About Fr Gregory Jensen

Together with my wife Mary, I entered the Orthodox Church on the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos (15 August) in 1991. On the feast of st Nicholas (6 December 1996) I was ordained to the Holy Priesthood by His Eminence Metropolitan MAXIMOS at St Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Pittsburgh, PA.

Homily for the Feast of St Ignatius of Antioch

December 20, 2014: First Day of Fore-feast of Nativity of Christ; Hieromartyr Ignatius the God-bearer, bishop of Antioch; New-martyr John of Thasos; Daniel II of Serbia.

 St Ignatius Orthodox Church, Madison, WI

Epistle: Galatians 3:8-12
Gospel: Luke 13:19-29

The Eucharistic allusions in today’s Gospel are hard to miss. The followers of Jesus ask admission to the Kingdom of God because, as they say to Jesus, “We ate and drank in your presence.” It is likewise hard to not feel the shock and dread these same disciples heard when Christ responds to them by saying “I do not know where you come from; depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity!”

Let those to whom Jesus refers in the Gospel, I can easily fall into spiritual complacency; I can come to assume that my faith, my intimacy with the Most Holy Trinity, and my salvation are somehow secure because I have a right to them. As well I’m prone to complacency because I forget that all that I have, I have as God’s free gift to me. Even to call God’s gift free reflects my lack of faith, my misunderstanding of the Gospel. What gift isn’t freely given? A thing freely given is in the very definition of the word “gift”; if it’s not given freely it’s not a gift.

St Ignatius of Antioch whose memory we celebrate and under whose patronage we work, understood that all that he had, including his life, was a gift from the hand of an All-Loving God. And if I don’t understand this about him—and indeed all the martyrs, the fathers and the saints—I will likewise misunderstand the eagerness with which he went to his death. Continue reading

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A Letter to A Friend-Part II

2014-badge-300x300Dear …,

Thank you for an excellent—and challenging—set of questions! I have thought long and hard about them and I hope I can offer you in return a reasonable answer. Let me say upfront, I also understand that (for whatever reason) you might not find what I have to say convincing. This I think is ok as long as we can disagree in a way that is respectful of each other. Too often we take disagreement as evidence of bad will. While sometimes this is the case, I prefer we not start assuming that the other person is wicked.

There are I think three things I think we need to keep in mind.

  1. We need to respect the conscience of the same-sex couple.
  2. We need to respect the conscience of the Church.
  3. We need to respect the conscience of the parish community.

Let’s look at the first of these, the couple themselves (you can find the whole of this post here: 12.9-12.14.A letter to a friend). Continue reading

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Respecting the Conscience of the Parish Community

2014-badge-300x300Finally, there is one other actor in all this: the parish.

As a layperson, as a parishioner, you have right to expect form me or any priest that we will faithfully and to the best of our ability teach and uphold the tradition of the Church. And you have a right to expect this from me (or any priest) even if that causes tension between us.

If I were to give Holy Communion to one or both members of a same-sex couple, I would be failing in my obligations not only to the parish but to the couple as well. It would be a lack of integrity and honesty on my part to, as I said above, behave as if the Church has changed her moral teaching and pastoral discipline when no such change has taken place. Bad as this is, the Church has always had priests who’ve made bad decisions.

The more serious matter is the disrespect my actions demonstrate both toward the parish and the couple. Continue reading

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Respecting the Conscience of the Church

2014-badge-300x300Yes, I must respect the couple’s decision because—whether or not I agree with it in all its particulars—it’s their decision to make and not mine to make for them. I must respect their conscience even, and maybe even especially, when we disagree.

But I also have to respect the conscience of the Church which says that some actions place us outside of communion. This isn’t to suggest that anyone is worthy of Holy Communion or that those who receive are not sinners. They, and I, are still sinners and still unworthy of receiving the Body and Blood of Christ.

However, being unworthy to receive the Eucharist and being a sinner are two different things. Yes, they are related but they aren’t the same. Continue reading

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Respecting My Neighbor’s Conscience

2014-badge-300x300Dear …,

Thank you for an excellent—and challenging—set of questions! I have thought long and hard about them and I hope I can offer you in return a reasonable answer. Let me say upfront, I also understand that (for whatever reason) you might not find what I have to say convincing. This I think is ok as long as we can disagree in a way that is respectful of each other. Too often we take disagreement as evidence of bad will. While sometimes this is the case, I prefer we not start assuming that the other person is wicked.

So to the topic of your question: the same-sex couple and their relationship with the Church. There are I think three things I think we need to keep in mind.

  1. We need to respect the conscience of the same-sex couple.
  2. We need to respect the conscience of the Church.
  3. We need to respect the conscience of the parish community.

Let’s look at the first of these, the couple themselves. Continue reading

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A Letter to A Friend

2014-badge-300x300Recently, I got a letter asking me about the pastoral care of same-sex couples. This is an important and complex question and one that requires a great deal of study. Even among Orthodox Christians there are many people, who disagree with the moral tradition of the Church on this issue. While there are likely as many reasons why people disagree as there are people who disagree, I think one central reason is that the tradition is presented in a harsh way. As I say below, it is all together too easy to assume that people disagree out of ill will.

At the same time, it isn’t unheard of for someone to assume the Church’s moral teaching reflects a lack of love or respect for homosexuals. Yes, for some people the tradition of the Church is a cover for ill will–but this doesn’t tell us anything about the objective truthfulness of the Church’s moral teaching.

So starting today and for the next two days, let me share with you a letter I wrote to a friend. In this letter I don’t defend the Church’s moral teaching on homosexuality. Instead, I outline what seems to me to be our obligation to each other and to the tradition of the Church when, as in this case, we disagree with each other.

I look at three topics:

(1) Respecting the Conscience of the Same-Sex Couple (today’s post)

(2) Respecting the Conscience of the Church (Wednesday’s post)

(3) Respecting the Conscience of the Parish Community (Thursday’s post)

On Friday, I will post the whole letter and include a pdf.

As always, your thoughts and questions are welcome.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

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Learning to Color Between the Lines

2014-badge-300x300Finding joy in life requires that I accept my limits.

Having been fragile as a child I preferred quieter, less strenuous activities like coloring and reading. But this meant I would never developed the hand/eye coordination need for basketball or baseball. As I got older, I got stronger and once I was able physically to do so, running and cycling became my activities of choice.

Maybe because I experienced myself as physically restricted for so much of my earlier life, I’ve come to appreciate the values of learning to live within my limits. We hear this a lot when taking about personal finance—we need to learn to live within our (financial) means. (My Irish Catholic grandmother was forever complaining about people who spent more than they made. “They have champagne tastes and a beer budget” she would say. But I digress)

The key to a joyful life, and so  key to living a morally good life, is learning to live within our limits. This flies in the face of what I often heard growing up. “You can anything you want to be!” Well, no and not just because I wasn’t healthy enough for many of the things I wanted to do. Continue reading

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