Archive for the ‘Anglican Communion’ Category

2016 Lenten Reflection

March 24, 2016

Lenten Reflection by Fr. Michael Gorchov

During Lent I’ve been giving talks on Wednesday nights at St. Anthony’s Church. This is part of a series of events that is designed to draw three Troy churches (St. Anthony’s [Roman Catholic], St. John’s and St. Paul’s [Episcopal]) closer together. The initiative is called the Fellowship of St. Francis.

The Lenten presentations are on the Nature of the Church as represented in agreed documents that have come out of dialogues between Anglicans and Roman Catholics that started in 1967, and became known as the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Committee (ARCIC).

One of the most helpful aspects of doing research on the ARCIC agreements is finding that both sides in the discussions have had to admit that certain terms have separated, rather than united, each other. And that these terms have often been used by each side to mean different things.

The following two words are good examples: Sanctification and Justification.

Some of the difficulty is that Anglicans did adopt principles expressed in two (gasp!) Lutheran Confessions (Augsburg and Württemberg), and that Anglicans have tended to believe that Roman Catholics intentionally repudiated these positions at the Council of Trent. In fact, the Anglican formularies had not even been compiled when the Decree on Justification from the Council of Trent was promulgated.

During the ARCIC discussions it was agreed that the New Testament employs a wide variety of language concerning salvation, and that there is no single controlling term or concept. All the terms (including deliverance, forgiveness, redemption, liberation, adoption, regeneration, rebirth, new creation, sanctification, and justification) complement each other.

Protestants have suspected that Catholics try to “buy” their way into heaven through prayer and good works (sanctification). Catholics tended to believe that Protestants felt so assured of their salvation (justification) that there was nothing left in this life for them to do.

Through the ARCIC talks it was agreed that justification and sanctification are actually two aspects of the same divine act (1 Cor 6:11).
1. Sanctification is that work of God which actualizes in believers the righteousness and holiness without which no one may see the Lord, and
2. the term justification speaks of a divine declaration of acquittal.

What this means for me is that God’s merciful “acquittal” (justification) is not at all the same as being judged “innocent.” Far from it. It just means that I have another opportunity to get closer to Jesus (sanctification).

A Lenten Collect

Direct us, O Lord, in all our doings with your most gracious favor, and further us with your continual help; that in all our works begun, continued, and ended in you, we may glorify your holy Name, and, finally, by your mercy, obtain everlasting life, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

On trying to do theology without getting co-opted by the man, who in this case happens to be a very nice liberal academic.

July 10, 2010

Up until fairly recently Christian theology was taught at mainline seminaries in the following order:

1. Prolegomena, also called Fundamental (“First”) Theology, Foundations for Theology, or Philosophical Foundations for Theology.
2. Doctrine.
3. Ethics.

I was taught theology at The General Theological Seminary, NYC, by Mark Richardson (The Very Rev. Dr. W. Mark Richardson, recently appointed the Dean and President of Church Divinity School of the Pacific) and Tom Breidenthal (The Rt. Rev. Dr. Thomas E. Breidenthal, the present Bishop of Southern Ohio, Episcopal Church). Both of these professors were in turn taught at one time by Jim McClendon (James William McClendon Jr. (1924-2000)), who was a Christian theologian in the Anabaptist tradition. Anabaptists are Christians of the Radical Reformation. The descendants of the original Anabaptists include the Amish, Hutterites, and Mennonites. Both Catholics and Protestants persecuted Anabaptists!

McClendon’s greatest work is a systematic presentation of Christian theology in three volumes (Abingdon Press):

Ethics: Systematic Theology, Volume 1, 1986
Doctrine: Systematic Theology, Volume 2, 1994
Witness: Systematic Theology, Volume 3, 2000

I had the great honor of being taught Ethics by Breidenthal, and Doctrine by Richardson. Both professors used McClendon’s texts. The experience was transformative.

You can see right away that McClendon’s order is different from other systematics. He said Christians from the Radical Reformation haven’t written much theology because they were

1. too busy being persecuted and
2. too busy practicing their faith, and making a living.

It takes a long time to write theology, and one needs an income and some leisure to do it – so it isn’t surprising there is so little Anabaptist theology.

For McClendon the first task of being a Christian is discipleship, which involves living a particular kind of life in a community of shared practices. This is “first order” Christianity, or living the Christian Ethic.

“Second order” Christianity is reflecting on, and sharing the faith (Doctrine and Witness). This would include theology and philosophy (especially that branch of philosophy which attempts to understand other convictional communities – often labeled, “Philosophy of Religion.”)

McClendon offers an interesting critique of theology done since the Enlightenment:
1. A Christian doesn’t have to submit first to universal philosophical categories before discipleship.
2. A Christian doesn’t need theology or philosophy to practice Christianity, but needs to use theology and philosophy in order to enter into dialogue with people from other traditions.

The primary issue here is whether theology should be subject to non-Christian standards for the verification of truth. In fact, in many quarters, (especially academia) theology has submitted to so-called universal philosophical categories. As a result, Christian faith and practice have been relegated to a private sphere of value, opinion and sentiment.

For those, like myself, who think that the living practice of Christian self-understanding and identification determines its “applicability [for] a general criteria of meaning,” the effort should be rather to “correlate theology as a procedure subject to formal, universal, and transcendental criteria for valid thinking.” * The difference here is between agreed forms of rationality as opposed to universal rational standards for establishing what is true.

Fortunately, there has been a degree of convergence in method (“criteria for valid thinking”) between various fields of study. One of the major developments in science, philosophy and theology in recent years has been a growing appreciation for the social aspect inherent in the practice of each of these disciplines. This movement, which some have labeled post-modernism, places an emphasis on the importance of language, narrative, and culture in the formation of systems of thought, communities of discourse and shared moral practices.

* Quotation from Hans W. Frei in Types of Christian Theology (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1992), edited by George Hunsinger and William C. Placher, p. 3.

Easter Sunday Sermon

April 7, 2010

Easter 2010 Sermon

There is a long-standing tradition of using a bible text for a sermon. I’m going to use six different texts for today’s sermon. Don’t worry, I promise we won’t be here all day.

This is my personal New Testament [hold up], and these are the verses that make the main points of the Bible.

1. (Romans 3:23)   I am a sinner no better than all the rest.

2. (Romans 6:23)   The wages of sin are death.

3. (John 14:6)   Jesus is the way.

4. (Romans 10:9)   If I confess on my lips that Jesus is Lord, and believe in the Risen Christ, I will be saved.

5.  (2 Cor. 5:15)   Jesus died for all.

6. (Rev. 3:20)   The Risen Lord Jesus is standing at the door knocking. If I invite him in, he will come in and we will have dinner together.

In the church, the local church, this particular church – I often hear concerns that compete with the main message of the Bible. And then there is something else that may apply to this church more than some others – something I hear over and over:

“What a beautiful church!   Shame you don’t have a bigger congregation.”

“What a beautiful church!   It must cost a lot to maintain it.”

“What a beautiful church!   Do you mind if I walk my dog in the church yard?”

I am a sinner no better than all the rest.

I could die in my sins.

Jesus is the way.

Confessing and believing I am saved.

Jesus died for all.

The Risen Lord stands at the door knocking.

Last Thursday night we had a service here. It was the Maundy Thursday service. There were just a few people in the congregation, but we had a full choir. So, I stood right over there in the sanctuary and preached to the choir! I just about ignored the congregation, and I stood there and preached to the choir.

My message was this: God washes feet. I’m not sure what the choir heard, but that was my intended message. I said something about the nature of the Divine Love, and how it was a servant-like love. But my message was basically that God washes feet.

My father is Jewish. I wonder what my great-grandfather in Russia would have said about this. “God washes feet?” “Who knew?”  (I’m sorry. I don’t know what a real Russian Jew sounds like. I grew up in New York. Jews sound to me like Mel Brooks.)

If God washes feet, his clergy should wash feet. I think everybody should wash each other’s feet. If everybody washed everybody else’s feet the world would definitely be a better place. Instead of making and selling weapons and drugs we should wash feet.

The choir sang. The Deacon and I washed some feet; we shared Holy Communion; we stripped the altar; we turned the lights off and went home. It was a lovely service.

Before the service Betty and Carl came in. I was sitting over there at the side chapel. Betty came down the middle aisle with her husband Carl in tow, and they came over to me. Betty introduced herself first and then Carl. She said, “Carl just loves this church. He thinks this church is the most beautiful church in the world.” Carl was silent, and just nodded his head in agreement. Betty continued, “Carl just loves this church. He feels such a sense of peace when he is here. I was wondering if you do blessings?

She said, “I was just diagnosed with cancer today.”

So I took them over to the communion rail and anointed them and prayed for healing.

I ran into a guy I know at the coffee shop up the street. He said, “Pastor Mike, right?” I said, “That’s right, and you are Jeff. You’re an architect, right?” He said, “Yeah, that’s right. Good memory. Now, you’re the pastor of what church in Troy?” I said, “St. Paul’s Episcopal – down at the corner.” Jeff said, “What a beautiful church!    How many do you have there on Sunday?”

I went to visit a lady at a nursing home last week. She said, “I sure do miss St. Paul’s Church. What a beautiful church!    How much do you have in the endowment fund left?” I told her, and she said, “Oh, that’s too bad.”

A mother emailed me two weeks ago. Her infant boy needs brain surgery on the 26th of April. The little guy has a serious condition where his skull isn’t making room for his growing brain. The mom said that the Episcopal church that she and her husband used to go to just lost their priest. The priest moved away to another part of the country. She wanted to know if I would baptize their baby. She had seen pictures of St. Paul’s. She said it looked like such a beautiful church!

Actually, I was a little worried about the politics and protocols involved. The other Episcopal church was in another deanery in the diocese. I’m the Dean of the Metropolitan Deanery.  I thought I better call the Dean of that Deanery, and also call the lay warden of the other church. I didn’t want to step on any toes. The Dean said, “Michael, whatever you want to do is fine. You do what you think is best. If you can arrange the baptism, that’s fine. If you need me to handle it I will. Just call me if you can’t fit it in your schedule. (Very gracious)

The warden of that church said, “It would be such a blessing and a comfort to the family if you could baptize that baby. We have been praying for them. Right now, we’re going week to week with substitute clergy. The family reached out to you and if you can be of help to them, please do so.” (This also was very kind and gracious.)

I’m a sinner no better than all the rest.

I could die in my sins.

Jesus is the way.

Confessing and believing I am saved.

Jesus died for all.

The Risen Lord stands at the door knocking.

Next Saturday, I am going over to that home (in a foreign land out in the far reaches of East Greenbush, NY) and I’m going to baptize that baby, and we’re going to have Holy Communion, and the Risen Lord will be standing knocking at the door, and we’re going to invite Him in to have dinner with us.

May we leave here this fine day keeping in mind what is important, and also what is less important.  Amen.

Easter 2010 Message from the Rector

March 11, 2010

An Easter Message from the Rector

Dear Members and Friends of St. Paul’s Church in Troy:

The Sunday before last was the end of February and on that day a member of the parish (Helen Perkins) met me on the front steps of the church with the exciting news that she had just seen a robin that morning. The sun was out then and there was an unmistakable feeling of warmth to the sun’s rays. Both Helen and I were encouraged by these harbingers of spring. I for one am looking forward to getting my rowing shell back on the Hudson River!

For some reason the coming of spring always takes me by surprise. It’s not as if I really think it will stay cold and dark forever, but still, the way winter hangs around – and suddenly one day – it feels different, and I heave a great sigh of gratitude knowing that the days are really getting longer, and spring IS just around the corner. Pardon the cliché.

In our parish, as in other Christian churches, we look forward to celebrating the greatest Holy Day of them all – Easter – coming this year on April 4th. Since Easter Sunday is a spring event there is a natural tendency to associate Easter with spring flowers, and more generally with nature and fertility. This correlation between Easter and “mother nature” certainly has been helped along by the fact that the pagan cultures that preceded, and later co-existed, with Christianity had their own spring festivals celebrating nature and the “cycle of life.” In fact, the word “Easter” itself has its roots in a pagan god of fertility.

I readily confess to be annoyed that our principal Christian feast is named after a pagan fertility goddess, but I suppose it is far too late for me to ask everybody to stop calling it Easter! I guess we’re stuck with it. It may be true also, that a word like “Easter” can still carry the proper meaning even if the origin of the word is tied up in something else.

In most parts of the world the Christian Holy Day of Easter is actually called “Pascha,” derived from “Passover,” which originated in the annual memorial of the deliverance of the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt.  The name Pascha is preferred because Jesus transformed the meaning of the Hebrew Passover by passing over, in his own body, from death to life.

The basic Christian story, in the words of ethicist Stanley Hauerwas, starts like this: “[W]e are creatures of a good God who has [grafted us on] to the people of Israel through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.” * Here is where the Easter metaphor of living things really takes root. Instead of putting our faith in the temporary mood lift that comes with spring flowers, eggs, and multiplying bunnies – we find our eternal happiness tied up in the actual story of God. No matter how dark and oppressive it became for Israel, God was with them and did lead them into the Promised Land. My story and your story is also the story of the people of Israel. The story of Israel is also the story of Jesus. And the story of Jesus is actually the story of God the Creator, who does not stand far off from the world looking on with disdain for its imperfection, but actively, through Jesus Christ, continues to create the conditions for the world’s redemption.

May you find in the signs of spring – in the grass, trees, flowers, and birds – an affirmation that God is near, and Jesus is Lord.

Alleluia! Christ is Risen, He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Pascha Blessings,

Michael +

The Rev. Michael I. Gorchov, Rector

*http://www.livingchurch.org/news/news-updates/2010/3/9/americas-god

Upcoming Events:

  • Palm Sunday, March 28, We will begin the 10 am service in the Guild House.  The Liturgy of the Palms is immediately followed by a palm procession to the church as we commemorate the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem where the events of Holy Week enfold through the reading of the Passion.  March 28th is also the deadline to return the envelopes and offerings for Easter Flower/Music Memorials.
  • Maundy Thursday, April 1st, Choral Holy Eucharist and stripping of the altar at 6 o’clock…
  • Good Friday, April 2, A special choral Worship service will be held at 1pm.
  • Holy Saturday, April 3rd, We will meet at Bruegger’s at 8:30 am for coffee and then go to the church for dusting, polishing and decorating.  All volunteers are welcome.
  • Easter Sunday, April 4th,
    • 5:00am – The Great Vigil;
      • 7:00am – Light Breakfast and Refreshments.
    • 8:00am – Holy Eucharist
    • 10:00 AM – Festal Choral Eucharist.
  • The Annual Meeting and Election of a Warden and Vestry members will take place on Sunday, April 18.

The date for our annual Book Sale has been set for June 4 (setup & preview sale) and June 5 for the public sale.  Receptacles for used reading materials will be in the Church and Guild House.  We will welcome fiction, non-fiction, craft and cookbooks, children’s books, CD, VHS, DVD and Audio Books.  No text books, periodicals or encyclopedias, please.

Anglican Communion

April 17, 2008

The Anglican Communion.