Flooding in Texas and Louisiana

Flooding in Texas and Louisiana

Dear Friends, Our hearts have been rent by the images and stories of Hurricane Harvey’s destruction in Texas. Many in our Diocese fear for family and friends in the storm’s path. Responses from our congregations have been swift and generous, whether through Episcopal Relief and Development or other services. Now Harvey has turned toward Louisiana. Schools and offices have been closed in several of our parishes. Floodwaters are encroaching on some homes and businesses in the south and west. We wait together not only to see what this storm brings but also to discern how to be most helpful to those in need. Our Disaster Relief Coordinator Deacon Lois Maberry has been hard at work for days preparing and coordinating responses and providing resources. I have been communicating with clergy in charge of our congregations to stay informed about all of you. You are in my prayers for safety. Together we will get through this and bring aid to those in need. We have received notes and phone calls of support from around the Church. The Presiding Bishop, my fellow bishops, and fellow Episcopalians around the country are praying for us and offering their support. I’m sure you share my gratitude. May our holy and gracious God guide, guard, and comfort us through this storm. And may our common hope sustain us in the weeks ahead as we begin the work of recovery. Blessings…. +Jake The Rt. Rev. Jacob W. Owensby, PhD, DD 4th Bishop of Western Louisiana Dear Friends, As many of you are aware, Hurricane Harvey has brought catastrophic devastation to the Texas Gulf Coast and now...
The Future Can Rewrite Our Past

The Future Can Rewrite Our Past

In Gospel Memories, Bishop Jacob shows that there is truth in the idea that our past shapes our future, the gospel is all about the counter-intuitive promise that God is shaping us right now toward God’s vision of who we will become. It is not our past that makes us into the image of God; God’s redeeming love does that. In God, who we are not yet is shaping who we become. Gospel Memories will have special resonance for people at turning points in their lives: career changes, loss of loved ones, graduation, illness, divorce, birth of a child, entering middle years or later years. Life is filled with turning points at which we feel compelled to tell our story in a new and different way. Gospel Memories The Future can rewrite Our Past, is available at Amazon, in Paperback or in Kindle...
Getting Our Bearings, Series Finale

Getting Our Bearings, Series Finale

Play It Like You Mean It – Thursday, August 27, 2015 I play guitar. These days, my skills have eroded from neglect. Once upon a time, I spent hours working on bluegrass licks and delta blues tunes. Even so, quitting my day job would not have been a good idea. At their peak my abilities never rose above the level of enthusiastic amateur. By contrast to my middling skills, there are genuine guitar virtuosos. Delta blues artists like Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters shaped that genre. Doc Watson stood out among bluegrass pickers. One of the greatest guitarists of all time was jazzman Django Reinhardt. And if I’m going to be really honest about my listening habits, Neil Young still rocks. You may not agree that this is a list of virtuoso guitarists. Your list may include different names and different genres. But you probably know what I mean by “virtuoso.” A virtuoso has achieved a level of excellence that serves as an example to others. She or he influences how a community of musicians approaches their instruments. In guitar circles you learn to play by sitting with and emulating more accomplished musicians. The Christian moral life bears a resemblance to playing the guitar. Being good means being virtuous. The word “virtuous” and the word “virtue” derive from the same root. They refer to excellence. A good person is striving to be a virtuoso of sorts, a virtuoso at being human. What I’ve said so far may lead you to believe that virtue is an achievement. And Christian morality involves the exercise of will, but we do not view moral...
Getting Our Bearings, pt. 3

Getting Our Bearings, pt. 3

Originally written – Tuesday, August 4, 2015 This is the third post in the series “Getting Our Bearings.” One of the gifts of the Episcopal Church is that we do not require conformity in all things theological and moral. On the contrary, we recognize the value of active, honest disagreement. We believe that we grow spiritually through freedom of thought and lively exchange.  Our openness to reflection and critical thinking invites some outside our denomination and some within it to charge that we stand for nothing. This is either a misunderstanding or a blatant slur. Here is one way to think about how we strive to live harmoniously amid sometimes very serious disagreements.  Truth, we believe, emerges from faithful, honest, patient, respectful intellectual wrestling. Disagreements arise from the differing perspectives of a community of people with finite minds.  To borrow an image from Hans Georg Gadamer, we inhabit different horizons. In honest dialogue and debate, we strive to fuse our separate horizons into a broader horizon. That broader horizon incorporates these differing perspectives while also correcting their limitations and distortions. The genius of how we do theology is the humility of the claims we make. We are hesitant to make very many theological doctrines into dogmas.  People throw the word dogma around fairly carelessly, and in most cases that’s fine. But in this context, we will be best served by precision.  A dogma is a theological doctrine on which the Church-the whole Church gathered in Council-has spoken authoritatively. A dogma is a theological matter that has been settled once and for all. Depending on how catholic you are, such...
Getting Our Bearings, pt. 2

Getting Our Bearings, pt. 2

Websites for Episcopal congregations frequently include a “What We Believe” page.  Some of these pages refer to or even reprint the Catechism found in The Book of Common Prayer. Others list central theological doctrines like the Trinity and the Incarnation. A few provide accessible explanations of the Creeds. Articulating what we believe is an indispensable dimension of the spiritual life. A number of detractors have criticized us for failing to believe anything because many of us believe that theological ideas develop over time. We seem to them to be swapping out old beliefs for new ones. The charge that we believe nothing is simply false. Instead, we mean something different by “believe” from what our critics seem to mean. So in what follows, I want to talk about how we believe. Talking about how we believe is not meant to provide an account of the faith formation process or to explain how we offer evidence for our theological and moral concepts. To put it simply, we will spend some time considering what Episcopalians mean by the word “believe.” To provide a sense of where this essay is headed, I will paraphrase Richard Rohr. The truth is eternal. How we grasp it, articulate it, and express it is not.  In some Christian circles, there is only one form of believing. To believe means to assent to a fact. A belief-the content of what you believe-is a plain statement of fact. Something like this: the cat is on the mat. No interpretation is needed. What we say simply mirrors the reality in front of us. Philosophers call this the correspondence theory...
Dear Friends

Dear Friends

Dear Friends in Christ, Last week an Alabama man opened fire in a Lafayette movie theater. He killed two young women and wounded nine other people before turning his gun on himself. Among the wounded are two members of one of our local Episcopal parishes and the mother of a student attending a local Episcopal school. There seems to be no personal connection between the shooter and any of his victims. He was attending a comedy. Words fail to express the shock and sorrow so many of us feel in response to yet another act of senseless, irrational violence. Our hearts go out to the victims, to their families, and to the entire community of Lafayette. Join me in praying for those who died. May they rest in peace and rise in glory. May the merciful God comfort and console their grieving families and friends. Join me in prayer for those who were wounded. May their recovery be swift and complete, and may God’s healing touch guide the medical personnel caring for them. Finally, pray for the deceased shooter. Nothing excuses his disregard for the infinite value of human life and his destructive violence. And yet our Lord teaches us to pray even for those who would do us harm and who would reject our prayers. May the infinitely loving God have mercy on his tormented soul. My heart and mind-probably much like your own-are reeling with the specific horror and agony of the Lafayette shootings. Nevertheless, I am also mindful that these shootings join what seems like an endless stream of senseless violence across our country. This is...