There has been some buzz, both associated with the #sustainministry theme and the fear of shortages in the ministry, that there should be some intermediate ministerial status. To which I noted to those within earshot that the Universalists once licensed ministers, and that we could consider doing so again.
There were licensed ministers — holdovers from before consolidation — within my time as a Unitarian Universalist. They even had their own section in the UUA directory, but year by year their numbers declined by death.
In time they were all gone; I don’t know who was the last. The right the UUA reserved (or at least claimed) to recognize such licensed ministers seem equally a dead letter, so it was cleaned out of the bylaws at a General Assembly.
When? More recently than you might think. The year 2000.
I was present at that GA and was both sad at the moment passing and thought that without a prior claim, any church was free to so license ministers. And I still feel this way.
Here’s how the bylaws read, just before the provision was removed, for those who want the details.
effective June 28, 1999
The Ministerial Fellowship Committee may also with the approval of the Board of Trustees make rules pertaining to the status of, and recognition by the Association of, lay preachers and the granting of licenses to them.
A year later, that was gone. The bylaws effective July 1, 2000.