This is with regard to a BBC "news" story, Faking it as a priest in Japan, was published on the BBC Asia-Pacific site November, 2, 2006.
The first time I met Mark Kelly in the part-time university teachers' room, he mentioned his "side job" as a wedding minister. He seemed to do so almost apologetically and wasn't forthcoming about the details. I sensed, and later discovered, that he was not actually an ordained minister. That's why I'm surprised that he was so candid about his experiences with a freelance journalist, Kathleen McCaul.
I am even more surprised that, out of whatever news organizations she may have contacted, the BBC was the only one to accept her "story." From what I know, Mark only spoke to her casually when she travelling through Japan. Her whole report was anecdotal. She didn't get any statements legitimate sources, such as the wedding company for which Mark worked.
As far as I'm concerned, it was totally unethical of the BBC, as well as the reporter, to print anything that was off the record and dubious, at best. Going for the sensational is not up to former standards held by the BBC. Furthermore, since they are claiming they don't know who is telling the truth, the reporter or the source, they are not printing an apology or retraction of any sort.
Whether such fake priests are in existence is a whole other issue. While I would think there would be an appeal to traditional Shinto wedding ceremonies, couples these days seem to find it romantic to get married in a chapel with stained glass, a bell, ribbons on the pews, and foreign man [sic] dressed in a robe. Most aren't concerned with the Christian aspect. The decorative aspect is what counts, much like the colored lights, Santa Claus suits, and Christmas trees that start making an appearance in mid-November in department stores and supermarkets, along with such delightful numbers as "Jingle Rock" and "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus." A bit of a return to Saturnalia.
This is not just an occurrence in Japan. There are certainly Americans who don't consider themselves Christians who celebrate Winter Solstice, not only with lights but perhaps even with an Xmas tree, and the exchanging of cards and gifts. As for weddings, my Unitarian Universalist minister in Racine, Wisconsin, was often asked by couples to perform ceremonies for those who wanted to be married in a church, but who didn't necessarily want a Christian ceremony. The only difference is that, in the U.S., someone with official standing must sign the wedding certificate, but it could be by any Justice of the Peace as well as someone was who had a "mail order" ordination.
What I'd really like to see explored is the number of fake English teachers in Japan. There are far more of them than there are fake priests!
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