, is one of the marks of spiritual growth. So far, I have found nothing else that compares to it.
This message is mostly directed to people who are questioning their own sexuality at this time:
I want to start by saying that this would be my response below regardless of my personal sexuality. I have great compassion for all life. I think the idea of being judgmental toward others for any reason is a hinderance, and that all people (regardless of their sexuality or any other life position) are really no different from you and I and are just as human as you and I. People who live from a narrow “in the box” mentality only make their love, compassion, and acceptance of people biased and conditional – not open or receptive. I only hope that the process of spiritual growth is not slowed in any way for those who follow that path. I feel that people who discover that their sexual inclinations are different from that of the majority, are no different from the majority who feel their own sexuality is right for them at the time. Sexuality is not a choice, it is (perhaps even by opinion), a discovery of one’s self through the complexities life has to offer.
Being Gay, Straight,Bisexual, etc. is not a depravity (as far as I can tell). However, regardless of one’s sexuality…sexual responsibility must be taken into account. One cannot and should not be irresponsible just because they do not claim a sexuality of the majority, or in reverse be irresponsible because they can as a member of the sexual majority. This brings me to the issue of sexual accountability. I am not speaking of the accountability to God (as I leave that to the individual conscience), but rather accountability to those that one comes in contact with sexually. The transmission of an STD is a serious matter, and both parties play a part in that transmission. Therefore, both parties must take the appropriate steps to reduce the risk of spreading the STD to another person.
People are who they are. It is important that a person questioning an issue like sexuality for themselves begin a personal journey toward understanding who they really are, and work in making an effort to come to terms with the person they discover themselves to be as soon as possible – whatever the outcome. There is no intrinsic rightness or wrongness about who you are attracted to sexually, as long as you are not hurting yourself or others. As to any of ideas of condemnation from God/Diety, every individual must resolve their own crisis of religious/spiritual faith on this point. Religious scriptures are typically seen as written by men. For all we know – as in the case of the Christian biblical character known as Paul – the writers were most likely homophobic and overly conservative – and perhaps used “God felt inspiration” to justify their biases.
Conservatism simply implies a definition of those who are adverse to change based on tradition or a particular comfort zone – and they freak out when people representing those aspects of a “sensitive” issue make any attempts to change it. Being gay, straight, bisexual, lesbian, etc. is only a definition ofone’s attraction to others. If other people have problems with the sexuality of another person in being so different or “not a part of the norm”, then it seems to me that it is most likely they have their own deep seeded and unresolved issues surrounding the dynamics of sex or sexual identity.
You can’t force anyone to understand you if you are different, but you can try to educate those who claim to not understand. Let people be educated by you living your truth. If you live your life well, have a strong spiritual foundation (or none at all if you choose), don’t abuse children or animals, obey the law, and do all the other things that any other person would in living a good life…then don’t worry about what others think. If they claim you are going to hell, (using scripture to control your behavior through fear), then you need to have your own personal relationship with God as you understand God. The one who created you knows your heart, don’t let anyone else rule your life out of their own bias, bigotry, ignorance,or fear. We are all on our own life path…let those who persecute yoube responsible for finding theirs. God bless you.
Are you kidding?! Not even close. Like you and anyone else, I am on the same journey called life that we are all on. I am both a teacher and a student, as it probably should be. No single person has all the answers to life’s questions. If you ever run into someone who thinks they do have all the answers…run in the opposite direction (away) – as fast as you can! That person is most likely delusional. The search for truth is elusive, and a constant wandering of the human mind. Socrates once said “I do not claim to know, what I do not know”. There is no ultimate truth to be understood, captured, harnessed, or wielded by any person while in a human state of being. If this were not the case, human existence would be unnecessary.
As a U.S. Citizen, I subscribe to the ideals and principles of the National Green Party of the United States. However, I do not offer formal support to political candidates on any level in my capacity as an Ordained Minister. I do on occasion support certain local or national measures which deal directly with the common good of society to which I minister. By contrast. the Universal Life Church leadership as a religious/spiritual entity stands on a general policy functioning within the practice of not openly supporting, approving, condemning, or rejecting any political party, or candidate of any election or voting measure.
First, review my response to the above Q/A on homosexuality. Second, I find this is a painful, cruel, and demoralizing thing to say…as it does not come from love.Third, if you read the way the above quote is worded, can you claim that a loving God, who created all things, would hate something created by that Deity and allow it to continue to live? I would think not…unless God is bored and needs amusement. I have a deep, personal, intimate, loving relationship with God (as I have come to accept and understand God – which is outside the proverbial “box” of religion and Christian biblical teachings). I had to come to terms with my own sexuality over many years, and I spent a lot of time in prayer asking for God’s guidance on this issue.
As I grow, I understand more about what role my sexuality plays in my life and how it manifests in context to my experiences both past and present. For myself, I have learned that my sexuality is a part of who I am – but does not represent the totality of my character as a person. The only choice was in the embracing of who I found myself to be in life at any given time. I have always worked at striving for my highest sense of self – in all forms as they manifest. This is a lesson that can be embraced by anyone. Skin color, sexuality, disability, or some other characteristic should not be a deterrent in becoming the best “you” possible. If a person were black, would God hate blacks because they were black? I think this is just as crazy a notion as saying that gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, or queer oriented people are hated by God.
There was a time when religion was used to persecute the black community and women, and now black people and women are generally accepted (although only in some ways and to varying degrees). We can still see forms of persecution in these and other identified minority groups. One day, sexual orientation that differs from what is considered mainstream by people will be accepted too…its only a matter of time. By everything I know, I think God does accept and love all the things that God created. At the same time, there are occasions where we do “wrong” (and this refers to just making common life mistakes). However, sexual activity between consenting adults is not an issue that should be open for debate on a wide-scale social level. This life is a process of growth and spiritual maturity, but I do not think it is just-cause for a creator to “hate” its creation, simply because we make human justified interpretations of God through scripture written by men…(even if claimed to be inspired by any Deity).
In ministry to the GLBT community, what do you say of those who think AIDS is a gay disease with related attitudes at various protest rallies?
To the first part, I say that with all of the educational information available on the issue of AIDS, you would think certain people (everyone actually) would take time enough to learn and become more informed on such an important topic. Straight people get AIDS too, sometimes through sex, sometimes through drug use, and sometimes through blood transfusions. It amazes me to no end, how cruel, insensitive, and not so well informed people can be sometimes. I usually hope that a person will have some level of knowledge on a given issue before they speak about it. Instead, many people “believe” (does this sound familiar?) that a disease like AIDS started with gay humans (according to these “well informed individuals”), instead of most likely from other more plausible ideas -like a monkey in Africa and/or scientific testing gone bad.
To the second part, I have to view comments like that as a concern for another person’s well being (even when they are meant as hateful slurs). How nice of those folks to care enough to be so involved with my sex life – and yours. Why they would be I have no idea, but its always nice to know how concerned people are for you. In short order, I see it as just a simple question. If you use protection properly during sex, perhaps the next time you are asked this question you’ll be able to respond accordingly.
Because this response carries some significant depth and ideology, you can find the answer to this question contained within the “Articles of Faith” page on the main website.
In truth, I am less concerned with how we arrived here in present time and space. I am far more concerned about where we are going as a species. Our path behind us, does not need to be the same path before us. We can choose a way that makes us better. I do not think that studying the biblical, sociological, or revolutionary foundations of human life will be of any consequence in the end. All that should matter…is how we live now.
[Site Division Presently Inactive]
The idea is simple. I wanted to provide an area where a group of people of similar interests could find a common connection in a reserved environment. Its a section of the site that while linked, is meant to be different from the rest of the regular content. When you’re within the Members Area, you are in a club space of sorts – a place to unwind and enjoy what is offered. However, to avoid problematic issues I created the section with a requirement that folks visiting the area join as members. This in turn creates a community. Care to join?
Well, I’m limited to the content I can provide. Some of it is based on what my hosting provider offers, and the rest is based on my ability to embed it within the site HTML coding language (if needed). Some applications (also called “apps” or widgits) are just installed, while others may need code through the HTML server. If you have a suggestion for the site applications, let me know and I’ll see what I can do to add the suggested feature. Also, keep track of developments through the news page of the website.
Much of this issue had to do with the hosting server, and what their capabilities happen to be at the time. Plus there is this little thing called “services paid for in advance”. The farther out you are from the end of your contract that is anything past a money back guarantee period, the more you tend to stay put and suffer until you can move with little loss. Now that the changes have been made, I hope to offer a worthwhile site. Thanks for stopping by and helping me with that goal.