When it comes to the various denominations that have established themselves over the years, the Universalists are arguably one that is the most misunderstood. While there are some factions of the church that have been ridiculed for their quick buck mentality when it comes to being an ‘ordained minister’, there are actually many positive attributes to the church that gets overlooked. This is especially true of the Universal Life Church World Headquarters which does not follow the path of some of the other churches in the same denomination.
However, all churches have their flaws in certain regards, so it may not be surprising that some elements of a particular type of church may really stand out in the eyes of the public when the truth is that there are thousands, perhaps millions who worship in a church that offers real, direct services to its members. Churches around the world are often the butt of jokes or ridiculed for the actions of what turns out to be a small minority. Given that Christian churches in particular practice the art of turning the other cheek, it makes many of them easy targets.
The Emphasis on the Negative in the Universal Life Church
Entering the fold of the church by purchasing the rights to being a minister has become akin to a joke in many sections of the country. According to some accounts, around 35,000 people are entered into the church in this fashion. Whether that number is true or not, it remains rather a source of ridicule since there is no real age limit and many of those who have become ministers include celebrities ranging from The Beatles to Vanilla Ice to Stephen Colbert. That does not bode well for the positive aspects that an organization like the Universal Life Church World Headquarters is trying to fight through to get their message across.
The internet has now added speed to the elements of the Universalists that has brought about many negative connotations. Interestingly enough however, the beginnings of the church itself many years ago were rooted in one man’s search for fulfillment.
The Origins of the Universal Life Church
Kirby Hensley was a man who was looking for religious fulfillment in his life. Born in 1911, he grew up a Baptist, but switched to Pentecostal upon marrying his wife. Becoming a minister in the church, he still was not satisfied until he finally founded the Universal Life Church in 1959. Hensley’s vision was a place that unified the different belief systems that were dividing the world and in his home country of the US he had the freedom to develop the religion he viewed as all-encompassing.
The views of Hensley are still found today in the World Headquarters of the church, but unfortunately the very ideals that he viewed as crucial has been warped by some into a more profit-oriented venture. As with all new ideas, Hensley’s was one that garnered nearly instant appeal. Starting out of his own garage, Hensley’s vision quickly caught on an within a few years he was leading untold thousands thanks to his own convictions combined with a new approach that broke new ground in terms of organization. The appeal of the organization was that it didn’t have a uniform approach to its teachings or tried to establish a rigid structure like so many other movements had done.
Hensley’s approach was not only unique, it had wide appeal and the congregation grew considerably as a result. However, while this led to well respected organizations like the World Headquarters of the Universal Life Church, it also opened up the organization to members who did not have Hensley’s vision in mind. It’s little wonder that certain individuals would take advantage of this situation. With the advent of the 60’s counterculture, the Universal Life Church grew considerably and reached over 100,000 ministers. As the organization grew, it did spawn a number of offshoots that are still around today. However, arguably the most respectable remains the World Headquarters which is located in Boca Raton, Florida.
What Separates the Universal Life Church World Headquarters from the Rest?
The truth about the Universal Life Church World Headquarters is that the name is similar, but actually goes back well before Hensley founded his version of the church. In addition, while the church does welcome people of all religious backgrounds, it is exclusively Christian and preaches the Bible and its teachings. However, it does ordain ministers over the internet, but the functioning of the church itself is different.
While there are certain similarities, they are only on the surface as the World Headquarters has managed to use some of the best elements of the Universal Life Church movement and incorporate that into their outreach. With the focus being on the positive and working towards saving souls around the world, their efforts in using the internet to reach out has garnered them a considerable following. Add to this the focus on Christian teachings and the church has a much stronger appeal that works toward saving souls while still embodying the principles that make this church so appealing.
In the end, while there may not be a total escape from the reputation that other churches in the Universal movement have made to scar their efforts, the truth is that the Universal Life Church World Headquarters has managed to garner a reputation that has extended well beyond the antics of churches with similar names and has provided many people with a real choice that is steeped in what the best of the Christian religion has to offer.
While by no means perfect, it does need to be pointed out that they have created a reputation based on their works that needs to be separated from the rest. Just like the troubles that other organizations such as the Catholics, Baptists and other Christian Churches who do not want their name associated with groups that have done more harm than good, so it goes for the Universal Life Church World Organization.
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