Good Standing Verification

I’m one of those types that likes to watch the news. I was in college during the first Gulf War, and learned quickly that the only way to know what is actually going on in the world is to watch as much “raw coverage” as I can. I learned young not to wait for the news to tell what someone said. I wanted to hear it myself, to make a judgement myself about what was said. That is a luxury of the modern cable TV and internet world. In the past, we had to trust the message to be given to us by those we trusted.

In today’s Epistle reading, St Paul asks the Corinthians to prepare their financial gift to the Church for Jerusalem, so that when he visited, it would be ready. He also asked that a group be accredited with letters to accompany the money to Jerusalem. The Churches of the ancient world had a system to verify “credentials” (my word) that helped secure the safety of the Church. They were a church on persecution.

Brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. Now concerning the contribution for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that contributions need not be made when I come. And when I arrive, I will send those whom you accredit by letter to carry your gift to Jerusalem. – 1st Corinthians 15.58-16.3

The Church has maintained this system of verification, although you may not be aware of it unless you have ever been a godparent or sponsor for a wedding out of town. It is customary, in much the same way as the ancient Church, for us to be verified by those who we trust inside the Church. In the cast of sacraments, Clergy write letter of good standing for their parishioners addressed to other clergy. We don’t like to admit it, but there have always been people trying to take advantage of the Church.

St John Chrysostom was very strict when it came to the sacraments, especially baptism. Once someone is a member of the Church, they are eligible for certain rights and privileges (and I’m not speaking about payments discounts for hall rentals). The right to receive the Holy Eucharist, which we were commanded by the Holy Apostles to protect, should not be taken lightly.

On the surface, this may seem cruel. Why would we want to deny the Holy Eucharist to ANYONE? The truth is, and what St John Chrysostom understood was, that for those who are not properly prepared, the Eucharist can be deadly. It is a burning coal to the unworthy. The system of verification of godparents and sponsors is to ensure, from those we trust, that people are genuine in their desire to join the Church. This has only one purpose….to protect their souls.

Just a few things you may not have understood, since in modern days being in good standing with the church is too often used only for voting and hall rental discounts. It is so much more. So what is Good Standing specifically? It means that you are baptized, chrismated, and regularly participate in the sacramental life of the Church. There are circumstances that make this impossible. For example, if you are married outside the Church, you are cut off from Holy Communion, and therefore not in good standing with the Church. There are other reasons, but I suggest you meet with your spiritual father and discuss your standing.


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