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What Does it Mean to be an Ordained Minister?

Published Friday, Jun. 10th, 2022

One of the most important roles of a minister is to solemnize marriage.

What does it mean to become ordained? What’s the process of ordination, and what rights does a minister have? 



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AMM Audio Articles · What Does it Mean to be an Ordained Minister?






  • What is ordination? 

  • What does it mean to be ordained, 

  • and what is the process of ordination? 


You probably know that many people get ordained online every day, in order to perform meaningful ceremonies like weddings, funerals, or blessings for their friends and family members.


Other people seek ordination because they feel a strong spiritual calling to serve within an individual church or faith community, while still others feel called to serve by working with people from many faiths and diverse communities. 


Some religions have strict rules governing who can and can’t be ordained, while others ordain people from all backgrounds and faiths, without discrimination. (Like American Marriage Ministries!)


But what does it actually mean to be an ordained minister?  


We answer this common question and others below to help you better understand the definition and responsibilities of ordination, the rights of ministers, and different requirements for ordination in different denominations.



A young minister counsels two members of her congregation outdoors in casual clothing

Many ministers provide spiritual counseling and practical guidance for members of their congregation. These meetings can be one-on-one, with couples or families, and be formal or informal.

Related: Wedding Officiants: Learn How to Provide Premarital Counseling & Relationship Coaching Services



  • What is Ordination? Definition and titles.


past tense: ordained; past participle: ordained


1. make (someone) a priest or minister; confer holy orders on. (from Oxford Languages)


In its simplest terms, ordination is the process by which someone becomes an ordained member of the clergy – someone chosen to perform special religious, spiritual, or secular duties in alignment with a church or denomination’s beliefs. These duties might include officiating marriage ceremonies, funerals, and other rites; taking confession; or delivering sermons. 


Read Is American Marriage Ministries a Legal Church?


Clergy members have a variety of titles that reflect their status, such as priest, priestess, pastor, reverend or minister. All of these titles signal that a person has been ordained.




  • How do you get ordained? Pathways to ordination. 


There are several pathways to ordination, and each denomination or church decides its own process for ordaining someone. 


Some common pathways to ordination are:


  • Submitting a form online
  • Graduating from a private seminary
  • Studying under an individual rabbi or priest
  • Getting a degree in religious studies or religious history from a public college or university


Each of these paths is a valid choice, with unique benefits and drawbacks. 


For example, attending a seminary can be rewarding, but can be too expensive and time consuming for many people to pursue. Online ordination is free and simple, making it an excellent choice for adults of any income or age, but is occasionally dismissed by people with limited views of faith. 



A minister in a white collar and black shirt performs a marriage ritual outdoors with a young couple in wedding clothing

Some clergy wear white collars, stoles, robes, and other religious attire, but others dress casually.

This is usually determined by the minister's denomination and the rite being performed.  



  • Who can get ordained? 


Each denomination and church decides who among their members is qualified for ordination.


Some churches have very strict rules about who can and who cannot get ordained. As an example, women are denied ordination by many denominations simply because of their sex, including Roman Catholics, Southern Baptists, Mormons (also known as Latter-day Saints), and Jewish Orthodox congregations.


Other churches, including American Marriage Ministries, ordain people from all walks of life and backgrounds without discrimination. (AMM never discriminates on the basis of sex, race, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, income, or ability – find out more about our inclusive, interfaith approach here.)


A church or denomination’s rules for ordination are often hundreds of years old, and don’t always reflect the current views and values of its members. 


For example, in the Catholic Church, women and openly gay members aren’t allowed to receive the sacrament of holy orders and become ordained priests, despite widespread support of the idea. (Over 60% of Catholics in the US support ordination for women, according to a recent Pew survey.)




  • What rights does an ordained minister or priest have? 


Clergy have special rights, privileges, and authority as church leaders. These are protected by state and federal laws. 


First, the religious non-establishment clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects the right of clergy to practice their faith in alignment with the beliefs and traditions of their denomination or church. 


This means that ministers and other clergy have a Constitutional right to conduct religious and spiritual ceremonies of all forms, regardless of their church or denomination’s chosen pathway to ordination. However, legislators in some states disagree, and have repeatedly attempted (without much success) to regulate the internal affairs of churches by defining on their own whether or not a minister is in fact “ordained.”   


AMM Ministers: Can I Perform Other Ceremonies Such as Baptisms and Funerals?


Clergy members have the authority in all states to officiate marriage ceremonies (as long as they comply with state-specific laws), and can provide pastoral counseling or act as a spiritual advisor under most conditions. In some states, ministers and other clergy are exempt from jury duty, or from revealing confidential statements made while receiving spiritual advice. 




A young woman reads from a piece of paper, close up on hands and paper

Ministers perform all kinds of social, spiritual, and religious ceremonies. 




  • Ordination with American Marriage Ministries


Becoming an ordained minister with American Marriage Ministries is a simple and straightforward process. We don’t ask you to hold any specific religious or spiritual beliefs, we just ask you to agree to the three Tenets which comprise the core of our doctrine:


1. All people, regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation, have the right to marry; 
2. It’s the right of every couple to choose who will solemnize their marriage;
3. That all people have the right to solemnize marriage.


Our ordinations are free, and our beliefs are intended to be universal and inclusive.


Our Church is based on seeing past differences, past tribal and cultural boundaries, past sexual orientation and gender, to the commonalities that we all share. Our Tenets represent values and a world-view that all people can share, whether they are Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Atheist, Agnostic, Pagan, or of any other faith.



Get ordained with American Marriage Ministries



Want to know more about AMM and the meaning behind our ordinations? 
Visit  What are American Marriage Ministries Beliefs?




  • What does an ordained minister look like?


Ordained ministers look like you! They look like your neighbors, friends, and others you meet as you move through the world from day to day. There is no one way for ordained ministers to look, dress, speak, or act. 


Ministers are called to service for countless reasons and come from all walks of life! 



Headshots of diverse men and women smiling, who are ordained ministersHeadshots of diverse men and women smiling, who are ordained ministersHeadshots of diverse men and women smiling, who are ordained ministersHeadshots of diverse men and women smiling, who are ordained ministers

Headshots of diverse men and women smiling, who are ordained ministers



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