You can call me ‘Reverend’

Bobby Ross Jr.

Published: May 12, 2001

THOSE who watched me sweat and stutter my way through my college speech class may not believe it, but I am now an ordained minister!

It says so right there on the certificate with the official gold seal: “Reverend Bobby Ross.”

My license from the Universal Life Church in Billings, Mont., came with a note that said, “Thank you for your purchase and God bless.”

The best part: This high honor cost me only $29.95.

That’s about the same amount Judas Iscariot accepted to betray Jesus Christ, as my friend Glover Shipp pointed out.

Perhaps, though, Shipp is looking at this the wrong way. He’s assuming that anyone who offers to make you a “LEGALLY ORDAINED MINISTER in 48 hours!!!!” is a scam artist.

On the other hand, think of all the good I can do now.

I can perform funerals and baptisms. I can forgive sins and visit correctional facilities. I can even start my own church.

Of course, I can do all of those things without a license.

But I couldn’t marry someone. In Texas, your pet hamster can perform a wedding. But before you help someone say “I do” in Oklahoma, you must file credentials with the county clerk.

“Since I know how much you want to help others, you’re going to receive your Minister Certification for under $100,” Universal Life minister Charles Simpson’s e-mail said. “Not even $50. You are going to receive the entire life-changing course for only $29.95.”

Wow. Talk about a bargain.

When I was in sixth grade, my mom worked long hours waiting tables at a Waffle House to help support our family as my dad pursued his Bible degree. As Dad worked to become a Church of Christ minister, he attended classes during the day and sloshed boiling grease at a fish-and-chips place at night.

I remember how excited I was the day Dad donned his cap and gown. I can’t wait to tell him my wonderful news. He’ll be so proud!

Or maybe not.

I’m beginning to wonder if I’m the only one who realizes what a blessing I have received – er, bought.

Take Don Lanier at Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa. “Churches,” he told me, “are not convenience stores where a person can pop in, grab what she/he needs at the moment and then buzz off.”

Terri Miller, who earned her doctorate in education the old-fashioned way, wasn’t any more supportive.

“Hmmm, I rather enjoy knowing that ministers have at least studied (A) the Old and New Testaments or (B) the Torah or (C) some form of religious writings,” Miller wrote in an e-mail.

At least my friend David Tichenor offered his congratulations.

He did have one question, though.

“Didn’t this offer include some steak knives?”

Religion Editor Bobby Ross Jr. can be reached by e-mail at rross@oklahoman.com or by calling 475-3480.

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